It’s not unusual for a friend, student, family member, or neighbor to ask me to cook something — happens on a fairly regular basis. I’m known to oblige whether it’s food for a funeral lunch or a favorite pie they’d like for dessert. Occasionally there’s a request to figure out how to cook a certain dish or food. It might take me a while, but I’m typically up for the challenge. Not long ago, old friend Helen Brockman (at left) asked if I could come up with a new way to cook patty pan squash. She’d even bring some over. “Sure,” I said; “why not?”Continue reading
Perhaps you have too much zucchini in your garden … or your friends keep pawning it off on you. If so, this is a place for new ideas to freshen up your late summer table for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
This post combines the current week’s tasty zucchini frittata, zucchini favorites from the past few years, and a zucchini roundup I did in 2014. Just below the frittata recipe are more recent recipes, which are followed by the original post including zucchini goodness 2009-2014. I’ve got them all here together now just to make things easier for you and for me! Enjoy.
Jump to Recipe Continue reading
This week marks the beginning of weekend picnics, warm holiday get togethers, nights in the backyard, weeks at the beach, days at the cabin, and all kinds of thrilling grilling on your balcony or patio! For fun, I ran through my TOP FAVORITE original summer sides on More Time at Table and brought them all together in one place just before Memorial Day. I’ll keep perusing my files and as I find other luscious things I think you’d like, I’ll stick them in. Be cool!
It is the time of the year when zucchini gets a bad name. There are boring jokes bantered about, lots of eyes rolling, and tired recipes for zucchini bread dug out of old recipe boxes. While good cooks guard against eating anything but the tiny, tender cigar-tube-shaped baby bitty zukes, some of us still end up with nearly Little League-sized bats on our counters. (Below are medium-sized squashes perfect for grating or stuffing grown by my old neighbor, Wendy Ruble.) Continue reading
NEW BAKING CLASS: Make Your Pie and Eat It, Too! Basics of American pie baking just in time for Thanksgiving. Given two Saturdays in November: November 7 and November 14, 1 – 4 pm. 6 openings for each date. $55. per student includes pie making ingredients/instruction, dessert, coffee, and digestif (after dinner drink), if desired. See CURRENT CLASSES above right.
My good friend Pam is a marvelous alto. She’s a fine cook, too. I know this because she and her husband are in our wine group and I get to sample her tasty fare fairly often. Here she is looking gorgeous and cooking at a house we rented near the Paso Robles wine country a couple of years ago.
This summer I discovered another talent of Pam’s; she, along with her husband, is an avid, generous gardener. Arriving last week at our house for a laid-back deck burger fest complete with homemade ice cream, she walked in brandishing a bouquet of sumptuous late summer herbs and two bright-as-sunshine summer (yellow) squash. Several very busy days went by and while I had pulled some herbs out for a dish or two, I hadn’t touched the summer squash. I’ve been on a serious diet for months and hadn’t had a bite of pasta all summer long. When I DO make pasta, it’s usually a good-quality whole-wheat variety and rarely white pasta. But yesterday it was time for a treat; I pulled out the Cipriani’s pappardelle and began grilling the squash with some big Portobello mushrooms. Try this easily-made-vegan dish for your end-of-summer grilled supper:
PAM’S SAGE PASTA WITH GRILLED SUMMER SQUASH AND PORTOBELLO MUSHROOMS
No grill? Cook the squash and mushrooms in a skillet or roasted in the oven.
For vegan version, follow green instructions/ingredients. The large mushroom and squash pieces give this dish a really “meaty” feel. For a vegetarian version, simply leave out the bacon.
- 3 pieces thick bacon, cooked, drained, and crumbled (Skip for vegan version)
- 2 summer (yellow) squash, sliced thinly lengthwise
- 2 medium zucchini, sliced thinly lengthwise
- 3 Large Portobello mushrooms
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- 1 each tablespoon butter or olive oil (2 tablespoons olive oil for vegan version)
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- Crushed red pepper
- 4 tablespoons minced fresh sage (Reserve 2 tablespoons for garnish.)*
- 2 cups fresh spinach
- 2 large tomatoes, small dice (Reserve 1/3 cup for garnish.)
