Monthly Archives: October 2016

Of Empty Nests and Butternut Squash

 

butt-pizzaSometimes—most times really—I’m not the quickest to pick up on the obvious. When I was wondering why it had been so hard to get inspired for fall a post I looked within, to all manner of character flaws, for an explanation. It took a friend in the grocery store, mocking the paltry contents of my grocery cart to make it obvious. I no longer have two of my biggest, loudest, stinkiest, most wonderful reasons to cook. If, like me, you are slow to notice signs here some dead giveaways.

You might be an empty nester if:

  • You no longer park near the cart collection stands at the grocery store.
  • You buy milk in half gallons, then quarts, and still wonder if it’s gone bad.
  • You put everything you can imagine needing into your cart and it still costs less than $50.
  • Your ice cream has freezer burn.
  • You actually pay attention to special diets, and try to accommodate them.

This last point is what today’s post is about. Well, that and butternut squash, my food champion of fall. (Let’s remember squash on toast, sugar and spice soup and Halloween Soup and on and on in the butternut/kabocha hall of fame.) The empty nest is suddenly available for visitors, which is awesome, and they bring with them special diets. At one point recently three guests joked that one was gluten free, one was sugar free and one was calorie free. Guest Number 4 was Vegan. This all worked because a: They all had a sense of humor and adventure, and b: I had time to care (see above).

In my quest as a Vegan sympathizer I’ve tried a lot of things recently. I’ve tried to make both cheese and pizza crust out of cauliflower. No and no. I’ve made Reuben sandwiches out of seitan, a thousand times NO. I’ve also found some reasonably good stuff like grain-free carrot bread, and mayonnaise made with chickpeas. And, with much inspiration from Minimalist Baker and other sites, I’ve made some unbelievable stuff, like butternut squash pizza, the key ingredients of which I share below.

It’s been a fun experiment, and I like being able to find things that can broaden my own food horizons and make people on special diets happy. That said, life is about finding the right balance. When I asked my husband if he was game to try black bean sweet potato burgers for dinner, he merely went to the freezer, removed a steak and thunked it on the counter. Know your audience, people, and enjoy whoever is in your nest.

Butternut Squash Sauce

From the Minimalist Baker, with amounts adjusted

butt-pizza2

Also makes a mean pizzadilla, on a corn tortilla procured by the Vegan for the gluten-free girl.

Ingredients

For every cup of cubed butternut squash you will need:

  • 2 tsp olive oil ( 1 tsp oil for roasting and another tsp for adding to the sauce)
  • 1 garlic clove, whole, skin removed
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • a pinch of salt and pepper.

Keep in mind 1 Tbsp is 3 tsp. Sooooo, math whiz that I am, for 3 cups squash you will need 1 Tbsp of oil for roasting, and another Tbsp oil to add to the sauce, and 1 Tbsp maple syrup. A baking sheet easily holds 4 cups, so amp up ingredients if you’ve got the squash.

Method:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and position a rack in the middle of the oven.

Add cubed butternut squash and peeled garlic cloves to a baking sheet and drizzle with half total olive oil and a pinch each salt and pepper. Toss to combine.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until all squash is fork tender.

Transfer squash and garlic to a blender or food processor with remaining olive oil and maple syrup. Purée until creamy and smooth, adding more olive oil or a touch of water if it’s too thick. The consistency should be creamy and spreadable (not pourable). Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Use sauce as you would pizza sauce, topping it with your desired cheese and toppings and baking the pizza at 425. Make a great Pizzadilla as well, as evidenced on the fine corn tortilla pictured above.

fall-food

Old fall favorites and some new ones

Vegan Parmesan Cheese

Also from Minimalist Baker

This is surprisingly good. As with any imposters, better to think of it as its own thing. (I’m looking at you, black bean “brownies”). It’s sort of a weird craving now. Like I needed another.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup (90 g) raw cashews (try raw slivered almonds or brazil nuts too)
  • 3 Tbsp (9 g) nutritional yeast
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder

Method

Add all ingredients to a food processor and mix/pulse until a fine meal is achieved. Store in the refrigerator to keep fresh. Lasts for several weeks.

