Tag Archives: squash

plenty: color splash

The long blank wall behind the couch has had me stumped for the 11 months Andrew and I have lived in our suburban condo. Of course we all find things when we’re not looking (like yesterday when I hunted 10 minutes for my ipod that was smack in the middle of the empty kitchen table). I spent last week catching up Mom and Pops in Delaware, and the hot weather had us exploring air-conditioned antique stores throughout the week—the very place I found Mastisse’s “The Parakeet and the Mermaid”, framed decades ago in Belvedere Square where the hubs and I spent much time in Baltimore. The print is my perfect mix of sophisticated and quirky. Hello, wall funk.

Matisse, Parakeet and the Mermaid, Living Room

Pasta is another blank canvas enriched by bright color, and plenty of it. It’s the perfect excuse to return to our Plenty reader’s series, where I interpret select recipes from Yotam Ottolenghi’s enchanting new cookbook.

The printed recipe calls for deep-frying zucchini and whipping up a homemade herb puree. Time limitations and nutrition concerns had me adapting this recipe to a faster, lower-fat version well worth sharing with friends this summer.

plenty, yotam ottolenghi, pasta and friend zucchini salad, crate and barrel bowl, sweedish

Please, if you can, pick up some beautiful buffalo mozzarella (in brine) for this one—it’s where the magic resides. I accidentally grabbed Burrata mozzarella, which has a creamy center, and is easily the last cheese I ever need eat on this good earth.

Pasta and (Not) Fried Zucchini Salad

from Plenty, serves four

3 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch slices (a mandolin makes this a breeze)

1  1/2 tbsp. red wine vinegar

3/4 cup frozen edamame

1 cup basil, shredded coarsely

1/4 cup pesto (I used storebought)

9 oz. strozzapreti or penne (I used rotelli)

grated zest of 1 lemon

7 oz. buffalo mozzarella, torn by hands into chunks

1  1/2 tbsp. small capers (optional)

1 cup heirloom baby tomatoes (my addition)

squash, yellow squash, mandolin, crate and barrel cutting board

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Heat a grill (or stovetop grill pan) to medium high—heat a cast iron/heavy skillet over high heat if you do not have a grill. Using a pastry brush, brush both sides of the zucchini slices with vegetable/canola oil. Grill the thin zucchini slices two minutes on each side, or until charred and slightly tender. Transfer the grilled zucchini to your serving bowl, pour over the red wine vinegar, stir, and set aside.

staub, staub grill, french blue, grill pan, zucchini

Blanch the edamame for 3 minutes in boiling water; drain and toss into the zucchini and vinegar bowl. (I only had frozen shelled edamame, so I blanched, cooled, and then popped the beans out of the pods into the zucchini).

Cook the pasta until al dente; drain and rinse under cold water. Add the pasta to the zucchini, vinegar and edamame; add the pesto, lemon zest, capers, tomatoes (if using), and mozzarella. Stir gently together, then taste and season with  coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Before serving, stir in the torn basil.

basil, plenty cookbook, mozzarella, zucchini, pasta saladStick around and check out another of Yotam Ottolenghi’s exquisite recipes: Eggplant with Buttermilk Sauce. You’ve never seen anything like it.

What is the best cookbook on your shelf?

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family dinner

Like my recent bean posts, today we’re talking about discovering new foods on my journey to be a Less Picky Eater. You say picky, I say vegetarian. Tomato, tomahto.

There are people who think they are not squash people. I did not grow up a squash person, only the occasional zucchini—which, I’m sorry, hardly counts. It was only three years ago I ventured into acorn squash (halved and roasted as cheesy basmati bowls), butternut, and mostly recently spaghetti squash.

I love that you can purchase butternut squash pre-cut in the grocer’s deli section (it makes this recipe a breeze). Despite my sharpest knife, I have nearly severed limbs attempting to break into that son-of-a-gourd. A few dollars more, this is true, but I find the cost of pre-cut butternut squash absolutely worth the 20 minutes, tears, and blood loss that accompanies the raw gargantuan gourd.

This is a spectacular, I mean truly remarkable soup worth adding to your repertoire. There are few dishes I make twice (too many new recipes bookmarked!), and this has already become one of them. It has two steps—roasting and blending—six ingredients, and can feed a grateful crowd without a drop of sweat on your end.

