Friday, October 28, 2011

Butternut Squash and Mixed Bean Salad

Butternut squash is a beautiful and delicious vegetable. With bright orange flesh, a lighty starchy texture, and remarkably sweet flavor, this great fall vegetable can be used in so many ways. Butternut squash is a terrific roasting vegetable. Just cut in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, brush the cut side with oil, and roast, cut side down, on a baking sheet at 350 F until tender.

From here you can scoop the pulp out of its skin and mash it with a little butter for a side dish that's particularly tasty with roast pork or fowl. Roasted butternut squash makes a rich and flavorful soup (see recipe from October 15, 2010). I like to peel, seed, and slice butternut squash before throwing it into a stir-fry.

For today's recipe, butternut squash is peeled, seeded, cubed and roasted until tender before tossing into a salad of mixed legumes. Cubed and roasted butternut squash is a lovely side dish all by itself. However, you can take these golden morsels and mix them with a variety of vegetables to make many wonderful combinations.

I used kidney beans, edamame, and garbanzo beans, but you can use whatever combination of legumes you like. I tossed the roasted squash cubes with the beans and added chopped red onion, green onion, parsley, and fennel. I made a light vinaigrette and tossed in some finely grated orange peel to jazz it up.

Here's the recipe:

2 C peeled and cubed butternut squash, approx 3/4" cubes
2 C kidney beans, canned or prepared from dry beans
2 C shelled edamame, prepared per directions
2 C garbanzo beans, canned or prepared from dry beans
1/4 C finely chopped red onion
2-3 green onions, finely chopped
1/2 C very finely sliced fresh fennel (or more to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
3-4 T olive oil
3-4 T rice vinegar
1 t finely grated orange rind
1-2 T fresh squeezed orange juice (optional)

1. To prepare the squash: Cut in half lengthwise, scoop out and compost the seeds, cut crosswise into 3/4" slices, trim off the peel and cut slices into 3/4" cubes to make 2 C. Toss with a little olive oil. Sprinkle on a little salt. Roast in a pre-heated 350 degree oven until just tender, about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.

2. If you're using dried beans, prepare them according to directions (usually soaking overnight and boiling for about an hour) before measuring them and proceeding with this recipe. Canned beans are fine for this recipe. Rinse them before adding them to the bowl.

3. Toss the cooled squash cubes together with the kidney beans, edamame, and garbanzos in a large bowl. Stir in the red onion, green onions, and fennel. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the oil and vinegar until combined. Pour over the salad. Add the grated orange rind and juice and toss until all the vegetables are coated with the dressing. Adjust the seasoning. Chill until you're ready to serve.

This recipe makes a lot of salad. You can cut the amounts in half to make a smaller salad.

Even if you make the full recipe of this salad, you're likely to have some unused butternut squash leftover. If you're feeling a little adventurous, you might consider making Sweet Winter Squash Pickles and canning them, like I did in my Master Food Preserver course last Tuesday evening.

Since September, I've been enrolled in a 12-week Master Food Preserver training program through the University of California Cooperative Extension; and I'm having a great time! We've been learning all kinds of food preservation methods, including canning, pressure canning, pickling, drying, fermenting, cheese-making and we haven't even gotten to freezing and charcuterie yet.

If you're familiar with hot water bath canning, you should have no trouble following this recipe. You'll also need more butternut squash, but that's easy to come by at this time of year. Just check out your local farmer's market. If you don't have a canner, you can still make the pickles, but you'll have to keep them in the fridge as opposed to on the shelf.

Sweet Winter Squash Pickles

2 cinnamon sticks
12 whole allspice berries
10 whole cloves
zest and juice of 1 lemon
6 C granulated sugar
4 C distilled vinegar
24 C peeled, seeded, and cubed butternut squash (3/4" cubes)

Yield: About six 16-oz jars

1. Prepare a sachet with the cinnamon sticks, allspice and cloves. Set aside.

2. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine the vinegar, lemon juice, zest, sugar and spice sachet. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the squash, return to a boil and cook for 3 minutes. Discard spice bag.

