Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Baked Stuffed Acorn Squash

I've been dying to make this delectable side dish ever since I saw it in the cookbook, "Morning Glory Farm and the family that feeds an island." It looked so colorful and flavorful, and it as it turned out, it was.

But first I had to find some wheat berries and that wasn't as easy as I hoped. They don't carry them at my local grocery store and we even came up empty at Trader Joe's. Finally I located some at the Orleans Whole Food Store yesterday.

I wanted to make this dish to submit to Side Dish Showdown hosted each month by the delightful Reenie at Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice.

The theme for March was: "Anything Goes with a Secondary Challenge to try something new, whether it be a vegetable, grain or herb." I've never cooked wheat berries, so that was my new ingredient.

The crunchiness of the wheat berries and wild rice was delightful and a nice counterpoint to the soft squash. The sweet/tart flavor combination of the pears, apple cider and dried cranberries was smashing.

We served the baked stuffed acorn squash with an herb roasted chicken and a spinach salad.

The Recipe

Baked Stuffed Winter Squash
(from "Morning Glory Farm" cookbook)
Serves 8

4 acorn squash, halved and seeded
2 cups cooked wild rice
1 cup cooked wheat berries
1 cup roasted pears
1/4 cup canola oil (I used olive oil)
1 large shallot, diced
1/3 cup apple cider
1/2 cup dried cranberries
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roast seeded and halved squash cut side down 30 - 40 minutes.

While squash is roasting, cook wild rice and wheat berries according to package directions.

Once squash is soft, cut pears into large dice and toss with 1/8 cup canola oil. Roast on sheet tray about 20 minutes.

Saute shallot in rest of oil over medium heat. Pour apple cider in with shallots, cooking and stirring to deglaze pan.

Mix rice, berries, roasted pears, and cranberries into shallot mix. Salt and pepper to taste.

Stuff each squash with filling and serve.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Best Maple Glazed Carrots Ever

This one is going to be short and sweet (pun intended). I recently received a copy of "Morning Glory Farm and the family that feeds an island," by Tom Dunlop, so I'm going to be testing some of the recipes in upcoming days.

Morning Glory Farm is the largest of nearly 30 farms on the tiny island of Martha's Vineyard. The Kitchen Genius and I visited the farm the summer before last and were incredibly impressed with what the Athearn family has managed to create in their 30 years at farming. Morning Glory is now a thriving multi-generational business that really does provide food for the entire island at their farm stand, in restaurants, and they even have a section at the local grocery store.

This is more than just a cookbook. In addition to 70 mouthwatering recipes, author Tom Dunlop tells the fascinating story of the history of the farm, and photographer Alison Shaw's stunning photography will make you want to place this book on your coffee table instead of hiding it on your cookbook shelf.

I chose an easy recipe to test first. This time of year fresh veggies are kind of scarce on Cape Cod, but there are always some organic carrots in my crisper for soups and stews. I don't usually think to cook them as a vegetable side dish, but this recipe has changed my mind.

These carrots are as good as candy. Not kidding. I've made glazed carrots before, but I always boiled the carrots in plain water first and then added the maple syrup and butter after draining them. Big mistake. Cooking the carrots with the maple syrup and butter truly infuses them with a sweet flavor that is amazing.

If this is what they do to the common carrot, I can't wait to try the other recipes in the Morning Glory cookbook...

Maple Glazed Carrots
Serves 4

2 1/2 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced on a diagonal
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup maple syrup (only the real stuff please)
3 tablespoons butter
Salt and Pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper
Grated orange peel

Combine all ingredients (except orange peel) in a large saucepan or skillet and cook until the carrots are fork tender, about 15 - 20 minutes. Add more water if needed during cooking.

Garnish with grated orange peel.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Strawbery Rhubarb Pie

I've been searching for signs of spring all over the place and my heart skipped a happy beat when I found rhubarb at the grocery store this week. Right above it were strawberries on sale, 2 pounds for $5. SO not local this time of year, but a craving is a craving.

And then a dilemma...I love, love, love my grandmother's pie crust recipe. Seriously, for me the best part of the pie is the crust (and homemade pie is my favorite dessert). But the recipe for the easiest, flakiest, crispest pie crust I've ever tasted is made with butter flavored Crisco.

Here's the problem: I've sworn off fake food and it doesn't take a food detective to realize that "butter flavored Crisco" is fake. They admit their falsehood right on their label, so I don't have to read the fine print to know this is on the list of foods I don't want to eat.

I decided to try an all butter crust recipe I found at the Land 'O Lakes website. My experiments with using all butter in biscuits have gone just fine so I had pretty high hopes.

