Thursday, November 21, 2013

Rosemary Oil Roasted Spaghetti Squash With Blueberries - At Thanksgiving?

If we were playing a game where I ask you to complete this phrase: "Blueberry....?"  Could you list 5 things that didn't include the word "muffin"? 
Have you ever connected the idea of Blueberries to Thanksgiving?  
Read on, friends, and prepare to get that "hooked-to-cook" feeling that sends us into the kitchen mixing, tasting and creating.

Last week I attended a "A Very Blueberry Thanksgiving" event in the lovely home of the inspiring Foodblogger, In Erika's Kitchen.
It was sponsored by The U.S. Blueberry Council 
 (She's Cookin, Blueberry Council & ShowFoodChef)
and enhanced with pairings by Rioja Wines.
I can't remember ever using Blueberries at Thanksgiving.  Now, that will change.
It was exciting to learn that fresh Blueberries will be available all year round in the U.S. because of the imports from Chile. The Southern Hemisphere has a growing season that is the reverse of ours in America.  Just about the time our season is depleted, the over 32,000 acres of Blueberry fields in Chile are full for the handpicking and sharing. 

(photos come before food for bloggers, 

Nancy of Melissa's Produce with ShowFoodChef)

So, lucky cooks, we have the produce and here are a few of the recipes straight from Erika's Kitchen and shared by other fabulous Food Bloggers:

Pumpkin Blueberry Trifle - Worth The Whisk, and Cooking On The Weekends ~

Butternut Squash Salad with Blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette- - Bumbleberry Breeze
 (Paired beautifully with Rosado)

Mashed Potato Pops with Blueberry "Not" Ketchup - Peaceful Cooking
For my own Thanksgiving, I have my usual list of traditional recipes that I make just to hear my family ooh and ahh.  I've learned from experience to "give the people what they want." After that you can teach, grow, inspire or maybe challenge their ideas and taste buds.  I usually throw in a few new dishes each year and some of those have happily become part of the tradition. 

This year, inspired by these Little Blue Dynamo's, I'll be adding the Pumpkin Blueberry Trifle and my own:
Rosemary Oil Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Blueberries

1 Spaghetti Squash
2+ Tablespoons Rosemary Infused Olive Oil*
1 teaspoon Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Fresh Blueberries
1 Tablespoon Fresh Parsley (chopped)
1 Teaspoon Fresh Sage (chopped)
1/3 Cup Grated Asiago Cheese
2 Tablespoons Toasted, Chopped Almonds
1) Prepare the Spaghetti Squash by cutting in half, spooning out the seeds, rubbing the insides with Rosemary Infused Olive Oil*, season with salt and pepper, and the Brown Sugar. 
2) Place the squash, cut side down, on a parchment lined baking sheet and Roast in a preheated 350F oven for about 30-40 minutes.  Remove from heat, turn over carefully and allow to cool for a few minutes.
3)  Using a fork, scrape the inside of the squash shell (which will come out in "spaghetti-like" strings) into a bowl.
4) Toss the spaghetti squash strings with a drizzle of more Rosemary Oil, the herbs, salt & pepper to taste.  Then toss in the Blueberries and Asiago.
5) Serve in the Squash shells, or a serving bowl or platter of your choice. Garnish with the almonds.
(* If you can't find Rosemary Infused Olive Oil, you can carefully make your own for immediate use:
Add 2 Sprigs of Fresh Rosemary to 1 Cup of Olive Oil in a saucepan.  Heat on low ONLY until oil is warmed.  Remove from heat, cover with lid and Infuse for about 2 hours as the oil cools down.*)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Autumn in a Glass: Squash Cocktail - I'm Not Kidding

I'm always looking for another way to use all the squash and pumpkins that pop out in the Fall. I thought I had tried it all until I landed on a recipe for a Squash Cocktail.

It's on page #35 in the very unique and exciting libation literature (recipe book for cocktails) by Greg Henry of Sippity Sup, called SAVORY COCKTAILS.
I was lucky enough to be given his book to enjoy, and after a quick flip through I knew I wanted to buy two more for gifts. 

Here are the words that cross the rich brown almost suede cover of Savory Cocktails: Sour Spicy Herbal Umami Bitter Smoky Rich Strong.  Its a great clue to the expansive range of recipes and information in this classy collection.

Maybe even more than the recipes, I appreciated the information in the first 12 pages.  It was like taking a mini-cocktail course that included a sprinkling of Greg's well-known sense of style and humor.

So, Squash.  In vodka.  Crazy sounding, right?  Maybe that's why I had to try it, too.  It was just too interesting to pass up. 
In the end, I got one glass of it.  I made the mistake of announcing to a room of friends during a viewing party for Discovery Channel's Gold Fever  (my son-in-law played one of the leads) that I had a very unusual treat brewing on the bar. 
The color was gold and it seemed to be perfect for the theme of the evening, so how could I resist sharing?

