Thursday, January 27, 2011

Friday Falafels and North Shore Picks of the Weekend

OK, it's Friday, you are done with cooking for the week, but don't want to pay for take-out. Falafels are a super simple and healthy way to finish out the week. This isn't a recipe I really ever considered posting, but it's such a staple in our house and it's been asked for so many times, I thought it was time. 

These little guys are fried in a touch of olive oil, and are best served over salad or stuffed into a pita, both ways with lots of hummus. Keep it simple. The original recipe calls for a yogurt sauce, etc, but for me at lunchtime or looking for a quick dinner, that's too much. The best thing about these, however, is that you probably have nearly everything in your pantry and fridge on most occasions to make these. Chick peas are a staple in our pantry, they're super versatile. 

Friday Falafels
Recipe adapted from Cooking Light
Serves: 2-3 (easily can be doubled)

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup dry Italian breadcrumbs (I make my own with fresh breadcrumbs and a 1/2 teaspoon of Italian Seasoning)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
3-4 garlic cloves (I like these with a lot of garlic), crushed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon  black pepper
1 large egg
1 tablespoon olive oil (for frying)

Combine all ingredients, except olive oil, in a food processor and process until smooth. Now, form whatever sized patties you like. I usually get about eight out of this recipe. Heat tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat, and fry the patties.

Serve with lettuce, hummus and whatever other veggies you might like!

North Shore Bloggers Consortium Picks of the Weekend 1/28-1/30

I've also been kindly asked to be part of the North Shore Bloggers Consortium, a group of talented local bloggers. Every week I'll be bringing you some of what I think are the best things to check out in our area for the upcoming weekend. Please check out the picks of the other bloggers below as well and plan out your weekend supporting local people and events!

Friday 1/28

Blue Ocean Music Hall
8pm, Friday 1/28
4 Oceanfront North
Salisbury, MA 01952

Tickets $25+

If you love yourself a little bit of the Piano Man - Blue Ocean Music Hall in Salisbury, MA has "Big Shot - a Tribute to Billy Joel" tonight. BIG SHOT, featuring the amazing vocals and piano of Michael DelGuidice, a well known and respected Long Island multi-instrumentalist. The show is packed with hit after chart-topping hit in a high energy, interactive stage performance.

Saturday 1/29

The Salem, NH Farmers Market is open from 8:30am-12:30pm on 1/30 . Hurd Farm, Southbrook Farm, and Brookford Farm will be there along with a dozen other farmers and food producers, 8 Pleasant St in Salem

 Seacoast Eat Local has done an amazing job with Seacoast NH Winter Farmers' Markets this year. From meat, to veggies, to ready-made foods, to tea and even wine - these markets are packed with amazing local goodies. Next month, on 2/26 they also "CSA Day" where you can chat with local farmers about joining their Community Supported Agriculture programs this spring and summer. You invest in their farm, and every week you get a wealth of yummy produce.

Grand Trunk/Old World Market - Beer, Cheese and Wine Tasting
53 Pleasant St. Newburyport, MA
Starting at 2pm until close
Cost: Free

So I guess you're going to eat and drink on my recommendations on Saturday. Grand Trunk's tastings start at 2pm on Saturdays. They have wine and cheese to sample. You can see their full tasting experience here.

Sunday 1/29
50 Water Street, The Tannery, Mill #1, suite 5, Newburyport, Massachusetts.
3 p.m. , Sunday 1/30
Tickets are $18.00 adults; $15.00 students and seniors.
Please reserve in advance by calling 978-465-1229 .

A great performance for an awesome cause -

The Actors Studio of Newburyport presents Primal Polyphony in a matinee concert on Sunday, January 30th, at 3:00 pm.  Primal Polyphony will donate back 100% of their proceeds from this performance to promote further the great work of the Studio in the community.

Now in their ninth year, this trio’s performances have won them acclaim from Boston to Philadelphia, across New Hampshire to Vermont and western Massachusetts.  The members are Wilhelmina Bradley, soprano; Annie Philips, mezzo-soprano; and Charles Bradley, tenor.