I recently served this for the entire family to accompany my favorite asparagus ravioli in brown butter sauce. Andrew does not consider himself a fan of squash or mushrooms, but he always gobbles this up with compliments to the chef (c’est moi). Pops, also not a known for a squash preference, took home the leftover soup! As Kramer would say: Oh mama.

Roasted Squash Shittake Soup

adapted slightly from Martha Stewart, serves 4 as an entrée, 8 as an appetizer

2 3/4 lb. butternut squash, pre-cut into 2-inch pieces

1 onion, peeled and quartered through the stem

4 shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps wiped clean with a paper towel

4 small garlic cloves, unpeeled

olive oil

5 cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium vegetable stock (I love Pacific Organic)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine squash cubes, onion, mushrooms, and unpeeled garlic on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with enough olive oil just to coat (about 1/2 cup) and 2 teaspoons salt (sea salt or Kosher). Toss and spread in a single layer. Divide onto two baking sheets if needed; there should be space between all the vegetables or they will steam and not brown.

Roast until squash is tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, about 30 minutes, rotating pan and tossing vegetables halfway through. Let cool, then remove skins from the garlic by squeezing out the pulp.

Transfer vegetables to a medium saucepan; heat over medium. Pour in 2 cups stock; puree with an immersion blender until smooth (or you can do this in an upright blender, transferring the veggies straight from the oven to the blender).

With the blender running, slowly add remaining 3 cups stock, and puree until smooth. (If serving later, refrigerate in the pot at this point). Bring soup just to a simmer. Remove from heat, and season with salt and pepper. Cover to keep warm.

A brief bit about broth: I used vegetable broth upon the first trial of this soup, and while I usually do not prefer the flavor it did work well here. I used chicken broth on the most recent batch, and while the different was subtle, I preferred the vegetable broth. Moral of the story, use either.

For what soup was your grandmother best known?

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squash appreciation month

November celebrates a variety of causes: National Novel Writing Month, National Adoption Month, National Pomegranate Month, National Homeless Youth Awareness Month, the list goes on. In Australia and New Zealand, November is the month men sport moustaches to raise awareness on men’s health issues. They call it Movember.

Though only a few days remain, I’m declaring this Squash Appreciation month. I’ve met many who claim they are simply Not A Squash Person. As though we are our own breed. Here is a dish to celebrate and appreciate a seriously overlooked nutrient-packed gourd.

In my fascinating grad school studies, I recently came across two terms apt for introducing this squash-altering experience.

This cheesey squash dish is the divine combination of everything we seek for our cultural eating dilemma:

neophilia: the pleasure of variety

vs.

neophobia: the comfort of the familiar

Do you love homemade mac and cheese? Creamy with crispy breadcrumbs on top? Do you love the idea of eating something remarkable nutritious that hardly tastes like it could be so darn good for you?

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Mac and Cheese or Baked Shells with Winter Squash

tweaked from Great Food Fast, serves 6

4 tbsp. olive oil

2 large onions, chopped

coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1 lb. butternut or acorn squash, seeded and chopped into 2-inch cubes (pre-cut saves incredible time)

1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

1 lb.  whole-wheat medium pasta shells or other medium shape

breadcrumbs (fresh or store-bought)

Prep the Squash

If you can find frozen squash puree, that’s one less step. But if you find that a challenging task, simply roast the pieces of squash. On a baking sheet, combine 1.5 tbsp. oil with the squash, season with salt and pepper, and roast at 400F until just tender.

or

Speed it up: steam squash cubes in the microwave until tender throughout. a little water in the bottom of a casserole, covered and cooked about 6 minutes removes time and considerable fat from dish—no need to cook the squash in olive oil with this method.

In a food processor, puree the squash, seasoning with pepper if needed. You need about 2 cups of squash. You can also use a blender or an immersion blender, adding some pasta water to help puree.

Caramelize the Onions

Meanwhile, heat 3 tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion pieces, season with salt and pepper and cook until onions go from this

to this

about 25 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling well-salted water for 2 minutes less than the package suggests. Drain and reserve 2 cups of the cooking water. Return the pasta to the pot.

Bake the Casserole

Stir the squash puree and reserved pasta water into the onions and simmer for two minutes.

Toss the squash mixture and 1/2 cup of the parmesan with the pasta.

Transfer to buttered 9 x 13 dish. If the mixture is still very thick, don’t hesitate to add a few more tablespoons of pasta water.

Combine the bread crumbs with the remaining parmesan and top the pasta. Drizzle the remaining olive oil evenly over the casserole.

Bake until brown, about 10-15 minutes.