3. Meanwhile, prepare the canner and jars. Fill the canner about 2/3 full with water and bring to a boil. Prepare another pan or kettle with hot water in case it's needed to cover the jars once they're in the canner. Wash the canning jars, lids, and rings well in hot water. Make sure there are no chips or cracks on the jars. Keep warm.

4. Pack the hot squash into hot jars, leaving a generous 1/2" of headspace. Ladle the hot syrup into the jars leaving 1/2" headspace. Remove the air bubbles and adjust headspace if necessary. Wipe the rims of the jars. Center the lids on the jars. Screw down the band to fingertip-tight.

5. Place the jars in the canner. Ensure they are completely covered with water. Add water to the canner if necessary. Bring to a boil and process for 20 minutes. Wait 5 minutes, then remove the jars, cool, wipe clean, label, and store.

Today's bounty included:

From Underwood Family Farms: green cabbage, white cauliflower, artichokes, butternut squash, butter lettuce, romaine, mizuna, spinach, Celebrity tomatoes, easter radishes, yellow bell peppers, and Hachiya persimmons.

From Sage Mountain Farm: Fingerling potatoes, summer squash, and pie-making pumpkin.

From Weiser Family Farms: rutabagas (yum!).

From Rancho Santa Cecilia: avocados and Satsuma mandarins.

And from Silver Lake Farms: arugula, basil, and cilantro micro-greens.



Friday, October 21, 2011

Acorn Squash Ravioli

Making ravioli at home is a fun activity that you can do with friends, or with children, or on a rainy afternoon. It's actually pretty easy, especially if you buy fresh pasta sheets. Bristol Farms carries fresh pasta sheets, as do several other stores around town. For the more adventurous cook, I've provided a recipe for making your own pasta below.

For the filling:

1 acorn squash
freshly grated salt, white pepper and nutmeg to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds. Compost them or put them in the green trash bin. Place the squash halves cut side down on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake until soft, 45-60 minutes.

3. Remove from the oven and cool. Scoop the cooked squash into a bowl. Compost the skins or put it in the green bin.

4. Mash the squash until smooth. Season with salt, white pepper, and nutmeg to taste. Mixture should be thick.

5. Preparing the filling can be done in advance. Refrigerate the filling to use within 3-5 days, otherwise, freeze the filling until ready to use. If frozen, defrost the filling before proceeding with this recipe.

One medium acorn squash will produce a fair amount of filling. You can freeze any leftovers or turn the leftover filling into a soup by thinning it with broth.

Assemble the ravioli:

4 sheets fresh semolina pasta
Prepared filling

1. Using a hand-crank pasta machine or a rolling pin, roll the pasta to desired thickness (or thinness). [Most fresh pasta sheets are intended for lasagna or to be cut into noodles. Since ravioli has 2 layers of pasta, I like to roll it thinner, but this is a matter of preference.]

2. Starting with a sheet of pasta that's about 3-4" wide, place spoons of prepared filling down the midline of the pasta sheet, spacing them about 3" apart. Leave an inch at the top, the bottom, and on either side of the spoons of filling.

3. Fold the pasta sheet lengthwise so that the 2 long sides come together. Press down in between the filling so that the dough sticks together. Squeeze out any air so that the filling is well encapsulated. If you're having trouble getting the pasta to stick together, it helps to dip your finger in water and run it where the pasta comes together.

4. Using a knife or a pasta cutter, cut between each spoon of filling leaving enough dough on either side to create a generous edge of pasta. You can cut each piece into half-moons to give the ravioli a decorative shape.

Alternatively, you cut your pasta sheets into 3" wide lengths. Place spoons of filling 3" apart down one sheet, then cover with another sheet and cut.

5. At this point, you can freeze the ravioli for later use. To do this, arrange the ravioli in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in the freezer. Once frozen, you can pack the ravioli in a plastic freezer bag or a freezer container.

Frozen ravioli can go right from the freezer into a pot of boiling water. In fact, you don't want to defrost them, as they might stick together.

