Monday, October 29, 2007

Dinner Candy

The Boston Red Sox are World Series Champions, again. I have much to be grateful for. Like the Sox beating the Rockies, and also, not having children. Because if I did have children, they would inevitably be referring to this as my squash period and would spend much of their adolescence recounting tales of how mom made them eat all this disgusting squash and swearing they'd never eat it again. I wouldn't know anything personally about the extent of emotional scarring that can occur due to overexposing children to something like maybe zucchini or classical music, but I've heard it can get ugly. Thankfully, I have nothing to worry about. I can wallow in the glory of my favorite team being the best in baseball while eating what basically amounts to dessert as dinner: Fresh Fettucini with Roast Butternut Squash and Brown Butter and Sage. I adapted this recipe from one in Donna Hay's Off the Shelf Cookbook, because as it turns out, finding a pumpkin to cook is a lot harder than you think. I went in search of a "pie pumpkin" which are supposedly little and tasty. I got a lot of weird looks, and also helpfully informed by one supermarket employee that he was pretty sure that some of the pumpkins out front didn't have faces already painted on them. He then offered me canned pumpkin puree, which as you might guess, isn't my top choice for cutting into cubes. Fortunately, the recipe is pretty darn good (if not crazy sweet) with the squash.

1/2 lb fresh fettucine
1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed (.5 inch cubes maybe? a titch smaller?)
3-4 T butter
fresh sage leaves (maybe 6-8 leaves - stems cut off)
.5 cup grated parm
olive oil
salt and pepper

Spread the cubed, peeled squash on a baking sheet, toss with olive oil and salt and pepper. Cook at 400 for 30 minutes, or until a fork goes in easily. When the squash is almost done, boil the pasta water, and cook the pasta according to the package. Add the butter and sage to a skillet, heat at medium until the butter is a rich brown color. Drain pasta, top with squash and parm then pour the butter and sage over top.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


A baked stuffed squash - "Brilliant!" I thought. What better vessel to fill with the flavors of fall than a squash? All those rich, earthy tastes mingling in the oven. Problem is, I'd never cooked a squash, didn't know where to buy one, and found out a little late in the process that your pickings among online baked stuffed squash recipes are pretty slim. Armed with absolutely nothing but vague craving I went to the farm stands that are set up around a nearby square. I walked away with two very small sweet dumpling squash. Entirely unconvinced that what I'd bought was even intended to be used as food, I went to the local produce store and invested in that familiar, comforting squash - the butternut. I felt better. I'd just about settled on a stuffing of sausage, onion, mushroom and wild rice, to be topped with provolone cheese, when I came upon this recipe and became obsessed with the idea of sausage and blue cheese and thyme. In the end, there was no reasoning with myself, and after I'd popped the squash in the oven, I ran out to buy blue cheese. And therefore, we have squashapalooza. Refusing to bow to sanity, I made 2 different kinds of baked squash and stuffed each with two different stuffings. Now, this can't be done without consequences, and sadly, you all are the ones to suffer, because my recipes are hazy at best. But hey, I know what else is out there and you might even end up grateful.


pre-heat oven to 450 , cut squash in half, scoop out seeds and all stringy matter, melt 1 T of butter and brush the flesh of the squash with the butter. Place squash face down on a foil covered baking pan. Cook for 50-80 minutes depending on the size of your squash. It can be done a tiny bit before the fork goes in smoothly if you want, because it's going back in for 10 minutes later, but I found it easiest to just let it cook completely.

1.5 sausages, casing removed (I used hot turkey sausage)
.5 C onion diced
1 T olive oil
.75 C homemade croutons - I used 3/4 of a deli roll
.25 C blue cheese, crumbled - I like blue d'auvergne
salt and pepper to taste
fresh thyme
drizzle of honey

DIRECTIONS: heat olive oil in a non-stick pan, add diced onions and cook until soft and translucent. Add salt and pepper, cook a minute or two more, and set aside. Add sausage to the same pan (don't even bother to clean, you like lazy don't you?) and brown. Break apart the sausage with a wooden spoon as you go. Drain sausage, add to cooked onions. While everything is cooking you can make the bread crumbs. Cut up a roll into crouton sized chunks, toast. Mix toasted bread, sausage, onion, with crumbled blue cheese, drizzle of honey and a few teaspoons of fresh thyme.

1.5 sausages, casing removed ( I used hot turkey sausage) - check labels to ensure gf
.5 C onion diced
1 T olive oil
.75 C mushroom diced (I used baby bellas)
.75-1 C wild rice cooked
1 T fresh sage, chopped
.75 C mixed grated provolone and mozzarella - shred your own or check labels, some pre-shredded cheese contains gluten
DIRECTIONS: heat olive oil in a non-stick pan, add diced onions and mushrooms and cook until onions are soft and translucent. Add salt and pepper, cook a minute or two more, and set aside. Add sausage to the same pan (don't even bother to clean, you like lazy don't you?) and brown. Break apart the sausage with a wooden spoon as you go. Drain sausage. Mix sausage, onion, cooked rice, sage. After stuffing squash (see below) top by pressing provolone and mozzarella on top.

After the squash has finished cooking, scoop a bit out of the squash and mix well with the filling. Leave enough squash to hold the edges up, the skin is very soft after this much cooking. After mixing the squash with the stuffing of your choice, spoon it back into the squash. Put it back in the oven and cook for 10 more minutes until nice and melty.

