Category: Pears

Pear and Almond Torte with Scotch Whipped Cream

Pear and Almond Torte with Scotch Whipped Cream

img_2994In the cooking world, there are recipes most everyone just knows, loves, and admires.  If you don’t make them, you’ve heard of them. Famed cooking guru and writer Marion Burros’ Plum Torte  (New York Times, 1983) is one such recipe. It may be one of the best and tastiest examples I know. Continue reading “Pear and Almond Torte with Scotch Whipped Cream”

38 Power Foods, Week 28 — Almonds — Pear-Almond Crostata

38 Power Foods, Week 28 — Almonds — Pear-Almond Crostata

I had parents who were full of quirky sayings.  My dad, being from the south, often said, “If I could only eat one food on earth, I would choose peanuts.”  (If he’d been from Minnesota, he would have needed to say walnuts.) Another day he’d put milk or eggs in that exalted position, but it was always one of two or three favorites. In other words, if you had to go on a long hike or be out on the lake fishing for a long time, bring nuts.  You’d be happy-crunchy and, while he never mentioned it, you’d be full from the fiber and not be hungry for a long time given the protein and fat content of nuts.

My kids once had a doctor who, beside being a wonderful human being and just as good of a doctor, invited us in to his office each visit.  He’d turn around and sit and chat a minute or two before getting down to business.  Once in a while, he’d say, “I haven’t had lunch yet; let me get something to eat while we visit.”  Out of his drawer would come a big bag of plain almonds.  He’d pour a handful or two out for himself and offer the bag to us.  “Best lunch available in a drawer,” was his line.  He’d chomp several before saying, “All right, I’m ok now; I was starved.”

I’m sure neither of these men had pear-almond crostata in mind when he thought about nuts as an excellent source of nutrition, though I do!  It never hurts to add a little protein and fiber to a scrumptious dessert and, while I make lots of desserts (among other things!) with almonds in them– (I use almond paste as the bottom layer of my strudel) — this is my favorite.  Most of my friends have eaten a crostata or two at my house.   It’s a special occasion treat and I make it for birthdays, dinner parties, or holidays.

If you’ve never made a crostata  before, don’t be frightened by the name; it’s just a free-form pie that every self-respecting home and professional cook in Italy makes regularly. (Italian crostatas are often made with jam rather than fresh fruit.)  I find it simpler and tastier than an American pie; it’s forgiving in shape, size, and texture; it’s perfectly luscious and has the oooooo and ahhhhhh factor desserts deserve.

                                   Recipe for a raspberry jam crostata here.

The dough for my crostata is made in the food processor and is done in a flash.  Try this:

pear-almond crostata

4 regular or six small servings for one crostata

Parchment paper needed for baking

pastry:  (makes 2-freeze one for later)
  • 2 cups white, unbleached flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2-pound (2 sticks) very cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup ice water

In the food processor, fitted with the knife blade, pulse together the flour, sugar and salt.  Add the cold butter and pulse until mixture is the size of peas.  Slowly add iced water through the feed tube until dough begins to come together.  Remove carefully from processor and divide in half.  Press each into a disc.  Wrap one in foil and freeze it.  Refrigerate the other for an hour is best, but you can roll it right away if you must.  Dust the counter very well indeed with flour and roll the disc, using a rolling pin, into an 11″ circle.  Place on parchment lined baking sheet until you have the fruit ready.  (Check out the pics here where I give you two options for getting the pastry from the counter to the pans.)  You can  a. fold it up gently and  quick like a bunny pick it up, and centering it over the baking sheet, place it carefully down and unfold it or, b. loosely roll the dough back onto the rolling pin and move the rolling pin over above the baking sheet, lowering it and loosening the pastry down flat onto the pan.   

The pastry recipe for this comes from Ina Garten, who, I might have gotten(?) it from  Joanne Killeen and George Germon in CUCINA SIMPATICA; ROBUST TRATTORIA COOKING.  

filling:

  • 1-1 1/4# pears (Seckel or Bosc or a mixture), peeled, cored and cut into 1″ chunks
    (Pears should be ripe or nearly ripe and still firm)
  • 1-2t grated lemon rind
  • 1/4 c sliced almonds
  • 1/4 c ea flour and sugar
  • 1/4 t kosher salt
  • 1/4 t cinnamon
  • 4T unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 450 and place rack at center.