The infusion had taken days, but the rest came together in a flash of ice,lemon,lime and sage.  It was a hit and I looked like a bar tending pro (which I am not, so anyone can do this, trust me.)
I think we will be serving this as our adult "signature" drink for the late hours on Thanksgiving Day just before we hit the leftovers and start sharing embarrassing stories about each other.  The flavor is just a sweet hint of Butternut Squash with the loveable bite of a martini. Cheers and Blessings!

(from Savory Cocktails by Greg Henry)
1 small butternut squash
1 (750ml) bottle vodka
2 tbsp. Simple Syrup
1 tbsp. Freshly squeezed Lime
1 tbsp. Freshly squeezed Lemon
1 sage leaf, as garnish
1 big pinch ground Cinnamon
1 big pinch freshly grated Nutmeg
Make the Infusion: Roast a whole Butternut Squash in a 450F oven for about an hour until the skin is blistered. Remove from oven, set aside until cool enough to handle, but still warm. Cut in half and remove seeds and fibers. Pull off the skin and cut the flesh into 2" chunks.  Place the pieces in a large, nonreactive container or jar.  Add the Vodka while the squash is still warm. Cover and set aside in a dark area for 5 days, swirling the mixture occasionally.

Taste the infusion for pronounced squash flavor, then strain the liquid through a wire-mesh sieve lined with a double layer of damp cheesecloth, discarding the solids.  You can cover and refrigerate the liquid for up to 1 month if needed. There is enough "squash vodka" for several drinks.

Make a cocktail:  In a cocktail shaker 2/3 filled with medium ice cubes, combine 1/2 cup of butternut infused vodka with the simple syrup, lemon juice, and lime juice.  Shake vigorously until well chilled.  Strain into a chilled 6-ounce cocktail or martini glass.  Float a sage leaf on top.  Mix together the cinnamon and nutmeg and sprinkle lightly on top.  Makes 1


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Momma's Yellow Squash

My mom says this is her mom's recipe.  As a kid, I thought it was just okay.  Then, just about college age I must have grown a few more taste buds because I fell in love with all vegetables. My Momma's Yellow Squash became my constant request when I was at home.
I'm really weird about left-overs and hardly ever eat them, except for Thanksgiving turkey and dressing. However: I've been known to take this squash out of the refrigerator the next day, sit down and eat it right out of the bowl - cold and all.

This is a wonderful way to usher in this month's challenge of eating only non-processed foods (EatingRules).  My grandparents grew all their own vegetables and I remember helping pull these sunshine-yellow squashes with their fuzzy stalks off the ground vines.  The only other ingredients are a tad of butter, oil, onions and seasonings.
My mom said to be sure I reminded you that the most important thing about this recipe is to cook it low and slow until it's naturally sweet and tender.
Recipe: Momma's Yellow Squash

1 lb Yellow Crook Neck Squash (about 3-4 med.)
1/2 Med Onion (chopped)
Drizzle of olive oil and 2 Tbls. butter

1) Slice the Squash in thin circles (if the wide end is too big, cut in half and slice in semi-circles.) Season with salt.
2) In a skillet, on LOW heat, melt the butter and olive oil together (the olive oil is good for higher heat and the butter is there for taste.) Then add the onions and continue to cook until they are tender (about 8 minutes.)
3) Turn the heat up to Medium, add the squash and allow to cook for a minute or two, then turn them over in the skillet.  Repeat this step for a few times until most of the Squash has a little color.
4) Turn heat back down to LOW, cover and cook for about 30 minutes.  Stir now and then and check for moisture.  If they ever look too dry, add just a teaspoon of water, stir and recover to slowly cook.
5) Using your spoon or spatula, gently push down on the squash to cut them up a bit.  Carefully, taste for seasoning and tenderness.  Add salt & pepper as needed (if the squash was older or tougher, my Grandmother used to add a tsp. of sugar which was allowed since she was Southern, after all yawl. :D )
6) Remove from heat and serve.  Optional additions may be parsley, hot sauce or tomatoes.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Fig & Frangipane in a Cornmeal Crusted Thyme Tart

Every year I get fig-envy.  Growing up, my grandmothers had fig trees right outside their back doors.  Today, I cringe just a bit as I buy that little basket of figs from the farmer's market or shop.  At premium prices I want to make the most of every fig.  
When I've had my feel of just eating them sliced and dotted with goat cheese, I start developing other ways to savor the figgy-goodness.

On a recent trip to New York, I had the pleasure of eating at Orso and enjoying their Fig and Thyme Crostata.
It inspired me to use that combo, but in a different way. I added a little crunch to the bite with corn meal, and some sweet with francipane (a paste or filling made from or with almonds.)
The inside beauty of the figs give this tart an elegance that hides how easy it is to make.  

