Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Delicata - The Best Winter Squash

Aside from being absolutely delicious, my favorite winter squash (the delicata variety, pictured on the left above) stand out among all winter varieties because you do not have to peel them! The skin of a delicata squash is so thin it is edible, making preparation of it very easy. I thinly slice these, tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast them. The roasted squash can be added to anything you like! One of my favorite combinations is a green salad with roasted delicata squash, quick pickled red onions, toasted nuts (walnuts, peanuts or pumpkin seeds) and a curry vinaigrette.

Delicata squash are available at most farmers' markets right now, and in some local grocery stores.

Roasted Delicata Squash
2 baking sheets

3 delicata squash - cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
you can also add spices such as curry, chili pepper, or cumin

Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  1. Slice squash into 1/4inch thick half circle slices
  2. Toss with olive oil until evenly coated
  3. Toss with salt and pepper to taste, adding other spices if desired
  4. Place in an even layer on a foil or parchment lined baking sheet.
  5. Roast in the oven until lightly browned, about 40 minutes. Rotate part way through and checking for browning on the bottom side. 

Salad with Roasted Delicata Squash, Pickled Red Onions and Peanuts
If you want to try out this salad:

(in this recipe use red onions, they will turn a gorgeous pink color and omit the basil)

2. Make a basic Vinaigrette and add some curry powder and a drizzle of honey

3. Wash and dry some delicious salad greens: a variety of lettuces, dandelion or mustard greens.

4. Toast nuts or pumpkin seeds in the oven or in a frying pan until fragrant. 

5. Toss the greens with dressing and pickled onions. Top with roasted squash and nuts, enjoy!

While you have the oven on, you might as well go ahead and roast an acorn squash (shown above, split, seeded and placed face down on a baking sheet with 1/2 cup of water. Or, roast some sweet potato wedges or anything else you have in the fridge, make the most of having the oven on and get a jump on your next meal. 

What do you like to roast?

Thanksgiving Food Musings and a Beautiful Bird

I have been hosting Thanksgiving for the past few years, which means that I have been in charge of the Turkey. Each year I have tried a different type of bird, and a few different cooking techniques, but for the last two years, I used the same technique and ended up with a deliciously moist bird cooked in only 2 hours. Two tricks that I think made all the difference: slather tons of garlic pureed with butter or oil and herbs under the skin and on top of the skin, and start with a high heat to brown the bird (in the bottom part of the oven, and then turn the temperature down a bit to cook the rest of the bird, draping the breast with foil if it is getting too dark before the rest of the turkey is done. For the last two years, my turkey has cooked in half the time I had calculated based on it's weigh, and I've had to scramble to get the rest of the meal on the table before the bird was cold. I write this in hopes that I will remember for this year!

I never posted my pictures from last year, so I thought this might be a good time to share. It was a fairly traditional year as far as side dishes and seasoning goes. I'm including links to some good recipes on my blog and in other locations:

Garlic and Herb Roasted Turkey (below)
Mashed Potatoes*
Buttermilk Biscuits
Kale Salad
Roasted Squash and Brussel Sprouts with Pecans
Caraway Roasted Rainbow Carrots (harvested that morning from my own garden!!)

I went a little nuts on dessert:
Raspberry Pie
Cardamom Buttermilk Pie (I topped mine with whipped cream just before serving)
Coconut Cream Pie
Apple Pear Pie
Pumpkin Pie (using a fresh pumpkin)

*Note on Mashed Potatoes: this linked recipe is a basic starting point. I would add a total of 4 tablespoons of butter and I boil my potatoes in the skin and peel them hot using a dish towel, then place them directly in the mixer or ricer, adding salt, hot mik and butter until they are fluffy. 1 

Perfect Roasted Turkey
1 Turkey (about 15-18 pounds)- at room temperature
1 stick butter or 1/4 cup olive oil
8 cloves garlic
1 small onion
salt and pepper
herbs or spices of your choosing

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Puree garlic, onion, salt and pepper with butter or olive oil.
  3. Loosen the skin on the turkey with your hands or a spoon.
  4. Smear garlic puree under the skin, reserving a few tablespoons to rub on the outside of the turkey skin.
  5. Tie turkey legs together with twin or string
  6. Place turkey in a large roasting pan breast side up and place in the oven on the bottom rack. 
  7. Roast at 450 until the skin is nicely browned, roughly 45 minutes to 1 hour. Turn oven down to 350 and continue roasting until turkey meat reaches 170 degrees when tested with a thermometer, approximately 1 more hour. 