In a large bowl, mix cut-up pears with lemon rind and most of the almonds, reserving 1T or so for the top of the crostata.  In the food processor, make a crumb topping for the crostata by pulsing together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and butter until crumbly.  Remove the blade from the processor bowl, and, using fingers, pinch together the crumbs until they hold together

Place pear-lemon mixture onto the pastry, leaving 1 1/2 inches around the edges.  Crumble topping on the pears evenly and sprinkle with the last of the almonds.  Fold the edges of the pastry up and over the fruit, gently pleating the dough at the corners.  You’ll be leaving most of the fruit covered by only the crumbly topping; the pastry just comes up around the edges of this pie.

Place baking sheet in oven and bake 25-30 minutes (use the longer time above 5,000 feet) until golden brown and crispy.  Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before sliding pie off the paper onto wire rack to cool completely.  Will hold at room temperature a day or so and in the refrigerator for several days, though it is best fresh.

Note:  If you’d like to make an apple crostata with the other crust, it’s made almost like the above pie, but you’ll need 1 1/2 # (3-4 large Granny Smith) apples, 1 t orange peel and no nuts unless you choose to add some one your own.  If you do, toasted walnuts might be best.

{printable recipe}

The best drink for crostata is a cup of fresh black coffee.

ALMONDS…

This is a one ounce serving of almonds–about 25 and almost 1/4 cup.

  

 Almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E, magnesium, and manganese; they are a good source fiber, copper, phosphorous and riboflavin. When compared ounce for ounce, almonds are the nut highest in protein (6g), fiber, calcium (75mg), vitamin E, riboflavin and niacin (1mg). Talk about good things coming in a small package. 

The average woman needs 46 grams of protein per day. She needs 25 grams of fiber.  (webmd.com)

.

  Nutrient Content of Tree Nuts–Almond info in RED.

USDA Nutrient Laboratory Database, Release 20 (Nd – no data); Bolded numbers indicate highest value.

(1 ounce whole natural) Almond Brazil Nut Cashew Hazelnut Macadamia Pecan Pistachio Walnut
Calories 163 186 157 178 204 196 158 185
Protein (g) 6 4 5 4 2 3 6 4
Total Fat (g) 14 19 13 17 21 20 13 19
Carbohydrate (g) 6 4 9 5 4 4 8 4
Dietary Fiber (g) 3.5 2.1 0.9 2.7 2.4 2.7 2.9 1.9
Calcium (mg) 75 45 10 32 24 20 30 28
Iron (mg) 1.1 0.7 1.9 1.3 1.1 0.7 1.2 0.8
Magnesium (mg) 76 107 83 46 37 34 34 45
Phosphorus (mg) 137 206 168 82 53 79 139 98
Potassium (mg) 200 187 187 193 104 116 291 125

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION COURTESY bluediamond.com

 
 Our blogging group:

I blog with a great group of writers every Friday where we cook our way through the list of foods from Whole Living Magazine’s Power Foods:  150 Delicious Recipes with the 38 Healthiest Ingredients:    Read more  at these sites today or sometime in the future (Not everyone posts this week.): 

Minnie Gupta from TheLady8Home.com

Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink

 Are you a food blogger?

  This Week on More Time at the Table–Warming Dinners:

Vegetable Soup (Vegan and Gluten-Free) a la Provence in 30 minutes: 

Streamlined Beef Burgundy with Vegetables

 

 Sing a new song,
Alyce 

38 Power Foods, Week 18 — Citrus — Step-by-Step Pear or Apple Crostata (Pie 101)

38 Power Foods, Week 18 — Citrus — Step-by-Step Pear or Apple Crostata (Pie 101)

Scroll down for recipe.

Come fall, I make crostatas regularly.  They’re beautiful, terribly good to eat, and generally make folks quite happy.  A free-form fruit pie (often made with homemade jam in Italy), they’re easier to make than traditional American pie and are show-stoppers when you have friends to dinner.  I’ve blogged the crostatas before, and have taught them several times for the Italian classes I’ve done at home.  But I didn’t think of them in terms of citrus until our Power Foods list came up this week.  While citrus (lemon particularly) is a huge part of my cooking, I think about it less in terms of baking.   

  For instance:  I rarely make a green salad without squeezing a lemon over it.  Either I have lemon and oil, lemon alone, or lemon before a vinaigrette.  Whatever choice I make, lemon, as an acid, is always followed by salt and pepper on my salads because salt dissolves best in acid.  For that reason, if I’m making a vinaigrette, I always put the salt in the acid — whether citrus or vinegar– before adding the oil. 


  Secondly, there’s little to perk up a piece of chicken, a steak, or a lamb chop like a squeeze of fresh lemon.  Of course you like lemon on fish, right?  Why not red meat or poultry?