- 1 cup heavy cream (1 cup rice or nut milk for vegan version)
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (Sub with a garnish of toasted bread crumbs for vegan version)
- 1 pound cooked and drained Pappardelle pasta–Cipriani’s is my favorite (Vegan pasta for vegan version.)
- Set cooked and crumbled bacon aside, if using.
- Heat grill to medium high. Toss squash and mushrooms with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and black pepper. Grill, turning midway, until grill marks are quite dark and the squash is tender. Remove and set aside. Slice mushrooms into 1/4-inch pieces. If grilling indoors on the stovetop in a grill pan, you may have to grill in batches. (Cook pasta now if you haven’t done so already.)
- In the meantime, heat butter/oil in a large sauté pan or skillet over medium flame and cook onions until quite soft. Add garlic, a good pinch each of crushed red pepper, salt, black pepper, 2 tablespoons minced sage, spinach, and all but 1/3 cup diced tomatoes. Cook another minute or two, stirring, or until spinach begins to wilt.
- Stir in cream or rice/nut milk along with Parmesan cheese, if using. Lower heat and simmer 2-3 minutes. Add grilled mushrooms and chopped, cooked bacon, if using. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Gently add the cooked pasta to the sauce and stir. Taste again and adjust seasonings as needed.
- To serve, divide pasta between four bowls adding reserved grilled squash along side, on top, or around. Garnish with the reserved tomatoes and minced sage. Top with toasted bread crumbs for vegan version.
*Fresh sage is usually available in grocery stores, but if you can’t locate it, stir in 1/4 teaspoon dried, rubbed sage. Taste and add more if you like. Skip the sage garnish, perhaps substituting chopped fresh parsley instead.
WINE: White Burgundy or Chardonnay.
DESSERT: Sliced fresh peaches with a drizzle of Amaretto or apples with cheese.
Sing a new song,
My favorite place for pumpkin seeds is in my mouth. Preferably with salt or salt with cumin and cayenne. I also like them on top of pumpkin soup. Texture! I put them in my pumpkin bread, too. If you’re a jack-o-lantern carver, you probably have saved your seeds, cleaned and dried them, and roasted them in the oven for a treat in the days following Halloween when your teeth are still gritty from the sugar high night. (You can roast and eat the seeds from any kind of pumpkin at all.)
|Alyce’s Pumpkin-Ginger Bread|
I don’t think I actually was cognizant of the fact that pumpkin seeds were good for you for a very long time. I probably just never thought of it. Which is why blogging Power Foods is such a great idea for me. Of course I know that seeds are healthy; I just didn’t spend much time thinking about the ones that came out of a pumpkin. I was more interested in getting the kids out trick-or-treating or in fixing English muffin pizzas topped with jack-o-lantern faces cut out of a slice of cheese…..or, later on, that big pot of chili. But pumpkin seeds, like many other seeds, are fabulous treasure troves. Read on:
When the ancient Aztecs snacked on pumpkin seeds, they were on to something: Just a handful of these seeds offers a concentrated source of protein and energy-producing magnesium, along with generous amounts of immunity-protecting zinc. Abundant in phytosterols, which help lower cholesterol, pumpkin seeds also provide plenty of fiber when eaten in their shells.
—Power Foods : 150 Delicious Recipes with the 38 Healthiest Ingredients from the editors of WHOLE LIVING MAGAZINE.
At 180 calories for 1/4 cup (32.25 grams), they pack a wallop calorically. That’s a lot of energy for a very small, portable amount of food. Read more about pumpkin seed facts and nutrition here, but first make my…
acorn squash salad with pumpkin seeds and cumin vinaigrette
- 2 cups fresh spinach leaves
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
- 1 acorn squash, cooked*, cut in half, peeled and sliced into 1/2″ x 3″ pieces (approximate)
- 1/2 lime, sliced
- kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup roasted or toasted pumpkin seeds
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette (recipe below)
- Mix spinach with cilantro.
- Divide spinach mixture and sliced squash between two salad plates, placing squash on top of spinach.
