Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Stuffed Eight Ball Squash with Ratatouille

I actually made ratatouille this morning before I left for work. Yes, I am insane, but it was a cool 70 degrees, I was already chopping vegetables for my brown bag salad, and had a bunch of stuff lingering in the crisper, including $6 worth of Japanese eggplant I got at the farmers market last weekend. So I cranked the oven to 400, combined chopped squash, onion, eggplant and pepper with olive oil, canned diced tomatoes, salt and pepper and let it cook for an hour or so (until I had to pack it into the fridge and head out the door). Hard? No. Hot? Yes. I admit I was a little flushed as I ran down to catch my train. But if you have a gas grill, there is an easier way to enjoy ratatouille this summer. If you turn the burners to medium high and leave the lid down, most grills will heat to 400+ degrees (making it an ideal outdoor oven). So the next time you're preheating the grill for steaks, chicken or burgers, try cooking stuffed eight ball squash as a veggie side dish. Your indoor oven will be glad for the reprieve.
Eight Ball Squash Stuffed with Cheaters Ratatouille
I supposed you could make ratatouille and then stuff the squash, but if you're pressed for time, you can make this "cheaters" version.
1 T. Olive oil, plus extra for brushing squash
2 Shallots, diced
1 Quarter of a fennel bulb, chopped
4 Eight ball squash
1 C. Eggplant caponata (Trader Joe's makes a nice version)
1-2 Slices of whole wheat bread, crumbed
Grated Parmesan for garnish (optional)
Ground black pepper
Start gas grill, setting burners to medium high.
In a large skillet, heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat, add shallots and cook until translucent.
In the meantime, slice off the top third of each squash at the stem end, wrap the tops loosely in non-stick foil.
Using a paring knife, start to hollow out each squash by running the knife along the edge (leaving about a quarter inch of flesh) and cut out a cone-shaped section; hollow out the remainder of the squash with a measuring spoon or melon baller.
Roughly chop the scooped out flesh and add to skillet along with fennel; cook until most of the water has evaporated.
Remove the skillet from the heat; add the eggplant caponata and bread crumbles.
Brush each hollowed out squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper; fill to top with eggplant mixture, wrap in non-stick foil.
Place the two foil packets in grill pan or directly on grates; lower the lid and cook for 20-30 minutes or until squash is soft.
Garnish with the cooked squash tops for show, as well as cheese if desired.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Summer baking: Blackberry peach crostada

Summer baking is the ultimate Catch-22; on one hand, there is great seasonal fruit to enjoy, but on the other, it is too darn hot (most days, the mere thought of turning on the oven makes me want to weep). But then all it takes are farmers market peaches and blackberries to make me change my mind. Was upstate last weekend and, over the course of two days, managed to hit two markets and one roadside stand, including the Vestal market, the Ithaca market and a random farmer off route 90 on the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake. While the markets were great, the stand was the mother lode. Although it looked a tad suspect (as all good roadside stands do), the crusty farmer had tender corn, perfect tomatoes, red new potatoes and one loan pint of freshly picked blackberries up for the taking. So I broke my no baking during the summer rule and made a peach blackberry crostada. I like galette and crostada recipes because they are supposed to be "rustic" (which gives me more leeway if the end result does not come out picture perfect). Plus, most crostada and galette recipes call for very little sugar, which allows the natural sweetness of the fruit to shine through (and for you to top with whipped cream or ice cream with low-to-no guilt). So the next time you pass a roadside stand, slam on the breaks, put in in reverse and see what gems you can find (just watch out for the traffic!).
Blackberry Peach Crostada
I cut the butter in this recipe, so if you want a more tender crust, double the amount of butter called for. If you want a more firm (yet still tasty and less calorie) crust, use amount of butter recommended.
2 C. All purpose flour (plus a bit more for dusting work surface)
1/2 C. Cornmeal
1/2 t. Salt
1 T. Sugar (plus extra for dusting crust)
1 Stick butter, cut into tiny cubes and chilled
2/3 C. Ice water
6 T. Sour cream or plain yogurt
1 Pint Blackberries
5-6 Small peaches, peeled and diced
1 T. Cinnamon
1 t. Vanilla extract
1 t. Corn starch
Preheat the oven to 400.
In a large bowl or food processor, combine dry ingredients (flour through sugar).
Add cubes of butter and work into dry ingredients with two forks or by pulsing food processor blade until the butter pieces are no bigger than a pea.
In a small bowl, mix water and sour cream or yogurt; pour slurry over flour/butter mixture and combine until dough ball forms (you may not need it all, or you made need a bit more water).
Divide dough ball into two, flatten and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for one hour, then roll out both dough balls on floured work surface and transfer to parchment-lined cookie sheet(s).
Combine the remaining, tossing gently until the cornstarch is mostly dissolved by the liquid in the fruit.
Dump the half of the fruit mixture in the middle of one dough circle, and the remaining on the second circle (or oval or "shape"); spread out, leaving a one inch border.
Fold the border edge over the fruit mixture, patching as needed.
Brush crust with water or an egg wash (if preferred) and sprinkle a bit of sugar on the edges.
Bake at 400 for 35-40 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Giant Stuffed Pattypan Squash