Another thing: I love lemon juice in chili.  I stuff my roasting chicken with big pieces of orange and a cut-up onion or sometimes roast a lemon in the bottom of the pan for the sauce.  I use one citrus or another to keep my cut fruit from browning.  There are so many ways I use citrus, I can’t count or write them.  I buy lemons by the bagful, but rarely go to the store without also buying limes.  Because I don’t eat oranges or grapefruit for breakfast, I buy those only when I’m cooking or baking with them.

These fresh fruit fall crostatas, too, would be very much less without the citrus.  I make several kinds of crostatas, but these two, apple and pear, have orange and lemon zest respectively.  You could switch them out and use orange with the pear and lemon with the apple; I’m sure it would be lovely.

Citrus is, of course, loaded with vitamin C,  provides fiber, folate, lycopene, potassium and other vitamins and minerals.   (More below.)  Yes, it’s great food…  But for me…it’s all about the flavor when I use it for cooking.

A picture story…followed by the recipe.  Bake peace!
                        (Interested in traditional pie?  Read my PIE 101 post here.)

First, the apple version:

Option a (below) for moving pastry from board/counter to the baking sheet

Apple close-up–ready to eat!

 
Option b (below) for moving pastry from board/counter to baking sheet

And, then the pear photos:


Baked pear crostata close-up; I liked the pear best.
The pastry recipe for this comes from Ina Garten, who, I am pretty sure got it from  Joanne Killeen and George Germon in CUCINA SIMPATICA; ROBUST TRATTORIA COOKING and maybe a few other places!  Just a little detective work of mine.  Despite the provenance, it’s a tasty tidbit for fall when the fall fruit is divine   As neither one of them made pear, I feel I’ve contributed to the development of the recipe and hopefully to the happiness of your tummies.  This is tres easy, and if you’re afraid of pastry, this is a great start.  There’s no form-fitting into pie pans or making a crust look “P” for perfect.  This is a free-form, rustic pie baked on parchment paper on a baking sheet.  If it spills over or runs through, it’s just crusty-gooey and even better.  Don’t hesitate.  Pretty for Thanksgiving, too.  Oh, in France, this is a galette.
 
 Here’s how I did it:
Here is the apple at left and the pear at right.



LEMON SCENTED PEAR-ALMOND CROSTATA
4 large or 6 regular servings for each crostata
Parchment paper needed for baking
pastry:  (makes 2-freeze one for later or make 2)
  • 2 c white, unbleached flour
  • 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 1/2# (2 sticks) very cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 c ice water

In the food processor, fitted with the knife blade, pulse together the flour, sugar and salt.  Add the cold butter and pulse until mixture is the size of peas.  Slowly add iced water through the feed tube until dough begins to come together. 

Remove carefully from processor and divide in half.  Press each into a disc.  Wrap one in foil and freeze it.  Refrigerate the other for an hour is best, but you can roll it right away if you must.  Dust the counter very well indeed with flour and roll the disc, using a rolling pin, into an 11″ circle. 

Place on parchment lined baking sheet until you have the fruit ready.  (Check out the pics above where I give you two options for getting the pastry from the counter to the pans.)  You can  a. fold it up gently and  quick like a bunny pick it up, and centering it over the baking sheet, place it carefully down and unfold it or, b. loosely roll the dough back onto the rolling pin and move the rolling pin over above the baking sheet, lowering it and loosening the pastry down flat onto the pan.   

This is not easy to describe; I apologize for lack of prowess as a technical writer!

Filling
1-11/4# pears (Seckel or Bosc or a mixture), peeled, cored and cut into 1″ chunks
1-2t grated lemon rind
1/4 c sliced almonds
1/4 c ea flour and sugar
1/4 t kosher salt
1/4 t cinnamon
4T unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 450 and place rack at center.

In a large bowl, mix cut-up pears with lemon rind and most of the almonds, reserving 1T or so for the top of the crostata.
 In the food processor, make a crumb topping for the crostata by pulsing together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and butter until crumbly.  Remove the blade from the processor bowl, and, using fingers, pinch together the crumbs until they hold together.  
Place pear-lemon mixture onto the pastry, leaving 1 1/2 inches around the edges.  Crumble topping on the pears evenly and sprinkle with the last of the almonds.  Fold the edges of the pastry up and over the fruit, gently pleating the dough at the corners.  You’ll be leaving most of the fruit covered by only the crumbly topping; the pastry just comes up around the edges of this pie.
Place baking sheet in oven and bake 25-30 minutes (use the longer time above 5,000 feet) until golden brown and crispy.  Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before sliding pie off the paper onto wire rack to cool completely.
Will hold at room temperature a day or so and in the refrigerator for several days, though it is best fresh.
Note:  If you’d like to make an apple crostata with the other crust, it’s made almost like the above pie, but you’ll need 1 1/2 # (3-4 large Granny Smith) apples, 1 t orange peel and no nuts unless you choose to add some one your own.  If you do, toasted walnuts might be best.  This is Ina’s method!
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More info on citrus nutrition HERE.
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I blog with a great group of writers every Friday where we cook our way through the list of foods from Whole Living Magazine’s Power Foods:  150 Delicious Recipes with the 38 Healthiest Ingredients:    Read more about tasty citrus this week at these sites: 

