VegetablesElana Iaciofano

Perspective and Squash in Los Angeles

VegetablesElana Iaciofano
Perspective and Squash in Los Angeles

I lived in Los Angeles from 2001 through 2007. When I lived in LA, I was married. 

Did the ground just shake? Yes, it's true. I was a married person.

When my marriage ended, I moved back to NJ/NY and I struggled with visiting Los Angeles. I felt awkward there, like I was always looking over my shoulder for a life I would rather leave behind.

So I stopped visiting. But this wasn't a very good solution either, because I missed some of the wonderful friends I made while I lived there. So last year, I decided to change my mind. I went back to visit, and I told myself I was going to enjoy it (dammit).

And, oddly, I did. Very much. So I returned. I'm in LA right now, writing this post and having a great time.

I swear I'm working's evidence.

Great. Words are very simplistic sometimes. Too simplistic to articulate all the emotions that are happening at once. I often feel this way about food — WOW! This tastes AMAZING!

Well, that sounds stupid. And one-dimensional.

Definitely not one-dimensional.And there's been a lot of three-dimensional stuff going on. Stuff that makes me happy to have a bit of space from my usual NYC routine. To concentrate, and check in with me so I can try to figure things out.

When I try and do this, it's usually a combination of thoughts like:

I'm hungry.

This is weird.

Did I send that email to that guy about that thing?

Do I have indigestion?

I don't like these pants.

So I started going to yoga for a little assistance. I know! But, in California, they make you leave the state if you don't have either:

1. A regular yoga studio.

2. A therapist.

I've had both and have only positive things to say about them (stand by by for a hilarious story on #2 that I will only tell if you request it).

Also, I've been told that yoga is good for my solar plexus. I really want my solar to be less perplexus, and right now my solar looks like this:

Very perplexus.

Anyway, I tried out a new yoga studio and very much enjoyed the thought meanderings of the instructor. At one point in the class, she advised us all to look at our beautful bodies in the mirror which were made of, "light and stardust."

Wait for it....

I'm not making fun of her. After she said that, she pulled out her iPhone, looked something up and continued, "Yeah, stardust. You know, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen and Carbon."

Perspective (and word choice). Huh.

So I'm changing my perspective on Los Angeles, yoga, my solar plexus and squash.

Squash? Yes, squash. I've always loved squash, but I find that I cook it the same way all the time. How about something new? Something with three-dimensional flavor. Something un-perplexus.

I cooked this for some of my very favorite people in the whole world (who just happen to be Los Angelenos), Kaz and John. They ate it with gusto. They declared it was AMAZING! In a good way. Of couse, I did threaten them with both a rolling pin and a metal spatula. But that was unrelated.

So if you'd like to change your mind on squash, here's what you should do:

Elana's recipes for Perspective-Changing Solar Un-Perplexing Squash


serves 4

2 winter squashes, cut into rounds (about 3-4 rounds per squash) and emptied of their seeds and guts.

4 small eggplants, cut into 1/2" cubes

1 bosc pear, diced

1 cup of quinoa (I used a mixed yellow and red variety)

2 cups miso broth

10 dried roasted tomatoes (I found these specially at Surfas. You can use sun-dried tomatoes)

1 small shallot, diced

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

a bunch of fresh cilantro

lots of extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Lebanese seven spice , divided (see mix blend below)

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp maple syrup (grade B)


Heat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the squash circles and the cubed eggplant on the baking sheet.

Drizzle the eggplant with about 2 tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.

Rub the squash circles with a small amount of olive oil. Now, drizzle both sides in the maple syrup and sprinkle with the Seven Spice Blend and a little salt.

Roast the veggies in the oven until soft, about 30 minutes. It's best to flip the veggies half way through the roasting period, if you can.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a medium stock pot. Place your diced shallot in the pot and sautée for about 10 minutes. You want the shallot to get brown, but not burn—almost caramelized. Once this happens, add in the cup of quinoa and mix to coat the grains with oil and shallot. Add the extra teaspoon of Lebanese Seven Spice and the smoked Paprika and mix to incorporate.

Add the tomatoes and the 2 cups of miso broth. Allow the quinoa to cook completely, about 20 minutes. Stir occassionally. 

Once all the liquid has evaporated, remove the quinoa pot from the heat, add 1 tbsp of olive oil, cover the pot and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare a large serving dish. Place half the roasted eggplant and half the diced pear into the dish. Add about half the quinoa mixture and using a large fork and spoon, mix it up.

Then add in the squash rings, nestling them into quinoa. Fill the holes of the squash circles with more quinoa and add the rest of the eggplant, pear and quinoa around the squash circles.

Top with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and pepper and as much chopped fresh cilantro as you would like. Don't hold back! Then, garnish with the pumpkin seeds.

Serve with giant spoons and giant plates and more cilantro on the side. Everyone will tell you it's AMAZING!

Lebanese Seven Spice Mix:

1 tablespoon allspice, 1 tablespoon black pepper, 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, 1 tablespoon ground fenugreek, 1 teaspoon ground cloves, 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg,  1 teaspoon ground ginger.

What the heck is fenugreek? It's a pretty cool Indian spice. If you can't find it, you can substitute with curry powder.

Mix all these fantastic spices together and store them in an air tight container for about 4 months.

The Last Bookstore, downtown LA