Archive for Recipes

Spaghetti Squash: A Garden Thug with Tasty Possibilities

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Here it is in the fullness of its growth. It spread from its bed to the right and smothered the asparagus. Vines that went through the fence and got outside were swiftly nipped off by deer or who knows, it might have come in the house!

I like to try a new vegetable every year but I was an innocent when I decided to try out spaghetti squash, having no idea it would be so aggressive.  The squash themselves average about a foot long.  The vines on the other hand easily spread 20 feet.  They are a winter squash type and are ripe when they turn yellow and the skin is no longer tender.  I planted two hills and got about 25 squash.

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The ripe squash

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I get an inescapable mental image when I see them like this and understand if you do too.  Ignore that. To begin, you need to cut them in half and bake them at 400º until you can pierce the skin with a sharp knife.  If you cut them crosswise you get longer strands. I found it easier to take the seeds out before baking them but it can be done afterwards as well.

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Pull at the strands with a fork and separate them as you go along.

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This is the palette from which we can create our dishes.  I tried using it as I would angel hair pasta but I found that it got lost in heavy sauces such as marinara or Bolognese.

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It worked very well in place of pasta sheets for a cheese lasagna.  I layered it about an inch thick and pressed it down gently with a spatula.  (above: lasagna plated, below, lasagna in the pan).

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Here it is with the classic “Aio e Oio.” It makes an excellent side dish, here with maple glazed salmon filet and caramelized Brussels sprouts.

I found it really works well with lighter sauces.  I sauteed it to dry it out some then made the sauce and added the squash, turning it in the sauce until all strands were coated.  Aio e Oio (Roman garlic, olive oil and red hot chili pepper with parsley) is wonderful.  I also tried it with a sauce of olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice and basil and that was terrific as well.  Be sure to salt it as you saute it as it is very bland all by itself.

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Garlic Scape Pesto: “How To” Video

I’ve finally tried it, making a video that is.   Follow this link to view it.  In my maiden voyage I’ve made several “rookie errors,” one of which is forgetting the crucial matter of what kind of cheese to use (Pecorino Romano or Parmesan).  Another thing to remember is that this recipe is flexible, depending on the taste of the cook.  I notice now that I used 1/2 the volume of walnuts in the video, whereas in the link to my earlier post, I used 1/3.  To me this just shows how very flexible it is.  Many who viewed it from my Facebook page asked if I could show it being used, so I thought I’d post it here as well because I have previously done several posts about this terrific vegetable, being used both in its fresh form and as Pesto.  Pasta Primavera , Stir Fry with Chicken and Snow Peas  , and one about Garlic Scape Pesto itself, showing it used with rice and twice baked potatoes.  It’s also great mixed into salad dressing and tossed with pasta.

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Dancing Ladies Makes an Unusual Centerpiece

Here's Dancing Ladies in her place of honor.

Here’s Dancing Ladies in her place of honor.

Usually I have a traditional centerpiece for my Thanksgiving table, a cone of fruit topped by a pineapple (Colonial symbol for hospitality) to be compatible with our old house, but this year time ran out and I found myself out of time and desperate.  One of my orchids, an oncidium called Dancing Ladies was just coming into bloom and was so pretty I just covered her slat basket with decorative paper, tied a ribbon around her and had the solution to my problems.  Everyone seemed to enjoy the change.

My usual "over the top" traditional centerpiece.

My usual “over the top” traditional centerpiece.

I also tried new pies this year, using the recipes from the food section of the New York Times. (Link is to all the Thanksgiving recipes they had, pies being at the end.) I think the pies looked terrific but I like my old recipes better.  I usually make Apple, Pumpkin (really Butternut Squash) and Mince, but when I brought in my green tomatoes and made green tomato mincemeat, it was so delicious that I made Mince Pie right then and we ate it all ourselves.  The Times recipe had a chocolate/pecan pie which I tried instead of Mince.  Others liked it but I found to be too rich.  The Pumpkin/Squash Pie recipe from the Times tasted almost exactly like my regular one and the Apple was delicious but I missed just the plain apple as it added dried cranberries.