 
Ansh – SpiceRoots.com  
Minnie Gupta from TheLady8Home.com

Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink
.
Want to join us?  We’d like to have you as part of the group.  Get in touch with Mireya from My Healthy Eating Habits:  Mireya@MyHealthyEatingHabits.com

Sing a new song,
Alyce
Pear-Grilled Fig Salad with Goat Cheese

Pear-Grilled Fig Salad with Goat Cheese

 There are moments when I’m aware enough of the blessed goodness in my life.  Maybe.  I know not everyone has a counter full of butternut squash, apples, onions, shallots, garlic, hundreds (literally) of tiny green and red tomatoes, and Bosc pears.  I know not everyone has a warm snug lying next to them come the cold, dark morning.  Or a reason to get up and do something with the bounty in the kitchen downstairs.  I probably don’t truly understand it, but I get it.  My life hasn’t been all rose teacups and long walks along the river with the dogs.

This morning I read a post on a blog I follow (there’s a link in my blogroll at right, too).

leave it where jesus flang it

Margaret writes daily there.   It’s a prayer journal of sorts.  She’s an Episcopal priest on an Indian reservation in South Dakota and life’s hard there.  The loss and the poorness and the hurt are hardscabble painful and it’s her job to keep showing up for the difficult moments and beyond.  Today she writes about people nearby whose babies have just died…  And (having had babies who died) I understand where this is and where it goes.  What I am drawn to these many years later is twofold:

1. why…if we need each other so very badly through the crazy, hilarious, dipping, winding, bottoming-out life trek, and if church is meant to provide that for us…why are so many of us no longer part of that community?   Or, if we are a part, are those communities truly sustaining us? and 2.  a bursting grateful noise for all I have and all those who have loved me through the nearly killing losses.   I come back to the idea that to begin with thanksgiving is a perfect way to pray/live and I have to learn it all over again, all over again, all over again.   Even if God isn’t a welcomed presence in your life, I think the settling of near-constant thanksgiving in our bodies is a positive way to breathe on earth.

Ok, well, yup———-

and……truly:

I’m grateful  to share a beautiful fall salad with you…speaking of that.  I often cook on the “Meatless Monday” protocol because it’s healthy and it makes sense to me.  It’s also a way to make me concentrate on most of the food on earth and, well, most of it isn’t meat.

I spent yesterday late afternoon re-testing a soup for my book (Roasted Vegetable Soup with Sage) and as I got the soup nearly finished thought to make a little salad out of what I had.

Which was beautiful Bosc pears, goat cheese leftover from a dinner for friends last Friday night (I grilled figs and filled them with goat cheese, a drizzle of honey, fresh thyme and black pepper), and some arugula.  Sigh.  Here’s how:

pear – grilled fig salad with goat cheese, walnuts, and arugula

serves 2 -3

  • 3 cups arugula
  • 2 ripe Bosc pear, cored and sliced (don’t peel)
  • 2 ounces crumbled Goat cheese (leave out for vegan option)
  • 1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts (just put them in a small dry skillet for a few min.)
  • 4 fresh figs cut in half and briefly grilled* (or 4 chopped dried figs)
  • Juice of half an orange
  • 1/2 teaspoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon walnut oil
  • kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper 

In a medium shallow bowl, place arugula and top with pears and goat cheese.  Scatter walnuts around the edges of the salad and add the figs at even intervals.  Drizzle all with the juice, vinegar, and oil.  Sprinkle evenly with a pinch each of salt and pepper.  Place bowl on table to admire your handiwork before tossing.  Serve at room temperature.  (If you need to make this ahead and refrigerate, you’ll want to add the pears–which would brown otherwise– and the dressing at the last minute.  It’ll taste fine cold.)

*To grill fresh figs:  Lightly brush a grill, grill pan, or small skillet with a bit of olive oil.  Trim stems from figs and slice in half.  Place figs cut side down in pan and grill over medium heat just a couple of minutes.  Turn and grill on the other side.  Note:  How long you grill these will depend on how ripe they are.  The riper, the less grilling–   If terribly ripe, don’t grill at all.

