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Things that are stuffed:

Me, after a weekend spent eating my way through Portland, Maine.  H and I got a lot of quizzical looks when we announced we were headed there for a weekend away, but for real, the place is a goldmine of adorable shops and to DIE for food.   It’s so New Englandy and charming that not even a freak October snowstorm could hinder our enjoyment.  Portland, Maine: who knew? Well–a lot of people, as it turns out.  We waited for an hour for a table at Fore Street ( http://www.forestreet.biz/) on Saturday night. It was worth it.

My closet, after a whirlwind side-trip to the L.L Bean flagship store and surrounding outlets in Freeport, ME.  I have four words for you: Fleece-Lined Flannel Shirt.  Yes, such a magical thing does exist.  And is now in my possession.  Relatedly–things that are no longer stuffed:  my wallet.  Ouch.

My brain, full of wedding-related things. Which is partially why I so rarely post these days.  And also why H generally wants to duct-tape my mouth shut on a daily basis.

The acorn squash that has been sitting on my counter for a week.  Last night I finally got around to doing something with said squash, and after some internet browsing I decided I was going to use the box of Israeli couscous that I had bought on a “let’s buy exotic items!” whim at the grocery store and make myself a Stuffed Squash.  Moroccan Style (and by that i mean, with curry powder).

Moroccan Style Stuffed Acorn Squash

Don't worry--Soon, I'll have an iPhone 4S to take better pictures with

You’ll Need:

  • 1 big Acorn Squash
  • 1 cup of Israeli Couscous or “Pearled” Couscous
  • Approximately 1.5-1.75 cups of stock or water (I used beef stock, whatever you have on-hand)
  • 1 package of Sage Sausage, casing removed
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3-4 Carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 1 handful of sliced almonds (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons Curry Powder (or more/less depending on your taste)

To Do:

  • Preheat oven to 425. Cut squash in half, scooping out the seeds/stringy part.  Slice off a small part of the outside of the squash so it will sit flat and bowl-like.
  • Sprinkle inside of squash with EVOO and a little bit of brown sugar
  • Bake, face-down, for 30 minutes, until just slightly soft (you’ll be putting it back into the oven for a second time, so it doesn’t need to be totally done)
  • While squash is baking, prepare the couscous: combine water/stock and couscous in a pot and bring to a simmer, then cook 8 minutes, or until soft.  If it starts to get sticky, add some EVOO and stir.
  • While couscous is cooking, cook sausage in a large pan, breaking up into small pieces.  When done, remove sausage and set aside.  Drain excess grease.
  • In the same pan, saute onions and garlic with some EVOO until soft
  • Add carrots, apple, and curry powder, stirring to mix evenly
  • When carrots & apples  have softened a bit (you might need to cover the pan for a couple of minutes), add sausage and couscous back to pan, stirring to combine and adding more curry powder, salt and pepper to taste.
  • Throw in a handful of almonds for some crunch. Remove stuffing from heat.
  • Remove squash from oven and let cool a little, then flip over and fill with stuffing (I filled it to overflowing, and still had leftover stuffing…which is quite tasty on it’s own, btw).
  • Return stuffed squash to oven and cook an additional 5-7 minutes, until sizzling.
  • Remove from oven, let cool, feast!

 

 

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Alliteration, yay!  I know it’s been awhile (I think I say that every post and I’m sure that’s obnoxious, sorry), but I”ve been busy busy busy.  Actually, this weekend is the first weekend in September that I’ve been home, with absolutely nothing on the agenda.

That, combined with the incoming cooler weather (THANK JESUS), has put me into fall food mode, big time.  Faced with an abundance of happy root veggies in my CSA delivery this week, I did what any slightly insane home cook would do. I made soup. And while I know a pot of soup might not be a ‘feast’ to some people, this orange, velvety, creamy and healthy (mostly!) concoction hit the spot.

Disclaimer: there was so much winging it happening as I made this.  I literally was digging through my fridge for things to use up.  Thankfully, the results were top-notch.  Not to toot my own horn or anything (TOOT).