- Squeeze 1 or 1 lime slices over the vegetables and sprinkle salt and pepper.
- Divide the pumpkin seeds evenly and sprinkle salads with cheese.
- Drizzle with cumin vinaigrette. Garnish with slice of lime. Eat while squash is warm or at room temperature.
*To easily and quickly cook an acorn squash: Cut it in half carefully and scrape out seeds and strings. Put the halves in a 2-quart Pyrex dish, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave on high 3-5 minutes, testing after 3 minutes (and adding more time if needed) until squash is tender. Let cool briefly, peel with a sharp knife, and slice into half-rounds.
(A half squash is simply fixed in the microwave in a cereal bowl topped with a salad plate.)
Of course you can also bake an acorn squash in the oven if you’d rather.
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard, optional
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
- Pinch each kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, ground cayenne
- 1/2 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon minced shallots
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Whisk the first five ingredients together in a small bowl. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, whisking until well-combined or emulsified. Taste and adjust seasonings by dipping a piece of spinach briefly into your vinaigrette.
… … … … … … … … …
38 Power Foods is a group effort!
Stop by these other blogs and see what they’re cooking each week as we team up to bring you some of the healthiest cooking available:
Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink
All sites may not blog power foods every week.
Are you a food blogger? 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
… … … …
soup cookbook update–recipe testing is about done
|The hub testing “I Have a Spring Cold Chicken Noodle Soup”–he made it all by himself and said, “This is the best thing I ever made; it tastes just like your soup.” That was the compliment…that I had transferred the taste to the page. AH!|
Tonight, several of the local testers for my soup book come together at my house to eat, drink, and share their results; most out-of-town testers have emailed their recipe surveys. I think we are eating eight or nine soups (a taste or two each), but we’re also trying a couple of the accompanying recipes–a tapenade salad with goat cheese toasts, as well as microwave individual flourless chocolate cakes that are done in around a minute each. Think of us tonight as the book appears to be coming together in a VERY HAPPY, TASTY WAY!
Thanks to everyone who’s participated so far! You know I love you! So cool for this food to no longer be only between me, my stove, my computer, and Dave’s tummy.
… … … …
As I write today, I listen to Carol King and James Taylor, Live at the Troubadour.
For those of us of a certain age (or maybe anyone), this is good listening.
So good night, all you moonlight ladies. Rock-a-bye sweet baby James. Deep greens and blues are the colors I choose. Won’t you let me go down in my dreams… and rock-a-bye sweet baby James?
My, this music has aged well.
Sing a new song,
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.|
|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
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.
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
Want more info on winter squash, including nutrition and recipes? Visit the Snap-Ed (USDA) site here.
If you liked this, you might also like this recipe from my Dinner Place blog.
|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:
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.|
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:
Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink
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,
I have a friend named Lori. She’s smart and tall, is mom to a big hulking chocolate lab, is beautiful and talented, and does things like run a salon and also fly airplanes. Sometimes in the same day. Did I mention she’s a runner and that she’s from Boston? She also “did” my nails for several years in Colorado Springs. When you spend an hour and a half every three weeks literally face to face with someone for years on end, you either become friends or sleep. Lori and I chose to become friends. (I miss her.)
So, being women and being friends, and being a foot apart so often, Lori and I talked food. (Also family, men, sports–her, not me, work, whatever) Lori’s mostly vegetarian, though she eats some chicken, etc. And Lori makes meatloaf. Turkey meatloaf. It’s good, says she, but she’s a bit bored with it. More than once, she asked if I had another recipe. Recipes, now that we have the internet, are a dime a dozen, but I hadn’t made turkey meatloaf in years. I was intrigued and remembered someone saying, “You cannot season turkey meatloaf like beef meatloaf; it’s awful. You must season it like turkey.” While that brings sage, onions and celery to mind, for me it also brings hot peppers, feisty cheese, and salsa. Living in San Antonio for four years and Colorado for 15 would do that. Taking cooking classes in Santa Fe would definitely do that.