When Andrew is returning for his third helping of squash, even after I admitted the dish was purely vegetable, you know it’s a tasty dish for all palettes. Proven safe for squash-phobics! The amount of cheese is minimal, but selecting a good quality cheese adds tremendous flavor that makes it a convincingly cheesey entrée. This is one of my favorite dishes of the past year, I will be making it again very soon.

I have been eager to share this dish with you since the moment I cleared my plate. Click here for another, more recent, life-altering squash experience.

Bonus Recipe!

P.S. Upon the most recent enjoyment of this dish, we ate such marvelous asparagus, Andrew (who previously loathed asparagus) exclaimed, “I didn’t expect to love this!” To re-create, you’ll need:

ONE BUNCH OF ASPARAGUS 

THE JUICE OF ONE FRESH LEMON

OLIVE OIL

A SMIDGEN OF REAL BUTTER

Remove woody ends from asparagus–about three inches and cut the remaining stalk in half. If using jumbo asparagus, halve lengthwise as well for optimal caramelization. If using petite asparagus, simply cut stalks horizontally as pictured.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil (and a teeny tab of Real Butter) over medium-high, and sear the asparagus in two batches. Use a lid or pan to cover the asparagus briefly (about 30 seconds) to steam the asparagus as it sears. This caramelizes the natural sugars in asparagus and makes it so divine. But here’s the kicker:

Juice the entire lemon into the asparagus serving bowl/dish. Using tongs, transfer each batch of  piping seared asparagus straight from the skillet to the lemon juice. Toss in the juice, and sprinkle with fresh cracked pepper and a pinch of coarse salt. The butter from the asparagus mingles with the lemon juice and creates a light brown sauce. Unforgettable.

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sweet, soup!

We’ve fallen into a chilly Autumn, and if sick season has also taken you as its coughing little victim, you might appreciate my impromptu, weeknight-friendly Sweet Squash Soup.

Despite disappointment over my usual onion and chicken broth supply, this came together in very few ingredients—delicious still. Lucky for us! I only used on-hand items from Saturday’s trip to the farmer’s market, so feel free to experiment with whatever lingers in your fridge.

 

Lindsey’s Sweet Squash Soup

makes 4 generous servings

1 butternut squash

1 apple

2 pears

2 cups vegetable or chicken broth

1 cup apple juice

1 tbsp. canola oil

Roast the fruit and squash.

Cut the squash into roughly 1″ pieces. Cut the apple and pears into slightly larger pieces, especially if they are a bit ripe.

In a bowl, toss the veggies and fruit with the canola oil, and a generous sprinkling of coarse salt and ground pepper. Roast on a baking sheet for about 15 minutes at 425F, or until tender and slightly brown.

Puree and Season.

In a pot, combine the roasted vegetables with the broth and apple juice or cider. If you have an immersion blender, puree away! If not, simply combine the roastings and broth directly in a blender.

Once pureed, taste for level of deliciousness. If you find the soup too thick, add broth or water and blend again—you’ll find the single apple adds plenty of sweetness to the soup. I added about a cup of water at this point, and the soup remained rich in flavor. Add salt and plenty of pepper, it’s perfect against the sweet apple.

sweet squash soup with parsnip fries

If you’re craving a simultaneous side and have root veggies in the cupboard as well…

Rosemary Root Veggies

These, again, are simply ingredients I had lying around. They would be beautifully enhanced with an onion or two.

Combine cut potatoes, parsnips, or whatever root veggies you might have with a generous tablespoon or two of olive oil and fresh rosemary. Roast in the same 425F oven as the soup ingredients, and allow these to continue roasting as you finish the soup. They should be brown and tender in about 20-25 minutes. If not, I never hesitate to crank up the oven!

Dress fresh greens with lemon and a bit of olive oil and you’ve completed one fast, fabulous meal.

This sweet soup is husband and kid-friendly. I hope you love it, too.

do you enjoy A Pear to Remember? ever tried a recipe you’re pretty darn proud of? pass it on!

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looks like velveeta

I hope I’m not offending anyone, but I find Velveeta cheese way gross. That’s why I’m happy to report tonight’s out-of-this-world butternut cashew soup only looks like a bowl of Velveeta. In fact, this rich, thick, creamy soup doesn’t contain any cheese, cream, or heavy ingredients.