Butternut Squash (& Friends) Soup

You’ll Need (serves 4)

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 1/2 a medium onion, sliced
  • 2-3 small sweet potatoes (I had CSA sweet potatoes, which are extra-small. I used 4.)
  • 4 carrots
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, cut into slices
  • Veggie/Chicken Stock, or water
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Sour Cream (optional, but you should know by now that Dairy is NEVER optional for me)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzling
  • 2 pats of butter

To Do:

  • Peel sweet potatoes and carrots and half the squash, scooping out the seeds
  • On a baking sheet, toss slices of apple, onion, potatoes, carrots, and garlic clove (you can leave the skin on) together with S&P and a healthy drizzle of EVOO
  • On the same sheet place halved squash face down, with pats of butter under each half
  • Bake at 425 degrees for approximately 35 minutes, or until veggies are soft & carmelized.
  • Scoop out squash and cut veggies into smaller chunks,  dump into a soup pot (squeeze the roasted garlic out of its skin before adding)
  • Over low heat, add stock or water until veggies are almost covered
  • Using an immersion blender (if you don’t own one, go buy one, right now. They are cheap and AMAZING.) whizz veggies and stock together until all chunks are gone & soupiness is achieved.
  • Continue adding stock/water and whizzing until you get your preferred soup consistency.
  • Add a shake of Cayenne pepper (how much is up to you, but the heat balances out the sweetness of this soup)
  • Add two spoonfuls of sour cream (or more! No judgement here)
  • Whiz once more for good measure, ladle into bowl, eat with crusty bread

I unfortunately didn’t remember to take photographic evidence of this soup, but it  is such a pretty autumny orange color. Imagine the beta-carotene in this puppy!  Off the charts.

Also, let me once again say: IMMERSION BLENDER. Here, this is the one I have. It comes in lots of pretty colors.

Cuisinart SmartStick Immersion Blender

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Party food is one of my great joys in life.  Call it what you will: hors d’oeuvres, finger food, cocktail nibbles, appetizers…whatever you call it, it’s tasty.

When I first decided I was going to try my hand at being good at cooking, making my own party food wasn’t really on my radar.  But H fancies himself a host extraordinaire,  and soon enough I found myself in situations that required me feeding guests.  It was then that it dawned on me: I didn’t need to tolerate the store-bought onion dip with a weird chemical aftertaste.  I could make my own hors d’oeuvres. And boy, did I ever.

Some people (sane people) might argue that making all your own appetizers is a huge waste of time.  Yes, maybe I was scrambling around my kitchen last night frantically putting things together 5 minutes before my book-club ladies arrived, but you know what?  I think it’s worth the extra effort.  I know I’m in the minority in thinking that way, but I don’t care.  You can taste the love, people. You can.

One party food in particular that I am obsessed with is dips.  Scratch that: my love for dipping things in other things goes way beyond the realm of party food.  In any situation, if there is something dip-able that I can consume, I am infinitely happy.  Hey, I never said I was a complicated girl.

I made 3 dips (well, one could be considered a “spread”) last night. They were all equally delicious, but I must say, the Onion Dip is legitimately like crack.  In a good way.

 

Tomatillo & Avocado Dip

You’ll Need:

3-4 medium-sized tomatillos (note: I got tomatillos in my CSA last week.  They are the tomato-y looking things (but green) that have a papery skin which you have to remove before cooking. Trust that I would NEVER have bought these things on my own.  But they are very delicious).

1/2 an onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 small jalapeno, seeds removed (or keep some seeds for extra heat)

1 avocado

1 lime

1 small handful of cilantro

To Do:

1. In a pan over medium heat, throw chopped up onion, garlic, jalapeno, and the whole tomatillos together with a drizzle of EVOO

2.  Saute for approximately 10 minutes, or until the tomatillos have softened (but not burst)

3. Put sautéed veggies into a food processor, pulse once or twice–you want to keep it pretty chunky

4. Add avocado, the juice of the lime, and the cilantro to the food processor, pulse a few more times until you achieve desired consistency (I like my dip with a little body to it).

5. Salt & Pepper to taste. Stick in fridge until your guests arrive.

Serve with tortilla chips.  Also super yummy as a sandwich spread.

Carmelized Onion Dip

You’ll Need:

2 large white onions

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Butter (approx. 3 tablespoons)

1 1/2 cups of Sour Cream

1/4 cup of mayonnaise (I eyeballed this and used 2 heaping big-spoonfulls)

2 tablespoons of cream cheese

1 pinch of Cayenne pepper

Salt & Pepper

To Do:

*Note–you can make this dip 2 ways, either in the slow-cooker, or on the stop top. The slow-cooker method is more hands-off, but if you don’t have one, the pan method works great too–just takes more hands-on time.