One day, after months of turkey meatloaf ideas perking around in my head from time to time, I decided to try it. Wow! Both Dave and I loved it. This loaf is full of chiles, onions, garlic, and salsa, and I stuffed it with overlapping slices of pepperjack cheese so that when you cut it (make sure and let it sit a while or you’ll have a gooey mess), there are lovely melting bites of sharp cheese right at the center.
I mean, if meatloaf is good, people adore it–right? It’s filling, homey, stretches to feed a bunch, and makes great sandwiches. Though, really, loving meatloaf isn’t something everyone wants to admit. It’s not on top of the trendy list, though come to think of it COOKING LIGHT has a meatloaf article in the October Issue. But trendy or not, if you make it, they will come. And they’ll want the recipe. It’s one of those emotional food-pingers like, “My grandma made the best meatloaf!” Make this even if you have to invite people over to eat it. ESPECIALLY if you have to invite people over to eat it.
Side: Mashed potatoes is the usual suspect, but I did an all-in-one sauté of sliced new potatoes, onions, garlic, and late summer squashes that comes together just before the meatloaf comes out of the oven and while it rests before serving. Top it with finely diced fresh tomatoes and sweet green peppers for color and crunch. That’s not much for directions; let me look in the cooking journal and see if I kept amounts listed when I cooked it. If I did, I’ll include a recipe. How’s that for informality in the cooking blog? Here’s the meatloaf recipe, for which I definitely kept the list of ingredients and, uh–techniques and methods!
Here you are, Lori. Sorry it took so long.
Southwestern Turkey Meatloaf Stuffed With Pepperjack Cheese
Serves 6-8 (or 2 with lots of leftovers for sandwiches or freeze half for later)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided (one for oiling pan, one for the top of the meatloaf)
- 2 pounds ground turkey
- 1 ½ cups salsa, divided (1 cup in meatloaf, ½ cup on top for serving)
- 2 cups whole wheat bread, cubed
- 2 eggs, beaten
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/3 cup minced onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 8 ounces (about 1 ½ cups) chopped button mushrooms
- 4 ounce can chopped mild or hot green chiles, drained
- 1/3 pound sliced Pepper Jack cheese
- Chopped fresh tomatoes and bell peppers for garnish, optional
Note about salt: I do not include much salt as the salsa contains quite a bit. If you’d like to check and see whether or not you’d like to add salt, make a small meatball of the mixture and fry it in a bit of oil. Taste and see (great song, too!) if you’d like any salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil 9”x5” loaf pan using 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.
- Wash your hands well and take off your rings and watch. To a large bowl, add the second group of 11 ingredients—turkey through chiles– using only 1 cup of the salsa. Put your hands down into the meat mixture and mix for about 2 minutes or until combined thoroughly.
- Pat half of the meat mixture firmly and evenly down into the oiled loaf pan and place the slices of pepper jack cheese right down the middle of the loaf, overlapping, stopping before the very end. (So that the cheese doesn’t ooze out so much while the meatloaf bakes.) Pat the other half of the meatloaf mixture on top of the cheese—again, firmly– to create the loaf. Brush top of meatloaf with the other tablespoon of olive oil.
- Place loaf pan on a foil-lined sheet pan and bake for about 1 1/4 hours or until instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees F. Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes; temperature will come up to 165 degrees F. Invert onto serving platter, first pouring out excess liquid if necessary, and top with the other half-cup of salsa. (Carve in pan if easier.) Garnish with diced tomatoes and green peppers as desired. Surround the loaf with the Potato-Zucchini Sauté and serve hot. Store leftovers tightly wrapped in refrigerator for up to four days. (Can wrap tightly and store in freezer up to 3 months.)
Yes, it was in the cooking journal and here it is…
Potato Zucchini Sauté serves 6
- 6-8 small (1-2″) new red potatoes, sliced thinly
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder (I like Penzey’s; choose your style.)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 each: small zucchini and yellow squash, sliced thinly
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Garnish, optional: 1/4 cup each: diced fresh tomato and green pepper
- In a large skillet or sauté pan, heat oil and butter. Add potatoes.
- Cook until potatoes brown on one side. Stir and turn potatoes. Add onions and dust with chili powder, salt, pepper, and oregano. Cook one minute and add squash and garlic.
