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Entries in butternut squash (3)

Tuesday
Feb102015

Sensible Squash Soup

I've been painting and cooking. Cooking and writing. Sometimes painting with what I'm cooking. But never cooking with what I'm painting....or am I?

I emerge out of this in a cloud of smoke, just as confused as you are. Oh yes. Confusion sets in. And disappointment too.

Disappointment? Yes. The other day, I painted squashes. Then I painted orange things. And more squashes. And I looked at it all and I said, "OK, great, Elana, but what are you going to do with it?"

So I made some butternut and acorn squash soup to make it all make sense. Because if anything makes sense, it's soup. Especially of the orange variety.

But it still didn't quite. Make sense, that is. Even after eating most of the soup, which was quite good with a little quinoa for protein, crispy baked mushrooms and fried sage.

So I sat down, belly full of soup, and thought. 

"Huh. What now?" I said to myself. "I know! How about I pour the rest of this soup onto this tiny white table and paint with it? And then work it into these here watercolors to see if I can match it up?"

ASIDE: This was happening while there was a snow storm a-brewing outside. John and I were staying at Iach HQ while Marmo and the Box were enjoying a vacation. It was about this time that John walked in to inquire the whereabouts of our snow plow man when he saw me, manic gleam in my eye, painting with my food. If there was ever a doubt as to who is the "odd duck" of the family, rest assured, it is obviously John who did not see the merit in such activities.

But, you, fair reader, certainly do! I can smell it. Just like I can smell the maple syrup saturating the squash as it roasts in the oven at 400°F. 

As before, I am leaving you specific instructions. Just these images from which you can certainly, if enterprising, cobble together a similar sensible soup. You can even paint with it, should you like.

Wednesday
Oct242012

Let's Play Squash

Here I go again, revising traditional Italian dishes, making them healthier and hopefully making you wealthier and wise in the process. How? With squash, that's how.

Today's Recipe Revise focuses on ravioli. I've made my own! Imagine that. Acutally, you don't have to imagine it because I'm going to tell you how I did it. I made this particular pasta dough with whole wheat flour, so you could get some good-for-you grains in your diet. Yeah, you need them.

For the "stuffing," I used butternut squash and – get this – NO cheese. I promise, it's still delicious. Topped with a mix of roasted delicata and butternut squashes, this dish is perfectly balanced. The whole wheat pasta has a nutty taste (try it with hazelnut flour if you're extra-industrious) and the squashes are flavorful and meaty. Sage and some grated Parmeggiano Reggiano cheese give this dish extra life. So, let's make it happen.

First the pasta:

Makes about 30 1" diameter ravioli

What You Need:
100 grams all purpose flour
100 grams whole wheat flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 egg white for sealing the ravioli 

What You Do:

Measure out your flours using a scale - this is the only way to determine if you have the proper amount. After you've measured, mix them up together in a bowl, so that the all-purpose and the whole wheat are incorporated.

Pour onto a clean surface. I use my counter top, but if you'd like to use a large cutting board, that's fine as well.

Make a well or hole in the center of the flour and pour your beaten eggs in there. The sides of the well will hold them in place.

Using a fork or two of your fingers, start incorporating the flour into the eggs, slowly. Once all the dough is added, you will have a ball of egg and flour. This is a sticky process - don't worry, you're doing it right!

Knead this ball of dough with your hands for about ten minutes. The dough should start to spring back when poked with your finger. This means the gluten in the flour is starting to work and is giving the dough strength. This is good! Let the dough rest for 30 minutes. 

After the dough has enjoyed a disco nap, feed the dough into your pasta machine between the rollers at its widest setting. Crank that bad boy through at the widest setting THREE times, folding the dough onto itself in thirds after each pass. Then, start narrowing the settings on the rollers until the dough gets very thin. At the final pass, you should have a very thin sheet of pasta.

Place this on a cutting board and cut out 1 - 1 1/2" squares or circles. I used a cookie cutter for mine, but you can use one of those fancy-pants ravioli cutters or just use a dang knife. Keep it simple people. The fewer appliances you have, the less frequently they get caught in your drawers leaving you cursing the day you bought a can opener. Anyhoo! For more detailed instructions, you can check out a video on pasta making by yours truly here.

For the filling:

What You Need:
1/2 large butternut squash, peeled, cubed and roasted or boiled until it is soft.
1/4 almond milk
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon sea salt 
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper 

What To Do:

Take your roasted b'nut and place it in a blender or food processor. Add the other ingredients and blend until smooth.

Reserve it in an air tight container, or start filling your ravioli with it immediately. You can even store it in the freezer for weeks if you like!

Once you have cut out your ravioli squares or circles, take a teaspoon and place small dollops of the squash filling onto the squares. Don't forget to leave half the squares filling-less, as these will be the tops.

Brush the outer rim of the ravioli square with egg white and top with another (unfilled) square. Press the top layer of pasta into the bottom with a fork, sealing it.

