Squash Party

So, I went a bit crazy on Friday night and Saturday morning. The fall produce was calling my name and I went for it. {In recovery mode last night, I had a simple dinner of pasta with olive oil and pecorino romano and a side of sauteed Brussels sprouts. Perfect easy-on-the-belly dinner.} How crazy did I go, you ask? I’ll let you be the judge of that! On Friday night, we had a couple of friends over for dinner and I was so excited to put together a delicious fall meal.

Here is the set table, just awaiting the main course!

I managed to make the meal using all veggies from our CSA share (except for sage and thyme) and everyone was quite satisfied. The menu was:

  • Salad: Romaine lettuce and thinly sliced radishes tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper
  • Bread: Pumpernickel Rye from Bread & Circus
  • Main Course: Butternut squash and pancetta risotto (recipe below)
  • Drink: Hot apple cider spiked with bourbon and served with a cinnamon stick
  • Dessert: Pumpkin Whoopie Pies (recipe below)

It was quite the meal! My husband and I woke up the next morning still feeling inspired (despite the war-zone in the kitchen) and made pumpkin pancakes (recipe below) with the remainder of our pumpkin puree.

With apple cider and maple syrup, these became the breakfast of champions!

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Today’s Recipes

Butternut Squash and Pancetta Risotto

{I’m not sure where this recipe is from…it’s written down in my handwriting from several years ago}

Serves 4 to 6

Butternut Squash:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium butternut squash; peeled, seeded, and cut into 3/4 in cubes
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

Risotto:

  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 lb pancetta, small dice
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped roughly

Spiced Butter:

  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and roasted
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • dash of cinnamon
  • dash of dried ginger

Start by cooking the squash. In a large cast iron skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the squash and cook for about 6 minutes, until golden on all sides. Add brown sugar and cook until squash is caramelized and tender. Set aside and keep warm.

Your finished squash will look like these lovelies.

While the squash is cooking, prepare the spiced butter. In a bowl, crush roasted garlic with a fork. {I roast my garlic cloves by making a little tin foil packet, drizzling them with olive oil, wrapping them up, and cooking them in the toaster oven at 325 degrees for about 10 minutes or until they are nice and soft.} Mix in 4 tablespoons of room temperature butter, marjoram, cinnamon, and ginger and set aside.

Now it’s time to start the main event! Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low and keep warm.

Heat olive oil in a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat. Add pancetta and saute until lightly browned. Add onion and cook until softened. Stir in rice, sage, and thyme. Cook for 4 minutes, stirring until well coated. Turn heat to medium-high and add wine. Simmer until mostly absorbed. Add hot stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until mostly absorbed. Continue until the rice is al dente or cooked to your liking. Stir in parsley, salt & pepper, and 3/4 of the spiced butter. Gently fold in squash. Finish with the remaining butter and mix gently until combined.

Isn’t it pretty?

Ready to dig in!

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

{Adapted from an old Real Simple recipe}

Cookies:

  • 3 tablespoons butter at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Frosting:

  • 2/3 cup cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until smooth (I use my hand mixer for this). Add the pumpkin, vanilla, and egg and beat until combined.

Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and pumpkin pie spice. Slowly add this to the wet ingredients and beat on low speed until fully mixed.

Spoon onto a silicon-mat-lined baking sheet (or parchment lined) using a tablespoon. Bake for about 10 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool.

While the cookies are baking and cooling, make the cream cheese frosting. I used my immersion blender for this thinking it would make it easier. It did, but it also made runny icing, so use a hand mixer or your hand for this one.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, beat together all the frosting ingredients until spreadable.

Make sandwiches on the flat side of the cookies. Only make as many sandwiches as you are going to eat right then. Otherwise store the cookies and frosting separately. These are messy and delicious!

I think I’ll go have one right now!

Pumpkin Pancakes

{Adapted from this recipe on AllRecipes.com}

Serves 4

  • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Mix together all the wet ingredients in a bowl. Separately, mix together the dry ingredients. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Don’t over-mix because these will be nice and light. Also, the batter is much more dry than a normal pancake batter…that is ok. They puff up nicely and are plenty moist when cooked.

Heat a griddle or pan over medium heat. Lightly grease the pan. Scoop out about 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake and cook for about 3 minutes per side (or until lightly browned).

Look how puffy these are!!

Be sure to serve these with real maple syrup as they are completely unsweetened. They also freeze well if you are cooking for just one or two!

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If you are craving yet more pumpkin, check out this recipe that I’m hoping to try tonight!

