October 21st, 2013

Sage Praise

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Dear Friends,

Almost an entire month has past since I last visited with you here at Good Food Matters, but be assured that I’ve been busy-busy, hands-on: making good—and beautiful—-food for the cookbook. In addition to the book cover shoot, we’ve had 4 separate photo sessions, working to capture the bounty of produce in this transitional season and the waning light. We’ve garnered over 60 stunning images that I can’t wait to share with you. And the dishes! Passion fruit Pavlova, German-style Pretzels with stout mustard, figs in syrup, figs on flatbread, Cornbread Panzanella, gazpacho with spiced grilled shrimp, ricotta gnocchi with arugula-three herb pesto, lofty strawberry sponge cake…

Patience, patience. It shall happen, in due time.

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Meanwhile, what has transpired since I’ve been relegated to the kitchen and studio? I look up from my work and see that fall is upon us. The weather has shifted mightily. Days move apace, with dry, crisp chill in the air. Tomatoes have just about played out in our gardens, and the basil plants are looking rather ragged. No matter. Now the markets brim with all manner of greens, hardy squashes, leeks, onions, and peppers. Now I am ready to prepare dishes using them, aren’t you?

And now, I like to cook with sage.

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I should use it in my cooking all year long–but for whatever reason, the grey-green leaf with its musty, woodsy taste, (I think of a forest floor, slightly damp) its paradoxical tough-velvet touch, finds its way into my fall and winter recipes: Larded with garlic into juicy pork roast, scenting cornbread stuffing for turkey, sizzled in brown butter sauce napped over pumpkin ravioli.

There’s nothing faint about my praise for the herb and today’s recipe uses it with vigor. Chicken breasts cut and pounded into thin scallops pick up the sage leaves first in the dredging. (For a great description of how to easily pound the cutlets, check this on Cooking Light’s website.)

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I saute the chicken in a meld of butter and olive oil–the best of both!—which gives the coating a golden burnish, as delectable brown bits form in the pan. To this, I add minced garlic and More sage, before I scrape and swirl in the white wine and light cream. The sage is distinct, assertive–for me, pleasingly so. If that concerns you, don’t let it. The wine-cream reduction muffles it, blanketing the chicken.

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Serve it with this orzo dish, which is more vegetable than it is pasta. Poblanos, leeks, and butternut squash make a harmony of fall colors, roasted to smoky sweetness. I think you’ll enjoy the undercurrent of mild heat imparted by the peppers.

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CHICKEN SCALLOPINE WITH SAGE CREAM SAUCE
2 pounds boneless chicken breasts, cut into thin pieces and pounded
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
12 sage leaves, finely chopped
3 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup white wine
3/4 cup half-and-half

Slice through the length of each chicken breast into halves or thirds. Using wax paper or plastic wrap, pound them to an even thinness, using a mallet or small skillet.
Mix the flour, salt, pepper, and finely chopped sage together.
Place a large skillet on medium heat. Melt the butter and olive oil together.
Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture; dust off the excess, and place into the hot skillet. Brown the chicken, sauteing the pieces for 3-4 minutes on one side, before flipping. Remove the pieces from the skillet as they are finished, placing them into a baking dish. Keep them warm.
After you have browned and removed all the chicken, add the garlic and sage to the skillet. Saute for a minute, then pour in the white wine. Let it bubble and reduce by half as you stir it in the skillet, scraping up the browned bits. Reduce the heat to low and pour in the half-and-half. Stir well. The sauce should thicken nicely. Taste for seasonings. Pour hot sauce over warm chicken scallopine and serve.

Makes 6-8 servings

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ORZO WITH ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH, LEEKS, AND POBLANOS
1 large butternut squash, peeled, deseeded, and cut into bite-sized cubes
2 large leeks, carefully washed, dried and chopped (discard tough dark green leaves)
2 poblano peppers, seeded and chopped
3+tablespoons olive oil
salt
black pepper
1/2 pound orzo

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Place the butternut squash cubes onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and black pepper, and toss well to coat all the pieces.
Place chopped leeks and poblanos onto a separate baking sheet. Drizzle with oil, season with salt and black pepper, and toss well to coat the vegetables.
Place both baking sheets into the oven. Roast the butternuts for 15-18 minutes, roast the leeks and poblanos for 12-15 minutes. Rotate the pans about halfway through the cooking time.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil on medium high heat. Add the orzo and cook according to package directions (about 9-10 minutes.)
Drain the orzo and return it to the pot.
Remove the roasted vegetables from the oven. Scrape the butternuts in their roasting oil, and the poblano-leeks in their oil into the pot with the orzo. Toss the mixture well.