Make sure you check out the other weekend picks from the rest of the North Shore Bloggers Consortium:

Media giant Seth gives up the best of Lynn at Lynn Happens.

Check out Joey C’s Picks on Good Morning Gloucester here.

The wonderful Jane Ward has some great ideas, over at Food and Fiction.

North Shore Kid: Weekend Picks

Choices from all over New England at The Two Palaverers.

North Shore Dish spices things up with their weekend picks here North Shore Dish
Pin It

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Winter CSA Cookng: Beer and Baked Potato Soup

Potatoes, potatoes, and more potatoes - when you take part in a winter CSA through your local farm, you're going to get a lot of them. Luckily, there's so many things to do with them. You can mash them, bake them, boil them, make them into soup, gnocchi, fries and more. If you're finding yourself with a lot on hand, like I did this week, soup is always a good option.

It's cold here in New England. It's been about 1-10 degrees every night here this week. We're buried in feet of snow, with more on the way. You've got two kinds of people in New England. The kind who complain about the weather, and then the people who complain about the people who complain about the weather. I'm in the first category. I don't often complain about winter here, but it's been brutal this year, and my feeling is that it's complaint worthy. My blood is frozen, I can't warm up. Someone get this lady a boat drink, and stat.

The lovely weather is the reason this recipe was born. I wanted something hearty, a stick-to-your-ribs type of soup. I'd been craving a loaded baked potato, but also craved soup. This little dish has all the elements of your baked potato - potato, cheese, green onion, sour cream, and yes, bacon. Oh yes, it also has the nice little Vermont beer I hope you'd pair with this. I love me some Long Trail Ale out of Vermont. I used their standard ale in this, but their winter Hibernator Ale is my favorite of all winter ales. If you'd like, you can omit it or reduce the amount in the soup, you do end up with a distinct beer taste to this if you use it.

I don't usually include nutritional info because I think it's difficult to accurately calculate it outside a lab. However, when plugged into Spark Recipes, this soup weighs in at 293 calories with 9.4 grams of fat (5.4 grams saturated). I liked the idea that a bowl of this very filling and yummy soup (with beer, bacon and cheese) came in at under 300 calories and 10 grams of fat.

Beer and Baked Potato Soup
Serves: 8

2 pounds baking potatoes (or whatever you have from your local farm, I had small golds)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups 1% milk (or whatever you have)
1 1/2 cups Cabot 50% Reduced Fat Cheddar
3/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/2 cup beer (I used Long Trail Ale, you can omit or reduce this amount to taste as well)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup green onions, chopped (reserve a bit for garnish)
5 slices bacon, cooked until crispy and crumbled
extra shredded cheese and sour cream for topping

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pierce each potato with a fork and bake for one hour.

While potatoes are baking, fry up bacon until crispy and set aside. Once potatoes are done, allow to cool until they can be handled and then peel. Roughly mash the potatoes in a bowl and set aside.

In a large dutch oven, measure out your flour and then slowly whisk in your milk until combined. Now, heat the mixture on low to medium heat, making sure you do not burn it. Once your mixture thickens up you can now add in your cheese and potatoes, stirring until melted. Once that happens, add in the sour cream, the beer, salt and pepper, keeping the heat between low and medium and cook until heated through, stirring often. Finally, stir in your green onions.

Serve in bowls, garnished with extra shredded cheese, sour cream, green onions and bacon. Pin It

Monday, January 24, 2011

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Surprise Cookies

I'm a cake girl, or a brownie or bar girl. I'm not a, insert audible gasp here, a cookie girl, per se.  I love pastry and soft swirls of frosting. Every once in a while, however, the inner cookie monster in me strikes. The craving hits like a ton of bricks, begging for a tall cold glass of milk for the perfect pairing.

This time around when it hit, I wanted oatmeal, I wanted chocolate and white chocolate as well, but I didn't want to stop there. I'm looking around my kitchen when my eyes fell upon a jar of Sunchowder Raspberry-Chocolate Jam. I knew it would be a perfect little surprise for the middle of these cookies.