6. To cook: Bring a pot of water to a boil. Gently add the ravioli. Cook in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, or until done.


Acorn squash ravioli are delicious with a creamy tomato sauce. If you have any delicious home-made sauce like the Slow Cooked Tomato Sauce from Septmber 24, 2010, heat it up and stir in a little cream before saucing the ravioli.

I like to make a simple sauce using melted and lightly browned butter, ground toasted walnuts, and sage.

Omnivores might enjoy these ravioli with a classic Bolognese sauce. Whatever you decide to do, these ravioli are delicious and keep well in the freezer, so make extra to enjoy at another meal.

To make your own pasta:

Making your own pasta isn't hard, but an experienced hand produces a better result. Here's an easy recipe you can play with, if you'd like:

3/4 C unbleached all-purpose flour
1 large egg at room temperature

In a large bowl or on the kitchen counter, mound the flour and make a well in the center. Break the egg into the center of the well and begin to "scramble" the egg, incorporating a little bit of flour at a time as you continue to stir the egg with a circular motion, adding more and more flour as your go. Once the mixture holds together, you can use your hands to incorporate the flour. Knead the dough for 6-7 minutes, incorporating as much of the flour as possible. The dough will have a shiny appearance when properly kneaded. Wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest on the counter for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, unwrap the dough. Pat or roll into an oblong disc. then roll into a thin sheet with a pasta machine. You may want to cut this dough in half before rolling it with the pasta machine in order to make it more manageable.

Some people prefer to use fancy durum wheat or semolina instead of all-purpose flour. These flours are wonderful and produce a more toothsome pasta, but they are also more difficult to work with.

Today's bounty included:

From Underwood Family Farms: green leaf lettuce, green bell pepper, broccoli, Cherokee heirloom tomato, golden beets, rainbow chard, Sugar Baby pumpkin, fennel, and Acorn squash.

From Weiser Family Farms: celery root.

From Rancho Santa Cecilia: mandarins.

And from Silver Lake Farms: arugula and mustard microgreens.



Friday, October 14, 2011

Risi e Bisi

Fresh peas are one of spring and fall's true delicacies. They have such a short season, you have to snatch them up as soon as they're available, because in a few weeks, they'll be gone.

Risi e Bisi, or rice and peas, is a classic Italian dish. It's a cross between risotto and a thick soup. To get the right consistency, you have to use a short grain rice. Arborio rice, or one of its cousins, like Carnaroli, is best.

You can use either home-made or store-bought chicken broth or vegetable broth. You can make a vegetable broth from the pea pods if you don't mind this extra step. Place the empty pods (after you've shelled the peas) in a stock pot. Add 2 carrots, 2 ribs celery, 1 small onion, 1/2-1 t salt, a few peppercorns, a bay leaf, and 6 C cold water. Heat it to almost boiling. Turn down the heat and simmer slowly for about 45 minutes. Cool slightly. Then strain and discard the spent vegetables.

Risi E Bisi

2 T butter
1/4 C finely chopped onion
1 C Arborio rice
3-4 C broth
1 C shelled fresh peas
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 C freshly grated parmesan cheese
chopped fresh parsley for a garnish

1. In a medium to large stock pot, melt 2 T butter. Add the onion and saute until barely translucent.

2. Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter.

3. Stir in 1 C broth. Add the shelled peas. Continue stirring until the broth is nearly all absorbed.

4. Stir in remaining broth 1/2-1 C at a time, waiting until the broth is nearly absorbed before adding the next cup.

5. Continue stirring in broth until the rice and peas are tender and the dish is creamy or even a little soupy.

6. Remove from the heat. Stir in the parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour into bowls and garnish with finely chopped fresh parsley to serve.

Some recipes for Risi e Bisi call for a little chopped pancetta Omnivores may enjoy this tasty addition. You can add the chopped pancetta at the beginning when you're sauteing the onions in the butter.

Some folks like to garnish Risi e Bisi with finely chopped basil instead of parsley. Try it if you have some nice fresh basil.