Makes 6-8 servings

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Here’s a glimpse!

Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook cover

Posted in Meats/Poultry, Pastas, Recipes | 18 Comments »




October 12th, 2011

Butternut Squash-Heirloom Bean Chili, olive oil cornbread

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How strange to think of giving up all ambition!
Suddenly, I see with such clear eyes
The white flake of snow
That has fallen in the horse’s mane.

I found this Robert Bly poem, “Watering the Horse” tucked in the back of a mottled recipe notebook, long untouched. It was on a sheet of mimeographed paper, that odd purplish ink, the public school printing method of long ago.

I still love this poem today, perhaps more than when I was a teen–the notion of ambition having altered with experience. At the other end of child-rearing and career building, I call it into question: what I embrace; what I give up; what has meaning.

And then I cook.

One clear ambition, I tell myself, is that each autumn, I seek out alternative ways to prepare butternut squash.

You may recall, in seasons past, that we’ve cooked up Butternut Lasagna layered with leek bechamel, swiss chard-butternut gratin, flan-like timbales with walnut pesto, and savory bread pudding , served with vegetable veloute, perfect for the holiday dinner table.

Each recipe, a tasty vehicle for this versatile gourd.

Now, that ambition could run wild: this being the first year that I tried my hand at growing our favored winter squash—and harvested a healthy basketful.

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All sizes and shapes!

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This morning, a cushy blanket of fog cloaked our neighborhood. Emerging colors of yellow, gold and burgundy fairly glowed as the fog gave way to an overcast day. I love how brilliant colors come forward in that kind of dull, diffuse light.

The air was cool, too. Chili weather! And then, it occurred to me that the meaty nature of the orange-hued squash would work well in a vegetarian chili.

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I decided to give it a go. With Rancho Gordo beans in my pantry, assorted peppers: poblano, banana, jalapenos along with a few stray tomatoes from the garden, garlic, onions, and spices, I had the foundation for a hearty batch.

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While the beans began their long simmer, I roasted the diced butternut pieces along with the poblanos. I let them get a little caramel crust, and set them aside to cool. Not wanting the squash to break down in the chili, I would add the chunks towards the end of the cooking cycle, to meld with the “pot liquor” the sauce made by the beans as they cook. I turned my attention to bread–cornbread.

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My go-to recipe uses 12 tablespoons of melted butter–an ingredient I lacked. My friend Maggie has a skillet cornbread recipe that uses canola oil–another ingredient missing at the moment in my pantry. What if I made the cornbread with olive oil?

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What if, indeed!

I hand whisked the batter. It came together quickly-easily, and went into the cast iron skillet, into the oven.

It baked into a firm but tender crumb, the olive oil imparting depth, an Old World sense to a New World dish.

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I know I’ve mentioned this before, but the Rancho Gordo Beans (used in this recipe: “Good Mother Stallards” but other beans would also be delicious) are remarkable for their richness. Meaty beans make mighty good chili.

The butternuts proved their mettle in the mix, too. Slightly sweet, they latched on to the layers of peppery heat. A little allspice and cumin, perfect with this squash, added intrigue. It’s a worthy veggie chili, complex with minimal ingredients, hearty, full-bodied, aand satisfying on a gray autumn day.

And, not at all ambitious to make.

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BUTTERNUT SQUASH-HEIRLOOM BEAN CHILI
3 cups chopped (large dice) Butternut Squash (I used 2 small butternuts for this)
1 large or 2 medium Poblano Peppers
Olive Oil
1 heaping cup of dry Beans ( I used Rancho Gordo’s Good Mother Stallards. But, use a good bean of your choice. This recipe would work with black beans, too.)
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 medium Onion, chopped
2 Banana Peppers, chopped
1 Jalapeno, sliced thin
Salt
Black Pepper
2 t. Allspice
1 t. Cumin

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Spread diced butternut squash and halved poblano peppers on a baking sheet pan. Coat with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for about 20 minutes. The squash will roast and caramelize. Pepper skins will blister—peel, chop and set aside separately.

In a large saucepan on medium heat, saute diced onion, banana peppers, and garlic in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and cook until onion is translucent. Add dry beans, and stir until they are coated with the olive oil-onion mix. Pour in water, covering the beans by at least 2 inches. Add roasted poblano pieces.

Simmer until beans are tender ( at least 2 hours), adding more liquid as necessary. When the beans are “soupy” and yield tender flesh, add the roasted butternut. Season with allspice and cumin. Taste for salt, and spicy heat.

Serve alone, or over rice. Dollop with sour cream, garnish with green onion, if you like. Enjoy with cornbread.

