Archives for posts with tag: squash

In a previous life I probably wouldn’t have made pho at home. I figured someone else could do it better, and cheaper, at a restaurant than I could at home.

Living in Hartford has its hidden perks: the lack of veggie-friendly Vietnamese restaurants has made me less of a snob about what I cook. We made this twice last week and the broth is perfect.

The recipe is at The Kitchn. I followed the broth recipe exactly, and then I followed it imprecisely (the carrots were gone). It’s better when you follow the recipe exactly. Veggies and tofu (broccoli, bok choy, shiitakes, thinly sliced marinated tofu, steamed acorn squash) go in the bowl with the rice noodles (which are best when you soak them in boiling rather than merely hot water). Herbs, lime chunks, and bean sprouts go on the side.  Action soup.

The action extends to the prep: there’s a lot of it. But once you have a stash of clean, dry herbs and greens, the soup becomes easy. I would plan to make it twice in a week.

aerial pho

pho with waning paperwhites


I made these wonderful muffins 3 times over the holidays, but I didn’t have the time to post the recipe! Amber Waves had an overabundance of great squashes at Thanksgiving, both acorn and buttercup. The acorn were the usual light-colored flesh, but very sweet, and the buttercup, well, they were the best I’d ever eaten. As demand waned after Thanksgiving, I took home the leftovers and roasted them cut side down in a 400 degree oven till they were soft, about 40 minutes. When they were cool enough to handle, I scooped the flesh, packed and froze a few quarts, and put the rest in the fridge. Then I went online and looked for a recipe for pumpkin muffins. Epicurious had a few, Martha had one or two laden with sour cream and butter, so I looked at a site my daughter had recommended: Smitten Kitchen.

It seems this person makes recipes from all over the planet, this one comes from the American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin, via Gourmet Magazine! It had way too much sugar, especially considering the sweetness of the squash, so I cut back by 3/4 C and added pecans and dried cranberries.

Pumpkin Muffins with Pecans and Dried Cranberries
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
makes 12 petite muffins

1 1/2 C all purpose flour (I used 1/2 C. whole wheat flour and 1 C white)
1 t baking powder
1 C canned pumpkin (or your best leftover squash)
1/3 C vegetable oil (I used coconut)
2 large eggs
1 t pumpkin pie spice (or 1 t cinnamon, 1/2 t ginger & 1/8 t cloves)
1/2 – 3/4 C sugar (for cupcake-sweet muffins, use 1 1/4 C)
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 C chopped pecans
1/2 C dried cranberries

1 t cinnamon
1 T sugar

Heat oven to 350, butter or Pam your muffin pan.

Stir together pumpkin, oil (I heat the coconut oil so it’s liquid), eggs, and sugar till smooth.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, soda, salt and spices.

Mix the cinnamon with the sugar for topping the muffins.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry, mix till just moist, and add the nuts and cranberries. Stir only till nicely distributed, and fill muffin cups about 3/4 full. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, and bake 25 – 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Cool in pan for 5 minutes, and transfer muffins to a rack to cool, if you can wait that long!

No recipes in two weeks! I have an excuse. Kid went to Washington. One dear friend lives in our nation’s capital, so another dear friend and I journeyed there for a mini college reunion. We ate cupcakes:

And saw columns topped with ears of new world corn:

Back in LA, I am faced with a newly temperate spring–the heat broke while I was away and I feel that turning on the stove is once again a plausible thing to do. I’ve been wanting to share this recipe since we started the blog, but it seemed a little mean to type up a recipe featuring tomatoes and summer squash in the winter, even though I was making this well into December (we loves socal).

The spaetzle I use is made of spelt, and I suspect it is not widely available unless you live in Falmouth and can make a trip to Amber Waves. This is what it looks like:

I recommend seeking it out. It’s totally delicious. But you can also make your own spaetzle! I’ve never done this but you can!

When you use enough butter and olive oil, the fresh tomatoes and squash melt into a pretty luscious sauce, one that you’d be happy to eat on whatever pasta remainders are lurking in the back of your cabinet. But I think it’s most special on spaetzle.

Spaetzle and Patty Pans with Fresh Tomato Sauce
inspired by things i ate that i love
serves 4

I had no patty pans this time, so I used regular yellow squash. Obviously you can use zucchini if you like; I prefer the red/yellow color combo to red/green but use what you have. You want roughly the same amount of tomatoes and squash.

