Showing posts with label winter squash. Show all posts
Showing posts with label winter squash. Show all posts

09 November 2017

Improv Cooking Challenge: Winter Squash & Bacon

November's Improv Cooking Challenge is all about winter squash and bacon. Winter squash -- particularly butternut -- was my childhood gateway to squash love and I am still quite capable of eating an entire tray of roasted squash all on my own with no accompaniments. There's just something about roasted winter squash -- rich, creamy, sweet, earthy -- that I cannot get enough of.


For this Improv Cooking Challenge dish, I roasted delicata squash with Brussels sprouts, shallots, and pancetta:

Delicata squash is a recent discovery for me. I first heard about it in cookbook club and then it began appearing in my CSA share. It is, as far as winter squashes go, adorable -- a plump little yellow-and green-striped sausage of a squash. The thin, edible skin that makes it much easier to process than some of the other, sturdier-looking winter squash and the flavor is rich and creamy -- kind-of like a cross between a sweet potato and butternut squash. If you want to try my recipe, but can’t find delicata squash, acorn squash can be substituted (but you won’t be able to eat the skin).

My CSA share Brussels sprouts were excessively wee -- like marbles or large blueberries -- so I roasted them whole. Larger sprouts will need to be halved or quartered to make sure they’re done at the same time as the squash.

I used Pancetta, “the Italian bacon,” because I’m fancy. No, actually, I was just too lazy to buy thick-cut bacon and cut it into lardons. The grocery store sells three varieties of diced pancetta and I saw that as I sign I should take the easy way out.


Delicata & Brussels Sprouts With Pancetta

Yield: 4 side dish servings

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces diced pancetta
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 delicata squash, halved, seeded, and sliced into ½” thick half moons
  • 8oz small Brussels sprouts, trimmed
  • 2 shallots, sliced thickly (like pound coins)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • ¼ or more red chile pepper flakes, to taste
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F and line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Set a skillet over medium-high heat and combine the pancetta with the oil. Cook, stirring, until the pancetta pieces have started to crisp and render off some of their fat.
  3. Combine the squash in a bowl with the Brussels sprouts, shallots, and rosemary. Add in the browned pancetta with its oil, chile pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper. Toss well, combining thoroughly to make sure all the vegetables are coated. If they seem a little dry, add a splash of olive oil.
  4. Spread in a single layer on the foil-lined baking sheet. Try not to crowd the vegetables together or they will not roast so prettily. Cook for 20 minutes or until the sprouts and squash are tender and their the edges are starting to brown.

The dish can be served immediately, but (imho) it's better if allowed to cool down a bit -- the flavors seem to stand out more. Makes about four servings as a side dish. If you have leftovers, it is really delightful (like, I specifically hold some back just to do this) on a flatbread with fontina and blue cheese:

Brush flatbread with a little olive oil (garlic-infused is fab). Top with shredded fontina cheese, then roasted vegetables, then a scatter of crumbled blue cheese. Sprinkle with chopped fresh rosemary. Bake on a pizza stone in a 425°F oven about 10 minutes or until the crust is crispy and the cheese has melted. Remove from oven and eat. It's fabulous.


For anyone new to my blog, the Improv Cooking Challenge is a monthly blog hop where two ingredients are assigned, participants must make a new-to-their-blog recipe using both ingredients, and publish a blog post about it on the second Thursday of the month. If you think that sounds like fun, click on the Improv Cooking Challenge logo below.




28 October 2017

Exploring Melt: The Art of Macaroni & Cheese

For September's library cookbook club, one participant brought "Roaring Forties with Honey Roasted Delicata Squash, Sage Butter, and Rotini" from Stephanie Stiavetti & Garret McCord's Melt: The Art of Macaroni & Cheese (Little, Brown, & Company, 2013). She'd checked out the book, completely enamored with the gooey cheesiness on the cover, but then been kind-of turned off by most of the recipes in the book as they were not "mac and cheezy" enough for her -- the cookbook is a very "gourmet" take on macaroni and cheese, using many pricey, artisanal cheeses. Anyway, she did not think much of the rotini recipe -- felt in needed bacon and a different cheese, but brought it along anyway for us all to try.