I do typically cook from books (my favorite tried and true method on weeknights), but tonight I actually created a quicker and slighty sweeter version of this spectacular soup. (Not created, just used some basic techniques that we’ve already talked about in the roasting post)!  I’ve met (okay, and am perhaps related to) some people out there who claim they’re “not squash people”. Once again, cooking with methods that bring out maximum flavor and combining new flavors makes something as unique as squash appealing to even the vegetable-phobic out there.

If nutrition excites you as much as me, or if nourishing your body with wholesome foods is even the teeniest bit of interest, you might enjoy knowing that just one cup of butternut squash fulfills 457% of the daily value for Vitamin A, and 52% Vitamin C, not to mention Calcium and Iron and absolutely no fat or cholesterol! Naturally, cashews are high in fat (though not so in saturated fats), but they’re also high in Magnesium and Iron and important things like protein.

I’m not usually grabbing pre-bagged veggies off the shelves, but when it comes to butternut squash, you can understand why I appreciate someone else peeling and cubing for me. I learned from Jacques Pepin (via PBS) that it’s important to peel two layers from the squash before using. Peel down to the rich orange color, as the skin is bitter.

I also found that my handy-dandy peeler had a hard time working through this skin. When I switched hands, however, the less-used blade did the job well. Just a head’s up that your mom’s hand-me-down vegetable peeler might not make it through—it feels like you’re peeling a pumpkin (also an unpleasant, though delicious, task).

Speaking of pumpkin, don’t forget to scoop out the seeds!

Honestly, I didn’t find any taste difference between super fresh squash and pre-cut bagged squash. Moral: If your grocery store has bagged squash, go for it!

You might notice an apple hanging out here among my squash. Ina Garten made a chunky butternut squash soup with apples and all kinds of fun things inside. I had a Granny Smith on hand for a never-made applesauce cake (one day…) so I added it into the veggies for roasting. Next time I would consider an additional apple.

The original recipe  for this soup involves all kinds of work and then simmering the ingredients with the water and milk for 30 minutes and then another 20 minutes of chores. I decided to roast my ingredients for optimal flavor and less cooking time. Since this recipes includes a large amount of olive oil, I also cut down on the overall olive oil by tossing the squash and apples with just one tablespoon of oil, plus coarse salt and a big pinch of pepper. Our oven was being funky, so I cranked the heat like usual. I was also trying to spend the evening doing things outside of soupmaking. So I actually spread my veggies (plus the apple chunks) on a sheet and popped them in a 475 F oven just until tender–about 10-15 minutes. In the meantime, I softened one onion (finely chopped) in 4 tablespoons of butter in a really big pot. (A Dutch oven would be delightful, preferably purple, but here’s waiting on Christmas…)

Then I added my roasted ingredients, along with 1 teaspoon of curry powder, to the onions and butter and mixed well over medium heat. I’ve seen this done with chicken broth (which I might try next time), but I added 2/3 cup of lowfat milk and 2 cups of water. No need to simmer for ages since the veggies are already soft! I did mash the veggies with my spoon, just to make the blending easier.

note our honeymoon souvenirs behind the cashews. best potholders ever.

 

Chop 1 cup of cashews (I use roasted and unsalted) and add to the mixture in the pot. I would love an immersion blender, and if you have one, I’m completely jealous and suggest you use it at this point. If you don’t, here’s time to bring out the food processor or blender. I used a blender this time and found it was more friendly for pouring. Our blender is wimpy, so I added about 2/3 cup water with each batch. This soup is sooooooooo super-thick and flavorful, don’t be shy about adding water in the blending process.

 

Since  smoothing out the soup in batches can be messy with extra bowls to hold the smooth soup, reserving the pot to heat the finished soup, I finally found a system. (Please do share if yours is more efficient!!) Food processors and bowls make a mess in pouring, so this time I utilized 4-cup and 8-cup Pyrex measuring containers. I ladled the soup into the 4-cup one to transfer to the blender (though if you have more counter space, ladle right into your nearby blender!). After blending, I poured the smooth soup into the 8-cup container, which was then problem-free pouring to heat back in the pot!  A final taste for flavor and you’re ready to enjoy with fresh, warmed country bread and cold sweet butter. Soooooooooooooo incredible. My hubby intended to make a sandwich too, but we both found the soup so filling one roll completed a perfect winter meal!

 This soup is so thick (a bowl of Velveeta, I’m telling you) you could lessen the cashew amounts or substitute the milk for broth (though you may be replacing calcium with sodium). Do make and share your suggestions! Worth creating over and over and over again.

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