2 T butter
2 T olive oil, divided
one small onion, chopped
4-5 yellow patty pans (or 2-3 yellow squash)
4-5 tomatoes
1/2 lb. egg spaetzle
1/2 C grated parmesan or pecorino, plus more for serving
kosher salt and fresh pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter and 1 T olive oil. Add the onions and a big pinch of kosher salt and saute until translucent. While the onions cook, slice up your squash. If you’re using regular yellow squash, half them the long way and then slice them into half coins that are about a quarter inch thick. If you’re using patty pans, just slice them into whatever size you like–they don’t slice up as uniformly but they’re cute so I forgive them.

When the onions are soft, add the squash and another big pinch of kosher salt. Grind some pepper over the onions and squash and saute for few minutes. Meanwhile, dice up the tomatoes into rough one-inch cubes. Add them, skins and seeds and all, to the skillet and stir to combine. (If your farmers’ market sells ugly dented tomatoes, buy them! This is what they’re for.) Salt and pepper the sauce one more time and and turn the heat to high. As the tomatoes cook they’ll release some water, at which point you can turn the heat to medium, let the sauce simmer, and pay attention to the spaetzle.

Dump the spaetzle into the salted boiling water and cook according to the package directions. Drain, and add to the sauce when most of the tomato water has boiled off and the tomatoes have started to disintegrate. Toss together with the remaining 1 T of olive oil and grated cheese. Stir and serve immediately with more cheese and maybe a little fresh basil sprinkled on top.

In the past, when I’ve followed recipes labeled “thai curry” it’s meant that I’m able to stave off a Thai take-out order for about 18 more hours. Which is to say that my kinda Thai cookings have not really sated any cravings–just made them harder to ignore.

Well, meet the new boss. A few weeks ago, I started daydreaming about a pumpkin curry I had at a Laotian restaurant near Jo’s house in Madison. If I remember correctly she doesn’t even really like this curry, but I loved it, and I also enjoyed figuring out how to pronounce “Laotian.” With a fair amount of geographic fudging I decided to seek out a Thai curry recipe–no matter what I was going to end up using a tinned curry paste so I figured drop the pretense of authenticity early on, right?

I have no idea if this curry is any decent approximation of real, live Thai food (let alone Laotian)–but it is definitely as tasty as the take-out place down the street, and will delay your inevitable take-out order by two weeks. The sauce is pleasantly murky–pretty luscious with the fatty coconut milk, and spicy from the added chiles. The recipe allows for as much improvisation as you like–vegetables, protein–but I would recommend keeping the acorn squash, especially if you’ve never had it in a curry, and frying the tofu. If you’ve ever been wary of cubed tofu, frying it might be the ticket. With a little textural interest tofu becomes palatable, even good–and I don’t like tofu that much.

Thai Curry with Acorn Squash and Fried Tofu
a riff on Nigella’s recipe
serves 5-6

A note on coconut milk. Whenever I’ve bought the low-fat kind I’ve been disappointed. This time I bought a sketchy $.99 can of the stuff from Albertson’s, which made no claims about its fat content. It didn’t have the layer of fatty coconut goo on the top, but it also wasn’t totally austere. If you don’t find any such cans, get the full fat kind. Discard the layer of cream on top, if you’re trying to avoid excess fat, or go ahead and use it. That’s what I’d do.

Also, if you’re veggie just leave out the fish sauce. I forgot it until the last minute and while it adds a nice tang the dish is still wonderful without it.

4 t canola oil, divided, plus more for frying
2 serrano chiles, finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
2 T Thai red curry paste
1 14-oz. can coconut milk
1 14-oz. can water
1 vegetable bouillon cube
3 lemongrass stalks, lengthy dry tips removed, the juicier ends bashed with the flat of a big knife
1/4 t tumeric
2 T fish sauce (optional)
2 T brown sugar
1/4 t lime zest
1 sm. to med. acorn squash
1/2 large yellow onion, sliced
1 green pepper, cut into squares
1 lb. firm tofu, cut into cubes
2 handfuls of green beans (I like frozen haricots verts)
1 handful basil leaves (about 10 big ones)

In a medium soup pot or dutch oven, heat up 2 t of canola oil over medium heat. Add the chiles and garlic and a little salt and stir until the garlic turns golden. Add the curry paste, let it toast for 30 seconds or so with the garlic and chiles, then add the coconut milk. Fill the coconut milk can with water and add it too, along with the bouillon cube, lemongrass stalks, tumeric, fish sauce, brown sugar, and lime zest.

