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Toast: Not Just for Breakfast

I first tried this recipe in an attempt to use up some ricotta cheese before it went south. I had all of the ingredients on hand, and it seemed better than letting the cheese mold in the back of the fridge. I didn’t know how Andy would feel about them, but I went ahead and served them for dinner anyway. (Yep, my kitchen is a dictatorship. I like to think of it as a benevolent dictatorship though…) Turns out, we both loved them.

I can’t decide what takes these things over the top. Maybe it’s the caramelized onions. Or the cheese. Or the bread. Maybe it’s everything put together. Either way, this is our new favorite appetizer. I may never make soup again. (Just kidding, Andy. Mostly.) 

I like to tell myself that, as far as appetizers go, this one is relatively healthy. Yes, there’s cheese and bread, but it’s buried underneath a hearty serving of squash and onions. Which meant that cramming several of these in my face on New Year’s Eve was perfectly acceptable.

It’s best on fresh, homemade bread, but it’s not bad on crusty Italian bread from the grocery store bakery. I’ve garnished it with mint (per the recipe) and with parsley (after my mint was done for the year), and we’ve liked it with both. And, as you can see from the picture, it’s just as good if you forget to buy something green.

I’m not sure how Deb figures that four slices of bread is enough for all of the squash. Maybe her bread is bigger than mine, or she heaps the squash more heavily. I’ve also given up measuring the ricotta for the toasts. Instead, I just take a spoon and smear a generous scoop of cheese on the warm toast before piling the delicious squash-onion mixture on top. (Of course, this means my “instructions” will be more like guidelines. Oh well.)

squashtoasts

Squash Toasts with Caramelized Onions and Ricotta Cheese

olive oil
1 loaf of Italian bread
1 2-1/2 to 3 lb. butternut squash
pinch red pepper flakes
coarse salt
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 – 1 cup ricotta cheese
finely chopped parsley or mint, for garnish

Preheat oven to 450° and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and the cut each half into slices that are about 1″ thick. Toss the squash with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and then sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and the red pepper flakes. Spread the squash in a single layer on the baking sheet and roast until tender (usually 25-40 minutes, depending on how thick your squash slices were). Remove from the oven and let the squash cool until you can handle it (about 20 minutes).

Scrape the squash from its skin and put the roasted squash into a large mixing bowl. Discard the skin.

Meanwhile, heat a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. (I use my 12″ Lodge.) Add three tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and then add the onion slices. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring often, until the onions begin to soften and turn brown. Reduce the heat and let the onions cook until they are golden brown and delicious. Add the vinegar and maple syrup to the pan and cook, stirring often, until the mixture is jam-like.

Remove the onions from the heat and add them to cooked squash. Use a fork to mix the squash and onions together. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasonings if necessary.

Slice the bread into 1″ thick pieces. Heat a large skillet (again, I use the cast iron skillet) over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan. Toast the slices of bread in the skillet until they are golden brown on each side. Depending on how many slices of bread you have, you may need to add more olive oil to the pan. Place the bread on paper towels to drain while you finish cooking the bread.

Spread a generous spoonful of ricotta cheese on each piece of bread, and then top with a scoop of the onion-squash mixture. Garnish with the chopped mint or parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store leftovers (if you’re lucky enough to have them) in the refrigerator.

Barely adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s ABC Kitchen, via NYTimes Cooking

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2017 in Appetizer

 

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My Kind of Comfort Food

We’ve been enjoying some unseasonably warm weather here in Wisconsin. Sunny days in the 60s aren’t typical in November, but I didn’t hear anyone complaining. However, all good things must come to an end, and it looks like things are headed back to “normal.” Not that normal is bad by any means. Living somewhere with four seasons is one of my favorite things about living in the Midwest.