- Cover and cook until potatoes are tender–perhaps a total of 35-40 minutes and squash is al dente or grandma done (your choice)–another 2-3 minutes.
- Serve garnished with tomatoes and peppers if desired.
Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood
It’s that time of year. Keeping the cantata on the piano at all times (skipping my own piano lessons), planning holiday travel, getting the last of the outdoor chores accomplished before it snows, changing out the clothes, ordering wool socks, taking as many walks as we can with the doggies, and grabbing yet another bouquet out of the flower garden. This may have been the last rose of summer:
Or maybe this one!
|While very dry, the grass is still mostly green.|
Here are the pies I baked for Pops and Pies, one of the monthly concerts at Prospect Park United Methodist:
|Must be October if it’s pumpkin!|
Sour Cream Apple (above)
|I did make that beef-vegetable soup I mentioned (with three variations plus some ideas on how to make it a bit cheaper) and if you’d like to see how I did it, you’ll need to visit examiner.com where I write cooking and food articles for St. Paul.|
|Basic Beef-Vegetable Soup|
|Pumpkin Custard just for YOU|
Also, on my blog for The Solo Cook (Dinner Place), there’s a great pumpkin custard topped with cinnamon-kissed creme fraiche. It’s made for those who cook for one and is done in one minute in the microwave. Your very own (crustless) pumpkin “pie.”
|Warm enough for flip flops yesterday.|
|Stubborn Tucker: wouldn’t turn around for his picture.|
Happy October, my friends.
Sing a new song,
|What’s in your frig? Make pasta for a cool fall evening. Pancetta helps.|
We lived for four years in Dayton, Ohio. How at home I felt there. The flora and fauna welcomed me warmly (and coldly) as, indeed, the atmosphere felt just like northern Illinois where I grew up. The summers were wilting (and our air conditioning never worked right) and the winters were damned cold. Gray. A long period of waiting for spring was how some approached it. I felt differently. I adore late fall; Thanksgiving is my favorite season. I’m entranced with Advent and greet it positively every year, knowing my walk to the stable will be a new one. Again.
But, in Ohio, summer seemed to disappear without a trace one wet day in October. It happened in such a way that a week or two later, you wondered what had happened. There were weeks of cool, sunny times and God’s great leaves flying. Lovely Saturdays at the farm watching cider being pressed. Nights on hayrides with bonfires later for hot dogs. A morning you dug out the sweaters. Any time, though, an 80 degree day could still pop up. Really. And then, one day on the way to work, you knew that day wasn’t appearing. At all. Anymore. It had been raining for a week or two, getting colder all the time. It just rained itself right into winter. And gray it was.
We’re on the edge of that here. Mostly the days are still perfect. A light sweater or short jacket needed sometimes. Flowers still in bloom—somewhat. The yard is drooping mightily, though, and the window boxes have definitely seen better days. I broke down and bought mums and pansies, but haven’t gotten them all out yet. And, truthfully, taking care of the yard (and watering) is beginning to seem like yesterday’s diapers. But today it’s rainy and there’s no sun. At all. Gabby still has her head hanging out by the window in case that German Shepherd or Black Lab has the nerve to walk by on the sidewalk. But soon she gives up and puts her head down on the rug near my chair. The other doggies are staying home more these days.
|The oven can stay on for bread now.|
|What will I do with these?|
|Why does it have to rain, Mom?|
A bunch of green tomatoes appeared on the back porch from the gardening neighbor. We won’t have enough sun or heat to ripen them. I go around turning lights on during the day. Think of making a big pot of beef vegetable soup. Planned activities are a girls’ night at Scusi and then out to a movie. Not a picnic or outdoor concert or backyard cook-out. This morning I ordered a long down coat and tall, warm boots. I’m looking for a freezer so I can make Christmas cookies ahead for Drop in and Decorate. We’re getting our floors redone before snow flies. That’s what time it is.
Oh, we’re not at the point of storing the patio furniture. Or of skipping Saturday breakfast on the porch. But it’s coming. And I’ve just woken up to it. I still get up and put on capris and flip flops. Sometimes I change. Not always.