For the Slow-Cooker version:

1. Chop onions

2. Add onions, a hearty drizzle of EVOO, and butter to slow-cooker. Sprinkle with salt.

3. Cook on “low” setting for 8 hours (do it in the morning and it will be ready when you get home from work), or the “high” setting for 4 hours.

4. Onions will be done when they are deep brown. That’s called carmelization!

5. Drain excess liquid from onions.

6. In a bowl, combine onions, sour-cream, mayo, and cream cheese.  Stir well to combine.  *Note: you can adjust the ratio of sour cream, mayo, and cream-cheese to your liking.  I know some people are weird about mayo.

7. Add pinch of Cayenne, and salt & pepper to taste.

8. Store in fridge until guests arrive, serve with potato chips, try not to lick bowl.

For the Stove-top Version:

1. Chop onions

2. In a large pan, combine onions, butter, and EVOO.  Sprinkle with salt.

3. Saute until onions are a deep-brown, stirring constantly and adding a splash of water if the onions start to burn (this will take some time, at least 30 minutes if not more)

4. Combine onions, sour cream, mayo, and cream-cheese.

5. Add cayenne pepper, salt and pepper, to taste

6. Store in fridge until guests arrive, serve with chips, try not to lick bowl.

White Bean Spread with Lemon & Thyme

You’ll Need:

2 cans of white beans (often labeled “Cannellini beans” or “White Northern Beans”

1 bunch of fresh Thyme

1 large lemon

2 cloves of garlic, minced

To Do:

1. Drain liquid from beans and rinse with water

2. In a pot, saute garlic in EVOO until barely golden

3. Dump beans into the same pot, adding a little water

4. Cook beans over medium heat for approximately 10 minutes, until soft

5. Remove beans from pot into a bowl, draining some water if necessary.

6. Add Thyme (just how much is up to you.  I added approx. 2 tablespoons, tasting as I went)

7. Using a fork or a potato masher, mash up beans into a “spreadable” consistency.

8. Squeeze lemon into bean mixture, stir to combine.  Drizzle with EVOO (optional)

9. Leave at room temperature until guests arrive.  Serve with a sliced baguette.

*this is also awesome on sandwiches.

Prosciutto & Fontina Pinwheels

(*Not a dip. Still awesome.)

You’ll Need:

1/4 a pound of Prosciutto

Fontina Cheese

1 Package Puff Pastry

Pepper

Dijon Mustard

To Do:

1. Thaw out puff pastry.  There are usually 2 sheets per package.  When dough is pliable but still cold, lay out 1 sheet on parchment paper.

2. Spread a small amount of Dijon Mustard onto pastry, then sprinkle with Pepper (you don’t need salt here–the prosciutto is salty enough on its own)

3. Layer prosciutto slices over pastry

4. Grate fontina cheese, using enough to cover prosciutto evenly (exactly how much is up to you)

5. Roll up pasty (I rolled from the side, not the bottom), using a bit of warm water to seal the seam.

6. Store roll in fridge until you need it–it’s easier to slice the colder it is

7. Slice roll into “pinwheels,” lay out on parchment paper on a cookie sheet

8. Bake for approximately 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees, or until golden brown

9. Repeat with 2nd sheet of pastry, if needed. Each sheet makes approximately 10 -12 pinwheels.

Now who wants to come over for some snacks?

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One of my favorite things about Summer, other than the sunshine and the beach and the seafood and the vacations and the cocktails, is tomatoes.  In our latest CSA haul we got 4.5 pounds of gorgeous orangey-red toms, and I couldn’t get one in my tummy fast enough. Sliced up, slapped on toasted fancy bread with some mayo, salt, and pepper: heaven.

That is the beauty of a good tomato: you don’t really need to do anything to it.  Salt, Pepper, Mayo, bread.  The tomato sandwich is simple, but so so freaking good.  It sounds a little weird for those of you who consider a tomato on a sandwich an accessory rather than the main component, but trust me on this one.  Give it a try.

When I was a wee child I actually didn’t like tomatoes.  I was young and stupid then (I also “didn’t like” hot sauce, red wine, or hamburgers. Like I said: stupid), and I think it was more of a textural thing than a taste thing.  Those little gooey globuals of tomato seed seriously grossed me out.  They were too akin to Jellyfish material than I was comfortable with.