Comfort food is another one of my favorite things about fall, and I made this dish on a very typical late fall day – cool, cloudy and rainy. Andy had spent the entire afternoon working outside (raking the leaves, washing and waxing the car, mowing the lawn), and even though I was feeling lazy, I didn’t think I should tell him to make a peanut butter sandwich for dinner. 🙂 So I went ahead and tried a recipe that one of my coworkers shared with me a couple weeks beforehand.

He raved about the recipe. “It will make squash edible!” With that ringing endorsement, I took a copy of the recipe but told him I’d probably make some tweaks, especially since the original recipe called for eight ounces of mushrooms. “You can’t omit the mushrooms,” he said. “They make the dish!” Umm… not in our household. Caramelized onions, on the other hand, are something I can get behind. I added an extra slice of bacon (because more bacon is always better), and I roasted the squash on the bacon pan, rather than microwaving it. Not only was the oven already on, but I figured that roasting the squash (especially in bacon grease) would give things even more flavor. I used my cast iron skillet to caramelize the onions and make the sauce, and since it was already dirty, decided that it would be the perfect pan to finish baking the dish.

Wow. The squash was more than edible; it was amazing. The flavors came together in the perfect way. We ate half of the pan for dinner, and I seriously contemplated warming up the leftovers for breakfast the next morning. And it’s safe to say that the rest of our butternut squash may not be destined for soup after all.

ButternutsquashPasta

If I was a better food blogger, I’d have a much more appetizing picture to share. But it was dark and we were hungry, so I snapped this one with my phone and dug in.

 

Baked Butternut Squash Pasta

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed (Approximately 3-5 cups of squash. The recipe called for three cups; my squash yielded closer to 5, and I used every bit of it.) 
1 large onion, thinly sliced
8 ounces short pasta
2 tablespoons of butter, divided
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons AP flour
4 green onions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
5 ounces Fontina cheese, shredded
3 slices of bacon
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
coarse salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place the uncooked bacon on the sheet. Bake bacon until it is crispy, then remove the pan from the oven and allow the bacon to cool on paper towels.

If your bacon left an overabundance of grease on the baking pan, drain off a little. Spread the squash cubes on the bacon pan. Place the thyme sprigs on the squash and season the pan generously with freshly ground black pepper. Roast until the squash is tender, about 20 minutes.Remove the squash from the oven. Place the squash in a large mixing bowl and lightly mash with a fork.

While the squash is cooking, melt one tablespoon of butter in an oven-safe skillet. Place the onion slices in the butter and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium to medium low heat until the onions are caramelized. Remove the onions from the pan and transfer the onions to the bowl with the squash.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, then drain and set aside.

Melt the remaining butter in the skillet and saute the white parts of the green onions. When the onions are tender, add the flour and cook, stirring often, for a minute. Slowly pour the milk into the skillet, whisking constantly. Keep whisking the mixture until it has cooked and thickened. Remove the pan from the heat.

Pour the sauce over the squash and onion mixture and stir to combine. Gently fold in the cooked pasta.

Spoon/pour about half of the squash/pasta/onion mixture into the bottom of an oven safe skillet or casserole dish. Sprinkle with half of the shredded fontina cheese. Add the rest of the squash/pasta mixture to the pan and top with the remaining cheese, bacon pieces and green onions.

Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes, or until the dish is heated through and the cheese is bubbly. Serve warm.

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, courtesy of my coworker, Rich

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2015 in Main Dishes, Pasta

 

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CSA 2014: Weeks 6 & 7

August? Seriously? When did that happen? Crazy stuff. Let’s not focus on the fact that summer is flying by. Instead, let’s talk about the awesomeness of sweet corn and blueberries. And we should also talk about the new recipe I found for zucchini/summer squash – it’s a little more involved than fritters, but it’s definitely worth it. 🙂

Anyway… here’s the latest from our CSA.

CSA2014 week 6

Week 6 included four ears of sweet corn (YAY!), three cucumbers, red onions, a zucchini and a summer squash, two heads of red lettuce, blueberries and a kohlrabi that weighed 3 1/4 POUNDS. Holy kohlrabi. (It’s still taking up a crazy amount of space in my crisper drawer.)