~CM

And Another Soup

It has been COLD here in the Boston area. Snow. Power outages (not at my homestead). Freezing trick-or-treaters. So today, when school was cancelled (no power there), I decided it was time for another soup. This one comes from yours truly’s brain, so forgive the lack of a recipe. Basically, you can make this soup with anything you want. It’s a great way to use up veggies that are about to turn (or just have turned). I’ve decided to call this version Super Soup because of the nice variety of veggies and vitamins (and because I have the sense of humor of a 10 year old…)

Start with equal parts butter and olive oil in the bottom of a large stock pot (I used about 1 tablespoon of each). Heat over medium. Add celery, leeks, and garlic (or onions, or shallots, or any combination thereof). Cook for about 5-8 minutes, until they start to caramelize.


Next, I added 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into bite size pieces. Cook a few more minutes, until the sweet potato starts to brown.


Cover the whole combo with broth (I used chicken because I had it on hand, but I’d prefer vegetable for this type of soup). I use a mixture of broth and water, because I think it’s a bit too potent otherwise. For this batch, I used 5 cups broth and 2 cups water. Cover the pot and bring to a boil.

When the soup is boiling, add beans (I used beautiful fresh cranberry beans). Leave uncovered and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add broccoli and simmer until the beans are soft (about 15 more minutes).

Aren’t they pretty?

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy with a nice piece of crusty bread, or if you’re like me and out of nice crusty bread, with a plate of crackers and goat Gouda.

 


Happy November, everyone! Stay warm!

~CM

Two Soups for You

There’s nothing I love more on a cool fall day than a delicious soup and tonight I have two for you! (Sadly, none left over for me. Ah, well.)

Soup 1: Roasted Corn Chowder

Adapted from FoodNetwork.com

This soup takes WORK. Like, a lot of work. But it was so worth it, especially making the corn stock from scratch. Give yourself all afternoon for this one. Definitely a weekend endeavor.

Stock:

  • 8 ears corn
  • 1 1/2 quarts water, or more if needed
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 habanero pepper, seeds and ribs removed, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup roughly chopped cilantro stems
  • 1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, roughly chopped

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Put the husked corn on the grill and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, turning as needed to evenly brown. Remove the corn from the grill and when cool enough to handle remove kernels and set aside.

Put the corn cobs into a large stock pot, add the water, chicken stock, salt, pepper, garlic, peppers, cilantro stems, onion and celery. Put the pot over high heat and bring it to a strong boil. Cook for 45 minutes, then strain the solids. Cool.

Soup:

  • 2 cups baby purple potatoes diced (1/2-inch)  {I used purple potatoes just because I love them and the extra pop of color; red-skinned potatoes would work just as well}
  • 4 tablespoons butter, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeds and ribs removed, diced
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup diced bacon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

In a medium saucepan, cover the diced potatoes with 3 cups of the cooled stock and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook until fork tender, about 15 minutes. then remove from heat and set aside.

In a large stock pot over medium-high heat, add the 4 tablespoons of butter, and once melted, add the diced onions, half of the corn kernels and all the peppers. Saute about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more, stirring frequently. Stir in 3 cups of the stock and simmer for 30 minutes. Using an immersion blender (get one…it’s worth it. My sister got me this one from Cuisinart for my birthday. Best. Thing. Ever), blend until smooth. Pour out of the stockpot into a bowl to set aside.

Wipe the stock pot clean, put it over medium-high heat and add the bacon. Cook until crisp, then drain on a paper towel lined plate. Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the bacon fat, along with the remaining corn. Season with the salt and pepper and saute for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the stock and potatoes and combine well. Stir in the heavy cream, add the corn puree mixture. Heat through and salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, I topped the soup with the cilantro leaves and freshly made corn tortilla strips. (Just cut up a stack of corn tortillas with a pizza cutter and fry until golden in vegetable oil.)

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Soup 2: Winter Squash Soup with Dried Figs and Toasted Pine Nuts

(also known as wildly easier than the last soup!)

This soup is adapted from an amazing cookbook, Simply Organic, by Jesse Ziff Cool. This is one of my all-time favorite cookbooks. I’ve had it for a few years and have so enjoyed it. It’s divided by season and has beautiful pictures (which I love in my cookbooks). Check it out here on Amazon.

Ingredients:

  • a mixture of winter squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped coarsely {I used 1 large acorn squash and 1/2 medium butternut squash}
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 4 medium carrots, chopped (skins on)
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 4-6 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • 5 dried figs, sliced (I used Turkish figs, my favorite)

In a large stock pot (I used my 4.5 quart Le Creuset….yay for wedding presents!), add the olive oil, onion, carrots, and celery. Cover and cook over medium heat for about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are soft and slightly caramelized. Add the chopped squash and the wine. Cover the veggies with broth. Simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes until the squash is very soft.

Using an immersion blender (again, get one, it’s worth it), puree until totally smooth. Add the thyme through the maple syrup and puree again.

Top with the pine nuts and the figs. Along with a crusty piece of bread, you have a delicious and satisfying fall dinner.

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What is your favorite fall soup?

~CM