Mouth is watering already...

Thankfully I grew out of that phase, and now I get downright gleeful when good summer tomatoes come my way.  But only summer tomatoes.  I cannot tolerate those awful sickly pink, rock hard things that pass for toms in the winter.  Ew.

I am going to eat as many tomato sandwiches as I can in the next few days (once, my sister K., who basically invented the tomato sandwich, ate so many that she got an acid bubble on the inside of her lip.  Disgusting, but worth it). But then I have other things planned: roasted tomato soup (you can find my recipe here!), maybe some sauce, obviously an epic Caprese salad. But like I said: the less you can do to a summer tom, the better.

I’ve been trying to make that my food motto lately: “Do as little as you can.”  Because the food we get in our CSA is so fresh and so good, you really don’t need to do anything to it. A quick toss in a pan with some olive oil, a splash of lemon juice, even eating things straight up raw.  Too much of my veggie haul has gone bad in the past as I’ve pondered what to do with it.  Epiphany time: you don’t have to do anything.  Just eat it.

Now: inspire me.  What are some of your favorite ways to eat tomatoes?

Also something to consider: why does the plural of tomato have an -e in it?  Unnecessary, English language.  Unnecessary.

I particularly love when they look all freaky.

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Last weekend I attended H’s corporate summer party, which was a multi-million dollar fête on Randall’s Island.  There were carnival rides, free beer, tons of food, live music…basically an amusement park for adults.  It was awesome.

This week is my own office summer party.  It’s a potluck “picnic” that takes place on a Wednesday afternoon in the central hallway of our office.  There is certainly no booze, free or otherwise.  And no live music.  And the food, as I mentioned, is home-made.  Weemp womp.

I work for a very small, privately-owned company, so the ridiculous difference in Summery celebrations is to be expected.  But here is one thing H’s gigantor 10,000 person party didn’t have that mine does: Salted Toffee Chocolate Squares.  Handmade by ME.

I know it’s summer and everyone is supposed to be skinny and stuff cause of the bathing suit situation, but honestly, these things are so worth the extra pound or two.  They are addictive and easy to make.  And they are salty.  And you know how I feel about salt (hint: it’s the light of my life).

I suggest you go to the grocery store ASAP, get your materials, and get baking.  You’ll thank me later.

Salted Toffee Chocolate Squares

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients:

2 sticks butter

1/2 cup sugar

1 package (8 oz) toffee bits

1 package (6-8 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 box Graham Crackers

Sea Salt

 

To Do:

  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Melt 2 sticks of butter over low heat (don’t burn it!)
  • As that’s happening, lay out your grahams  (I used 2 packets) on a cookie pan covered with foil.
  • Cover grahams with Toffee bits, set aside momentarily.
  • When butter is melted, add sugar, and increase heat to medium-high
  • Bring mixture to a boil, cook 2-3 minutes
  • When Butter/Sugar is a syrupy consistency, remove from heat and immediately pour over the grahams/toffee.  Don’t worry if it overflows the grahams a little.  Trust.
  • Bake in oven until bubbling, approximately 12 minutes
  • When done, remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with chocolate chips & sea-salt.
  • Try not to eat the entire pan in one sitting.
  • Fail.

 

 

 

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Friends, I realize that I haven’t posted in approximately two weeks.  And for that, I am deeply sorry.  But things have been happening in my life, and while they are blog-worthy, certainly, they also are the very things that are keeping me from hunkering down in front of my computer.  It’s a conundrum: the more you have to blog about, the less time you have to actually blog about it.

The thing is, last week I turned 25.  Actually, as of today, I have been officially a quarter of a century old for an entire week.  I guess 25 isn’t considered “old” to some people (those people are, without fail, older than 25 of course).  However, this is a big one for me.  I think it’s a big one for everyone.

I know the term “quarter-life crisis” is thrown around quite a bit by my peers (actually, there is a pretty extensive Wikipedia entry on the term here). I also know that everyone older than us scoffs at such a ridiculous idea: having a crisis at age 25? About what? What dress to wear to the bar that night?  What boy to date?  What vacation to blow all your money on?