CSA2014 week 7

Week 7 included six ears of sweet corn, two summer squash, one zucchini, a head of broccoli, a red onion, two cucumbers, a pound of snap peas, and, in keeping with the previous week’s theme of overly large vegetables, a FIVE POUND cabbage. Coleslaw, anyone?

As far as the corn goes, it’s safe to say that I won’t be turning it into ice cream anytime soon. Pass the butter and salt, OK? I may try a batch of refrigerator pickles with the cucumber, and it’s safe to say that we’ll be snacking on snap peas for the next week or so. I need to either start shredding and freezing my zucchini or make a lot more zucchini bread and fritters. 😉 I discovered that summer squash does not keep nearly as well as zucchini (even in my food saver bags!), so I think I will make another batch of this pasta. I made a heavily-altered version of it last week, and Andy rated it as a five. I will do my best to photograph the next batch and share it soon, but in case you’re wondering, these were my tweaks:

Switched spinach for Swiss chard (because of garden availability) 
Switched mushrooms for broccoli (because we aren’t into fungus around here)
Sauteed onions with the squash
Used penne pasta instead of rigatoni
Added three ounces of cooked sausage for extra flavor and bulk

We loved it, and I felt like it used quite a bit of the veggies in the fridge. I may try it with bacon next time. 🙂

One last piece of summer news: Our tomatoes are ALMOST ripe. I am hoping for BLTs in another week or so.

 

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Squash + Orzo = “Orzotto”

Allow me to present yet another dish that tastes better than it looks: Butternut squash “orzotto.” (To be fair, this is probably more indicative of my photography skills and the fact that I’m taking pictures after the sun sets.) Basically, you pretend your pasta is rice, stirring warm broth into the pasta as it cooks. The result is a creamy, comforting bowl of carbs.

I stumbled on this a few weeks ago when I was checking out old recipes in Google Reader. (Side note: I have yet to try out any of the new Google Reader alternatives… does anyone have a favorite yet? July is coming quickly!) It looked easy enough for a weeknight (especially since I have cooked squash in the freezer), and I always feel better when I can bulk up my pasta with veggies. 🙂 And since orzo cooks so much faster than rice, it comes together so much quicker than regular risotto.

Unfortunately, we liked it so much that we finished it all that night. In fact, I had to fight Andy away from the bowl while I was taking pictures! He polished it off as soon as I put the lens cap back. And then we both ate PB&J for lunch the next day.

ButternutOrzo

Butternut Squash Orzotto

3/4 cup butternut squash puree
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
1 garlic clove, minced
3 cups chicken broth or stock
splash of white wine (or additional stock/broth)
1 cup orzo pasta
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt
fresh ground pepper

Drizzle the olive oil in a large skillet. Heat the olive oil over medium heat, and then add the onions to the oil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are brown and caramelized. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

While the onions are cooking, warm the broth in a saucepan. Keep it warm until ready to use.

Deglaze the pan with the wine (a couple of tablespoons), scrapping up the browned bits. Cook until the liquid is almost gone. Add the orzo to the pot and stir until it is completely coated. Add 3/4 cup of broth to the pasta. Cook, stirring often until the broth is almost absorbed. Add the broth in 3/4 cup increments, stirring often and reserving 3/4 cup. (Be sure the broth is almost all absorbed before adding the next batch.) 