I first learned of Sundowder's Emporia from Amy over at the Poor Girl Gourmet. I ordered up a trio of homemade jam from Wendy, which arrived in beautiful packaging. The outside of these handmade jams are gorgeous, but the product inside will blow you away. Her strawberry is like a breath of summer in the dead of winter. With it being about 2 degrees in New England today, I'll take all the summer I can get.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Surprise Cookies
Makes: about 2 dozen cookies
Base cookie recipe adapted from: Cooking Light

3/4 cup all-purpose flour (3 1/3 ounces)
1 cup regular oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
heaping 1/8 cup white chocolate chips
heaping 1/8 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
chocolate raspberry jam (or jam of your choosing)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, baking soda and salt together with a whisk, set aside. In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream together butter and brown sugar until well-combined (about 3 minutes). Add egg and vanilla to butter/sugar mixture and beat until incorporated. On low speed - slowly add your flour mixture to the butter and cream mix. Stir until incorporated. On your mixer's slowest setting add your chocolate chips until they're folded into the mixture (I often do this by hand, I find the lowest setting still breaks the chips).

The cookie assembly line

Now take two cookie sheets (either fitted with a silicone mat or coated in cooking spray) and a 1/2 tablespoon measuring spoon. Scoop out your dough, placing the balls 2 inches apart on the sheet. Do this until you have used half the dough. Now make a little indent in each with your finger. Next, take a 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon and start placing a dollop of jam in the well in each. Once that's done, take your 1/2 tablespoon again and place a bit of dough on top of each until it is all gone. Now, give each of those little guys a roll in your hands to make sure the jam is sealed inside.

Place those cookie sheets in the oven for 10-12 minutes until they're a little golden on top. Take them out of the oven and transfer them to a wire rack so they can cool nicely. Pin It

Friday, January 21, 2011

An evening at Wild Bites, Amesbury, MA

Cozze - Mussels and clams steamed in a plum tomato sauce

When you make an appearance at Wild Bites in downtown Amesbury, you feel like family. Owner/Chef Tony Ortu and his wife Joan treat you that way. My family has followed the Ortu family from a spot in Amesbury to their venture in Merrimac and finally now back to a new spot right smack in the middle of downtown Amesbury. Wild Bites tends to be the spot our family members choose for a birthday or other special occasion because we know it's going to be a blast. This occasion was for my brother's birthday and personally, for my last meal before my tonsils came out!

Our sampling of appetizers

Our first bottle of super tuscan

For the special occasion, we were seated in the Tuscan Room. Basically, this is the prix fix area of the restaurant. There's also the a la carte cafe and pasta bar out front, either are a great choice. We elected to allow Tony to "Go Wild". Basically, he creates a menu for the table based on his whims, your preferences and any allergies. He knows our family, so it always ends up being quite an experience. We started with family style appetizers - Tony's amazing meatballs, bruschetta piled high with fresh tomatoes, and a caprese salad. We paired it with our first bottle of super tuscan, a 2005 Sant Antimo. We weren't thrilled at first, it took a long time to open up. We started to enjoy it by the time the mussels and clams (at the top of the page), scallops and calamari arrived, but Tony had already moved on for us - offering us a 2004 Purnaio at a comparable price. That's Chef Tony, the Tuscany-native wants to see you happy. The Purnaio was to die for, by the way.

Pasta Course

I love this course every time. The chef's fresh pasta, three-ways, filled this time with blue crab, pumpkin, and artichoke and sage. The fresh pasta melts in your mouth, the inside combinations always right on.

Filet of salmon in a Gran Marnier citrus sauce

Finally the main course, mine was a filet of salmon in Gran Marnier citrus sauce, some of my table mates chose the lamb chop. This salmon is done perfectly, the slightly sweet sauce is a wonderful compliment, laid over a bed of risotto and perfectly steamed vegetables. We were full on amazing food and wine, but Tony wasn't finished with us yet.

tiramisu in zabaglione

For dessert - a bottle of Moet & Chandon Imperial appeared with plates of liquor soaked tiramisu in zabaglione. I was beyond full but I couldn't resist. Tony's version of this dessert takes me back to a lunch in Sicily I had with family a few years back.

All in all, if you want a special experience, Wild Bites can provide it. If you become a regular, you won't regret it. Whether it's for a quick lunch or a special meal, make a stop here.