I ponder here at the idea of saying “grace.”  I think grace is a difficult word to define and how it is we come to SAY it, I don’t know.  We also “say a blessing.”  Or “give thanks.”  Or “bless the food.”  Someone, somewhere I was, said a blessing I can’t forget the gist of, but can’t recall the exact words.  The idea was to be grateful for the food and for the nourishment to enable us to feed those without.
I’ll think about it.  (If you know that blessing, leave it in a comment.)

A thought:  the blessing is also a moment to breathe in an otherwise complicated, swiftly flowing existence.  To pray and– to eat– in the moment.  To be truly awake and aware of what’s before us and what will sustain us.  To be grateful for loving, preparing hands, the instinct to love,  the time to eat, and for the abundance.

Phew.  My blog is different today.  Beautiful fall winds and smiles to you,
Alyce

P.S. COMING TO A CHURCH NEAR YOU!  (MAYBE)  I think I forgot to share that our daughter  Emily is officially ready to receive a call from the Presbyterian Church, USA.  After over three years in seminary, she preached to the Committee on Preparation for Ministry (maybe I got that right) last Monday and they pronounced her READY. 

Speaking of being grateful
38 Power Foods, Week 15 — Winter Squash — Israeli Couscous-Butternut Squash Salad with Fall Fruit, Cheese and Orange Vinaigrette

38 Power Foods, Week 15 — Winter Squash — Israeli Couscous-Butternut Squash Salad with Fall Fruit, Cheese and Orange Vinaigrette

How are new salads born at my house?    Like this……

I’ve had some Israeli couscous (actually a blend) in my cabinet for a few months.  Waiting.
Typically I throw some leeks, garlic, and asparagus in a sauté pan come spring and throw those lovely things into a bowl of couscous or orzo with a handful of grated Parmesan and lots of black pepper.

When I realized this was the week to blog winter squash, a different group of ingredients started to percolate.  Despite the summer tomatoes still coming on (albeit slowly) and the basil crying for that last bowl of pesto to be made, I kept thinking fall food once the squash got in my head.  Cranberries, apples, pears, sharp cheese, nuts.

Fall..I adore pears…here I’ve just poached them slowly in port with some orange peel and cinnamon sticks.

Thursday I had a big pot of turkey chili on the stove and called some friends to run over and help eat it.  This salad, which began in my head days before it ended up in our stomachs,  started the meal.  I cooked the couscous and started chopping fruit and toasting nuts.  It came together that easily; it’s fairly fast, too.  I did think I might have liked walnut oil for the vinaigrette, but the only can I had was in the frig at our Colorado house where it’ll stay a bit fresher over the time we’re not there.

Could it be a whole meal?  Definitely.  Since it has oranges to keep the fresh fruit from turning brown, I think it’ll keep a day or so…but no more.  It might be a filling and happy side for a quick Thanksgiving meal:  roast a turkey breast, make this salad, and cook some of those green beans you’ve been freezing.  Anyway, here’s how:

Follow the photo-easy recipe:

Cook 8 ounces of  Israeli Couscous*  according to package directions. Use chicken broth in place of water. You can add a few leaves of fresh sage if you have them (remove before making salad).  When couscous is tender, add 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil and 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil while still hot.  Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and fresh ground white pepper.  Optional:  Stir in 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Cool to room temperature.
Toast 1/4 cup pecans in a dry small skillet and chop, reserving a few whole nuts for garnish.
Dice (medium) 1 pear, 1 apple, 1 orange (peeled),  6 dried figs (or fresh), 1 small cooked butternut squash (see below for my microwave directions).  Dice (small):  2 oz. each sharp cheddar and Swiss cheese like Jarlsberg or Emmental or even Gruyere.
Mix fruit, squash,  cheese, 1/4 cup dried cranberries, and pecans with cooled couscous.  Add the juice of another orange and 1 teaspoon honey.  Stir well, taste and adjust seasonings and/or dressing.  Serve in a bowl lined with fresh spinach leaves and garnish with reserved whole pecans.

 6 servings

We liked this salad with coffee cup pumpkin-chocolate chip muffins.

*I used Harvest Grains Blend from Trader Joe’s (available on amazon.com as well), which is a “savory blend of Israeli Couscous, Orzo, Baby Garbanzo beans, and Red Quinoa.”  Regular Israeli or pearl couscous is fine and orzo or even farro would be easily workable substitutes.