But think about it, old people: us 25 year olds have graduated college (well jeez, most of us have, I hope), and we are now living the “adult” lives that we’ve been dreaming about and planning out for the past oh, 20 years.  It’s human nature to fantasize about the future; we all do it.  I think the crisis occurs when we realize that, at 25, we are not exactly living the life we imagined for ourselves.

I’m not saying that I’m unhappy with where I am now, because I’m not.  I’m very, very happy.  It’s just quite different from what past-me would’ve imagined.  But that’s okay.

Speaking of things that I have never imagined I’d be doing, I made a great dinner last night.  Let me just toot my own horn here for a sec, cause it was freaking awesome.  Never mind that H was the one who actually did most of the cooking because half way through my risotto preparation I chopped off an impressively large hunk of my finger (our new knives are actually sharp! It’s something we need to get used to).  The wound (which I am now further aggravating to type these very words to you–you’re welcome) was well worth it.

The star of the meal was not the gigantic Rib Eye steak that H picked out at the grocery store, much to my horror.  It was actually the side dish: baked mushroom risotto.

Now, don’t be scared.  I know risotto has a bad rep of being really hard to make and very time-consuming.  But this risotto is actually pretty easy.  Because you bake it, rather than stir it for 56 minutes straight.

Baked Mushroom Risotto

Adapted from a recipe found on thekitchn.com.

You’ll Need

1 packet (approx 3/4 of an oz.) of dried shiitake mushrooms

1/2 lb of crimini mushrooms, washed and sliced

2 cups boiling water

1/3 of a cup of Olive Oil

3 yellow onions (1 finely diced, 2 sliced for carmelizing)

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 large spring of Rosemary, finely chopped

1 cup of Arborio Rice (special Risotto rice)

1/2 cup of dry vermouth (or White Wine, or sherry even too)

2 cups chicken stock (or veggie stock)

2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar

 

To Do:

– preheat oven to 350. Rinse the dried mushrooms well and place in a bowl. Pour the 2 cups boiling water over mushrooms to reconstitute. Set aside.

– Heat a hearty drizzle of Olive Oil in a dutch oven (or oven-safe pot with a lid) over medium heat.  Add the diced onion and all garlic, saute until golden.

– Push the onions to the side of the pot and add sliced Crimini mushrooms (not the dried mushrooms.  Not yet). Turn burner up to medium-high heat. Let mushrooms cook, without stirring, for 5 minutes.  Once 5 minutes is up, flip mushrooms over and cook another 5 minutes without stirring.  You want a nice crust to develop on the bottom of the pan.

– Drain the dried mushrooms, saving liquid.  Add dried (now moist) mushrooms to the pot, along with the rosemary, stirring everything together.  Season with salt and pepper.

– Add the rice, continuing to stir.  Cook until rice starts to turn transparent, about 4-6 minutes.

– Crank up the heat and add the vermouth, the dried mushroom liquid, the stock, and the balsamic vinegar, making sure to scrap up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan as it de-glazes.

– Bring the mixture to a boil

– Cover pot and put it into the oven; bake for 30 minutes.

– While the rice is baking, carmelize the other 2 onions.  Heat equal parts EVOO and butter in a pan, add onion slices and saute over low heat until onions are dark brown.  Remember to salt liberally!  You can sprinkle some sugar on them too, to help along the carmelizing process.

– Serve risotto topped with carmelized onions.  Watch mushroom-loving boyfriend fall to the floor in paroxysms of joy upon eating.

So yes, it’s a lot of steps, and yes, we didn’t eat dinner until 9pm, and yes,I was mortally wounded, but still. It was worth it!  This would be a great, cozy Sunday dinner.

 

Nice little Thursday dinner

If this is my quarter-life crisis, I think I’ll survive.  I’ll be fat, make no question of that.  But I’ll survive.

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Autumn Eats

Remember when it was like September 2nd and I started raving about fall arriving and stuff?

Maybe that was a little premature.

But now, precisely 1 month later, I really can say that fall has arrived.  Sure, maybe it’s 70 degrees out today, but you can just feel it. The air-conditioner is permanently off, my big fluffy duvet is on the bed, and I am ready. for. autumn.

It would make lots of sense that my favorite foods are autumn-y foods, because autumn is my favorite season.  I’m also a big sucker for comfort food, and I feel like this season more than others encourage hearty eating.

