Category Archives: squash

Pumpkin cake

I know what you’re thinking. Pumpkin cake? In spring? Yes, it’s a somewhat odd choice, especially given the 30 degree (Celsius) weather we had this weekend.  For some reason, I woke up Saturday, inhaled the slightly humid New Haven air, and thought squash in dessert form would be a good idea.

Please, someone, I need an intervention.

Ok, so there’s a back story to this. I love pumpkin. We have a party planned for October. And this? it’s the start of our attempt to sort of feel out the menu.  And for your purposes, this is actually quite adaptable.  Swap pumpkin for grated carrot or zucchini, and I think you’ll end up with a semi-healthy and delicious dessert.  Turn it into cupcakes, each with a frosty peak.

Or just do what I really wanted to do and forget healthy: just make the cream cheese frosting.

You will notice we didn’t frost the outside of the cake. We couldn’t have — there wasn’t enough of it left.

Recipe after the jump.

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Filed under baking, dessert, eggs, frosting, ginger, pumpkin, squash, vegetarian

A first attempt at Ethiopian food

As much as I dread winter, I tend to do my best cooking then, when the warmth of the oven is welcoming, and work keeps my fingers warm and occupied in the long months before spring arrives and frees me from the cold.  When a snowstorm hits, and all the town is back from scavenging like madmen for food to sustain them through the long hours before the streets are cleared, I tend to choose something warm and spicy and new to spend an afternoon making.  On such days, I don’t mind grinding a thousand spices by hand, or trying out something that just might work, if only I give it a try.

These afternoons are more fun when I don’t have everything I think I need.  When I’m missing a few ingredients, I’m forced to improvise, to think about what each ingredient does to the dish, and to figure out how to achieve the same effect with what I have at hand.  I get to have taste tests, and run around the kitchen, searching for some forgotten spice or obscure ingredient that all of a sudden seems essential to the finished dish.  These eureka moments are quick and satisfying, unlike science, and that, perhaps, is why such experiments are so frequent in our household.  James and I both come home after a long struggle with some obscure problem or another, and create new ones: ones we can discard or change as we see fit, with only the judgement of our tastebuds to concern ourselves with.

This meal is the outcome of one such experiment, and was my first attempt at cooking Ethiopian food at home.  An impending snowstorm cut my shopping trip short, so I made do with the ingredients I had at hand, and was mostly happy with the results.  My mock injera was a semi-disaster (though edible enough), so I won’t share the recipe here, but the chicken stew (doro wett) was spicy and complex, without being overwhelming, and the cabbage dish was sweet and subtle.  The pair complemented each other surprisingly well, balancing sweet and spicy, rich and wholesome.  Both are worth trying out, especially if you’re craving hearty winter fare like I am.  And yes, you can skip the berbere. It won’t be quite the same, but I think the stew and cabbage will be satisfying nonetheless.

Recipes after the jump.

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Filed under cabbage, chicken, chili, comfort, Ethiopian, lentils, main, onions, soup, squash, stew, Uncategorized

Get your greens

Pumpkin saag paneer

Pumpkin saag paneer

I’m never a one-dish girl. Even at my favorite restaurants, I can’t pick up a menu and order something that I’ve had before. God forbid I miss their best dish, even if I know I had it two weeks ago, and there’s no way in hell I’ll ever come close with anything else.  Call it a handicap of mine.

With one exception, that is.  I cannot stop ordering saag paneer.

Spinach!

Spinach!

It’s as if I’m channeling some inner Popeye the second I step into an Indian restaurant. Seriously, it’s a problem, because frankly, I’m a little ashamed of myself.  Until now, that is.

Squash.

Squash.

I’ve tried to make saag paneer at home before, to no avail. The cream and ghee they use in copious quantities in restaurant cooking doesn’t really make it into most cookbooks, because seriously, do you really want to know what you’re eating?  It’s never tasted quite as good. But this recipe, which I adapted from Veganomicon, is genius.  That creamy consistency? They achieve it with squash.

Paneer

Paneer

Kind of surprising, right?  It makes total sense if you think about it, though.  There is a reason butternut squash soup is kind of creamy, even without any cream.  If you’re not easily convinced, you must go cook this now. Seriously — I really think you’ll thank me.  My version is not vegan, because James really wanted to make cheese, and I kind of like paneer, but I think it would have actually been better without it. (James, by the way, agrees. And he had seconds — for a dish with no meat! If that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will).

This is a great start to the “eat less meat” challenge I unofficially took on a little while ago.  (It’s been going well — more on that later).

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Filed under cheese, main, spinach, squash, vegetarian

More reasons to start a garden

Food porn opportunities are everywhere

Food porn opportunities are everywhere

Check out the gorgeous beans, tomatoes, and squash. Oh, the squash … We made some tonight, and it’s the best I’ve ever tasted. Not grainy, like you get sometimes with acorn or kabocha squash that’s been sitting in your grocery store for something like an eternity, but smooth and supple, with a sweetness that makes dessert entirely unnecessary. Oh, and the flowering thai basil just makes me excited. But yah, that’s enough fawning over produce for one night.  I’ve got places to be. Tomorrow morning, in fact. I’m off to California, to visit a friend, say hello to some family, and go to a conference. And I have serious food plans. A tasting menu at Melisse in LA, lunch at Zuni Cafe in San Francisco, and more excursions to the Cheese Board in Berkeley, because why wouldn’t I go if the conference is in Oakland? I want more bread …. Oh, and sourdough is calling my name.

squash warts

squash warts

But that’s tomorrow. For now, I want to leave you with one bizarre and sort of cool observation: those funny bumps you see sometimes on squash? That’s where it rests on the ground. It makes its own pillow!  And two, you can make an awesome meal from a random assortment of veggies, a few spices, tortillas, and cheese.  If the veggies are good, you really don’t even need the cheese.