Repeat this for all the ravioli.

At this point, you can either freeze them for later use, or start boiling a pot of water to eat immediately. I vote for the second option, but if you must reserve them for later, place small squares of parchment or wax paper between the ravioli so they don't freeze together and create a giant squash chunk. Giant squash chunk is just not as cool as separated ravioli, trust me.

Boil a large pot of water, and once the water is boiling, salt the water. Don't be shy about salting it either. Go for it!

Plop in the ravioli. Even if they were frozen, they will only require about 3 minutes of cooking. They should float up to the top of the water when they are done.

For the topping:

What You Need:

1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cubed into very tiny cubes (use the other half from the filing!)
1 or 2 delicata squash, cut in half with the seeds removed and sliced so you have half-moon slices. You don't have to worry about peeling the delicata.
Fresh sage - a LOT of it. Chop it up coarsely
Fresh rosemary, chopped. Just a sprinkle 
Salt and pepper - to taste
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil 

What To Do:

Heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Place your chopped squash on a baking sheet and sprinkle with the herbs, salt and pepper and olive oil. Using your hands, mix it all up.

Place it in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes, until the squashes are soft to the touch.

Plating It Up:

Place some ravioli in a bowl, top with the roasted veggies, and some Parmeggiano Reggiano cheese. 

Optional Bonus Points: Fry sage leaves in olive oil until they are crispy. Place on top of your finished dish. It'll be extra fabulous.

 

 

Monday
Oct152012

Stuff it! Breaking Down Italian Meals into Basics.

It's going to get a bit experimental on this blog. Can you handle that?

The first thing I'm getting all crazy with is recipes. Italian recipes. You all know that John and I love our Italian food—we both have a long-standing love for Italian food, being raised in an Italian family. And as an athlete and a home chef/foodie/professional snacker, I'm always looking for foods that are not only packed with nutrition, but also with flavor. But I realize that Italian food doesn't always get a high ranking in healthfulness. 

I'm here to tell you this is a misconception. I'm not here to persuade you that Pennsylvania-sized portions of Veal Parmigiana and Lasagne Bolognese are a healthy meal option. I am here to redirect your thinking about Italian food, as real Italian food does not start or end with your Grandma's meatballs.

Italian food is much more than that. Or I should say "less." Authentic Italian cooking's goal is not to cram as much saturated fat into an oversized serving as possible. It's about using what's available, fresh and easily obtainable (local).

My goal is to break Italian cooking down to its basic elements, because that is where the health benefits hang out. As with much cooking, it's about ingredient choice and preparation that makes or breaks a dish – and your waistline.

So this is my first attempt: a revised stuffed shell recipe made with some autumn veggies. I promise it's easy, healthy and really, fantastically tasty.

Stuffed Shells with Butternut Squash, Spinach and Chicken Sausage

What You Need:

1 package shell-shaped pasta (something you can stuff!)
3 links chicken or turkey sausage
1 package frozen spinach (see I told you it was easy)
1/2 of a butternut squash, peeled and cubed 
1 8oz can crushed tomatoes
1 cup part skim ricotta cheese
2 cloves garlic
fresh basil - lots
1/2 cup white wine
olive oil
salt and pepper
hot pepper flakes 
Grated parmesan cheese 

Equipment: a baking dish - at least 12" in diameter or similar.

What To Do:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a dash of salt and cook your pasta just a little underdone. You will be baking it in the oven, so it will fully cook then.

When you pasta is finished cooking, drain it and set it aside.

In the meantime, heat up your oven to 350 degrees.

In a skillet over medium heat, warm up a tablespoon of olive oil. Crush the two cloves of garlic and add them to the skillet. Add your sausage to the skillet season with salt and pepper and throw in a dash of hot pepper flakes Pour in the 1/2 cup white wine. Break up the sausage as it cooks, and allow it to cook fully - about 8 - 10 minutes, or until it is no longer pink on the inside. The wine will add flavor and keep it moist.

As your sausage is cooking, bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add your cubed squash to the pot and cook until tender....like a potato.

Defrost the spinach and place it in a bowl (please drain all the excess water - you definitely won't need it!). Mix in the cup of part skim ricotta right into the spinach so it makes a nice spinach/cheese paste. Season with salt and pepper.

Grab your baking dish and your pasta shells. Using a teaspoon, stuff the shells with a small dollop of the spinach and cheese mixture and place along the bottom of the dish in a layer.

Add some of the chicken sausage and the cooked butternut squash.

Using a large spoon, dollop the crushed tomatoes into the gaps that the other ingredients make in the dish.

This is fun, yes? YES! Repeat until you've used up all your ingredients, or you can't fit any more stuff into your baking dish.

Cover with foil, and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 35-40 minutes. When it's done, chop up some fresh basil, grate some Parm and sprinkle both of those magical ingredients on top. Serve piping hot!

People will love you. They won't even miss the meatballs.