You can bake it any shape, my rectangle pan is just one of my favorites. Enjoy and please send figs. :D
RECIPE: Fig & Francipane Cornmeal Crusted Thyme Tart

Cornmeal Thyme Tart Shell-
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup corn meal
1 Tablespoon sugar
pinch of salt
1 stick butter, cold and cut into small cubes
1 Tablespoon Fresh Thyme leaves, chopped
4 - 5 Tablespoons Cold Water

1)  In a bowl (or food processor) whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar and salt.
2)  Work in the butter with your finger tips til grainy (or pulse a few times) then toss in thyme leaves.
3)  Using a fork, add the water a little at a time and toss until the ingredients hold together when squeezed in the palm of your hand.
4)  Pour out into a tart pan (6x14, or 8x8 preferably with removable bottom), and press into the bottom and sides.  You may not need the whole amount, depending on your pan. Using the bottom of a measuring cup is helpful, too.
5)  Chill the pan for at least 20 minutes, then bake for 20 minutes at 325F.

Recipe -Francipane:
3/4 cup Ground Almonds
1/3 cup Sugar
6 Tbls. Butter (soft)
1 egg
pinch of salt

In a Food Processor, pulse all ingredients to a paste.

Putting The Tart Together:

1 Pre-cooked Tart Shell (see above)
1 Prepared Francipane (see above)
1 basket of Fresh Figs
2 Tbls. Honey

1) Spread the Francipane over the pre-cooked tart shell.
2) Slice figs cross-wise and lay in overlapping rows down the tart.  Drizzle honey over the top.
3) Bake in preheated oven at 300F for about 30 minutes to set.
Serve warm or room temperature.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Grilled Peach and Basil Preserves - Summer In A Jar

Ever wish you could put summer into a jar?
We were grilling on the back patio and I "taste-tested" one of the peaches we were grilling.  I make these sacrifices regularly (and the scales would say a little too regularly.) 
Of course, the way my brain works I immediately started thinking of flavor combos and other dishes I could add that smokey peach experience to and preserve it.  Preserve it. Doh!
The next day I set out to enhance, tinker, tweak and jar what turned out to be one of my all time favorite recipes.  It has the approval of at least one Los Angeles Fire Department Station (and that's a lot of hard working hungry people.)  I sent in a giant jar with my son to work.  I saw him later that day and he said it was almost gone.  I had worried that it would go to waste on some forgotten refrigerator shelf, but I don't think it made it past lunchtime the same day.  I call that success. Yay!
Since the first batch, I've made several and it has become one of my go-to additions to fish, pork, lamb chops and salad dressings.
It made some of the best Fruit Crumble Bars ever.
Tomorrow I think I'll add in minced jalapeno for topping a burger.

I'd love to hear how it works for you and let me know any ideas you come up with, too. Thanks for stopping by.
Recipe:  Grilled Peach and Basil Preserves
(makes about 5-6 6oz jars)

3 lb. Peaches (cut into quarters)
1 Tablespoon Honey
1/4 cup + 1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
1 Lb. Sugar
6-12 Large Fresh Basil Leaves
1) In a small bowl, whisk 1 Tbls. honey with 1 Tbls. lemon juice.  Brush this on each piece of peach.
2) Place the peach quarters onto a well oiled and med/high heated grill or indoor grill-pan.
3) Cook and turn for about 3 minutes each side. Remove and cut into small pieces.
4) In a large pot, add the peaches, 1/4 Cup lemon juice, and the sugar.  Cook and stir often on low heat until the sugar has dissolved (about 10 minutes.)
5) Increase the heat to Low/Med and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes.  The mixture should rise to a low simmer.
6) Add the Basil leaves (whole) to the pot and continue cooking for about 20 more minutes or when the liquid in the pot falls from a wooden spoon in a large slow drop.
7) Remove the Basil leaves and pour the Peach Preserves into clean jars, close and refrigerate.  **the sugar is reduced and no pectin is being added so this is a refrigerator jam only as written.

**Here's another way to use those Grilled Peaches in a quick Summer Treat:  See the directions on this ShowFoodChef Facebook Page. :D
Wine Brushed Grilled Peaches 
with Basil and Truffle Cacio on a Stick

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Avocado Choco-Chip Scones - Vegan with Flavor

I had a dream about Avocados.  Obviously I'm a food nerd, or I have very disturbing Jungian Dream Symbol dysfunction.

Actually I do a lot of my idea forming during late night quiet in my head.  Here's how this one unfolded:

* If avocado can be used instead of butter in a lot of baking, maybe I could use it in scones (even though the "flaky" in scones is vital and butter plays a major role.)