This year I am thinking of going a little lighter all around. Contemplating poached pears and fruit based desserts rather than so many pies (the picture above is missing a few pies form our meal last year), and a lot of vegetables again....we'll see if people let me skip the biscuits or not....

I came across this paragraph I wrote last year about the joys of growing and eating my own food. It was an incredible experience to have a large harvest of one crop from my tiny backyard garden and get to share it with my family.

"Growing food in my backyard is an absolutely thrilling experience. To think that I put these tiny little seeds in dirt, let the sun shine on them, give them a little water, and try to keep the squirrels, stray cats and children from destroying them, and a few weeks or months later I have food. Such was the case with 2 raised beds of carrots. Now, carrots take a heck of a long time to grow (70-90 days), so it is amazing to me that they are so inexpensive in the grocery store. This crop took up two halves of raised beds; some precious garden real estate. The great thing is that I planted them so long ago that I'd almost forgotten about them. I'd been saving them for our Thanksgiving meal, and almost forgot to pick them. I sent the kids out on Thanksgiving morning to pull some of the carrots we'd been eyeing for months. The next 30 minutes was filled with kids racing in and out of the house showing us the fat danvers orange carrots, and the assortment of rainbow carrots, skinny white ones, stumpy purples, golden yellows and oranges. The kitchen floor was covered in dirt and brown leaves, the picnic table outside was piled high with carrots (greens and all), and I was filled with an inexplicable joy, both that my kids were taking such pleasure in a vegetable, and that I actually managed to grow something so beautiful and delicious. There was no need to remind myself to be thankful on this Thanksgiving."

 Any Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes you want to share?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pie Ninjas

It's that time of year again...time to think about PIE.
Year two of my "How to be a Pie Ninja" class at Common Ground School.

What a great group of folks turned out for my class this year! We made pie dough from scratch and then set in on the apple or pear pies. The fun of this class (beyond the obvious bit of pie making) is that each group gets to personalize their pie:

apples or pears
a variety fo spices to explore: cardamom, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon
candied ginger or fresh cranberries 
sugar or no sugar? white or brown? 
crumb top, double crust or stars and hearts?
lattice weave, crimped edge or fork finished edge....

There are so many ways to make a great pie, and it is glorious to watch people come to life with the choices and the realization that there is not one right way to master this sweet treat....and then watch them fall in love with their creation as it turns golden brown and flaky in the oven.

Beautiful warm lovely pie. We sing your praises.

A glimpse into the Pie Ninja's in training.......

And then for the very flaky pie crust:
Above: pie dough scraps baked into cinnamon twists. Showing off the flaky layers from the cold butter cut into the flour and left in large pieces (some small grape sized ones are fine!)

The Best Pie Dough
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (1 cup white flour plus 1/4 cup or more whole wheat flour or wheat germ)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup ice water
1/2 teaspoon vinegar (white or cider)

Make the pie dough:

  1. Cut butter into 1-inch pieces and place in the freezer for 15 minutes. Measure and sift all of the dry ingredients. In a mixer, food processor or using two forks,  cut the butter into the dough until it is the size of larger peas or small grapes. Some larger sized piece of butter are good, just pinch them flat. Add the ice water and vinegar and mix dough till combined, dough should be tacky, but not sticky. If the dough is crumbling apart, it is too dry, add a spoonful more water. Gently form the dough into a disc, wrap with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for one hour or longer until well chilled
  2. Preheat the oven to 375°. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to an 11-inch round about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie dish and trim the overhang to 3/4 inch; fold the  overhang under itself and crimp decoratively. Prick the bottom of the pie shell all over and refrigerate until firm.

Basic Apple Pie Filling:
8 apples - peeled and sliced
1/2 cup to 3/4 cups sugar or other sweetener
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon (cardamom, nutmeg, allspice, clove - chose one or two or all...)

optional: 1 cup cranberries, 3 tablespoons chopped candied ginger, or anything else you dream up

  1. Toss fruit with other ingredients
  2. Form bottom crust and fill with fruit
  3. cover with top crust, crust shape cut-outs or crumb top
Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes until crust begins to brown, turn oven down to 325 and bake until juices are bubbling and have thickened and crust is nicely brown. Rotate pie part way through baking and adjust location in oven to encourage even baking. 

Check out this blog post from a Pie Party I had last winter, with links to some other great pie recipes:
Chocolate Souffle Pie, Coconut Cream Pie and more....
or this great Twice baked Raspberry pie or Sour Cherry Pie...amazing!

What are some of your favorite PIE recipes?