Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘cheese’

Winter Squash x 4

Marina di Chiogga Squash

A friend gave me this beautiful squash last November. It started out entirely grayish green but over time took on rusty-orange stripes. I finally cut into it last week.

One quarter of it turned into the squash panade I mentioned in last week’s post (recipe below). I roasted the remaining three-quarters all together the next day. I cut the second quarter into chunks and dressed them with lots of parsley, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil as part of my husband’s lunch. Two days later, I sautéed some onions with a bit of bacon, tossed in a bag of frozen peas and then the diced, third quarter of the roasted squash. I mixed all of this with cooked quinoa and a dressing of olive oil, soy sauce and lemon juice. Sounds a bit odd but was actually quite addictive and good. And finally, tonight, six days later, I used the last quarter to make squash corn cakes inspired by a post by Jim Dixon of Real Good Food on Facebook and added the very last, half-a-cup or so, to a raw kale and arugula salad.

It’s getting toward the end of winter squash season but every one of these dishes filled a need and was happily consumed. Not only did the winter squash keep beautifully for several months in my kitchen, it kept in the fridge, roasted for almost a week with no sign of demise.

The panade is probably my favorite of the bunch and has been a winner in my classes too. It’s one of those things with which I have no restraint, eating far more than is reasonable. . .. So if you still have a squash lying around give it a try. Or saute some kale or other hearty greens and substitute that for the squash in the panade–also delicious.

Gooey, crispy, warm and comforting--the finished panade!

Onion and Winter Squash Panade

–adapted from Stonesoup.com which was inspired by Judy Rodgers and the Zuni Cafe cookbook

This is a brilliant way to use up stale bread, but fresh can be used as well. Just make sure it’s a hearty rustic loaf with a good crumb and crust. I used an aged cheddar as my cheese.

2-3 large yellow onions (2 lbs)

1/2 bunch thyme, leaves picked (can omit in a pinch)

½ a small/medium butternut squash (or other winter squash), peeled and cut into ¾-inch dice for about 3 -4 cups

1/2 medium loaf rustic bread (1/2 lb), torn in to chunks

150g (5oz) cheese (sharp cheddar, gruyere, aged-assiago; parmesan, etc.)

3 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock (I use homemade veggie bouillon)

Preheat oven to 400F

Cut onion in half lengthwise. Peel, then slice into half moons about 5mm (1/4in) thick.  Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan. Cook onion stirring occasionally until soft and golden brown. No need to caramelize. Stir in the thyme.

In a medium heatproof dish layer about a third of the onions. Sprinkle over some of the bread and cheese and squash. Repeat until all the ingredients have been used. You want to be able to see a little of each on the top. Bring stock to a simmer. Pour over the onion dish. Season.

Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake for another 20 – 30 minutes or until the top is golden and crunchy and the stock has been absorbed by the bread. Run under the broiler for a few minutes if it’s not crispy enough.

Much of the flavor in this dish comes from the onions.

Ready for baking.

On a different note, there’s a fun piece about my classes, specifically my Eat Better Series, and one of my students in today’s Oregonian. I’ve scheduled the series again in early April so sign up right away if you’re interested.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

Crepes

There's hope!

This photo has little to do with today’s post but I did want to share it to give hope to my fellow Portland-area gardeners. My tomatoes are really ripening and delicious!

So, I eat too quickly. I have ever since I can remember. I’m not sure whether it’s because I grew up in a large family and there was always a rush to get seconds before it was all gone or not. As you well know my mother is a good cook which meant we–us children, my father and whatever exchange student or visitor was at the table–always wanted more. I’d like to think I’ve slowed down a little bit over the years but it is something I really have to work on. I don’t like inhaling my dinner yet I often do, lately maybe even more now having a young child since meals aren’t quite as peaceful as they once were.

As involved as I am in Slow Food (even though we are NOT about cooking or eating slowly!) you’d think I’d ease up a bit and appreciate and savor meals more. The other problem with dinner is that by the time we sit down to eat, I’m already half full. I taste the food I make as I prepare it and I emphasize this almost more than anything else in the classes I teach. So with all that tasting and with my usually being really hungry by the time I’m putting dinner together, I taste a little more generously than I would need to.  Now it might follow that since I’m half-full already I would really not need to eat quickly when we actually sit down, but alas, this is not a rational issue. It’s funny how irrational I (we all?) can be about our food preferences, habits, quirks. . .. A topic maybe for another post.