Stir the squash, cinnamon and cayenne into the pasta. Add the last 3/4 of broth and stir to combine. Just before all of the broth has been absorbed, stir in the cheese. Remove the pot from heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

From Confections of a Foodie Bride

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2013 in Side Dishes

 

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Trying Something New

Is it just me, or are there some cuisines that just sound exotic? Maybe it’s my Midwestern roots (or the fact that I didn’t try Indian food until I was a senior in college), but some foods just seem mysterious to me! 🙂

Things like Moroccan-spiced squash, for instance. I’ve never been to Africa, and I’ll be the first to admit that all of my knowledge of Moroccan culture comes from Casablanca. However, a search for “spaghetti squash” in my Google Reader turned up this gem from Deb at Smitten Kitchen. (Who else, right? And let’s not get me started on the fact that I now have to find a Google Reader alternative. Grrr. Anyway…) It looked tasty. I had all of the spices in my cupboard. Why not try something new with the last spaghetti squash from my winter squash stash?

Deb says you can microwave the squash to save on time, but I went with my favorite time-saving method: Have Andy cut the squash and roast it in the oven when he got home from work. By the time I walked in the door, the squash was almost done cooking, which meant I had about 15 minutes of prep work before we could eat (and that includes setting the table!). Love those nights. 🙂

MoroccanSpaghettiSquash

Moroccan-Spiced Spaghetti Squash

1 large spaghetti squash
1/2 stick of unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro or parsley (Fresh herb fail on my part; I totally forgot to buy either of these, so I subbed dried parsley. It was fine, but I’m sure this would be a million times better with the fresh stuff.) 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Slice the squash in half, lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash face down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast until tender, about 45-50 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside until cool enough to handle (but not cold).

In a large skillet (I used my cast iron one), melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic cloves and cook until golden. Stir the spices into the butter and remove it from the heat.

Using a fork, scrape the squash into the skillet. Stir until the squash is covered with the spiced butter, then top with chopped cilantro. Serve warm.

From Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Gourmet

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2013 in Main Dishes, Side Dishes

 

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Beauty isn’t everything

almost decided against sharing this recipe with everyone. Not because it wasn’t good or because we didn’t like it, but simply because it wasn’t pretty. And while looks aren’t everything (or so we tell ourselves), in the food blog world, looks seem to be worth a lot. After all, no one pins pictures of ugly food, do they?

Well, I’m here to tell you that you should give this guy a chance. After all, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, right? And what’s on the inside here is gooood. 😀

Butternut squash. Caramelized onions. Fontina cheese. Flaky pastry dough.

Are you interested yet? Oh good.

This recipe was one (of the many) that caught my eye as I paged through the Smitten Kitchen cookbook. (For proof that this CAN look as good as it tastes, check out Deb’s picture in the book. It’s beautiful. Of course.) Thanks to a ridiculously busy schedule, I didn’t get a chance to make this before I had to return it. I wasn’t going to let a little thing like a due date keep me from trying this dish though, so I did what any girl with a printer/scanner/copier would do. I made a copy. (Of course, I accidentally cut off an inch of the page, so I had to  guess at some of the instructions, but that’s besides the point.) 🙂

I halved the recipe and made a 9″ galette (which is what I’m sharing below). And what this galette lacked in looks, it more than made up for in flavor. Yum.

ButternutGalette

Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (feel free to sub 1/4 cup whole wheat flour if you’d like)
1/4 teaspoon table salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
16 teaspoons ice water

For the filling:
1 small butternut squash (about 1 1/4 pounds)
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 teaspoons butter
1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced (I didn’t have a sweet onion on hand, so I used a standard yellow onion.)
1/8 teaspoon sugar
pinch cayenne pepper
1 cup freshly grated fontina cheese (just over 3 ounces)
1/4 dried thyme
pinch dried sage
1 egg yolk
freshly ground pepper

In a medium bowl, whisk together the salt and flour. Cut the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry blender until the butter resembles small peas.

In a liquid measuring cup, stir the sour cream, vinegar and water together. Pour the cream mixture into the bowl with the flour and butter. Stir with a spatula until the dough comes together. Turn the dough out on to a floured work surface and knead a couple of times. Shape the dough into a round ball, then wrap it in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least an hour.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Peel the squash, slice and discard the seeds. Cut the squash into chunks that are between 1/2″ and 1″ in size. Brush a large baking sheet with a tablespoon of olive oil and spread the squash chunks on the baking sheet in an even layer. Sprinkle the squash with a 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Roast the squash until tender, about 30 minutes, turning the pieces about halfway through the cooking time to make sure they brown on all sides. Remove the squash from the oven and let cool, but leave the oven on.