Ingredients list:  8oz Israeli couscous or blend, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper (optional), fresh sage leaves (optional), 1 3/4 cups chicken broth (used 1 15 oz. can plus a little water), 1 1/2 tablespoons each canola and extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup pecans,  1 small butternut squash, 1 pear, 1 apple, 2 oranges (1 in salad, 1 juiced), 6 figs (fresh or dried), 1/4 cup dried cranberries, 2 ounces each sharp cheddar  and Swiss cheeses, 1 teaspoon honey, 2 cups fresh spinach leaves

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HOW TO COOK BUTTERNUT SQUASH IN THE MICROWAVE:

   Place squash in a large microwave-safe dish and, using a sharp thin knife, poke a few holes in the largest section for escaping steam.  Microwave on high 3-5 minutes (depending on size of the squash–a 1.5lb squash might take 5 minutes, for example) and remove the squash to a cutting board.   Using a large chef’s knife, carefully cut the squash in half horizontally and  with a large spoon, scoop out seeds and strings.   Place the two halves back in the baking dish with a little (2 tablespoons or so) water and put the dish back in the microwave.  Cook another five minutes on high or so (depending on the size of the squash) until tender. Covering the squash with plastic wrap or a microwave-safe cover will decrease the cooking time.   I have also filled the center section with butter and a little brown sugar and served it just like that. (I often do this with acorn squash for a quick hot lunch.)  Otherwise, you can let the squash cool, and then peel and chop or mash it according to your needs.  This is much easier than peeling (or cutting) raw butternut squash, which is, at best, difficult.
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I cook winter squash frequently and my reasons are many.  Here are a few:

1.  It’s delicious; it’s good for your body.
2.  It’s easy to prepare in several ways: Stick in oven, saute, braise, boil, or microwave.
3.  It’s useful as a vegetable or side, but is also hearty enough for a main dish. (Stuff with cumin rice, jack cheese and scrambled eggs for breakfast!)
4.  It’s an excellent addition to soups and stews.
5.  It’s a good substitute for potatoes with pot roast or roasted chicken.
6.  It’s inexpensive and easy to find nearly year round, but particularly now.
7.  It keeps on the counter for a long time–easily 2 months. (That’s about the limit for acorn; the others can keep much longer.)

Be brave and try whatever beautiful squash you find at the market.  Whatever you do with acorn squash, you can easily do with most of the others.  Even spaghetti squash is quickly cooked in the microwave.  Shred it with a fork, add a little butter (salt/pepper) and you have a beautiful meal.  And, yes, you can add marinara and stay on South Beach, phase 2!!

Don’t want to deal with the peel?  You can buy peeled and cubed butternut squash or pumpkin at some markets, but you will pay a premium price.

Nutrition Profile for Butternut Squash

Each cup of cubed butternut squash provides approximately 60 calories, 16 g of carbohydrates and 3 g of fiber. It also supplies almost 300 percent of your daily value of vitamin A, 50 percent of vitamin C, 7 percent of calcium and 5 percent of iron.

 Want more info on winter squash, including nutrition and recipes?  Visit the Snap-Ed (USDA) site here.

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If you liked this, you might also like this recipe from my Dinner Place blog.

rosemary chicken thighs with butternut squash, onions, and fennel

Throw it all together with olive oil; slip it into the oven on a big rimmed baking sheet.  Dinner emerges in about 35 minutes!

or you might like this:

roasted orange chicken and butternut squash (meal in a pan)

or my butternut and other squash soup

This is a lovely soup for someone who is not well or can’t chew, but is luscious as well for a first course at Thanksiving.

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I blog with a great group of food writers on Fridays as we cook our way through the list of foods from Whole Living Magazine’s Power Foods:  150 Delicious Recipes with the 38 Healthiest Ingredients:    Read more about beautiful winter squash this week at these sites:


Alanna –  http://kitchen-parade-veggieventure.blogspot.com/

Minnie Gupta from TheLady8Home.com

Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink
.
Join us:

If you’re interested in joining the gang writing each week, get in touch with Mireya from My Healthy Eating Habits:  Mireya@MyHealthyEatingHabits.com

Sing a new song and cook a new squash,
Alyce 

Curried Cauliflower Soup or The Rite of Spring on Bach’s Birthday

Curried Cauliflower Soup or The Rite of Spring on Bach’s Birthday

Hot lunch on a cold spring day

 Outside the window in the new/old (1915) St. Paul house, it’s fairly gray.  Everything’s gray, in fact.  Melting snow, sky, sun, trees…even the birds appear kind of gray.  But spring it is!