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OLIVE OIL CORNBREAD

1 1/2 cups Cornmeal
1 cup All Purpose Flour
1 T. Sugar
1 T. Baking Powder
1/2 t. Salt
2 Eggs
12 T. Olive Oil
1 1/2 cups Milk
1 cup corn kernels (optional)
1/2 cup shredded white cheddar (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Sift the dry ingredients together. Beat the eggs, oil, and milk together lightly, then beat into the bowl of dry ingredients. Fold in corn kernels, shredded white cheddar.
Pour into an oiled cast-iron skillet (or bread pan.)

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Test for doneness. Cool slightly, cut into wedges and serve right out of the skillet.

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Posted in Gluten Free, Recipes, Rice/Other Grains/Legumes, Soups/Stews, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes | 30 Comments »




November 23rd, 2010

Butternut Squash Bread Pudding with vegetable veloute

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Before I finish packing up our car with Thanksgiving goodies and go careening full tilt to my daughter and son-in-law’s for the holiday, I wanted to check in with you all, say hey, and share a recipe.

It had been on my mind for a while to experiment with the versatile butternut squash, mix it up with some leftover cubed bread I’ve been saving,
add leeks, sage, butter, eggs, and
voila!
turn it into a kind of savory bread pudding.

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I made this one up, with success, for our community potluck last Thursday.
And, while it emerged a bit denser in texture that I had envisioned, (more liquid and eggs, less bread for that!) it made a hearty and delicious vegetarian main dish casserole: one that you’d enjoy eating with a mixed green salad, or side of sauteed kale.

But I realized that this also would find favor—with vegetarians and turkey-eaters alike–on the holiday dinner table.

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The casserole imparts many of the aromas I associate with Thanksgiving: fresh sage, browned butter, earthy-sweet butternut, caramel notes from the onion family. Place a slice of roast turkey and gravy over a square of this bread pudding, and you’ve got one special serving of turkey and dressing! Equally delectable would be succulent pork roast and its rosemary and garlic enriched juices.

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And, for those of us who don’t partake of the noble bird (or beast!), I want to offer a vegetarian based “gravy”–a little something warm and saucy to pour over the bread pudding. Enter the Vegetable Veloute’: it’s a simple mirepoix cooked with vegetable stock, seasoned with fresh herbs, thickened with roux. Add some white wine to it, if you like, for added complexity. Everybody deserves dressing and gravy!

So, friends, that’s the word from this kitchen, for now. I just finished making garlic-sage butter for seasoning the turkey (a generous rub beneath the skin helps insure a juicy bird.) I’ve got a pumpkin and chocolate pie to get out of the oven. Then, back to packing— soon we’ll be DC bound!

To all of you, whether you are celebrating Thanksgiving or not, I wish you safe travels, cooperative ovens, and good times with friends and family at the table. May every day be an expression of gratitude.

See you next week!

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BUTTERNUT SQUASH BREAD PUDDING
6 cups diced, roasted Butternut Squash (2-3 butternuts, depending on size)
6 cups cubed Bread–from sturdy loaves, like baguettes, farmbreads, soudough
2-3 Leeks, washed, sliced, using white and some of the green
2T. Butter
6 large Eggs
2 cups Half-and Half
1 cup Milk
3 T. fresh Sage leaves
Salt and Black Pepper
1 c. shredded Pecorino Romano

Saute leeks in butter until soft, and toss with roasted squash pieces in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk eggs with half-and-half, milk, 2 T. chopped sage leaves, salt and pepper. Pour over squash and leeks.

Add cubed bread, and toss until everything is well-coated.

Spoon into a greased 9×13 casserole dish and top with shredded romano.
Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes—until puffed but firm, and nicely browned.

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VEGETABLE VELOUTE
2 T. Butter
1 medium Onion,small dice
2-3 Carrots, finely chopped
2 stalks Celery, finely chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced
2 T. all purpose Flour
3 Cups Vegetable Stock
2 T. chopped fresh flat-leaf Parsley
salt, black pepper, white pepper

Melt butter on medium heat in a 2 qt. saucepan. Saute vegetables togerher unto softened, slightly browned. Stir in flour and cook it into the vegetable-butter mix. When no traces of white from the flour remain, add the stock, while stirring. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens. Add parsley, or other fresh herbs (thyme, or sage would be nice) and taste for seasoning. Add salt, black pepper, pinch of white pepper. The sauce will get a a glazy look when the flour is cooked into it, and thickens.

Serve on the side, like a gravy.