As you bring this sauce to a boil, deal with the acorn squash. Cut it in half and scoop out the seeds. Then cut the halves in half, and cut these quarters into rings. Finally, cut the rings into 1-inch cubes. Add them to the sauce, skin and all–you’ll never notice the skin and it is a royal pain to remove.

Simmer the squash in the sauce for 10-15 minutes, until the squash is tender. As it cooks, slice up the onion and pepper. Then heat a large skillet over high heat until the pan is really scorching–you want to blister these veggies, so be brave. Add the remaining 2 t of canola oil when the pan is hot, then dump in the onions and peppers. Distribute them evenly in the pan and then let them alone for a minute. They’ll spatter but it’s ok. Toss them around once, let them sit for another 30 seconds or so, and remove them from the pan once the peppers have some brown spots on them and the onions are a little wilted. Set them aside for now.

In the same skillet, pour in a hefty layer of canola oil for frying the tofu. It should cover the bottom of the pan, no swirling necessary, to a depth of about .5 cm (1/4 of an inch or so for those of you who cannot form a mental picture using the metric system). Heat the oil over med-high heat and add the tofu cubes in a single layer. You need a fair amount of oil for this operation so don’t skimp–the tofu want to stick, and there is nothing lost when you use more oil. Start checking the tofu after 2 minutes–when it’s golden, flip it all around. Pry up any recalcitrant pieces with a spatula. Continue frying and turning until the tofu is golden brown on many of its sides. Drain it on a plate lined with paper towels and discard the extra oil.

Now add the green beans to the simmering squash. Stir to combine and bring back to a simmer. As soon as you’ve reached the simmer the green beans are probably done–that’s the only thing that has to cook, so keep checking it. When the green beans are done, add in the tofu, onions and peppers. Keep the heat on for a minute until everything is nice and hot, then turn off the heat, tear the basil leaves roughly, and stir them into the curry.

Serve with basmati rice and lime wedges.

The real recipe here is the artichoke spread. Do what you will with the rest of the sandwich ingredients–but make the spread.

I’m sort of kidding with the “do what you will.” You want a bread with some heft–i.e. not the squishy Orowheat I always have in the fridge. Some sort of country white bread is ideal. You want a really melty cheese–provolone would be fine if you had it but fontina is ideal. And you want a grilled vegetable that excites you–the original recipe called for grilled eggplant but I feel torn about eggplant. I don’t want to peel the eggplant–I am anti-vegetable-peeling–but the skin just gets tougher as you grill it and then when you bite into the sandwich the skin produces some unfortunate drag that bums me out. But I love grilled squashes, and when I was originally entranced with this sandwich last year I made it repeatedly with grilled zucchini.

Today I made it with grilled yellow squash. It goes very well with whatever overspiced curried soup you’re trying to make disappear.

Grilled Vegetable Panini with Fontina, Artichoke, and Capers
serves as many as you like (makes enough spread for 6-8 sandwiches)
adapted from Gourmet

The original recipe calls for artichoke hearts in a jar. I dislike them so I seek out frozen, which I usually find in big bags at Trader Joe’s or in small, overpriced cardboard spinach boxes at the supermarket.

Artichoke spread:

1 small garlic clove or 1/2 of a large one, peeled
2 T mayonnaise
1 T capers, drained
6 oz. (or so) frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted and squeezed dry

Sandwich assembly:
1 zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch slices, oiled, salted, and grilled or broiled until soft (around 5 minutes)**
sliced fontina cheese (the original recipe says 1/4 lb. for 4 sandwiches)
Italian or french bread
salt and pepper
olive oil

In a food processor, finely chop the garlic. Then add the capers, mayo, and artichokes and pulse until you’ve formed a coarse, spreadable paste. (My mom taught me to do the garlic first because if you just throw it in with everything else it doesn’t get finely chopped.)

Warm up a panini grill (I know–it takes up precious counter space but seriously, it makes great panini). If you don’t have one, warm up two small, heavy frypans over medium heat.

Smear the artichoke spread evenly over one slice of bread. Press however much cheese you enjoy into the spread. On the other piece of bread, pile a single layer of grilled veggies and dust them with salt and fresh pepper. Flop the cheese bread onto the veggie bread. Paint the outsides of the sandwich with olive oil.