Here are my pies, clockwise from top; Apple, Squash and Pecan.  I had fun with the crust.

Here are my pies, clockwise from top; Apple, Squash and Pecan. I had fun with the crust.

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Asparagus: Beginnings and Endings

It’s one of my favorite vegetables with a season that’s all too short.  I always have a dilemma at the beginning and the end of the season; should I save these few spears for a day until I pick some more (losing the fresh from the garden flavor) or can I think of a way to use them right now?  They can always be mixed into a tossed salad but the flavor is diluted with all the other vegetables.  This year I opted to begin the season with a lunch of Asparagus Frittata and to  end the season with a side dish of Asparagus and Sugar Snap Pea Pasta.

Asparagus, Onion and Feta Cheese Frittata

Asparagus, Onion and Feta Cheese Frittata

This so easy, no recipe is required.  The method works for any combination you want to use in your Frittata.  Cut up the vegetables and sauté them in olive oil until just barely tender.  With my asparagus, I just sautéed it until it turned a brighter green although I started the onions first and cooked them through.  Spread the mixture out evenly and spread the cheese over the top.  While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the eggs; two per person and one for the pan, and turn down the heat.  Turn the broiler on to low.  Beat the eggs soundly with a fork and add salt and pepper.  Beat in cold water, about 1 Tbsp. per person ( I just run the bowl under the faucet for a second).  Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables, trying to coat them all.  Poke down any the have no egg, just to give them a little coating, even if they pop up again.  Cook the mixture without stirring just until you see the edges start to solidify, then run the pan under the broiler, keeping careful watch.  It will puff up slightly and brown on top, but still be tender inside.

Pasta with Asparagus and Sugar Snap Peas

Pasta with Asparagus and Sugar Snap Peas

This dish couldn’t be easier.  Boil your pasta of choice until very firm, add the chopped up vegetables and cook until they turn bright green, drain, add  salt and pepper and some butter or olive oil.  Sprinkle with grated parmesan.  Yum!  I’ve occasionally added chopped herbs or pesto (garlic scape pesto works well here) but I like it best with the unenhanced vegetable flavors.  After all this may be the last time I have Asparagus this year…

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Extend the Gardening Season With Row Covers and Layers of Leaves

Here's my Kale, sung as a bug in a rug.

Winter weather is right around the corner but we can still have fresh vegetables with a little advance planning.  If you still have carrots, a thick layer of leaves will keep the earth soft enough to dig them for many weeks to come.  Parsnips shouldn’t be picked until they have been touched by frost.  The frost sweetens them and develops the flavor.  Cover these with leaves too and mark the ends of the rows with stakes so you will know where to dig, if snow covers the ground.  The soil may freeze but there will be days over the winter where it warms up and you can go out and dig enough for a week or two as the carrots and parsnips last well in the refrigerator crisper drawer.  Kale is one vegetable that stands up well to repeated frost.  It eventually succumbs, but that day can be put off with row covers.  I secure the covers to the hoops with clothespins so I can easily pull back the cover to get at the kale.  I have given kale recipes in the posts for December 13th and 17th, 2011 and more complete instructions for parsnips with recipes in the post for February 18th, 2012 (see archives).

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Wring the Most Meals from Your Thanksgiving Turkey Carcass

Here's what's left after picking the meat off the bones:   broth, meaty pieces and bones.

Here’s what’s left after picking the meat off the bones: broth, meaty pieces and bones.

Thanksgiving is long gone of course, but the turkey lasts for many more days.  I love the traditional dinner and always make enough so we can repeat the feast several times before I have to get inventive and make a different meal.  We had turkey with trimmings for four days (when the gravy ran out) and pie for breakfast for another day or two after that.  We had turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce for lunch for five days.  This may sound boring, but we both love real roast turkey (not those packaged, saline infused cold cuts) and making Thanksgiving dinner is enough of a job, I welcome the time off from cooking.