Jack Sparrow and Friend

When you’ve moved, the chores are myriad.  It seems you’re always running to the hardware store for a light switch cover or to Target for garbage bags and peanut butter.  If you’re not running, you’re on the phone with the phone company or recycling folks.  If you’re not on the phone, you’re looking at paint samples or asking where the post office is.  (What happened to phone books?)

Sooner or later, plates seem to be on shelves and towels are clean and folded in the bathroom.  You know where to turn the light on for the basement and have figured out what that horrible sound is between the floors or in the walls. (Hot water pipes.)  You have the turn to your house memorized and don’t have to count houses from the corner anymore.  And one day, you start making meals again–hardly noticing the skipped nights or that you’re in a different kitchen.  Well, I wouldn’t go that far.  I am definitely in a different kitchen, though I’m feeling the similarities as I get things squared away.

I had things to do this morning like

  • clean the back porch
  • scrub the basement stairs (honest-to-God linoleum)
  • wash rugs and bathmats
  • bleach down the bathrooms, one of which has an old-fashioned claw-foot tub

 Cool thing was, these are typical house chores–not moving chores.  We’ve been here long enough for the bathrooms to need a scrub.

So when I got done with the morning work-out, I wanted real food for lunch.  I was sure my hard-working husband wanted some, too.  Scouting out the frig and pantry (still not full, of course), a big cauliflower reared up its head called me by name.  A quick look around the counter and I located onions, shallots, garlic, apples and one lone pretty ripe pear.  I thought I’d throw most of it in the oven to roast while I did one last chore and then puree it all with some chicken stock and curry powder.  Here it is just for you.

As Dave and I sat down to eat, Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” (1913) came on the local NPR and the day just came together.  A spring-like light, but warming soup with a kick.  I just couldn’t figure out how Bach’s birthday figured in, but it’s today, too.  Happy Birthday, Johann.  And thanks for Bach, God.

Curried Roasted-Cauliflower Soup
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 apple, peeled and cut up into eighths
1 large onion, same drill
4t olive oil, divided
Sprinkle of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 shallot, cut in large pieces
1 garlic clove, same drill
1 small carrot, minced
1 stalk of celery, minced
1 ripe pear, peeled and cut up
1 t curry powder, divided
Pinch each cinnamon and crushed red pepper

1 qt chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 c each white wine and water (or 1 c water)
1/3 c parsley, chopped
1/8 t cinnamon
1/4 t kosher salt
1/8 t white pepper, ground


  Preheat oven to 350 F. On a large baking sheet, place cauliflower, onion and apple.  Drizzle with  2t oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place sheet in oven and roast for about 30 minutes.

 Meantime, in a small soup kettle (4qt),  saute shallot, garlic, carrot and celery in the other 2t olive oil about 5 minutes over low heat, taking care to not burn the shallot and garlic.  Add pear,  1/2 t of the curry powder, parsley, cinnamon and crushed red pepper.  Stir and saute another minute or so.  Add stock, wine and/or water, cinnamon, salt and pepper and stir.  Bring to a boil and lower heat to a bare simmer.

When cauliflower, apple and onion are roasted, add them to the stockpot and stir.  Bring soup up to a boil and lower heat to a slow boil.  Add rest of curry powder.   Let cook 5-10 minutes.  Puree with immersion blender or in batches in the food processor (carefully).  Taste, adjust seasonings and serve hot with a piece of buttered whole wheat toast.

 Easier yet:  Roast everything, add to stock and puree.  Leaving out fruit, celery, carrot, etc. will produce a more pronounced cauliflower-tasting soup, but also makes things simpler.

Now I’m off to Ace to buy a mesh strainer for the end of the washing machine hose.  Oh well.

Sing a new song or warm up your fingers and give Bach a whirl,
Alyce

Bacon for Breakfast; Bacon for Lunch

Bacon for Breakfast; Bacon for Lunch

My sweet husband adores bacon.  God love him.
I like bacon.  Why not?  It’s great with eggs and it’s an incredible UP when you need a taste boost for the start of a soup, chicken salad, tomato sandwiches, et al.  And, oh, the scent of it.
But I don’t adore it.    I adore chocolate.  I adore Pinot.  (Oregon Pinot Noir)  I am a Pinot girl, in fact. 
At 57, I enjoy being able to say that.  I have a couple of girlfriends who feel the same way.  I have guy friends who certainly feel that way. 
But back to bacon.  I only have to SAY, “Bacon.”  I don’t even have to cook it.  And Dave is entranced.  Hanging around.  If I actually start cooking the stuff, he is in the room and doesn’t leave.  So, there you go.  If you want to attract someone to the nth, fry bacon.  No one ever told you? Ach.