Overall, we found the dish unmemorable ... a bit dry and the flavors didn't meld together, but it wasn't bad in any definable way ... just rather meh. We all agreed the addition of something (probably bacon or pancetta) might have improved it. Admittedly, the cook had substituted butternut for delicata (couldn't find delicata at the shops) and another blue for the Roaring Forties (ditto). And the dish sat for an hour or so at room temperature before the cook book club sampled it ... so its meh-ness was not entirely the recipe's fault.


I ended up bringing Melt home with me after the meeting and kept going back to the rotini recipe, wondering if I could do better with the correct ingredients. Then I looked around on the Internet for Roaring Forties cheese and found that it was a fancy Australian blue cheese that retailed for $38/pound. Well, I thought, that's a clear nope.


Ah. But then ... delicata squash appeared in my CSA share and I decided, what the heck, I would give the recipe a try. An entire rainy afternoon lay open before me, rich with possibility, so I cracked open a bottle of red and went to work. [While no one recipe step is difficult or fiddly, so much of the dish is prepared separately, only to be brought together at the end, that it feels as if the recipe is taking an inordinate amount of time to make. Therefore, I really recommend you make this dish when you're feeling totally mellow and chillaxed about cooking, with lots of time on your hands, and (definitely) an open bottle of red to keep you company].



First, you make the sage butter by heating butter, fresh sage, sea salt, and honey over low heat. Then you pour it over the chopped delicata squash and toss it until everything is coated and roast the squash for an hour. (The recipe said to use a 8-inch square baking dish, but no way were my two chopped squash going to fit in that pan. And then, since there was extra room in the 13x9, I added one large diced sweet onion).


Then, you cook the pasta until al dente and set it aside. (I used 100% whole wheat rotini, because I hoped -- rightly it turned out -- the firm texture and nutty, grainy flavor would benefit the finished dish. I also tossed the cooked pasta with a little unsalted butter before setting it aside, because butter is flavor and dried-out noodles are just sad).

Then, you toast the pecans in a skillet until fragrant and set aside. (I have a horror of burning nuts so I may have under-toasted mine, but they were still delicious).


Then, you add the pasta and blue cheese (Litehouse Simply Artisan Reserve Blue Cheese Crumbles, because I wanted an affordable mild, creamy blue) to the squash pan and give everything a good stir, garnish with toasted pecans, and eat ... except I was like "To hell with garnishing!" and stirred the pecans in with the pasta, squash, and cheese. It might not have been so photogenic, but I liked that the pecans became coated with the melting cheese and pan juices.

Eaten straight from the baking dish, this rotini was really good. The onion and extra butter definitely helped, I think, as did using a soft blue that mostly melted into the dish. The flavors really came together and I loved the sweet caramelized delicata squash. Definitely didn't need any bacon! 13/10 would make again.

Next, I think, I'll try Melt's "Pastitsio with Kefalotyri and Lamb," because I love a good pastitsio/pastichio. But, yeah, it's going to be even more time consuming. Wine will help, no doubt.

19 November 2015

Improv Challenge: Squash & Sage

I'm trying to make pizza more often at home (because it's cheaper and we can get all the weird custom flavors -- chicken and sweetcorn for one -- our little hearts desire) and I'd heard that naan bread makes a good crust for quick pizzas. Deciding it would be better to experiment on myself first before springing the naan pizza concept on The Husband, I decided to build myself a pizza out of what was in the fridge.

Fresh sage from my generous coworker's garden!

And then I realized I had the ingredients for November's Improv Challenge -- squash and sage -- on hand! Hooray! For the first time in months, I wouldn't be making the Improv recipe the week it was due! Really, I always start out with the best of intentions and then time just gets away from me and suddenly I'm throwing something together at what feels like the very last minute!

Cubed butternut squash and onion tossed with garlic-infused olive oil.

The only naan I could find at my local Price Chopper was Stonefire brand in either whole grain or garlic. Obviously, I went with garlic! They're smallish naan, but there are two to a package so I figured this recipe would serve two hungry adults. As always, ymmv with serving sizes.

Since I didn't use any gooey cheeses the toppings don't properly stick to the naan making these a little messy to eat. I got around this my folding my pieces in half, making a sort of naan pizza sandwich. More civilized types might want to use a fork and knife.

