Monday, January 17, 2011

Spiced kabocha squash with apples

Kabocha squashes are amazing. They're low moisture so they're perfect for making gnocchi. They also play nicely with other fruits and vegetables--like right here in this spiced bake. Kabocha squash is a lot like pumpkin as far as density goes. Get a cleaver and whack yours open.Scoop out the seeds, peel and cube it as best you can. I'm not showing any pictures of that process because it was hard to do and a total bloodbath for the squash halves. Here's the fairly attractive aftermath though--nice little chunks of kabocha squash.Toss with salt, pepper, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/4 cup chicken stock. Set it to bake at 400 for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.Here's what it looks like afterwards--the cubes should be soft but not too mushy.Meanwhile, get 1/4 cup of golden raisins...
And some apples. I had 3 quite small ones that had large cores, so I suspect after peeling and trimming that they might be the equivalent of one very large apple.
See? This is all that came from those 3 apples--it's about 1 cup peeled apple cubes.
Add them to the squash mixture along with the raisins, 1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon fresh crumbled rosemary, 1 teaspoon vindaloo powder, 1 teaspoon chile powder, 1/4 cup more chicken stock and a tablespoon brown sugar.
Return it to the oven to bake for another 10 - 15 minutes, stirring after 5 minutes. The apples should be soft and everything should be bubbling nicely.
Perfect alongside pork or anything that could use a chutney-like side dish.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dead simple sucessful winter cheese plate

Sometimes it's just the little tiny things. This is a very runny, super fat Brie served with dried pear slices and salted cashews. They were really yummy all stacked together on slightly sweet/salty wheat cracker rounds. It would actually make a really pretty canapé if you did them ahead of time and it was delicious with prosecco.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Goat cheese rounds with honeyed beets

This is a fantastic first course! Beets and goat cheese are classic together and this adds a bit of sweetness to their partnership. Done this way, it looks a little more dressed up for company than just sliced beets with the goat cheese crumbled over the top (which is what I normally do). Start by peeling 2 small beets and cutting into chunks or cubes of roughly the same size. Toss in a baking dish with 1 tablespoon crumbled fresh rosemary, salt, pepper, 1 tablespoon olive oil and just a sprinkle of brown sugar. Roast at 400 until soft, shaking the pan occasionally as they cook.They should pretty much turn into beet raisins. Some will be chewier and some will be softer. I like the contrast in textures. Drizzle the roasted beets lightly with 1 - 2 teaspoons honey.While the beets are roasting, get 1 tablespoon parsley and 2 tablespoons pecans...Mince them up. They don't stand a chance!Now put 1 tablespoon fine bread crumbs in a small mixing bowl...And add your parsley and pecans. Mix it all up well.I got out my mortar and smashed everything together to make the mixture more cohesive. If you did a better job mincing than I did in the previous step then you may not need to do this.Goat cheese! Slice two 1/2" rounds off a chilled log of goat cheese. I shaped them into patties with my hands and let them chill in the fridge until it was time to finish them for dinner. The idea is to keep them cold so they don't heat up too fast and lose their shape when you put them in the oven.Pat the rounds into your pecan-bread crumbs mixture. Get them well-coated on all sides.By the way, you probably noticed at this point that there's only enough here for a first course for two people. This is because we are snowed in and as a result the party is very exclusive. Just double or triple amounts for your much less sad dinner party. Anyway, put the rounds on some tin foil and place them in the oven along with the beets to heat up. I had them in at 400 for maybe 10 minutes or so. You just want them to get warm all through and for the nuts in the topping to get a little toasty.When they are all heated through, gently remove them to a plate--be careful because they're warm and easily fall apart!Now you need a little bit of honey...this is a huge jar of wildflower honey from our trip to Blue Ridge this summer. Feels like a million years ago that we were walking around on a hot summer day!Drizzle about a tablespoon or so over each warmed goat cheese round...And top with the beets. Perfect. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

French blue lentil soup

It's cold and wintery and the entire city is snowed in! Let's make soup!I love blue potatoes. I love their nutty flavor and ancient pedigree--they're from the Andean highlands of Peru and look like potatoes must have looked like seven thousand years ago. You just need one big one--peel it and cut open to see a beautiful tie-dye inside.Chop into little chunks roughly the same size and set aside.You need one small onion, diced.And about 1/2 cup of diced celery.And bacon! Truthfully, this soup could use more but this was all I had in the house--about 1/4 pound. Chop it up into little pieces and fry until crispy in a big pot.Remove the delicious nibbles and set aside, hiding them from yourself, if necessary.
Add the onion and celery to the bacony pot over medium heat and saute until softened, about 5-7 minutes.
Add 1 teaspoon cumin and 1/2 teaspoon chile powder to bloom in the fat.
Then 1 tablespoon tomato paste, sauteed briefly.
Rinse about 1 1/2 cups of french green lentils (aka lentilles du Puy). You can use regular lentils if you want but I like these because they hold their shape even after they're cooked. They're especially delicious with our blue potato.
Add to the pot and saute for a minute or two...
Then add in your blue potato along with 2 whole cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed.
Add 6 cups of chicken stock and a bay leaf or two, and bring to a low boil, then turn down to simmer for about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, stir 1/2 cup of greek yogurt until very smooth.
Take a peek at your soup--you might want to skim off some of the bacon fat.
When it is all done it will smell divine. Taste it and add salt as needed and drizzle in 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar. I actually also tossed in a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce for more dimension but that might not be to everyone's taste. I think it would also be good with a tablespoon of miso stirred in there.
Top with spoonfuls of the greek yogurt and a handful of crisp bacon.