Crepes sprinkled with cheese and a little cream about to go in the oven

In any case, a dinner I made last week inspired this confession. It was one of those truly last-minute what-do-I make-for-dinner? evenings. I looked around the fridge and the garden and came up with crepes filled with a mix of lots of onions, a few diced tomatoes and generous sprinkling of thyme that I stewed together for about 15 minutes. I didn’t taste the filling very often but the crepes were the problem. You know the first crepe always falls apart and another was just too thin to hold up, so hungry as I was at 6pm, I ate both of those mishaps flavored with the tomato bits clinging to the side of the stewed veggie pan.

I filled the rest of the crepes with the onions and tomatoes, sprinkled each with a bit of Asiago Stella (my regular aged, grating cheese I use instead of Parmesan–much cheaper and very tasty and similar enough to fool some folks–and available at Pastaworks and City Market). I packed them in a casserole dish, sprinkled the whole thing with more cheese and drizzled on about 3 tablespoons of heavy cream and baked the whole thing for about 20 minutes until heated through and the cheese was melted and bubbling. It was a really good dinner! Despite all my snacking I managed to enjoy it and the green salad we had on the side very  much and may even repeat it.

That’s the funny thing about this cook-with-what-you-have method. I find myself inventing things that sometimes turn out really well but then I rarely repeat them. The blog is a good tool for cataloging these though and in choosing to share it with you all I will also remind  myself to repeat and adapt this as the months go by. I’m thinking that they would be equally good with a mix of winter squash and leeks (one of my favorite fall/winter veggies combos); or caramelized onions and sausage; or sweet versions with stewed apples and/or plums with a bit of ginger and cinnamon. . . .you get the drift.  Oh and I did make enough crepe batter so that we had the leftover crepes for breakfast with greek yogurt and strawberry jam. So I got two meals in one this time.

I don’t think you need a recipe for the filling, just remember to taste for salt add more herbs or a little lemon juice or balsamic vinegar if it’s bland. But here’s my crepe recipe. This will make about 15-18, 8-9 inch crepes.

Crepes

4 eggs

3 cups whole milk (2% works in a pinch)

1 1/3 – 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

5 tablespoons melted butter

pinch of salt

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend for about 15 seconds, scrape down the sides of the blender and blend again briefly until smooth. Let sit on the counter for half an hour (or in the fridge for longer and up to a day or so) if you have the time, otherwise, start cooking. I use a non-stick crepe pan but a well seasoned cast iron pan works well and you get more of a fore-arm workout:) like my mother! For the first crepe I add a little bit of oil or butter but after that it never needs any (especially with the non-stick) since it has butter in the batter. Ladle in about 1/3 cup of batter and lift the pan off the heat and rotate and jiggle the pan until the batter more-or-less evenly coats the surface. Cook briefly on both sides until golden around the edge and in spots. Stack them on a plate (and don’t bother separating them with wax paper or some such if you’re not going to use them immediately). I’ve never had a problem getting them apart again.

Fill the crepes, sprinkle with cheese and drizzle with cream and bake at 400 degrees, if you’re in a hurry as I usually am, for about 20 minutes or until bubbly and heated through.

Happy cooking and (slow) eating!

P.S. I may not blog for the next 10 days or so but will resurface after my brother’s wedding. I did just buy 7-dozen eggs, that’s 84 eggs, which will be turned into deviled eggs next week. Photos will be taken and posted . . . .

Summer at the Beach and a new Technique

Try as I might, I did not manage to write a post last week. We had our annual family beach week and though I took my laptop, not much work transpired. But I did cook and bake–cherry pie, soba noodles with a cilantro and ginger dressing, pancakes with raspberry syrup . . . and these fabulous scalloped potatoes!

Scalloped potatoes are kind of an old-school dish I think. My grandmother made them all the time (she topped hers with a layer of little pork, breakfast sausages:) and I grew up making them-sans sausages-with my mother. In fact they were one of the first dishes I made for my family for dinner all by myself when I was about 10. I remember it distinctly because I was in a bit of a black pepper phase. I ground so much pepper on each layer of potatoes that it verged on inedible. My family was gracious about it but that pepper phase lasted a couple of years.