This tasted all kinds of awesome. Maybe more cheese next time, though ...

Youtube has many nifty how-to videos on frying sage leaves, but I found this one simplest:


While this recipe makes two naan pizzas, you don't necessarily have to make them at the same time. The vegetables can be roasted a day or two in advance and kept in the fridge until wanted. The sage can also be fried and kept at room temperature in a sealed container for a few days. And, obviously, you could double triple the amounts for one big traditional crust pizza.

Butternut Squash & Beet Naan Pizza

Yield: 2 pizza

Ingredients

  • 2 naan (each about 8x7")
  • 4.5 oz butternut squash, diced small
  • 1 oz chopped red onion
  • 2 oz chopped roasted beets [Love Beets]
  • 1½ Tbsp garlic-infused olive oil
  • 1.5 oz crumbled blue cheese [Salemville Amish Blue]
  • 1.5 oz crumbled goat cheese [Alouette]
  • 8 fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • 8 fried sage leaves
  • Freshly cracked black pepper, as desired

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Toss squash and onions with 1 Tbsp olive oil and arrange on a quarter sheet pan (13"x9"), trying not to crowd. Bake, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until tender. Remove pan from oven and set aside. Do not turn off oven!
  3. Place naan on a baking sheet; brush with ½ Tbsp oil. Bake at 400°F until naan just begins to crisp and turn light golden color, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Scatter red onions, squash, beets, cheese and chopped sage leaves across naan. Bake until pizza is heated through and cheeses get all melty and yum, about 5 minutes.
  5. Garnish with fried sage leaves and fresh cracked black pepper.





09 November 2015

Warming Curried Coconut Squash Soup

My coworker asked me for my dairy-free butternut squash soup recipe and ... I couldn't find evidence I'd ever made one! Yet it seemed like the kind of thing I would have made one winter? Soup's my thing, after all, and butternut squash is the Squash of Squashes as far as I'm concerned. So I concocted this soup which uses coconut milk and vegetable broth, making it not only dairy-free but vegan. Hurrah.


I used Penzeys Maharajah-style curry powder in this soup as I wanted a richly aromatic, but not necessarily hot, soup. Yes, then I added two teaspoons of sriracha. It's a different kind of heat, I tell you. Feel free to use a hot curry powder and omit the sriracha. Or use both and cheerfully weep whilst eating this soup. It's all up to you.

Warming Curried Coconut Squash Soup

Yield: 4 generous bowlfuls

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 20 oz package chopped butternut squash
  • 6 oz peeled chopped apple
  • 9 oz carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups low-sodium fat-free vegetable broth
  • 14 oz can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp sweet curry powder [Penzeys Maharajah Style]
  • 1 Tbsp coconut aminos or low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sriracha

Instructions

  • Heat a little olive oil in a skillet and cook onion and garlic until both are fragrant and golden.
  • Add all ingredients to slow cooker insert and cook on High for 4 hours or until squash is falling apart.
  • Using an immersion blender, puree soup until desired smoothness is reached (I like mine a little chunky). Season with salt and pepper, if needed.

30 January 2013

Accidental Workhouse Porridge

I know. My soup looks like the kind of wretched porridge they would have served at a Victorian workhouse, if the Victorians had known about quinoa. It's not at all pretty. Indeed, it's down right homely. But, O my darlings, it is quite tasty.

Quinoa & Acorn Squash Soup

This soup is based on Crisco's "Butternut and Quinoa Soup," but I used an acorn squash, yellow bell pepper, and no-sugar added cashew butter. Also, I was out of cayenne so seasoned the finished soup with sriracha.

I blame the soup's sad, washed-out color on my choice of ingredients as orange butternut and red bell pepper would have held their own against the brown cashew butter and ultimately yielded a prettier soup. But yellow and yellow, when mixed with the brown cashew butter, just went ... beige.

And then I had the brilliant idea to puree the finished soup as the large chunks of squash didn't really seem to go with the tiny grains (would really recommend dicing squash into fingernail-sized cubes) ... No, pureeing did not help its looks at all.

But the taste was better! The squash blended with the quinoa and corn forming a spicy/sweet/nutty/creamy amalgam that I couldn't stop sampling.