Wild Bites
36 Main Street
Amesbury, MA 01913-2807 
Phone: (978) 792-5051
Pin It

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tuppakaka: Swedish Almond Cake

I love cakes, cookies and breads that pair well with coffee or tea. There's a certainly mindfulness, a meditation to savoring a bite of baked good and sipping at a warm beverage. This probably explains my love for vin santo and the little biscuits that pair so well with the Italian dessert wine. This little baked good is simple, easy, and is a perfect option to pair with a beverage of your choice (hint: vin santo, amaretto would be beautiful as well) after a lovely dinner.

I actually made this lovely little cake before the holidays when I was so graciously invited to a holiday smorgasbord at Kristen of North Shore Dish's home. I wanted to keep with a Swedish theme so I made a Swedish Apple Cake and this little guy. If you're wondering, the texture is kind of like that of a fresh biscotti - slight crunch on the outside, but soft in the middle.

Tuppakaka: Swedish Almond Cake
Serves: 8-12
Source: Adapted from AllRecipes

2 eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup butter
1 cup + 1 tablespoon +1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1 tablespoon almond extract
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9-inch springform pan and sprinkle the bottom with your dry breadcrumbs. Stir together the egg and sugar. Melt butter and stir into egg/sugar mixture until smooth but not fluffy. Stir your almond extract into the mix. Pour batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle your almonds on top.

Bake for 25 minutes and allow the cake to cool slightly before removing the sides of the springform pan. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

I can vouch that the original recipe is correct. This cake keeps VERY well in a plastic bag or container for up to and even over a week. Pin It

Monday, January 17, 2011

Winter CSA Cooking: Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Chickpea Salad

One week since my tonsils came out. One week since I've eaten pretty much any kind of solid food, since it's been one week of solid pain. Day 7 is here, and the pain is slowly ebbing away each day now and every day I can eat a little something new. Last night and today was bread, as long as it's soft, I can manage bread. This is the most amazing step forward, since it's the thing I've definitely missed the most in the last week, in fact if you had bread in front of me over the last few days, I might have attacked you for it, no joke. The husband was very careful of getting it anywhere near me.

So this recipe was obviously created before the dreaded surgery. I am trying to get back into shape over the next few months here so I was on quite the winter salad kick before I had the tonsils out. Salad, for most, is a Summer affair. If you're trying to eat locally, however, it can be an easy way to do so in the winter as well. There's an abundance of cold weather greens and vegetables that pair handily with them. Those hearty winter greens mix very well with whole grains you can work in for an even more nutrient-packed salad. This salad, minus the chickpeas, cheese and the dressing ingredients, came entirely from my Winter CSA Share at Heron Pond Farm in South Hampton, NH. 

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Chickpea Salad
Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side

2 stalks brussels sprouts, ends trimmed, outer leaves removed (about 1 cup small ones)
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
3 large carrots, cleaned and skinned
2 cups of mesclun greens (anything works here, mustard greens, arugula, regular lettuce)
3/4 cup of chickpeas, drained and rinsed if you're using canned
1.5 teaspoons olive oil, divided
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. In a medium bowl, toss red onion and brussels sprouts with the 3/4 teaspoon of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Scatter the mixture over a baking sheet. Now put your chickpeas into that same bowl, add the other 3/4 teaspoon olive oil and your smoked paprika and toss to coat. Scatter the chickpeas alongside the brussels sprouts and onions and pop in the oven for about 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven when chickpeas are a little toasted on the outside and the brussels sprouts look roasted enough. 

Now layer your mesclun greens in a large serving bowl or dish. Peel strips of carrots over the top of the greens using your peeler. Now, add in your brussels sprouts/onion/chickpea mixture. Sprinkle the Gorgonzola over the top and then quickly put together the dressing.

In a small food processor (or by hand with a whisk), combine the 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, salt and pepper and pulse or whisk until emulsified (completely combined).