But that’s not all! Some bonus fall accessories:

Tahini Miso Sauce

If you don’t have miso in your fridge, do yourself a favor and get some. Merely figuring out how to use it up you will take you on a flavor adventure. Toss this sauce with pretty much anything roasted, but especially cauliflower, brussels sprouts, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, etc, etc.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. tahini
  • 1 Tbsp. white miso
  • 2 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • optional: grated fresh ginger, pinch of red pepper flakes, splash of Tamari. Do experiment here!

Whisk or stir all ingredients, adding enough water, a spoonful at a time, to make a smooth sauce.

Fried Sage Leaves

Put them on anything for fall goodness

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • Fresh sage leaves, twice as much as you think you want
  • Coarse salt

Method:

Heat oil in a pan. Fry sage leaves 6 or so at a time until crisp. Remove to a paper towel with slotted spoon and sprinkle with salt. Repeat until you have enough to actually share with others.

sage-coffee

Fried sage next to the very best Vitamin C!

 

 

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California Dreamin’: Pickled Grapes and other Weird Things

Pickled grapes, accessorized for fall.

Pickled grapes, accessorized for fall.

Well hello fall! I’m not sure how we got from frosé season to apple season so fast, but here we are. Have we all fit an unreasonable amount of fresh corn and tomatoes into our diets these past few weeks? And rescued every last watermelon from the cardboard bins? If so, good job. If not, there’s still time…but barely!

I’m just back from a long trip to Cali, and it of course involved lots of weird food. Why even go to California if you’re not going to dive all in? My weird food fest got rolling at Jack London Square in Oakland, first at a vegetarian restaurant with a mushroom pecan pate that still haunts me in the best way, and then at an event called Eat Real. Very groovy indeed. Super tart, super strong Red Branch hard cherry cider kicked it off. Fabulous street eats ensued, including sesame peanut zucchini salad with furikake…Damn! So good and so fun to say. The miso sesame muffin from Berkeley’s own Sam’s Patisserie wrapped it all up with an oddly addictive bow.

A beer drinker's decision tree. Takes the pressure off.

A beer drinker’s decision tree at Eat Real.

From there I went south, for pink pepperberry gin and tonics in Santa Monica, Tuna poke and tamales in Pasadena, and then—because you’ve got to be on your A game of weirdness in Topanga—rosemary-brined grapes and basil pickled cantaloupe.

Today, I’m bringing you the grapes, because they are stupid easy and crazy good. Plus, they are red and green and would be a perfect offering for any holiday feast. Make them now, try them in a week or so, and if you like them you’ll have plenty of time to go into production. So, let’s not be sad as we let summer and linen and the quest for perfect toenail color drift away. There are apples to be eaten, pies to be baked and ciders of all potencies to be quaffed.

This comes straight from the Wall St. Journal food section, which is awesome. Read the article for other pickled fruit recipes, including cantaloupe. And if there’s a deal on grapes just make a ton. As the article instructs, their flavors improve after about a week, and they’ll keep in the fridge for months… unless I come over.

Pickled Grapes

Adapted from “The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern” by Ted and Matt Lee

Active time: 15 minutes Total time: 45 minutes Makes: 1 pint

  • 2 cups seedless red and/or green grapes (about 10 ounces)
  • ¾ cup distilled white or white wine vinegar
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 small cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • Leaves from 1 (2-inch) sprig rosemary
  • ⅛ teaspoon dried red chili flakes
  1. Pack grapes into a glass jar or airtight plastic container. Pour vinegar and water into a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add salt, sugar, garlic, rosemary and chili flakes. Bring to a simmer and cook 1 minute.
  2. Remove pan from heat and pour brine over grapes to fill container. Strain remaining brine into a measuring cup (you should have a little less than ½ cup left over) and reserve for making butter lettuce salad with pickled grapes, toasted pecans and soft goat cheese (recipe below). Transfer any garlic, rosemary and chili flakes remaining in strainer to container with grapes.
  3. Cover container tightly, shake to distribute seasonings, uncover and let cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. Cover again, and transfer container to refrigerator to chill further, about 15 minutes more.
Among the least weird things in Topanga

Among the least weird things in Topanga

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Straight up awesomeness in the East Bay

 

 

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