Do not adjust your screens. Despite the low resolution (I was forced to use my BlackBerry camera to take pictures for this post), what you see below is not an enlarged image of a tiny pattypan squash. It is in fact A GIANT PATTYPAN! I admittedly love cute vegetables, so when I saw this giant yellow squash from Cowberry Crossing at Saturday's market, I had to buy it. I decided to treat it kind of like a pumpkin, hollowing out and discarding most of the innards, par boiling it for 10 minutes and then stuffing and baking it for another 30 minutes. The squash was really easy to cut, and the soft flesh (which I scooped out with measuring spoons -- first using the tablespoon and then moving onto the teaspoon for the "detail work") did have seeds reminiscent of a pumpkin. I was barely able to submerge the squash in my small saucepan, and in the end, needn't have bothered because after 10 minutes, the squash was almost overcooked. I let it drain and cool slightly before coating it with oil and seasoning the inside with salt and pepper to prepare it for stuffing. By using an oval container that was just bigger than the squash, I was able to preserve the shape (you could also use aluminium foil balls to help prop up the squash in a square or rectangular container). The end result tasted similar to a stuffed spaghetti squash, but with the giant pattypan, you could eat the rind and all -- one way to conquer a monster (squash) .
Stuffed Squash
This recipe makes extra filling, which you'll want to serve alongside the squash so you can maintain the good filling-to-veg ratio while dining!
1 Giant pattypan squash
1 t. Olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 t. Light whipped butter
6 Baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 Small onion, diced
2 Cloves of garlic, minced
.25 C. Bruchetta sauce (or diced tomatoes and extra oil)
1 t. Oregano
1 t. Dried basil
1 C. Brown rice
1 Link chicken sausage, diced
1 oz. Romano cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 350.
In a large saute pan, melt the butter and saute the sliced mushrooms until caramelized.
In the meantime, cut a circle through the stem end of the squash.
Using a small scoop, hollow out the interior, discarding the seeds and pulp or reserving for another recipe.
Place in a small casserole dish and drizzle one teaspoon of oil over the hollowed-out squash, season interior with salt and pepper.
Add onion, basil and oregano and saute two minutes; add garlic, diced sausage and bruchetta sauce, cook two additional minutes and remove pan from heat. Stir in cooked rice and cheese.
Stuff the squash until full but not overpacked (there will be excess filling). Bake squash at 350 for 20-30 minutes until squash is lightly browned and filling is bubbling.
Let stand for five minutes before serving.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Soup for Summer: Part 2 - Asparagus

Come summer, a recipe has to be pretty intriguing for me to get the energy to turn on the stove (otherwise it's cold salads and microwaved meals). But the asparagus soup recipe from Eating Well looked good enough to risk sweltering in an already overheated kitchen. After all, asparagus season was ending, and it was my last chance to use up the half bunch in the crisper. So on a recent "cool" evening (with temperatures finally dipping into the 60s and 70s), I fired up the gas burner and made soup. In the summer.
With a little tweaking (leeks for onions, garlic scapes for garlic clove), the end result was more like a vichyssoise -- perfect for enjoying hot or cold. Or, in other words, a perfect soup for summer (as long as you can bear standing over the stove)!
Asparagus Spinach Vichyssoise
1 T. Light whipped butter
2 T. Olive oil
2 Leeks, cleaned and chopped
1 Clove of garlic, mashed
1/2 t. Salt
1/2 t. Curry powder
1/2 t. Ginger root, grated
1 Lemon, zested and juiced
2 C. Red potatoes, diced
3 C. Chicken broth
1 C. Lite Coconut milk
2 C. Asparagus, chopped
2 C. Baby spinach Black pepper
In a large pot or dutch oven, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat; add leeks and cook until soft.
Add garlic, salt, curry powder, ginger root and lemon zest; cook for three minutes.
Add potatoes, broth and coconut milk; simmer for 10 minutes.
Add asparagus; summer for 5 minutes more.
Remove pot from heat; add baby spinach and then puree mixture using immersion blender.
Season with additional salt, freshly ground black pepper and lemon juice to taste.
Serve hot or cooled.