I think this is common.  I posted a note on fb last Friday that I was cooking a pork tenderloin with bacon twisted around it, fixed with toothpicks.  I had more interest in that than anything I’ve cooked in months.  Loved ones, think about making this.  Soon.  Simple?  Pretty much so.  Fragrant?  Ahhhh.  Earthy?  Mmm hmm.  Easy to harmonize?  I thought so.  A couple of Granny Smith apples, a bulb of fennel (go ahead and get one–ask the produce guy) and a big onion.  Some green beans on the side.  A light Pinot; you don’t need a great big heavy one, I don’t think.  Maybe a little bread.  I did some pears poached in port for dessert; you can do what you want.

Bacon-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin with Apples, Fennel and Onions

1 pork tenderloin
Kosher salt; freshly-ground pepper
3-4 slices thick bacon

2T olive oil

1 fennel bulb, fronds removed, end cut, sliced into half-moons about 1/3″ thick
2 Granny Smith apples, unpeeled, sliced
1 large onion sliced

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Salt and pepper well the pork tenderloin and wrap it with the bacon pieces, securing ends with toothpicks.

  Meanwhile, heat a large, oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat; add olive oil.  Place bacon-wrapped pork in the center of the pan and surround with the fennel, apples and onion.  Salt and pepper well the vegetables and apples.  When the meat is very-well browned, turn and let brown on the other side.   Stir the vegetables and apples.  When that side is looking crispy, move the pan to the oven to finish cooking.  It may take another 10-15 minutes or so.  Using an instant-read thermometer, remove the skillet from the oven when the meat registers 150F.  (Others will tell you 155; I like it a bit rare; it will continue cooking)  Cover with aluminum foil for about 10 minutes before carving and serving.  Slice meat in 1/2″ p ieces.  Place cut meat at the center of a large platter and surround with fennel, apples and onions.  Serve with green beans or whatever vegetable you like.

Poached Pears in Port  (from FINE COOKING)

In a 4 qt skillet, pour 1 cup port wine.  Add 1 cinnamon stick and a few peels each of lemon rind and orange rind.  Peel four ripe, but firm Barlett or Bosc (or your choice) pears and slice off a tiny bit off one cheek to make a flat side.  Place the pears in the wine mixture and heat over medium-high heat.  Cover and reduce to a simmer, cooking for an hour or so until pears are tender when pierced with a knife.  Eat warm, at room temperature or cold with a little of the thickened port sauce spooned over.  You can add a little heavy cream if you like.

Sweet      

 Did you wonder about an appetizer?  Of course I had one.  And I was testing it out for my Cooking with Music class, which was the very next day!  Here it is: 

This is a Ricotta Pine nut dogoodie that is served with crostini (grilled bread).  I’ll blog it with the cooking class, but if you have to make it soon…..

Mix one cup ricotta with 3-4 T torn fresh mint and season well with kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper.  Lottsa pepper.  Heat over medium heat a small saucepan with  1/2 c honey and 1/4 c pine nuts.  (Amounts negotiable.)  When quite warm and gooey, pour over the cheese mixture and serve with crostini or crackers.  (I heard Tyler Florence talk about this once and committed it to memory.  Yummy.)

Ok, folks…there ya go.  Make it and tell me about it.  I have to know!

Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood, Including Fitness


It’s been a busy week, but the pups have been happy as clams; Dad was home for three days in a row!

Tucky-Bucky letting it all hang out one morning.


Why God gets me up early.
The light on my backyard when the dogs go out for the first time.
First dusting of snow…early in the light.

Why I have dogs: I need tennis balls in the dishwasher, of course.

 Fitness update:  This last week, I skipped the gym all but one time.  Life got crazy.  Did I let it all go, though?  Nope.  I did Denise Austin on the DVD.  I hiked the ‘hood with Gabby.  I lifted weights at home.  I did my stretching routine.  I watched what I ate–mostly.  Or ate what I wanted, but not too much.  Teaching an Italian cooking class could have done me in (and the crostata almost did), but we made the ricotta starter, a roasted vegetable soup, pizza margherita, and a veal stew as well.   Took all afternoon Saturday and the students stayed for dinner to eat and see what wines fit where….  (Another blog.)  But I was sensible and remembered how strong I long to be.  That’s the crux.

Meantime, I’m applying for  new jobs as my job winds down at The Church at Woodmoor.  We are getting ready for Thanksgiving in St. Paul, as well.  Good thing I have a dog sitter; an SUV ran into my old vet/kennel today!  At the same time  THAT was happening, I was driving up to a staff meeting at work in Monument,  where there was a 40-car pile-up on I-25.  I saw zip.  Thank you, God.