* But, maybe the avocado would get too mushy, it can't be rubbed into the flour like cold butter's cubed, and so cold it's hard enough to be rubbed into flour.  (FREEZE THE CUBES FIRST.)
* I'd have to work fast, but maybe if it holds-up the avocado chunks would melt in the heat of cooking, the way the pieces of butter fat do, forming steam pockets. That is what creates the flakiness in pastry.

* Folks who don't want to use butter, but hate butter substitutes would really love that, plus the added healthiness of California Avocado - wow, this could be great.  

* Who needs good pastry without butter? Vegans.  It's hard to find good Vegan pastries with flavor and moisture and not too much sugar.
But, that means no eggs either (FLAX MEAL is a great substitute AND - there's another healthy addition to use.) Oh wait, Vegan also means no cream, or milk or yogurt. COCONUT MILK - I love it, and it works so easily not to mention the taste.

* Hmmm, I'm hungry - wish I had a leftover Choco-Chip cookie - (LIGHTBULB - make the scones CHOCO-CHIP!)  It's true, I would almost eat anything with Chocolate Chips in it, but even I couldn't eat it for breakfast if it didn't taste worthy.

The next morning - I cubed, and froze and scooped and scored myself a batch of the flakiest healthy scones ever made in my kitchen (and I make a lot of them: Nutella, Olive Oil Cranberry, Banana Oatmeal Ricotta.)  
Then came the test - my teen son.  I woke him out of a Summertime late sleep with a small plate that held 2 "hot from the oven" Avocado Choco-Chip scones and a few Melon wedges.  I waited.  I heard him on the phone with a buddy.  I wondered if he nibbled the scone and dismissed it.  That seemed impossible as I had already eaten two myself (hey, they're small.)

When he emerged from the cave he calls his room, the plate was empty (cue the Angels choir.)  Maybe you think a teen boy will eat just about anything, but you're wrong.  It's quite unbelievable sometimes the weird stuff they eat, but they are also bizarrely picky. The topper came when he asked me if there were more.  

Oh yeah, there were more. Then I told him they were VEGAN.  He paused, and only remarked, "Oh, yeah?  I'll take one to Jileanne, she'll love it."  

Success - Dreams DO come true - if you bake them. 

Don't be afraid of these, if you don't eat Vegan.  There's nothing but tons of flavor and easy fixing in this recipe.  I thought about calling these: The Avocado Choco-Chip "Don't hate me because I taste so good without butter, cream or eggs" Scones, but it was hard to fit on a picture.  

Recipe:  Flaky Avocado Choco-Chip Scones 
          (with no butter, eggs or cream)
-makes 12-  

1 Large Avocado - (peel,cube small,then place cubes in Freezer for 20 minutes)
2 cups Flour
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1 Tablespoon Flax Seed Meal (I use Bob's Red Mill)
pinch Salt
1/2 cup Chilled Coconut Milk
1/2 cup Chocolate Chips

1)  While Avocado cubes are chilling, whisk together in a bowl, the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and Flax Seed Meal.
2) Working quickly, rub the chilled Avocado cubes into the flour mixture with your fingertips until the pieces are small pea size, generally.
3) Pour in the chilled Coconut Milk and toss together with a fork.
4) Add the chocolate chips and continue to fold in with a fork until the dough holds together.  Empty it onto a flour covered work board or parchment covered counter.
5)  Divide the dough into 2 halves and pat each one into a circle about 6 inch diameter.  Cut each one in half, then each half in thirds (creating 12 small triangles.)
6)  Place on a parchment covered baking sheet, brush with extra Coconut milk and optionally sprinkle with sugar. Cook in Preheated 400F oven for about 18 minutes. ** You could also Freeze these before baking, and bake later (up to 3 weeks.)

Sweet food dreams~

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Avocado & Turkey in Onion Fire Balls

Here's a new take on a classic campfire meal, and perfect for the Summer grill.  The secret ingredient is California Avocados.  Okay, so avocados aren't so secret.  In fact, this July 4th more than 96 million pounds of avocados will be consumed in the United States. I'll be doing my part, that's for sure.
Combining the avocado with ground turkey and seasonings is the big whamo, the secret ammo in these Onion Fire Balls.  The velvety avocado chunks replace any need for more processed ways of adding moisture to ground turkey.  There's no need for mayonnaise or oils.  Adding fresh tarragon, kosher salt and cracked pepper and a dash of soy sauce (or Worcestershire) and the optional minced peppers give the turkey meat robust flavor.  Then, if that's not enough, it gets hugged together by an onion layer and grilled inside a foil wrapper that holds in all the smokey juices.  Wowza - that's just good! It's
also naturally Gluten Free, Grain free and low in the bad fats.