Since it looks like porridge, I've been eating it for breakfast and find a one-cup serving is quite filling and doesn't leaving me starving by midmorning. I do look forward to making it again, but with a butternut squash and a red or orange bell pepper.

18 September 2012

Eating The Alphabet: P is for Pumpkin

For September's Eating the Alphabet Challenge (which I am very late posting), we were to cook with ingredients starting with the letter P, Q, or R. I kept wanting to do something with quinoa, but it turns out I like the idea of quinoa more than the ingredient itself. Something about it just makes my mouth go "meh."

So, I turned to pumpkin and raisins. I thought about muffins and cookies and bundt cakes ... but I'm the only pumpkin lover in my house and the last thing I need right now is two dozen cookies or a large bundt cake staring me in the face every time I wander into the kitchen.

Maple Pumpkin Oatmeal

I made oatmeal, instead. Pretty goshdarn delicious oatmeal with maple syrup, walnuts, and baking spice. Plus a little Barlean's flax oil for extra nutritiousness!

The raisins are cooked with the oatmeal so they would plump up a bit, but you could just as easily leave them out until the end and sprinkle them on with the walnuts if you prefer chewier raisins. I just love that they become juicy tender flavor bombs when they cook with the oatmeal! Dried cranberries would work well, too.

I used Penzeys' baking spice blend -- a blend of Ceylon cinnamon, China cassia cinnamon, anise seed, allspice, mace, and cardamom -- but your favorite baking spice blend will do just fine. Or pie spice!

Maple Pumpkin Oatmeal

Yield: 2 filling servings

Ingredients

  • 1¾ cup 1% milk
  • 1 cup regular oats
  • 1 oz golden raisins
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp baking spice blend [Penzeys]
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp flax oil [Barlean's]
  • 2 Tbsp crushed walnuts

Instructions

  1. Bring milk to boil in saucepan. Add oatmeal and raisins. Cook, stirring, 5 minutes or until milk is absorbed and oatmeal is thick and creamy.
  2. Stir in pumpkin, baking spice, and maple syrup. Taste. Add more baking spice or syrup, if desired.
  3. Portion into two bowls. Sprinkle with walnuts and drizzle with oil. Eat.

18 January 2012

Pantry Challenge: Clean Out The Cupboards With Soup

Trying to stay on track with the Pantry Challenge, I made a couple soups. There's nothing as comforting or forgiving as soup, after all, and it's always an excellent way to use up odds and ends.

First I made a batch of Pillsbury's "Curried Pumpkin-Vegetable Soup." It was a really tasty, easy soup with lots of good curry flavor. I admit I used 1 tsp more curry than called for and I bloomed the spices with the sauteed onions before adding the remaining ingredients, because that's what I learned from Cook's Illustrated -- always bloom spice blends like curry powder to help develop their rich, complex flavors. I wanted a flavorful soup, so I bloomed.

Did it work? I think so. Certainly, I was so interested in eating it that I never stopped to take a picture of the finished soup! This is one of the best recipes ever! Simple and healthy and yet also so rich and flavorful.

Curried Pumpkin-Vegetable Soup, Ingredients

Ingredients: pumpkin, frozen mixed vegetables, broth, curry powder, paprika, onion, garlic, diced tomatoes, salt, black pepper.
Pantry challenge items used: 1 can pumpkin, 1 can diced tomatoes, 1 can turkey broth.

Emboldened by my success, I went on to make a big pot of Taste of Home's "Vegetable Bean Soup" which not only allowed me to use pantry challenge ingredients, but also some limp celery and ancient frozen chopped spinach.  Unfortunately, this soup was not quite as tasty as the pumpkin soup. Rich and hearty, yes, with lots of vegetable goodness and I'm sure I'll make it again, but ... the pumpkin soup was just the bomb, you know?

Vegetable Bean Soup, Ingredients

Soup!


Ingredients: black beans, onion, garlic, celery, carrots, diced tomatoes, garlic powder, black pepper, salt, no-salt powdered beef bouillon, quick-cooking barley.
Pantry challenge items used: 1 can black beans, 2 cans diced tomatoes, partial box of quick-cooking oats.