Drizzle the dressing over the top and enjoy hot or cold, both are fabulous! Pin It

Friday, January 14, 2011

Adventures in Tonsillectomy Recovery or why I sound like a muppet

The author's sick table
The teaspoon is currently being used to give me my many doses of liquid percocet a day. Instead of a hot cocoa with some godiva liqueur, my cute little snowman mug is a place to keep my medicine spoons. My breakfast is cherry italian ice this morning, and oh yes, that's a plastic transformer figure in the background, he's my mascot.

I was silly enough to think going into having my tonsils out as an adult that I'd be laid up, in pain, but could still get some writing done this week. I was definitely mistaken. Having a tonsillectomy as an adult is nothing like having it done as a child, so for those out there who are saying, "what a wuss", go ahead and try it, have fun with that.

They removed my tonsils on Monday, it's Friday, and there's not a whole lot of effort I can offer. The pain is more manageable today, but doctors say it'll get bad again as I move into the next phase of healing. I've cut back on the pain meds now, knowing I'll need a heftier dose for next week.

Oh and that whole, "you can eat all the milkshakes and ice cream you want" line, it's a lie. Dairy makes your mouth feel gross, so it's pretty much a no-no unless it does something magical for you. This is a food blog though right? My menu for pretty much the last few days has been ice cold water alone, or mixed with some Gatorade. Breakfast has pretty much been jello Italian ice. The only food of substance I've had in the past week is cream of wheat. I found the cinnamon swirl to be quite thrilling. I might try soup today, see if I can manage that or not.

Another fun side effect if you find yourself having one of these? Your voice. I sound like a Muppet. Specifically, one of those baby Muppet varieties. It still hurts to talk, but I need to keep talking to help strengthen my muscles up there. Sometimes I fall into full-on Muppet talk, it's rather funny. I still can't stick my tongue out too far, I'm sure that has something to do with it.

Well, folks, I hope next weeks offers me up a bit more healing, and maybe a shot do some smoothie work or something for you all. My uncle just dropped off a huge box of berries, so I may go attempt to see what my awesome Ninja blender can whip up with it all. I'll be back, meanwhile, if you have any questions about this awesome process, feel free to let me know and I'll try to answer any questions you might have. Pin It

Monday, January 10, 2011

North Shore Bloggers Dinner at Alchemy Cafe and Bistro, Gloucester, MA

The Appetizer Board at Alchemy
Author's note: Today I'm getting my tonsils taken out. No worries, I'll still entertain you with posts over the next two weeks, but they might not be as often. You enjoy this, while I enjoy Jello and Chicken Broth. My dinner at alchemy was one of my "last meals" before enduring this very special and painful ride. 
If you bring the right people, the right food, the right beverages and the right experience together, you're sure to get a bit of magic. Last Thursday night, with a bit of this and a bit of that thrown in, an amazing little experience was born thanks to the kind of restaurant you just want to curl up in and soak in.

Alchemy Cafe and Bistro is tucked away on an off street of Main Street right in downtown Gloucester. Tucked away is the perfect way to describe it, even when you enter inside. There are little nooks and crannies to curl into, leather couches in which to settle into, and a food and beverage selection to compliment all of the above. 

North Shore Bloggers discussing what else, but food
 Mark McDonough of the Serentee Restaurant Group cordially invited a group of North Shore Bloggers to join him and his staff at Alchemy for an evening designed in creating a larger and more diverse community of "foodies" up in our area. Mark and Alchemy General Manager Matt Rose hosted good-sized group of the hungry bloggers for what turned out to be quite the culinary experience.

Troegs Magic Elf Ale

My evening began in Alchemy's bar to meet fellow blogger and friend Brian of The Gringo Chapin. You see, I'm a beer gal, and I love when a restaurant has a wide and diverse selection from which I can choose. If you're looking for selection, all around, in the adult beverages department, Alchemy does not disappoint. I was thrilled to see Troegs Magic Elf still on tap, I had been wanting to try this red ale for a while. It is a seasonal and a bit past its availability date, but really tasty. I also stole a sip of Brain's Goose Island Matilda, definitely one to try as well. 

