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Posts Tagged ‘autumn’

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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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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I’m getting pretty excited, and you know why?  Autumn is slooowly rearing its head.  And I LOVE  fall.  First of all, I go wonderfully with the color scheme…burnt sienna, deep burgundy, rich mahogany…I can finally stop pretending to like the pastels and neons that dominate the summer fashion scene.  Secondly, the weather is perfect.  I’m not grouchy dealing with heat-waves, and I’m not complaining about how cold I am.  And finally, I love how fall feels so clean-slatey.  Maybe it’s a holdover from my school-days, but to me fall equals a new start, a brand new wardrobe, and beautifully pristine notebook pages just waiting for all the genius things that will be coming out of your brain.

So when H reminded me that September was NEXT WEEK (I generally need to be reminded of such things), I immediately started dreaming of bon-fires and football games and…jeggings.  Oh, and riding boots.  Mmm.

Questionable wardrobe purchases aside (don’t judge on the jeggings…), I also suddenly felt compelled to start (GASP!) using my oven again.  And despite my dreams of pumpkins and cute fall jackets, our CSA is still spewing forth astounding quantities of summery produce.  Like zucchini. Ugh.

The very word is starting to give me a nervous twitch.  I’m not sure you understand the severity of the situation.  I GET 5 OR MORE POUNDS OF SQUASH. A WEEK. And I can only watch H choke down Zucchini pancakes so many times.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.  And the desperate measure I took this weekend was Quiche.

Quiche is one of those things that I adored eating outside of the house, but had no clue how to even attempt to make it myself.  Sure, I guess in theory it sounded easy: eggs and other stuff in a pie crust.  But there was my first problem: pie crust.  And then, what do I add to it?  How do I make my eggs creamy and custardy?  What if the filling is too soggy?  HOW DO I MAKE QUICHE?!

Well, here’s how I did it.

Cheddar, Zucchini, and Bacon Quiche

You’ll Need:

  • 1 frozen pie-crust
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup half & half
  • 2 small or 1 large zucchini or other summer squash, shredded or sliced thinly
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 3 strips of bacon
  • 1/2 block white cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Dashes of salt, pepper, nutmeg, paprika

To Do:

  • Pre-heat oven to 400-degrees
  • Slice or shred zucchini, sprinkle with salt, set aside for 5 minutes
  • Cook bacon and remove from pan, leaving behind 1 tablespoon of grease.
  • Combine eggs, sour-cream, half & half, garlic, and spices.  Whisk until smooth.
  • Squeeze zucchini out over sink to drain excess liquid.
  • Saute zucchini in the leftover bacon grease until just tender
  • In pie crust, crumble bacon, add zucchini and cheese.  Top this with egg mixture, stirring if necessary to combine all ingredients well.
  • cook for approx. 1 hr, or until center of Quiche is firm and top is golden brown

Obviously I solved my main problem with dinking out and buying pre-made pie crust.  Whatever.  It made this recipe really easy and anyway, it tasted just fine.  I’m not ashamed.  If you want to go that route, you can find pie crust in the freezer section of your grocery store.  I won’t tell.

Golden Brown Goodness

We literally ate this all weekend, for all meals. Piping hot straight out of the oven?  Delish.  Cold doused with hot sauce for breakfast the next day?  Also delish.  I’m sure if it lasted long enough to sit in the fridge another day or so it would get even better.  Flavors melding and stuff.  You know. Great all-the-time weekend food.

Actually, I think the highlight wasn’t so much the food itself, but how H insisted upon pronouncing it.

QUEEESH.

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