Indoor Picnic with Squash Socca and an Ode to Childhood Forts

Remember role-playing “house” or pretending you lived in the woods as a child? The scenarios invariably ended in the building of a precariously constructed fort of pillows and blankets. But representing infinitely more than mussed up bedding, the forts evoked a sense of wonder and amazement from creating a hideaway in your very own home. Everyday activities from watching the Lion King (in which I did indeed partake every single day of my 4-year-old life) to eating a peanut butter sandwich morphed into adventures when accomplished inside a handmade fort.

Well, I made a fort today. Ariane, my picnic buddy, and I had developed a strong urge to hold our fifth vegan picnic, but the blustery autumn weather posed an obstacle to our outdoor meal. Contemplating what could possibly make eating inside even marginally as exciting as dining out in glorious nature, I realized that the escape of my childhood forts would provide the grandeur equal to outdoor picnicking.

Two sheets draped to the ceiling plus a vintage clothing trunk moonlighting as a dining table equals the classiest indoor fort ever.


Of course, with great picnic setting must come great food. To celebrate autumn (since I like to base our picnics around the seasons), I roasted a pound of gorgeous, plump brussels sprouts from Harmony Valley Farm and baked a pan of YumUniverse’s Savory Pumpkin Socca with Cashew Cream, which has sat on my “Recipes to Try” Word document list for quite some time now.


Dinner submitted to Fight Back Fridays.

I followed Heather’s recipe almost exactly, substituting fresh homemade pureed butternut squash for the pumpkin puree. The slightly higher than usual water-to-chickpea-flour ratio created an incredibly moist custardy texture, which I might actually prefer to the breadier versions of socca that I’ve made previously. And the Cinnamon Cashew Cream? Positively delectable. I’d probably eat my pair of running sneakers if I slathered them in the stuff. Pureeing it in the blender created its addictive creaminess, which I’ve definitely had trouble achieving using my food processor for other cashew-based dressings. The only adjustment I might impose upon this recipe would be using a lighter hand with the spices, as they slightly overpowered the natural sweetness of the butternut squash and the beany flavor of the chickpea flour.

Meal Checklist: Protein—chickpea flour. Whole Grain—none (I don’t usually include a grain when eating socca since it’s quite filling enough). Vegetables—butternut squash. Leafy Green—brussels sprouts.

Local Ingredients: Brussels sprouts from Harmony Valley Farm, butternut squash from the Plahnt Farm.

Our indoor fort-picnic-socca-sprouts extravaganza proved a rousing success and I only reminded Ariane, who has citizenship in France and speaks the language at home, that socca is a specialty of southern France about 12 times. Can you blame me for being enamored by her Frenchness?

Comment Provoking Questions: Did you make forts as a child? Did they usually fall down or were they actually well-constructed? What was your favorite activity to do inside a fort? What kinds of dressings or sauces do you like to make using cashews as the base?

Until next time, Ali.

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