Funky delicious potato

Funky delicious potato

So, I want to give you some ideas for an easy vegetarian meal. This isn’t really a recipe — just the best easy meal you could have on a Friday night.  You can use any veggies that take your fancy, as long as they’ll roast well.

My meal

My meal

We started with the garden produce we had on hand — a squash, bush beans, and a few peppers. We added in one very funky looking (but delicious) farmer’s market potato, and some cauliflower, button mushrooms, a bit of garlic (unpeeled), and rainbow carrots from the store.  We cut the squash into quarters, after scooping out the seeds, cut all the remaining veggies into similarly sized chunks, and pre-heated the oven to 425 degrees F.  After tossing everything except the potatoes in olive oil, salt, pepper, a tablespoon of freshly ground coriander seed, and a smaller portion of ground cumin (maybe < 1 t.), we placed everything in baking tins and threw it in the oven. For the potatoes, we tossed them in salt, pepper, olive oil, and spanish paprika. When everything was fork tender (maybe 1 hour later — this is a 1 dish go-about-your-business sort of dinner), we heated up a bit of cheddar cheese on some store-bought tortillas (habanero lime, from Trader Joe’s), and made our own fajitas.

The boys dinner

The boy's dinner

We both had the squash on the side, because it was easier. I didn’t feel like peeling it. But you could cut it up and roast it, too, or fork bits of it into your tortilla. You could use butternut squash, or acorn squash as a substitute, and it’d work perfectly.

This was a great first vegetarian night. We both got exactly what we wanted in a meal, no meat required. Really, even the cheese wasn’t that necessary — the veggies were tasty enough.  And I am definitely going to be excited about setting up a garden again next spring. Bring on the seed catalogs!

I’m not done yet …

James suggested I tell you what we grew this year, so here’s a list, with a few comments:

  • Pink brandywines – awesome heirloom tomatoes, and much cheaper to grow than to buy. They’re a bit finicky if you live in a rainy environment, but how indulgent is brandywine tomato sauce? You will be making a lot of it from the tomatoes bugs started tasting first.
  • Sungold tomatoes – these are orange cherry tomatoes. They’re a hybrid, a heavy producer, and are DELICIOUS.  Slow roast them and savor them in everything.
  • Yellow pear tomatoes – these are cute but not as tasty as sungolds, and definitely not as disease resistant. We won’t be growing these again next year.
  • Yellow and purple bush beans, haricots verts. The yellow and purple bush beans are my favorite. They seem to achieve a nicer texture when cooked, and have a nice flavor. The haricots verts really didn’t produce much at all.
  • Swiss chard – Awesome. They’re gorgeous, and they keep throwing up stalks when you cut some off for dinner. They weren’t terribly prolific in our garden, but we had enough to feed us with greens all summer.
  • Sweet nantes carrots – Also awesome. These are small, and really need to be grown in potting soil, because CT has rocks everywhere. They’re sweet and flavorful, and have a cute wrinkly witch finger look about them.
  • Arugula – Yum, but eat it before it gets warm and starts flowering. It gets bitter once it gets leggy.
  • Thai and genovese basil. Both varieties did really well as companion plants for the tomatoes, and gave us some tasty meals. The thai basil is gorgeous — it has lovely purple flowers, and a slightly exotic taste (gee, you think?). It’s also hardier than the typical genovese, but is a bit too strong for pesto.
  • A fingerling potato from the Union Square market – Complete failure. It seemed like it was going to work, but it died off, and then there was nothing left in the soil!
  • Sage, marjoram, oregano, cilantro, rosemary. All good herbs to have. We kept these in pots, since they can be brought inside when it starts to get cold.
  • Pea shoots. You can eat these, and they’re easy. They also like cold weather. They’re so cute — they have curly tendrils!
  • Onions, shallots. These hated our rocky soil. I did get the onions to grow a bit, and pickled them when they were still pretty small. Yum.
  • Kale – these are just tiny shoots right now, because we just planted them. They look happy, and are a cold weather crop, so I can’t wait to see how they do.
  • Peppers — I bought a 5 variety mix, and I think we had three different types pop up. I have no idea what kind — some kind of bell pepper, some longer, low-heat pepper, and I think some jalapeños. Yum.

Ok, that’s all I can remember so far. My flight leaves early, so I’m off to sleep. I’ll be back before Halloween, with an awesome lime cookie recipe, and some reports on Zuni Cafe and Melisse. See you then!

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Filed under carrots, cheese, gardening, garlic, local, main, potatoes, roasted vegetables, San Francisco, squash, stories, travel, vegetarian