Grill the sandwich in your panini press for around 5 minutes, or until the bread is crunchy and the cheese is melting out the sides. You’ll know it’s done when you can hear the mess the cheese is making on the hot grill surface. (If you’re using frypans, put the sandwich into one pan and stack the second on top of the sandwich. Stack some bowls in the top pan if it isn’t balancing well. Lower the heat on the lower pan to low (low low low) and check the sandwich every couple minutes.)

Remove the sandwich from the grill and let sit for a couple minutes before slicing it in two.

**Whenever I’m planning to grill I get some veggies to do up as well–they are very versatile once you’ve cooked them. You can chop them up and add them to a pilaf of brown rice and israeli cous cous; you can toss them with fresh tomatoes, basil, and olive oil; you can make this sandwich; you can put them in a frittata; you can add them to an arugula salad with goat cheese and lemon dressing; etc.

Also called maccheroni with zucchini. Or, as it was dubbed last night, zucchini carbonara.

This recipe is from my hero, Lidia, whose suggestions I almost always take. But when she says “Get yourself a chitarra!,” I balk. Apparently you can’t make maccheroni without a chitarra (which sounds like a riddle rather than a serious edict). A chitarra is, as it sounds, a guitar-like thingy that makes pasta strands. You even have to tune it to make sure the strings are taut. Because I’ve never had real maccheroni I don’t know what I’m missing, so I was perfectly happy to use the spaghetti attachment on my Kitchenaid. This is the first in a series of executive decisions that I am sure would get me kicked out of Italy.

The next was my decision to mess with spaghetti carbonara by introducing it to this humble, vegetarian, zucchini-based pasta dish. As far as I can tell this is a grave mistake, and to make it worse I used pre-cubed pancetta–that’s right, pancetta!–from Trader Joe’s. I have learned in recent months that the meat of choice is guanciale but I live in a major city and have never seen it at a store. And I go to a lot of food stores. So there’s that mistake.

I saw an episode of No Reservations where Anthony Bourdain was in Rome, eating spaghetti carbonara, and some hot shot prep cook at the restaurant wanted to make a version of the dish with a couple zucchini flowers in it. Let’s remember for a moment that zucchini flowers have next to no flavor, and are quite pretty. The owner freaked. I don’t really know what the guy said–his angry eyes were too scary for me to focus on the subtitles–but the jist seemed to be that, ok, fine, you can do that, but if you do I will passive-aggressively stare at you the whole time, silently judging your lax disrespect for the institution of my restaurant, and then if you dare to call it anything that sounds like “carbonara” I will immediately correct your massive mistake.

So I’m sure that what we ate for dinner last night would offend Lidia, that guy, and probably most of Italy. But it was really, really tasty.

You clearly do not have to make your own pasta. (If you do, here’s the ratio: 2 C, or 10 oz., flour, 4 eggs, 1/3 t kosher salt.) You also don’t have to bastardize this dish with the addition of pancetta, though if you are a meat-eater it’s a nice addition.

Otherwise, my edits were minor. I used whole eggs instead of egg yolks for the sauce enrichment, because I don’t like egg whites hanging out the fridge. They’re a bad influence. I dialed back the oniony ingredients a bit–there’s saffron in the recipe and I wanted to keep the flavor competition to a minimum–and I added a little more parsley.

(I know, the pasta is on the bed. We don’t eat on the bed. There is no light in our house. I need to start making dinner at 1PM or something.)

Maccheroni all’Aquilana
serves 4 as a main dish

1/4 t saffron threads
4-5 small zucchini (about 1.5 lbs.), or 1 lb. zucchini and 24 zucchini flowers
2 T olive oil
1 large or 2 small shallots, chopped finely
4 oz. pancetta, diced into small cubes (optional)
3 scallions, sliced thinly
2 t kosher salt
1/4 C chopped parsley
1 lb pasta, or one batch maccheroni
1 C grated pecorino, plus extra for serving

Put the saffron in a spoon and hold it over a low flame. Moving the spoon around, toast the threads until you can smell the saffron. Put it in a small dish with 2 T hot water and let steep.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add a handful of kosher salt along the way.

In a big skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and pancetta and a pinch of salt. Cook for a few minutes until the shallots start to get soft and the pancetta renders some of its fat and starts to brown. Add about 1/2 C of hot water from the pasta pot, and let the shallot keep cooking in the simmering liquid.

