Butternut squash, tomato and chickpea stew

Butter, 1 tbsp
Olive oil, 1 tbsp
Yellow onion, medium, diced, 1
Garlic, crushed and finely chopped, 4-5 cloves
Cinnamon, freshly ground, 1 tsp (or 1 cinnamon stick)
Coriander seeds, 1 tsp
Smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Butternut squash, large, peeled and diced, with seeds set aside for roasting
Chickpeas, drained, 12 oz
Diced or crushed tomatoes, 12 oz
Fresh lemon juice, 2 tbsp
Chicken or vegetable broth, 2 cups
Green olives, pitted and slivered (or whole if you want to add them early, in step 6)
Cilantro, finely chopped

Red quinoa

1. Rinse the butternut squash seeds, spread them on a foil-lined tray and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Roast at 400˚F until crunchy. Set aside.
2. Heat butter and olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat, until shimmering and melted.
3. Add onion, garlic, cinnamon, coriander, paprika, salt and pepper.
4. Cook, stirring occasionally until spices are aromatic and onions are soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
5. Add squash and more salt and pepper to taste. Stir and cook about 3 minutes.
6. Add broth, chickpeas, tomatoes, and lemon juice. You can also add whole green olives now.
7. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low. Cover and simmer until squash tender, about 10 minutes.
8. While stew is simmering, cook the red quinoa.
9. Serve stew over quinoa, sprinkled with roasted squash seeds and cilantro.

The story:

On January 21, 2013, I came home from work, kissed my son, ate some dinner, watched the news...and checked my e-mail. And then my heart sank to my knees. With trembling hands, I dialed the number of an old friend in Philadelphia, someone I hadn't spoken to more than two years. And then, for the first time in life, I physically fell to the ground when he confirmed my worst fears. This recipe belongs to the memory of my friend Melissa, who was smart, beautiful, funny, and always honest with me when I needed grounding in reality, who had done so much but still had so much more to do when she met the wrong person, on the wrong day.

Two weeks later, I flew to Philadelphia for Melissa's funeral and memorial service. I lived there for just one year but my memories of the city - and influence that CHOP had on the kind of doctor I have become - are outsize. Initially, moving there from Atlanta was something of a culture shock, but I've learned that as long as the food is good, I can make any place into home, for awhile. I've also learned that a shared love of good food is as good a reason for starting a friendship - or relationship - as any other. Melissa and I got to know each other over brunch and
rock climbing. She was there for both my first meal out in my new city, at Tria, and my last, zucchini pancakes at Morning Glory, before I hopped on a plane postcall and moved across the country. In between, we shared pho and tom kha gai, dolmas and syrupy Greek wine, salatin and lamb pastilla, mussels and Belgian beer, yuzu ceviche and chorizo fried rice... If all we ever really have is the moment...well, we had a lot of well-fed moments.

From the moment I landed in Philly, I was struck over and over again by the generosity and friendship from people I had known for such a short time, so long ago - friendship cast in sharp relief by our shared grief. One friend - whom I had not seen in two years - picked me up at the airport (sparing me the usual frustrations of shepherding baby and luggage and carseat out to a taxi) and drove me to house of another former colleague and friend, who had offered to host me and my son for dinner so I would not have to take a cranky baby to a restaurant after a long day travelling. She cooked a spectacular stew of butternut squash and chickpeas served over red quinoa, one of those outstanding recipes that I rush home and describe to my mom, so she can try to replicate it. (Okay, why don't we just ask friends, neighbors, restaurants, etc. if they will share their recipes? Good question. Our way is just more fun.) My son was hesitant at first, but he now loves it (leave off the seeds for older infants and toddlers), and I'm looking forward to taking him back to Philly when he's a little older.

In celebration of Melissa Ketunuti

To make a donation to the fellowship in infectious diseases and global health endowed in Melissa's name at CHOP:

Click here, then click on "Ways to Give" to make a gift online or "Donate Now" on the right, select "Other" under "Fund Designation" and type in "Melissa Ketunuti Fund"

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