So, I’ve always layered potatoes with whatever herbs, cheese, veggies, or spices I was using at the time. However this last week at the beach, wanting to spend more time  reading in the hammock, I scrapped the layering and just tossed everything in a big bowl, put the mixture in the baking dish, added milk half way up the potatoes and baked it. Voila! Don’t know why this just occurred to me! It was just as delicious as always and much faster–actually better I think because the flavors were more evenly blended. Now I’m going to use this technique for other gratins, using summer squash and I don’t know yet what else, but I’m excited to experiment.

A friend recently lent me Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express. It’s a wonderful book of quick meals and what I like most is that his recipes are written in a paragraph or two with no long lists of ingredients and detailed instructions. The subject of recipe writing and how much detail to give warrants a whole post but in short, I would like to think that with some dishes, describing the process with approximate quantities give the cook more freedom and license to use whatever he/she has on hand and to taste and experiment along the way.  Cooking can be very fun this way and in my quest to get people cooking more often, it’s an important part of demystifying the process and getting people to think about what they really like and how they might turn that into dinner every night. It really can be simple, fast, delicious and fun.

Scalloped Potatoes

Scrub and thinly slice (by hand, slicer on a box grater, or food processor) about 2 1/2 – 3  lbs of waxy potatoes (not Russets, all other kinds work well) and put in a large bowl. In a small bowl mix about 1/4 cup of flour, 2 + teaspoons of kosher salt, a few grinds of black pepper and whatever other seasonings you like. I used 2 1/2 teaspoons each ground cumin and pimenton (smoked Spanish paprika) and 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes. Grate some sharp cheddar, gruyere or other cheese of your choice. Finely dice a small onion.

Mix the flour spice mixture with the potato slices and toss well with your hands. Add the grated cheese and onions, toss again. Spread mixture in a 9 x 13 baking dish, pat down a bit with a spatula. Pour milk (or broth/stock of some kind) about half way up the potatoes. Sprinkle the top with a bit more grated cheese and bake at 400 degrees until potatoes are tender and easily pierced with a fork about 45 minutes. Finish under the broiler for a minute or two if the top isn’t well-browned.

Variations include lots of chopped herbs like parsley, marjoram, chives or oregano, diced bacon or slices of sausage, minced garlic, finely chopped greens or peppers, etc.

And on a completely different note, I have to include this photo of the blissful, beach week! Happy cooking and eating and reading everyone!

I Stared Down the Fridge and I Won!

I picked up this phrase from a dear friend and tonight was my night and I did win! I rarely write two blog posts in one week but this one couldn’t wait. And believe it or not, it all starts with Swiss Chard stems.  I have used a lot of chard lately, the leafy part that is, which meant I had collected a good pile of stems in the fridge. They keep well and I just kept adding to the bag. So tonight, in need of dinner, what did I find in the fridge? Chard stems (and not much else)! I usually either dice them and add them to soups or sauces but have also made a gratin in the past, so that’s what I set out to do. It really needed to serve as the main dish tonight so here’s how it turned into something blogworthy.

I roughly chopped half an onion and the chard stems and sautéed those in olive oil for a few minutes. Then I added 1/2 cup of water and covered the pan and braised them for about 10 minutes until the stems were tender.

Then I made a quick bechamel, but for the first time ever used half milk and half veggie bouillon (yes, I know you’re probably tired of hearing about the stuff but it is transformative). Then I remembered that I had a bag of leftover, sliced baguette in the freezer. So out came that and I nearly killed my food processor but I processed those into uneven, biggish, bread crumbs. Then I toasted those with just a little olive oil over high heat to thaw and crisp up just a bit.

Then I added about 1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg to the bechamel and grated some sharp cheddar. Oh and I added the liquid left in the chard pan to the bechamel.

Then I put the chard stems in a casserole dish, covered them with bechamel, then bread crumbs, then cheese. In the oven at 400 for about 20 minutes until nice and bubbly, finish under the broiler and voila! Dinner! It was so much more than the sum of its parts. It was delicious–savory, creamy, crunchy, earthy! We did have an arugula salad (thanks Elizabeth – my super gardener friend/neighbor) too.

Oh and since I’m not writing the recipe out in a formal manner, the bechamel was made as follows: Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan, add 4 tablespoons of flour, whisk and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add 1 cup of milk and 1 cup of veggie  bouillon, first heated up together in a separate  saucepan or microwave. Whisk in the hot liquid and cook over medium heat until thickened, about 7-10 minutes. Add nutmeg.

Buon Appetito!