While the squash is hanging out in the oven, melt the butter and 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet. (I LOVE my cast iron skillet for this!) Sprinkle the onions with the sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook over medium-low heat, stirring every now and then, until the onions are soft and caramelized. Sprinkle with the pinch of cayenne pepper.

Mix the squash, onions, cheese and herbs together in a large bowl.

Roll the chilled dough into a 12″ round on a floured work surface. Gently fold the dough in half, then transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Unfold the dough. Spread the squash mixture in the center of the dough, leaving about a 2″ border. Fold the edge of the dough over the squash, leaving the center open.

Beat the egg yolk together with a tablespoon of water and brush the egg wash over the pastry dough.

Bake the galette until golden brown, between 30 and 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes, then slide the galette off the baking sheet and onto a serving plate. Can be served warm or at room temperature.

From the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2013 in Appetizer, Main Dishes

 

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Shrimp & Squash

We interrupt your regularly scheduled stream of bread, cookies, cakes and other desserts to bring you my go-to recipe for spaghetti squash. Yes, here in the middle of a sugar-and-carb fest here on the blog, we have proof that we actually eat something healthy once in a while. (I promise, Mom, we are eating our veggies. I’m just not taking pictures of our veggies right now. Wait till our CSA starts again.) 

I found this recipe more out of necessity than anything else. We received a spaghetti squash (either in our CSA or from our neighbors; I can’t remember which), and I was at a loss for what to do with it. In spite of its name, I was pretty sure I didn’t want to use it as a substitute for pasta. I mean, that’s just setting us up for failure. Expecting a squash to taste like white pasta? Please. Let’s call a spade a spade, shall we, and just embrace spaghetti squash for what it is.

Thankfully, Everyday Food came through for me, and this recipe has become my favorite way to prepare spaghetti squash. In spite of the long roasting time, this is one of my “busy night” dinners. I slice the squash (OK, I get Andy to do that. Last time I tried, I got the knife stuck in the squash.) and leave it in the oven with the “time bake” feature set to begin about an hour before I get home from work. And since shrimp both defrost and cook quickly, all I have left to do is roast the shrimp and shred the squash. Bam! Dinner’s ready in under 20 minutes. How’s that for time management?

SpaghettiSquashwShrimp

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Shrimp

1 large spaghetti squash, halved
2-3 cloves of garlic
zest of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined (The original recipe calls for an entire pound of shrimp, which always seems like a lot to me, so I use half the amount of shrimp. I simply cut the cooked shrimp into chunks, which then makes it go twice as far!)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
fresh parsley, chopped (I’ll be the first to admit that I sub dried parsley if I don’t have the fresh stuff on hand.)
Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
lemon wedges, for serving

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Scoop the seeds from the squash. Season the squash halves with salt and pepper, then place cut side down in a 9″ x 13″ baking pan. Tuck a garlic clove underneath each squash half. Pour 3/4 cup water in the pan. Place squash in the oven and roast until fork tender, about 45-50 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool while you prepare the shrimp. Leave the oven on.

Toss the shrimp with one tablespoon olive oil, one crushed garlic clove and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper. Bake until firm and opaque, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven.

While shrimp is baking, use two forks to shred the squash into thin “spaghetti-like” strands. Shred the squash in a large mixing bowl and toss with lemon juice and remaining olive oil.

Chop the cooked shrimp into halves, then toss cooked shrimp and any pan juices with the squash. Stir in the chopped parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.

From Everyday Food Magazine, December 2009

Click here for a printable version!

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2013 in Main Dishes, Seafood

 

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