The pie dough didn't come together like I hoped. The whole cold water, stir with a fork thing sounds great in theory, but I've never been able to pull that off with the amount of water they recommend. Even after refrigeration, the dough was stickier than I was used to.

Still, I persisted and the filling made me happy, happy, happy.

These pies smelled simply fabulous while they baked. The scent of butter that filled the house made the teenagers drool all over themselves in anticipation, and the crust looked extra flakey.

I thought I had found my answer - UNTIL I tried to cut the pie. That crust was seriously tough. Even my sharpest knife struggled to get through it. It took me five slices to get one photo that was even close to pretty.

So, I'm asking for your best pie advice and your best pie recipes. What on earth did I do wrong and how can I make an all natural pie in the future?

The Recipe:

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

In my family we like our pies a little tart, so if you prefer a sweeter pie increase the amount of sugar.

Make your own favorite recipe for a two crust pie.

2 cups of rhubarb, washed and sliced into 1-inch pieces.
2 cups strawberries – leave smaller berries whole and cut larger berries in half or thirds
3/4 cup sugar (1 cup if you like your pie sweet)
1/4 cup flour
3 tablespoons butter

1. Roll out bottom crust and place in pie plate.
2. Put rhubarb, strawberries, sugar and flour in a bowl and mix well. Pour into prepared pie crust. If there is extra flour and sugar that hasn’t been absorbed by the juice of the fruit, sprinkle it evenly over the top.
3. Cut the butter into small pieces and disperse on top of the fruit mixture. Roll out top crust and cover the fruit.
4. Cut off excess overhang (should be about a half an inch all the way around) and fold top crust under bottom crust and pinch together. Crimp the edge by making a V with your left thumb and forefinger and pushing the dough into the V with your right forefinger.
5. With a knife liberally poke vent holes in the top of the crust in a pleasing design, making sure the whole crust is covered.
6. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 – 50 minutes. To check if pie is done, slide a knife into one of the vent holes. Fruit should be tender.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Date Night

Back when we had four kids living at home, date nights only happened about twice a year and they always involved an overnight at a local inn and dinner at a nice restaurant. Very nice. Now that we're down to two kids who are both teenagers, opportunities for date nights pop up much more often. Even better.

These days my job allows us to eat out twice a month, so it's much more fun to cook at home for our date nights. For our unexpected date night last week, we began with scallops sautéed in butter, served with a sweet pea puree.

Then it was on to steak au poivre. The Kitchen Genius seasoned two small filets with sea salt and fresh ground cracked pepper.

He then seared them in a cast iron skillet and then put it in the oven to finish them off.

In the meantime, he simmered dried porcini mushrooms, a chopped tomato, some red wine and other secret ingredients for a sauce to go along with the steak.

My job was to be the prep cook for his creations, but the side dish was all mine. I sliced two large potatoes very thin and layered them in another cast iron skillet, brushing melted butter on each layer, and seasoning them with chopped fresh rosemary, salt and pepper.

Instead of making a big salad like I usually do, I hollowed out a tomato and filled it with some baby greens tossed with balsamic vinaigrette.

The photos don't lie - it was a great dinner...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Shrimp and Snow Pea Stir-Fry

I've wanted to make this dish since I first saw it on the cover of the March issue of the Food Network Magazine. The article is titled, "11,375 Stir-Fries," and it offers a five step recipe to create, well apparently, that many different dinners.

First you pick your protein. Could be beef, pork, shrimp, chicken or tofu. Then you marinade your chosen protein, prep 3 cups of vegetables in any combination, and choose from one of five sauces.

The secret of a good stir-fry is making sure everything is prepped before hand. Because once it's time to actually cook, it all goes pretty quickly.

Add a nice winter salad with baby greens, pears, yellow peppers, cukes, red onions, toasted pecans and gorgonzola. Drizzle with a maple balsamic dressing and you are in veggie and flavor heaven.

The Recipe:

Shrimp and Snow Pea Stir-Fry

3/4 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 egg white
1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry
1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
3/4 cup baby carrots (the smallest ones you can find)
1 medium onion thinly sliced vertically
1/2 cup sliced yellow bell pepper
1 cup snow peas

Clear Sauce:
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons rice wine or dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar

For marinade, whisk egg white, sherry and cornstarch. Toss with shrimp, cover and refrigerate for one hour. Prep veggies. For sauce mix all ingredients together.