Today's bounty included:

From Underwood Family Farms: Romaine lettuce, summer squash, leeks, sugar snap peas, bi-color corn, artichokes, jalapeno, and Sharlyn melon.

From Rancho Santa Cecilia: limes, mandarins, and Hass avocados.

And from Silver Lake Farms: mustard and arugula microgreens.



Friday, October 7, 2011

Mixed Squash Galette

A galette is like a pie or tart only not as fancy. Most people think of galettes as dessert, but they can just as easily be made with savory ingredients like the one I made today.

I love that there's no wasted dough with a galette, and you can made it whatever shape you like. You just roll out the dough, arrange the filling, fold up the sides, and bake. Also, you can put almost anything you want inside, so long as it isn't too wet. So it's a great vehicle for creativity in the kitchen.

You can use any pie crust dough recipe you're comfortable with or you can buy an unbaked, frozen crust. You can even substitute filo dough and produce a similar product.

For my galette, I used slices of zucchini, butternut squash, onion, and tomato, as well as two leaves of kale. I sauteed all of the vegetables, except the tomato, to soften them a little. However, with the exception of the kale, this step is not necessary if you like your vegetables crunchy.

For the crust:

1-1/2 C flour
1 t salt
1 stick very cold butter, cut into small pieces
3-4 T ice water

1. Place the flour and salt in the work bowl of a food processor and process for 1-2 seconds until combined.

2. Add the butter and process until the butter is evenly distributed in small pebbles throughout the flour.

3. Add 2-3 T ice water and process just until the dough will hold together. Test this by pinching a small amount of dough between your fingers. If it sticks together, it's been processed enough. If not, process in a little more ice water and test again.

4. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and press the dough together. Wrap and refrigerate until you're ready to fill the galette.

For the galette:

1-2 T olive oil
1-2 medium zucchini, sliced in 1/4" slices
1/3 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and sliced in 1/4" slices
1 medium onion, sliced crosswise in 1/4" slices
2-3 leaves kale, sliced crosswise 1/4-1/2"
1 large tomato, cut crosswise in 1/4" slices
salt and pepper to taste
1 recipe pie crust (see above)
1 egg

1. Preheat oven to 425 F.

2. In a large skillet, heat the oil and briefly saute the zucchini, butternut squash, and onion slices in a single layer on both slices until barely tender. Sprinkle them with a little salt while they're cooking. Cook slices in several batches, if necessary. Remove from the skillet and cool.

3. In the same skillet, adding a little extra oil if necessary, saute the kale until wilted. Season with a little salt and pepper while cooking. When done, remove from the skillet to cool.

4. Remove the pie crust dough from the fridge and roll out on a floured pastry cloth or cheet of wax paper. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet.

5. Layer the slices of zucchini, butternut squash, and onions, slightly overlapping each other in the center of the dough, leaving about 2" of dough all the way around. Mix in the wilted kale. Top with a layer of sliced tomatoes.

6. Carefully fold up the edges of the dough. It's fine if the dough pleats a little.

7. Beat the egg in a cup and brush the dough with the beaten egg. Sprinkle a little kosher or large grain salt on the dough, if desired, and back at 425 F for 10 minutes. Lower the heat to 375 F and bake until the crust is golden, above 30-40 minutes longer.

Serve hot, warm, room temperature, or cold. This recipe makes 4 generous servings.

You can sprinkle in any herbs you like when you're arranging the vegetables. You can also sprinkle grated cheese over the vegetables for more protein and flavor.

Don't hesitate to experiment with fillings of your own. It's all good.

Today's bounty included:

From Sage Mountain Farm: Hybrid tomatoes, sweet candy onions, Fingerling potatoes, Rainbow Swiss chard, and garlic.

From Underwood Family Farms: Galia melon, zucchini, Brandywine tomatoes, green cabbage, kale, yellow zucchini, butternut squash, green leaf lettuce, Blue Lake beans, round carrots, golden beets and candy beets.

From Rancho Santa Cecilia: Hass avocados and lemons.

And from Silver Lake Farms: mustard and arugula microgreens.