Turn the zucchinis into matchsticks. To do this, I sliced them on the biggest setting of my mandolin, and then cut the slices into matchsticks. If you don’t have a mandolin, slice the zucchinis lengthwise into thin strips, the cut the strips into thin matchsticks that are about 2 inches long, says Lidia.

Add the zucchini matchsticks (and the sliced zucchini flowers, if you’re using them) to the skillet, along with the 2 t kosher salt. Stir it all together, and then add the scallions and parsley. Increase the heat to high. The zucchini will start to release water, which will boil off. As this happens, add more water from the pasta pot–up to 2 C Lidia says. I added 1 C at the beginning and it was plenty. Add the saffron water at this point too.

Start cooking your pasta now. If it’s fresh, just do 3 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, whisk the two eggs with the 1 cup of pecorino and a few grinds of fresh pepper. If there’s still liquid in your zucchini pan at this point, ladle it into the eggs to temper them and whisk vigorously. If the zucchini pan is dry now, take 1/2 C from the pasta water and whisk it into the eggs.

When the pasta is done, lift it out of the pot with tongs and add to the zucchini. Toss together. Once the zucchini is distributed among the pasta, take it off the heat, add the eggs in a thin stream, and continue tossing continuously. The residual heat will cook the eggs and turn them into a glossy sauce. If this doesn’t happen, turn the heat on low and keep tossing. Take it off the heat as soon as the eggs start to coalesce into a sauce.

Serve immediately with extra cheese.

This recipe might have come from the old hippie restaurant cookbook, The Horn of the Moon. They didn’t use sweet potatoes though, and I think they add unbelievable depth, sweetness, and body to a pretty good soup.

Many customers buy 2 or 3 of these at a time, one to eat, and a couple to freeze. As we make soup in the fall and winter only, these come in handy on those cold spring days.

Butternut Ginger Soup
serves 8

1 lb. white navy beans
1 large sweet potato, about 1 lb.
1 medium butternut squash, about 1 1/2 lbs.
2 T olive oil
2 T ginger, peeled and minced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
1/2 C brown basmati rice
1-2 t salt, to your taste

If you’re using dried beans, soak them in water overnight, add a little salt, 1/2 tsp. or so, and cook until done, adding water as it boils off or becomes absorbed. Set aside.

While beans are cooking, bake the sweet potato and butternut squash. I like to slice them lengthwise, scoop the seeds out of the squash, spray their cut surfaces with olive oil, spray a cookie sheet or sheet pan, and bake them, cut sides down, at 375 until soft, about 45 mins.-1 hour. Test for doneness with a sharp pointy knife–if there’s no resistance, they’re done. If the sweet potato gets done first, take it out and continue baking the squash. Let them cool a bit, and using a spoon, scoop out the soft insides directly into a food processor. Discard the skins. Add a cup of water to the veggies, and buzz them up. If it’s really thick, add a little more water. You want it fairly thick, because you’ll have the water from the rice mixture and you’ll be adding the water from the beans to the soup.

In a 4 qt. soup pot or cast iron pot, saute the onions, ginger and celery in the oil. When soft, add the carrots and garlic. Saute a few minutes more.  Add 3 cups of water, a little salt, and the basmati rice. You can use white here, but I like the texture of the brown rice better. White cooks faster, though, 10-15 mins., brown, 30.

When the rice is cooked, add the beans and their water, and the pureed potato/butternut. Taste for salt. If the soup’s too thick, add a little water and simmer 10 mins. If it’s a little thin, simmer it awhile with the cover off the soup pot.

A couple of suggestions:
1. You can put the cooked yam/butternut puree in the fridge and proceed with the recipe the following day.
2. You can chop the garlic and ginger in the food processor until it all sticks to the sides of the bowl, add the onion, carrots, and celery, cut in chunks, and pulse until they’re chopped. Don’t overdo this–you want small pieces, not mush. I do this when I’m in a rush, but I prefer the look of the sliced and diced. Then saute!
3. You can bring the dry navy beans to a boil, turn off the heat, let it sit for one hour, and then finish boiling them. I do this a lot.
4. Use 3 15 oz. cans of beans, drained and rinsed, if you’re in a rush. After you add the beans to the soup, add 2-3 cups of water in batches until you like the consistency.