October 28, 2008

For when I'm lazy

For the past week, all of my meals have come out of one of two boxes in the pantry (pasta, cereal), the freezer (full-on frozen meals, not just vegetables), a wrapper (since when do I eat 3 Muskateers?) or a plastic take-away bag (sushi, curry, salad, fries). 

All I can say is: Ugh. My insides just plain hurt. And, thank goodness for roast squash. 

You see, it's my newfound cure-all, perfect for when I'm busy or just plain lazy, which I am apt to be. Much has been made of the five-ingredient recipe, and that doesn't even include salt and pepper. Well, this one has just four (!), seasoning and all. 

Ready? OK ... buttercup squash, olive oil, salt and pepper. Add a baking sheet and an oven, roast and serve. 

I know that sounds boring, but, oh, it's so not. The star here, as you can guess, is the squash. Buttercup is a winter variety, my first taste of the season, and it yields to good things like oil and heat with no resistance. Its natural sweetness, much like the more familiar acorn squash is released to mingle with a little salt, its tough flesh turning soft and crisp. As you can imagine, I like it with a tangle of pasta. 

Not convinced? Give it a try. It's no harder than take-away, and a worthwhile change from chicken with yellow curry.


Roast squash, simply

1 medium buttercup squash (other winter squash like delicata and acorn work, too)
3 tablespoons olive oil, or enough to cover
1/2-teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4-teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste

This is a really basic recipe. The measurements work best if done by eye and personal taste, and the instructions are open for tweaking and experimentation with other seasonings. I do recommend trying it simply at least once. The natural taste of the squash is just wonderful. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel squash and cut into one-inch cubes. Combine with olive oil, salt and pepper until evenly coated. 

Spread on a large baking sheet. Roast until the squash cubes give in to the pressure of a fork and look crispy on the outside, about 20 minutes. (I'd stay close to the oven after 10 minutes, checking in on the squash every few minutes after. Ovens vary, and the best way to know if the squash is done is to fork and, finally, taste test.)

October 21, 2008

TWD: Pumpkin Muffins

Things that make me happy: 

1. Breaking out my green, suede, flat, knee-high boots. 
2. Sleeping with a second blanket without waking up thinking I'm drowning in my own sweat. 
3. A working oven - finally!
4. Pumpkins as far as the eye can see.
5. Sweet, nutty pumpkin muffins to munch on while inching through three hours of traffic trying to get to the pumpkins as far as the eye can see.
6. Fall. I love fall. 


Pumpkin Muffins
Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours

I say "adapted" because I forgot to buy raisins and added extra walnuts instead. And because I forgot I was baking (I went too long without a working oven) and burned the nubby muffin tops a little. 

(This week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection was chosen by Kelly of Sounding My Barbaric Gulp. If you don't own Dorie's book, you can find the recipe for these muffins here. I just provide the pretty pictures of singed pastry.)

October 15, 2008

An ode to green

A couple of weeks ago, my farmer's market began to take on a rugged visage. The bright, smooth-skinned fruits and delicate vegetables I'd been munching hand-to-mouth all summer were still around. But next to them the lumpy, bumpy, thick-leafed and just plain ugly had set up shop. My heart was aflutter; finally, it's time to cook again. 

I wasn't always so welcoming of less than pretty produce. As a child I liked everything neat and pretty and easy to eat. Sadly lumps, bumps and most things green just didn't fit the bill. (Hi-C Ecto Coolers did get my discerning palate's approval.) 

Boy was I missing out. 

Late last winter, inspired by this Rachael Ray recipe, my mom came home with a big bunch of kale. I was skeptical - it seemed too tough, nothing like my beloved arugula. 

But the effects of hot oil and a hefty dose of wine were not lost the kale; I watched the thick, dark leaves resist then slowly succumb. They wilted and brightened into what looked like a bizarre green blush. I was in love. L-O-V-E. 

The kale didn't make it into my family's repertoire, but when I came across the bunches kale's cousin Swiss chard earlier this month, I pounced. I gave it the same Rachael Ray treatment, and swooned just like before. 

But, it felt wrong to relegate it to side dish status. So a couple of days I ago I tried again, this time adding bits and pieces I found around the kitchen: some ground turkey breast, chick peas and a sweet cippolini onion. With oil, wine and plenty of lemon juice to top it off, it was more perfect than before. And I was so happy. 

I just wish I had an Ecto Cooler to wash it down. 


Winter greens with turkey and chick peas 
Serve hot off the skillet over pasta, rice, or on its own. Actually, it tastes really good on its own, cold and straight out of the tupperware, too. 

1 bunch Swiss chard, kale or other winter green (cut into rough 3" x 1" strips)
1/2-pound ground turkey breast 
1 can (15 oz.) chick peas, drained and rinsed
1 medium onion (cippolini if you can get it), chopped roughly
1/2-cup white wine
Juice of 2 lemons
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons olive oil, or spray oil

In a large skillet, sautee the onion over medium-high heat in 2 tablespoons of the oil, or enough spray oil to cover pan, until translucent. (Keep the remaining oil or spray oil can on hand and add to skillet periodically to keep ingredients from sticking.) 

Add ground turkey to the skillet. Break up the meat and cook until brown, stirring regularly. Add the chick peas, allowing them to heat through and brown slightly; keep stirring. 

Add the greens; when the leaves wilt slightly and turn a brighter shade of green, add the wine and lemon juice. (Are you still stirring?)

Allow the liquids to evaporate, give the whole mixture another quick stir and transfer to a serving dish or straight to your plate. 

Note: While the skillet is still warm, scrape off any bits of crisped meat or vegetable stuck to the pan - that's the best part. 

October 13, 2008

Where have I been?

I really don't know what happened. I'd been on a roll. Then my oven broke, school picked up, the world started to go to hell and poof! - suddenly it's October, the sun is setting at 6pm and my farmer's market is filled to the brim with goodies like bumpy pumpkins and crisp winter greens.

Have I mentioned how much I love winter greens? I haven't? Well, it's about time I did something about that. 

Not now, of course. I'm far to sleepy to go into it, especially since I haven't drafted any proper recipes or taken fun photos of the giant crisp leaves getting all bright and wilty in a hot skillet. 

Let me just say I've eaten Swiss chard twice in less than a week (a week during which I only cooked twice) and, quite honestly, I'm having a bit of a love affair with it. I know, it's just a leaf. But really, it's not. I promise I'll show you. 

In the meantime, I'll leave you with some of the best bits of fall. So far, at least.  

gnarly gourds

my new friend, Leon

an October sun setting over the Pacific

September 23, 2008

TWD Dimply Plum Cakelets

Sweet plums. Spicy batter. At once summer's last hurrah and an ode to the cooler temperatures already - OMG - setting in, I can't think of a better way to ring in autumn. Even if I am a little sad to see summer go. 

Oh wait - a better way to say hello to fall would be if my oven were capable of baking these all the way through. Thankfully, while par-baked cake batter looks a little funky, it tastes very, very good. 

Dimply Plum Cakelets
As chosen by Michelle of Bake-en from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours  for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie

The recipe for this cake, the perfect summer-into-fall dessert, is very easy to find (here, for example) for those who don't own Dorie's book. 

My "cakelet" spin was borne of the fact that I actually don't own a cake pan. Cookie sheet? Of course. Muffin tin? Sure. Cake pan? Not so much.