Sunday, November 6, 2011

delicata squash with rainbow chard and apples

I love fall, I'm sure you get that by now. Everything about it. Everything. Even the days it gets cold and windy. Fall has a has distinct smells, unique sights, and, of course, fall has it's own set of flavors. Spicy, earthy, warming...the kinds of flavors that go along with jeans and sweaters. I'm finding that as I get older, my tastes are starting to change with the seasons, so I'm all of a sudden wanting roots and dark greens and's kind of cool.

So I'm sure you know all about squash--you've heard of it. It's an odd name for a vegetable, isn't it? Squash. I don't think I like it. Not squash itself, just the name.

 Squash itself, especially the assortment of winter squash varieties, is great. And there are so many different types--all kinds of shapes, sizes, and before this fall, I think I was only fully aware of butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, and pumpkins, but there are so many more...

So to expand my squash horizons, the first new variety I have decided to try is called delicata--chosen partly because I liked how it sounded (delicata = fun to say), partly because it was little and striped, but mostly because I read a description of the flavor, and I thought it sounded fabulous. And oh yes, these things are fabulous. Subtly sweet, and kind of buttery, with this unmistakable flavor of roasted sweet corn--sound crazy? It's true. I found out for myself, you should too.

So in an effort to combine some of the best flavors of the season, this is what happened:  apples, onions, bacon, and chard met in my pan. There might have been some maple syrup involved...and a little spice. The important thing is simply this--these things are, apparently, wonderful together. So good. And the colors are gorgeous.

Half of a roasted delicata squash seemed like the perfect vessel for this melange, and it worked perfectly. Even approved by the lovely Alyssa, am I right?

I may never have been so proud of something I've created by chance.

Chard and Apples with Bacon

2 slices good, thick-cut bacon, chopped
half an onion
2 apples, cored and chopped (don't peel them)
big pinch of red pepper flakes
1 big bunch of chard, ends trimmed (and ribs removed if you want), chopped
1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon good maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
salt & pepper to taste

Heat a big skillet over medium-high heat and throw in the bacon. Cook it for a bit, stirring it every once in awhile, till the bacon is reasonably cooked and a good amount of the bacon fat has been rendered. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon, and set it aside for later.

In the remaining bacon fat, toss in the chopped onion. Saute for a few minutes, til the onions have softened a bit, and then add the apples and the red pepper flakes. Saute a few minutes more, and add the chard. After it cooks for a minute or so and wilts a little, add the remaining ingredients and stir around to make sure everything is evenly distributed. Make sure you have enough salt and pepper, and enjoy! Goes especially well with squash, but I bet it would be good on rice or some other grain as well...there are so many possibilities.

Roasted Delicata Squash

delicata squash

Preheat the oven to 350

Use a sharp knife to cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds.

Rub the cut sides with softened butter, and sprinkle with salt if you like.

Place on a roasting pan and roast for 45 minutes-an hour, cut side up, until the flesh is soft and tender.

Consume as is, or covered with some other delicious creation.

"creativity is discontent translated into art"     --Eric Hoffer

I like it.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

pumpkin time

I roasted a real pumpkin. For the first time in my life.

And then, then I made pie.

It was awesome.

I really don't have much more to say about the whole thing. Other than it's November, so if you haven't gotten yourself some pumpkin pie yet, now is the time. Oh yes.

 Also, I make mine with coconut milk. And lots of ginger, of course. It's fabulous.

And please don't forget to eat it with some real whipped cream on top. Or some plain's so good, really, it is! Plus, it's obvious that eating anything with yogurt makes it breakfast-worthy...this was definitely taken advantage of.

Fall is still here in Minnesota. The leaves are still gorgeous. And I'm going to keep roasting pumpkins...the pie is almost gone.

Pumpkin Pie

1 pie crust of your choice--can be regular pastry or maybe some kind of gingersnap/graham cracker type
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups roasted* (or canned, I suppose) pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, plus the yolk of a third
1/8 cup good maple syrup
1 cup canned coconut milk

Preheat the oven to 375

Roll out your pie crust to your desired size, place it in the pan, and crimp the edges.

Whisk together the brown sugar, spices, and salt. Stir in the pumpkin puree, maple syrup, and vanilla. Now stir in the eggs and coconut milk until smooth.

Before filling the pie crust, use a fork to prick the pie dough a few times to prevent air bubbles. Fill the pie crust with the filling and bake for somwhere around and hour or so - the center of the pie should just barely jiggle when you move the pie, and the edges should be set.You might have to tent the crust with foil toward the end of the baking time if the crust is getting too dark.

Let the pie cool a bit, this makes slicing less messy. It's even better the next day. And don't forget the whipped cream...or yogurt, if you're awesome. Enjoy!

Makes one 9 or 10-inch pie.

*Roasted Pumpkin

1 3 lb. sugar pie pumpkin--not just any old pumpkin, this is important!
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 400

Carefully cut the pumpkin into four big wedges - get rid of the stem (try not to hurt yourself doing this). Scoop out the seeds and pulp (you can toast the seeds if you like, but be careful, they burn easily), rub the pumpkin wedges with butter, sprinkle generously with salt, and then bake on a baking sheet (middle rack) until tender throughout - about an hour. Scoop flesh out of the skins and puree with a food processor or mash well by hand. Use for all sorts of culinary experiments!