Last night, it was cold enough for a filling and warm dinner of whatever’s in frig for pasta. I occasionally blog these instant meals (and lately I’m doing it often) because that’s how so many of us have to eat. If we can even get THAT much cooked. I have friends who are happy to have time to pull out cheese, apples, and crackers because that’s all there’s time or energy for. But listen, 15-20 minutes will give you this admirable and filling meal. You’ll be busy the whole time, but you can put on Vivaldi while you do it and you’ll definitely have time to set the table in a welcoming way.
|Well maybe not quite like this, but why not set an attractive table?|
If you must (and who knows?), throw all of the vegetables in the food processor (except the tomatoes) and get it done even faster. (Note: I keep chopped pancetta on my freezer door all of the time. There’s almost nothing it won’t do. And, yes, a bit of American bacon will work.)
As this is more a method than a recipe, I write it in steps. Read it through to understand the process and then make it yourself. Boil the pasta, fry the pancetta (or bacon or ham), add vegetables, garlic and herbs, put it together and serve with cheese. So there. Maybe you need read no further. But go on.
Pasta with Eggplant and Pancetta serves 2 generously with a bit leftover for someone’s lunch
1. Put a covered 10 quart stockpot 3/4 full of salted and peppered water on to boil. Sprinkle with a pinch of crushed red pepper and dried oregano. Add 1/2 # whole wheat pasta when the water is boiling and cook about 10-11 minutes until al dente. Drain and reserve.
2. Meantime, in a large, deep skillet, brown about 1/4 cup of chopped pancetta or bacon. When it’s crisp, remove it to a plate lined with paper towels. Leave fat from pancetta in the pan.
3. Into that same pan, add 1 large chopped onion, 1 large chopped carrot, 1 chopped medium yellow squash or zucchini, 1/2 cup chopped, peeled eggplant, 1/2 sliced or whole fresh spinach leaves, and 1/2 cup chopped red or yellow pepper. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or more to taste) and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Vegetables can be changed to suit what’s in your crisper. I do think you need onions, garlic, something for bulk like squash or eggplant, and fresh herbs of some sort.
4. Cook vegetables until they’re softened and add 3 cloves garlic, minced. Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add 2 chopped ripe tomatoes (or a cup of cherry tomatoes) and 1/4 cup chopped parsley and/or basil. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon dried oregano and 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper. Return pancetta to the pan and stir well.
5. Add drained pasta to skillet. Mix and toss well, using tongs, and taste for seasoning.
6. Serve in pasta bowls with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese at the table.
Wine: We had a little Barbera leftover from burgers on the grill, so we drank that. A big Chardonnay would work, as would Zinfandel or even a Cabernet Sauvignon. While we think of big reds as the province of big meats, they stand up and support a hearty, vegetable-filled pasta–especially if it’s topped with a strong cheese like Parmesan or flavored with a warm, deep meat like pancetta.
Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood
The singing fellowship:
|Choir came to lunch Saturday. Chicken chili, sangria, brownies.|
|Good bud Kim all but moved in to the kitchen to keep things going. Love you, Kim!|
|Nope, we didn’t sing. Just visited and ate. Rested our pipes.|
|Fall–Time for Grooming. Didn’t much like it. But they looked good for the choir.|
|Exhausted after their baths and trims. What did we have to do that for? And what’s with the bandanas?|
My life is currently full of playing catch-up at work. Reading all the fall lectionary texts so I can choose appropriate music. Off and on for a couple of weeks, the dining room table is full of music, bibles, notes, computer, etc. I run back and forth trying to familiarize myself with the music library at church. What’s there? What’s possible to learn (and do well) with only two rehearsals? Listening to anthems online. Listening to the choir. Attending one lectionary study at Cabrini Catholic church and one Bible Study with the neighborhood women. Praying for a co-worker, who had to undergo emergency surgery. Looking at a choir retreat in November. Dreaming of the cantata much later than I typically do. And I’m sooo excited and…
I’m so busy … Being grateful, grateful, grateful for the opportunity. Thanks, God.
Sing a new song,