Drain excess marinade from shrimp and place all ingredients near stove. Heat 4 tablespoons olive oil in wok or skillet over medium high heat. Add shrimp and for about three minutes until both sides are pink, turning once halfway through. Remove from pan.

Add 1 - 2 more tablespoons of oil to the pan and heat add the garlic and ginger. Stir-fry for about 30 seconds. Add the vegetables in order starting with the ones that take the longest to cook and stir-fry until crisp tender. Add the shrimp and the sauce and stir until the sauce is thickened and the shrimp is heated through, about 3 minutes.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Linguini with White Clam Sauce and a Roundup of Clam Recipes

Last Saturday, the Kitchen Genius could finally go shellfishing again. The regulations state that you have to wait until the temperature is above 32 degrees and that hasn't been the case on most weekends lately. So even though the sea snow looked like a blizzard at times during the morning, it was just warm enough to head to Cape Cod Bay. It was the lowest tide he's ever seen and the recent storms stirred things up so the clams were actually visible from the surface. He just had to reach down and grab them.

In about an hour, he filled his basket with clams (lovely man!) and we've been eating them all week in our favorite recipes. First KG made Baked Stuffed Clams. Recipe here.

Of course I made a big pot of clam chowder. Recipe here. We also gave a couple of dozen clams to my mom and step-dad and he made a big pot of chowder too.

And Clams Casino. Recipe here.

And finally KG made the best Linguini with Clam Sauce I've ever had. It had some serious flavor and he took a tip from Julia Child and added some fresh bread crumbs as a liason to bind the sauce. The bread crumbs gave the sauce a lot of body and helped it cling to the pasta so every bite was filled with rich claminess. Recipe below.

But that's not all. KG went out clamming again today and in addition to quahogs, he dug a whole basket of steamers, so the clam adventures continue...

Linguini with White Clam Sauce
serves 2

16 quahogs
1 cup water

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced fine
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup clam broth (or more if needed)
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped
Hot red pepper flakes to taste
Fresh ground pepper to taste (no salt needed - the clams take care of that)
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup fresh bread crumbs
Parmesan cheese

Place quahogs in a large Dutch oven with 2 cups of water. Cover and bring to boil over high heat. Vent the cover a little or the liquid will boil over. Cook just until clams open up. Use tongs to remove clams as they open and place in a dish. Continue until all clams are open and then turn off burner and strain clam liquid through coffee filter to remove sand and debris. When cool, coarsely chop clams to size you prefer.

Heat saute pan and add olive oil. Saute onions and garlic over medium heat until softened, about three minutes. Add wine and cook until liquor burns off, about 4 minutes. Turn burner down to low and add clam broth, lemon juice oregano, parlsey, red pepper flakes, black pepper and butter. Stir until butter melts. Add bread crumbs and chopped clams and heat through. Serve over cooked pasta of your choice. Garnish with fresh parsley and fresh grated Parmesan.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Eggs In Hell

Our chicken ladies are laying a steady four to five eggs a day now so I'm desperately seeking new ways to serve eggs.

Since I had some leftover sauce from the Rigatoni in my last post, I decided to try a recipe that intrigued me as soon as I saw it in the cookbook Osteria by Chicago chef Rick Tramonto. I own an inordinate number of Italian cookbooks but I bought this one because I wanted to eat every single recipe. Not kidding.

Tramanto is the executive chef and partner at the award winning Tru restaurant in Chicago and he also owned Osteria di Tramonto, which sadly is now closed. The recipes in this cookbook come from the osteria and the dishes he loves to make at home.

He describes an osteria as "a tavern or humble restaurant where food is designed to accompany wine." Who wouldn't love that? He goes on to say that osteria cooking is all about using fresh local ingredients of exceptional quality and taking your time when you cook. Yep, that's my kind of cooking.

Eggs in Hell (or uova all'inferno) are basically eggs poached in a spicy pomodoro sauce and then sprinkled with fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

I made these for brunch for my teenage daughter and myself and we both really loved them.

The Recipe

Eggs in Hell
(adapted from Osteria by Rick Tramonto)
serves 2

1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more or less depending on your taste)
2 cups leftover pomodoro sauce
4 large eggs
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil and red pepper until flakes begin to warm through and their aroma blooms. Pour the pomodoro sauce into the pan and stir to create a diavolo sauce.

Heat the sauce over medium high heat until hot and bubbly. Crack the eggs and slide them into the sauce. Cover and simmer on low heat for 7 to 10 minutes or until egg whites are firm and opaque and the yolks are still warm and runny.

Using a large spoon, carefully scoop two eggs and half the sauce into two serving bowls. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.