Both are delicious, the wild rice one really tastes like Thanksgiving and the blue cheese stuffing is sweet and salty goodness. So far, Ryan prefers the blue cheese stuffing in the butternut squash, but we haven't tried all possible combinations yet, so the final verdict is still out. Also, both of these can be made vegetarian simply by leaving out the sausage. Make some extra mushrooms or something. I've forgotten to add the sausage many a time with no ill effects.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Purple Pasta

If I ever invite the artist now(and formerly) known as Prince to dinner, this is totally what I'm serving. Because it's purple. And I don't eat other more famously purple foods, like eggplant. But this was really good comfort food, and I'd totally make it again (like when Prince comes over), and it made me inexplicably happy to eat such a happy looking meal. I'm really quite relieved it worked out so well, because I'd heard that purple cauliflower loses its color when you cook it, but mine was glorious thanks to some lemon juice (the acid helps preserve the color). And yes, you can make it with the boring white stuff, but don't expect anyone too ooh and aah before they even take a bite. That's reserved for those of us who can find the pretty.

1 head purple cauliflower (or boring white cauliflower)
4-5 T lemon juice (probably only necessary if you're using the pretty cauliflower)
2/3 C bread crumbs
1 T olive oil
1 T butter
3 cloves garlic
4-5 strips bacon (I use turkey bacon) - obviously omit this if you want a vegetarian dish, or use some type of bacon substitute)
2/3 lb penne
~2 t salt
1 t red pepper flakes
parmigiano reggiano cheese
Prepare bowl with lemon juice. Cut the cauliflower into florets (discard stem, or use for something else). Put florets immediately into lemon juice and toss well. Prepare a pot to steam the cauliflower in, make sure that the steamer isn't actually in the water. Steam cauliflower for 2 minutes (if purple, which cooks faster, cook a bit longer for white maybe 3-5). You want the cauliflower to be done before it's mushy, absolutely. Take out, set aside (I covered, I have no idea whether or not this was critical).

Start boiling water for pasta, add penne and 1 t salt. Cook until al dente.

In a non-stick pan, melt butter and heat olive oil. Add bread crumbs and toss with spoon until all fat is incorporated, cook for 1-2 minutes. Set aside. Chop up bacon into bitesized bits. Cook until crisp. Add garlic (minced) and cook until golden. Add the cauliflower and cook for about 2 minutes on low. Add 1 t salt.
When the pasta is done add it and mix well, also add red pepper flakes.

Grate some parm into the bread crumbs and mix well.

Serve pasta/cauliflower top with bread crumbs. Yum.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Let me just tell you, when Game 3 of the American League Championship Series is about to start and your beloved Sox are on, you really can’t shovel food on your plate fast enough so that you can get out of the kitchen and back in front of the game. Later you will regret this, when Dice-K has given up a two-run home run to Kenny Lofton, but it will be too late.

I had been thinking out a nice blog entry for you, explaining all about my personal feelings on Emeril raking in the big bucks for marketing what is a combination of pretty basic household spices as “Essence” and how to make Ina Garten’s heavenly polenta recipe into something that will not cause Great-Aunt Myrtle to have a heart-attack on the spot and that despite the high fat content of the recipes, I really do find Ina's Barefoot Contessa Family Style Cookbook indispensable, but after putting together tonight’s dinner, all I really want is a kitchen with decent ventilation and a way to see the TV from the stove.

So here’s dinner in a hurry, courtesy of two of the Food Network’s shining stars. You go make something nice to eat. I’m going to go hide under the bed until the Sox are in the lead again.

1 lb Shrimp - Peeled and Deveined
~ 1 T "Essence"
Olive Oil
2 1/2 T paprika
2 T salt
2 T garlic powder
1 T black pepper
1 T onion powder
1 T cayenne pepper
1 T dried oregano
1 T dried thyme
DIRECTIONS: Coat bottom of non-stick pan with olive oil. Turn on heat to medium-high.
Toss the shrimp with "Essence" until evenly covered. Add shrimp to pan. Cook shrimp 3-5 minutes per side until cooked through.

POLENTA (adapted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style)
1 T butter
1 T olive oil( + enough to coat pan for frying) 

2 cloves minced garlic 
2 C milk
1 C chicken broth

1/2 C water
1/2 t salt 

1 C cornmeal
1/2 C grated cheddar 

flour or cornstarch for dusting (use cornstarch if you'd like it to be gluten free!)
Heat oil and butter in a saucepan until melted. Add the garlic and cook on low until golden. Add salt. Add milk, chicken broth and water and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and sprinkle in the cornmeal, whisking all the while. I cannot emphasize the "sprinkle" part enough. Anything more will result in big clumps and your arms will get tired trying to whisk them out. So just do it right the first time. After the cornmeal is incorporated, cook over low heat, stirring constantly until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat again, stir in cheddar. Pour into a pie plate and smooth the top. Refridgerate until firm and cold. This can take a few hours. So it's not the best weeknight dinner unless you get home early, like I do. But it is great for company, because you can do most of the work ahead. Okay, so once it's cold, slice in wedges, like a pie. Dust each triangle with flour. In a cast-iron pan heat oil. Cook triangles on medium-high to high heat for about 5 minutes per side. Don't overcrowd the pan until you are an expert flipper, or you'll end up with some pretty squished triangles and they will not be pretty. Still tasty, but not pretty. But maybe that's better for you, because you can eat your mistakes and not have to share them with the company. So go ahead. Overcrowd the pan.

Oh and sorry there's no picture, but it didn't show up on my camera. I took one. You can ask Ryan. He sat there patiently not eating waiting for me to shoot the food. But I got nothing. Some days are like that. Even in Australia.


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