Marilyn Cocktails
We began our culinary extravaganza with a Marilyn Cocktail to wet our palettes. It's made up of Domaine St. Michelle Blanc de Noirs (WA), sugar cube, bitters, Dom Benedictine, and a twist of lemon. It's airy, refreshing and the perfect way to get your taste buds going to start an epic meal. We quickly followed with a Root Vegetable Puree to start us off.

Root Vegetable Puree
Wild Boar
The first board (seen in the very first photograph) included these two treats. I started with the Wild Boar and Native Shrimp Chopstick Roll. It was perfectly seasoned and had everyone looking at the board to see if they could take a second. The Bluefin Tuna Poke had everyone wondering what provided the perfect amount of heat. Seriously, it wasn't too much or too little. This round also featured Beef Takaki Rolls and a salad of Tatsoi, Arugula and Baby Bok Choy. 

My glass of chenin blanc
Now here's where this entire evening really blew me away. Matt had carefully paired not just every course with a wine, cocktail or beer. He also expertly paired every item IN that course with a beverage. In my case, I chose the Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc from South Africa. Matt had chosen it to pair with the Beef Takaki, but it stood up against the entire board perfectly. The pairings in every case throughout this night were dead-on. Ever sip complemented every bite. The folks at Alchemy were nice enough to give us little tastes of some of the pairings so we could at least experience them.

Board #2 - Cheese Course

The cheese paired with Estrella Inedit
The cheese board featured a sharp cheddar fondue, bayonne ham and swiss profiteroles and an amazing toasted walnut crusted Great Hills Blue Cheese (MA). Again, it was the pairing with Ferran Adria's (yes, that one) Estrella Inedit. I want to describe this beer as a hefeweizen on steroids, but that's not really elegant is it? It has body, and may have just become my new favorite brew. 

Black Pepper Parpadelle Carbonara with fried farm raised duck egg
I think the pasta course was by far the winner of the night. Rich, creamy carbonara, the pasta and sauce which alone were amazing, graced by the star of this dish - the fried duck egg. The egg, lovely enough, was picked up by the chef from Half Moon farm in Newburyport on his way to work. It's a farm I pass quite often in my travels. We were offered a sip of Corte Rugalin Monte Danieli Amarone Classico (Valpolicella, IT) to pair with it. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't going to dream of this pair, I will and have.

Board #3 - The Entree Board
The author's favorites - the tea smoked duck, the day boat scallop and the winter gratin

Can you imagine, we're just getting to the main course here. I will out myself here and say I'm not a fan of scallops. Too often, they take on too much of a spongy texture. The ones on the third board were perfectly pan seared. The Black Tea Smoked Long Island duck was my personal favorite. The black bass on this board also sung. A lot of my table mates were huge fans of the venison. It was very good, but venison simply never ends up being my thing. An unsung hero of this board were the winter squash and vegetable gratins. Those little cast iron boats of bliss would be perfect to curl up with in front of a fire on their own some cold night. 

Warm chocolate souffle with Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
Nearly four-and-a-half hours later, our bellies warm, our conversation happy we settled in upon dessert. A warm chocolate souffle ended our evening. It was light and perfect to end with paired with a taste of Chicago's Goose Island Bourbon County Stout.

I will say this in closing, I do not give out glowing reviews at the drop of the hat. Alchemy Bistro was kind enough to host us for this evening and their promise of an epic meal was more than met. The food was right on, the pairings even more so. It's a meal that left a group of North Shore Bloggers planning their next visit to Alchemy as we put on our coats and went out into the cold. A huge thank you to Mark McDonough, Matt Rose, Jeff Calas, and the whole crew at Alchemy for a lovely evening.

Pin It

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Winter CSA Cooking: Mashed Squash with Apples

When you host a multitude of family and friends for dinner,  you know you're going to have varying tastes around the table. I'm lucky that my family is usually game for pretty much anything. I try to offer up things that everyone can have or like. My dad, he's a low-carb guy, and it works for him. For our Christmas feast, he'll have a little of everything, including the potatoes and the bread, but I wanted a side he could really enjoy.

Let's just say when I made this mashed squash, he finished off the entire bowl. It really was the underdog hit of our Christmas dinner. Funny thing is, this was the dish I completely improvised at the last minute. I suppose, much like my job as a TV news producer, I cook well on deadline and while improvising.