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Posted in Casseroles, Recipes, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes | 21 Comments »




December 1st, 2009

Swiss Chard-Butternut Squash Gratin

plate of t-day food

Like many families, we have a number of “must-have” dishes at our holiday gathering—Thanksgiving being a time for traditions. There would be outcry if sage roasted turkey, cornbread dressing, cranberry-walnut relish, and sweet garlic smashed potatoes didn’t make their annual appearance on the table.

But I’ve come to realize that it’s good, here and there, to break from tradition, enliven the usual players, or introduce something different to the menu.

Three years ago we spent our most exotic Thanksgiving in the lakeside town of Bahar Dar, Ethiopia. On that sunny Thursday, Bill and I met up with daughter Madeleine at her work, and took a long walk to an old resort hotel on Lake Tana. There, we dined outdoors in a tropical-like setting: flora in full bloom, trees full of brilliantly colored birds, some clustered with sleeping bats.

For the area, it was a lovely, yet pricey hotel, frequented mainly by Europeans, and offered unremarkable food. Bill had eggs and dabo–a crusty yeasted bread. Madeleine, the more seasoned diner of our troupe, piled her plate from the buffet with lamb tibs, lentils, and a beefy wat. I had been battling a “stomach thing” and recall having penne with tomato sauce, injera with cooked greens and carrots, some sort of melon.

As it resembled Nothing of the big T-Day of our heritage, the three of us laughed and called it the “Anti-Thanksgiving.” Nevertheless, there we were, together, and happy.

Since that extreme Thanksgiving, I have become mindful of the significance of family traditions—and how sometimes it’s worthwhile to bust them up a bit.

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This year, along with the traditional faves, I added a couple of new things. A Pumpkin Cheesecake with gingersnap-pecan crust and cultured whipped cream. (post on this very soon!)

And this chard-butternut squash gratin, which was especially relished.

I was inspired by a Smitten Kitchen post that similarly paired sweet potatoes and chard in a gratin. Recognizing that while oh-so-different, there’s a great interchangeability of sweet potatoes and winter squashes in recipes. I chose to use my butternuts in the casserole.

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The colors from the ruby chard and roasted squash were vibrant.
The green onion bechamel richly brought the chard heat and butternut sweet together.

Overall Delectable–worthy of repeating—holidays and any days.

And, tricky. My mom thought that the cheesy spinach-potato casserole was awesome. And so different! I kept mum. My dad wouldn’t have touched the dish had he known that it contained no cheese, spinach, or potatoes.

Here’s to traditions: the cherished knowns, and those in the making.
Mostly, here’s to being together.

Swiss Chard-Butternut Squash Gratin

2 medium Butternuts, peeled, sliced thin
Olive Oil
1 bunch Swiss Chard, washed, stemmed. Chop stems, and
Coarsely chop leaves. As cooking times vary, these will be cooked separately
3 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 cup White Wine
1/2 cup Vegetable Stock
Salt
Red Pepper Flakes (used in pinches–you decide how hot!)

roasting butternut slices

Lightly oil and roast the slices in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, sauté the chopped chard stems in olive oil on medium heat in a deep skillet or saucepan for 7 minutes. (I used my now-beloved Fig LeCreuset! What ever did I do without it?)
Add minced garlic, and sprinkle with sea salt and red pepper flakes.
Add chopped chard leaves.
Stir well, then pour in white wine and vegetable stock.
Continue cooking for another 5 minutes, folding the leaves throughout the mix.
When the leaves are “cooked down” and tender, remove from heat.

sauteeing chard stems

Make bechamel sauce. Then, follow directions for the gratin assembly.

Green Onion-Chive Bechamel
2 Tablespoons Butter
4 Green Onions (scallions) chopped
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh Chives
2 heaping Tablespoons all purpose Flour
2 cups lowfat Milk
salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan on medium heat, sauté green onions in butter until softened, about three minutes. Add chives, then rapidly stir in flour, allowing it to slightly cook and coat the onions. Pour in the milk, stirring constantly. Gradually the flour-cooked onions will incorporate smoothly into the milk, and the sauce with form. Simmer as it thickens, and season to taste with salt and black pepper.

saucing the gratin

Assembly
Layer the bottom of your casserole dish with bechamel.
Cover with a layer of roasted butternut squash rounds.
Then, add a layer of sauteed chard.
Top with bechamel.
Repeat–squash, chard, and top finish of bechamel.

Note: this can be made ahead and refrigerated at this point.

Bake uncovered in 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, slightly longer, if it’s coming out of refrigeration–until sauce is bubbly and brown-edged.

Serves 10-12.

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Madeleine, Bill, and I at Tis Abay, where the Blue Nile, after exiting Lake Tana, plunges over a 45 meter rock gorge.

Posted in Recipes, Vegetables | 7 Comments »