Recently I’ve been obsessing about squash.  That’s normal, right?  Sure.  Humor me.  I am a big fan of winter squash because you can put butter and salt on it without being overly judged.  You can roast it or mash it or do a million different things with it.  Also, it’s good for you!  Wins alll around.

After watching a Jaime Oliver show in which he stuffs cannelloni with mashed up roasted cauliflower and broccoli (see the recipe here) I got to thinking: veggies stuffed in pasta?  How did I never think of that? Why can’t I do that with squash?  And a white sauce?  AND SOME CHEESE!?

This is generally where my brain short-circuts (cheeeseeeeee!!).  So I hunted around for a squash manicotti recipe and couldn’t find what I wanted.  So what’s a resourceful kinda-cook to do?  Master the art of manicotti-stuffing myself. That’s what.

This is not a ‘whip up in 30 minutes on a week night’ meal.  Let’s be clear.  It’s a special ocassion kind of thing, or a ‘I’m too hungover to do anything on Sunday until about 8pm when I can finally cook’ kind of thing.  Guess which one it was for me?  Roasting the squash a day or two (or 4) ahead of time also helps speed up this recipe.  I did it while I was making another meal earlier in the week, shoved it into tupperware, and when I was ready to stuff, my squash was all ready and waiting.

 

Positively Cozy!

 

Winter Squash Stuffed Manicotti

You’ll Need:

  • For the Filling:

  • 2 small-medium winter squashes (any variety)
  • 2-2.5 cups of ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 a white onion, minced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2  handfuls of swiss chard, chopped (optional)
  • 1/3 cup of goat cheese (optional)
  • Dashes of: Red pepper flakes, oregano, salt, pepper

For the Sauce:

  • 5 tablespoons of butter (I said this was hearty, not healthy)
  • 4-5 tablespoons of flour
  • 2 cups of milk (or cream, or half and half)
  • Dashes of: nutmeg, salt, pepper
  • 1 bay leaf

And of course!

  • 1 package of manicotti or cannelonni

To Do:

  • Pre-heat oven to 400.
  • Cut squash in half.  Drizzle Olive Oil, salt and pepper on each half and roast, face down, for approximately 45 minutes.
  • Scoop squash out of skin, mash into bowl or tupperware. Set aside. *Note: Do this step a day or so before to save yourself time.
  • Put 1 large pot of water on to boil for pasta.  As that is heating up…
  • Combine minced garlic and onion in a pan. Drizzle with olive oil and saute until onions are translucent.
  • (Optional Step) Add swiss chard to onions and garlic in pan, drizzle a little more olive oil, and saute until greens are wilted. Remove mixture from heat and set aside.
  • In a smaller pot, heat milk on LOW heat. Season with nutmeg, salt, pepper, and a bay leaf.  Make sure NOT to boil milk.
  • While milk is heating, melt butter in yet another pot.
  • As butter is melting, boil your pasta.  Drain pasta when it is still very al dente.  It will cook more in the oven later on. Set aside.
  • Once butter is melted, whisk in flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until a golden-brown roux is formed (you want the texture to be thick, but stirrable…almost like applesauce).
  • Going one cup at a time, add the heated milk to the roux, stirring continuously.  The sauce should be just a bit thinner than you’d like (it will thicken up as it continues to sit over low heat).  As sauce is thickening…
  • Combine onion-garlic-chard mixture with mashed up squash.  Add dashes of oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste.
  • To this, add goat cheese (if using) and Ricotta.  Mix stuffing well to blend all components.
  • Fill up a ziplock bag with stuffing mix.  Snip off 1 bottom corner and use this contraption to fill your pasta.
  • Smear the bottom of 1 large glass baking dish with a little sauce.  Lay filled pasta in dish, cover with more sauce, bake for 20 minutes covered in foil, 5  uncovered.

* Note #2: This made a lot of manicotti.  I think I filled up 12 or so of them (1 entire package) and I still had a little bit of left over stuffing mix.  So, prepare for a feast.  Invite friends.

I ate this with some fancy sourdough bread from the bakery next to my office that is currently draining both my bank account and my dignity, and some roasted fennel (that’s what is artfully placed on top of the pasta in the picture).  Why fennel?  Really, H and I had no idea what to do with it.  So it got roasted, because the oven was on anyway.

I also made the salted toffee square again (recipe here).  Because why not just leap full-tilt into the world of Obesity?  Bathing suit season is officially O-V-A OVER.  Thank god.

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