Here's the great thing about a Winter CSA share, if you love squash, you're in luck, you're going to get a lot of it. This recipe can be pretty much made with any of them, but I enjoy the mild butternut squash the best for a traditional squash dish such as this one. This dish can also be adapted to be as rich or as low-fat as you wish. On Christmas, I made this with whole milk and a little heavy cream. I also made it last weekend, as a side, and made it with 1% and it was still fabulous.

Mashed Squash with Apples
Serves 4

1 large butternut squash (or 2 small ones), cut in half, stem removed, seeds discarded
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 a small to medium red onion, chopped (about half a cup)
1/2 a small to medium apple, chopped
dash of cinnamon and nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup milk (or heavy cream if you'd like)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Take your squash halves and place them cut-side down in a baking dish coated with cooking spray (or a touch of oil, up to you). Roast them in the oven until tender, about 30-35 minutes. Take out of the oven and set aside until cool enough to handle. Once they're cool enough, scrape the flesh into a food processor or blender and process until smooth.

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until tender, and then add the apple in there, doing the same. Throw your dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper in there at this point and cook for about 30 seconds. Now, add in your squash to the saucepan and stir until everything is combined. At this point, pour in your half cup of milk, stir, and then heat over medium until everything is warmed through.

It's a perfect side to just about anything, enjoy! Pin It

Monday, January 3, 2011

Winter CSA Cooking: Winter Quinoa Salad

The first blog post of the New Year. Can you feel the anticipation? The renewed energy for changes both in body and mind all around you? There are those who say "I don't do resolutions" and there are those who make them year after year. I don't think either path is wrong. If you look at the New Year as a rebirth of sorts, then use it as your motivation (as I am) to get yourself back on the track from which you may have strayed.

I am using this New Year to put myself back together mentally and physically. 2010 was a year that really had some profound effects on me and now it's time to take what I've learned from those difficult times and move forward.

Physically, it's time to lighten up the fare I consume once again. I find the time between Thanksgiving and New Year's is full with heavy indulgences, a welcome to winter and colder temperatures. Now that we've hit January 1st and we're looking ahead, it's time to lighten back up again. I'm taking part in a little work challenge where we're all competing for largest about of body weight percentage lost. I figure a little motivation among friends is always a way to get myself in gear.

My CSA share from Heron Pond Farm in South Hampton, NH this week is filled with various greens and items to move forward, healthy-style. I've got mesclun, lettuce, squash, turnips, kohlrabi and plenty of onion and shallot to combine it all with.

The following recipe is great because it can be adapted to whatever kind of greens you might have in the fridge (or hopefully in your farm share). It's all veggies, but the quinoa provides enough healthy protein that you can skip the meat here and still feel satisfied. The husband, who's an unabashed carnivore, even was thrilled by this one. Happy New Year and enjoy!

Winter Quinoa Salad
Serves: 2 (as a main dish, 4 as a side)

1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 small red onion
1/2 cup quinoa or couscous
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (about 4 small sprigs)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
dash of cinnamon
2 cups chopped salad greens (I've used arugula and mesclun)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup Gorgonzola cheese
1/4 cup sliced raw almonds
1/2 a ripe, but firm pear

1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper

In a large saucepan (with a lid, you'll need it later), heat teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add your red onion and saute until tender about 3 minutes or so. Now, stir in quinoa, thyme, dash of cinnamon, salt and a bit of pepper. Add 1 cup water to the mix and stir until combined. Bring the mixture to a boil and then down to a simmer, cover, and cook for about 9-10 minutes until the quinoa is tender but not mushy.

Fluff up quinoa with a fork and set aside to cool a bit. In a nice pretty dish, layer the quinoa, then the greens, sprinkle with dried cranberries, sliced almonds, and Gorgonzola cheese. Slice up half a pear and scatter the slices across the top of the salad.

In a small food processor (or by hand with a whisk), combine the 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, salt and pepper and pulse or whisk until emulsified (completely combined). Now you have your dressing, so pour a bit of that all over the top of the salad (do this to taste, you'll probably have some left over to use on other salads, it's a yummy dressing). Pin It