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Turkey “Tetrazzini” with Brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce and carrot slaw

When the easily accessible meat has been used, there are still a few meals left in the carcass.  You only need to break it down to get at those morsels for soups and other dishes.  I have friends who put the carcass out for the crows and vultures, a very worthy action, but I am too much of a parsimonious Yankee to do that.  To break down the carcass, pull off the thigh bones and wings and put them into a large stockpot.  There is a natural joint at the base of the thigh that you can find by probing with a knife point, if it doesn’t come off easily.  (Push in the knife point and wiggle it around cutting the sinews that attach the joint until you can pull it loose.)  The body can be broken into two sections by cutting down through from the base of the ribs to the backbone, and if that isn’t small enough to fit in your stockpot, the carcass can be cut along the backbone, separating the “torso” and the “hips” into four pieces.  When all the pieces are in your stockpot fill to cover the bones with water and simmer it, covered, for about an hour.  Let it cool and separate the meat from the bones.  Set larger pieces of meat aside and save the smaller bits for soups.

When all was done, I had enough broth and turkey left over for four containers of turkey soup.

When all was done, I had enough broth and turkey left over for four containers of turkey soup.

It is amazing how much meat remains.  I had enough for two full meals and five containers of soup.  The first meal I made was Turkey “Tetrazzini,” a simplified version of the famous soprano’s chicken dish.  I sautéed onions, mushrooms and a little garlic together, added some of the reserved broth and some white wine, salt, pepper and herbs.  I reduced this to sauce consistency while boiling up some noodles, then added in some of the larger turkey pieces.  I like to add the noodles to the sauce and cook them together for a minute or two to marry the flavors.  The second meal was Turkey cacciatore style, which means “the way a hunter would make it.”  Presumably a hunter in the woods would be able to gather mushrooms for the sauce which also includes tomatoes, onions and garlic, etc.  I simplified this too, using some of the marinara sauce I canned this summer, adding more broth and reducing it after sauteing the mushrooms.   I added the turkey a couple of minutes before serving it over linguine.

For the soup, I used the remaining broth after straining it to be sure there were no bones.   Instead of thickening it with flour or something similar, I broke up leftover rolls and stuffing and used my hand blender to emulsify the broth after they had a chance to soften.  I then added salt & pepper, carrots, celery, onions, garlic and a parsnip.  For the starch I chose brown rice and I flavored it with herbs; parsley, sage and thyme.   We had it for lunch and I had four containers for the freezer.

Here's the Turkey Cacciatore, ready to serve.

Here’s the Turkey Cacciatore, ready to serve.

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Hen of the Woods: Day One

We brought two “nests” home and my husband cleaned them up.  I sauteed the fronds, half in butter and half in olive oil, and put these on cookie sheets to freeze for later use, reserving some for dinner tonight.  We still had the stalks which I sliced thinly and sauteed in butter to use for our lunch; Hen of the Woods sandwiches.

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These two nests differ in color but both are fine to eat. Hen of the Woods costs about $30.00 a pound in the store, if you can find it.

I put just a dash of sherry in the pan to deglaze it and wiped up the juices with the slices of bread to go on the bottom.  If you look at the bread carefully, you may note little pale spheres.  This is a legacy from our dear departed Rocky (see previous post from 9/18/12).

Slice the tough stalks and saute them in butter for a sandwich

Slice the tough stalks and saute them in butter for a sandwich

The sauteed stems make a terrific sandwich.

The sauteed stems make a terrific sandwich.

When he died I had just purchased two pounds of millet from the health food store for him.  I have been throwing a cup into my bread dough when I bake a batch of bread and we find we like it.  It adds a nutty crunch and livens it up.  Rocky was right to love millet.

Spread the almost completely cooked fronds out on cookie sheets, freeze them and pack in plastic bags.  When you need them you can just scoop out a handful.

Spread the almost completely cooked fronds out on cookie sheets, freeze them and pack in plastic bags. When you need them you can just scoop out a handful.

I used the rest of the reserved Hen of the Woods for wild mushroom risotto, making a whole recipe (way too much for us).  I added an egg to the leftovers and made it into patties for a quick “starch unit” to have on hand when we’re in a hurry.  For more info on this, see my post on 4/9/12.

Hen of the Woods Risotto.

Hen of the Woods Risotto.

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