Category Archives: squash

Squash Soufflé

squash souffle

Hello, everyone.

You may have noticed I haven’t posted in a little while. I would like to apologize but also admit to you that I do not always prioritize my little blog: after working (and I was traveling for work a great deal in January, consuming an exorbitant amount of my time), I also like to sleep, and get outside, move my body, and yes, cook. I do sometimes cook things without telling you, or even Instagram (although it is much easier to snap a photo and post than write a whole recipe out, so that does happen more frequently).

I did have a lovely little sojourn in the city of my birth, San Francisco, where you can follow my food-biking tour around the city via Instagram. Here’s how it went: bike—Tartine (best chocolate croissant I’ve ever had)—bike—Ferry building farmers’ market—walk-Chinatown (bought tea)—walk—Rancho Gordo lunch at Ferry building, and coveting everything else—bike—Pier 39 and sea lions—bike/walk (too much hill to straight bike)—Lombard Street—bike—Ghiradelli sundae + break for digestion—bike—Chrissy Field beach relaxation—bike—Golden Gate Bridge—bike through Presidio—bike through Haight-Ashbury—tea break—bike through the Castro—bike home. Next day: Tartine round two, and a Mission burrito to take on the airplane. Not bad for a quick trip!

However, all that adventure aside, I am now home, and glad to be getting back into routine. I don’t promise to always post consistently, because I never know how life will go, but know that you are still important to me. Perhaps we can relax together.

It is time to take a breath.

You may then feel inclined to hold it for a moment, however, afraid to mess up what is breathing itself in the oven (soufflé is French for breath). Don’t worry, ovens are not as finicky as they used to be. Soufflés are not terribly difficult (although it helps to know a little French for reading about the components) but they are still exciting. I found myself warning my roommates not to yell too loudly, or open the oven before it was time. A classic soufflé is just some very good cheese in the base; but you can add puréed anything (leeks? caramelized onions? spinach?) for added flavor.

What I like about soufflés: they are showy, vegetarian main courses, good for brunch or dinner, don’t take too many fancy ingredients, are light, soft, and luscious, and present the magical powers of eggs quite magnificently.

bechamel with squash for souffle

Squash soufflé
1/2 butternut squash (or another variety with similar moisture content), roasted and puréed (maybe 2 cups)
3 tablespoons butter, plus a little for greasing the pan
3 tablespoons flour (gluten-free flour works!)
1 cup milk
A dash each of sweet paprika, nutmeg, and a little more of salt and pepper
5 eggs
1/2-3/4 cup hard cheese: gruyere or some parmesan variation if you don't have anything fancy

If you haven’t already, roast, cool, and purée the squash (can be refrigerated at this point or before puréeing if you like).

Butter a soufflé dish, or large straight-sided dish of some kind (or ramekins/small dishes if you’d like to do individual ones). If you want, sprinkle a little grated cheese in to stick to the sides. Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Make the béchamel (white sauce): Heat up the milk (I usually use the microwave, but a stove works too), warm but not boiling. Make the roux (equal parts fat and flour, the thickener): melt butter over medium heat in a medium pan, gradually sprinkling in flour and whisking to form a paste. Gradually pour in the hot milk, whisking, and continue heating (and whisking) until thickened. Turn off heat and stir in the seasonings. Let cool for a moment.

Separate the eggs into two different bowls, the whites in a large mixing bowl (you can put the yolks right in with the puréed squash, if it isn’t hot—you don’t want to cook them prematurely). When the béchamel has cooled slightly, whisk in the yolks, squash, and cheese. It will be fairly thick.

Whip the whites until they form soft peaks, but are still shiny. Fold about 1/4 of the whites into the yolk mixture to lighten it, then gently add it back to the rest of the whites folding it all together (gently!) until no obvious streaks remain.

Pour into the baking dish and place in the oven. Turn oven down to 375ºF, and set your timer for 20 minutes. Don’t open the oven to look, since temperature variation can cause it to fall, but use your oven light (if you have one) to watch it puff up and brown on top. After 20 minutes (although it will probably take closer to 30, so try not to be too excited), you may open your oven briefly to check. It is done when it is all puffed, golden brown, and doesn’t jiggle anymore when delicately tapped.

Remove, and serve immediately. It will fall as it sits, but remain delicious.

 

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Seedy Stuffed Squash

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As promised, a vegetarian (vegan if you want) version of stuffed squash. This is an entirely different dish than the kale and sausage version I posted a little while ago—a new option, rather than a substitute. Nutty, textured, and delightfully salty due to a good dash of miso.

The base for the filling is quinoa, nuts, and seeds. Mushrooms for depth, cranberries for punch, miso for umami, and a little cheese if you like for creaminess. Other vegetables would be welcome, like chopped up kale or spinach, but not needed. Extra filling would be excellent topped with an egg for another meal.

In the news: as you may know, climate change convention last week. Agriculture did not play a huge role, but there are a few hopes for carbon sequestering in the soil, and climate change-related disasters will have a huge economic impact on agriculture. In that, as with our own Congress, food systems do not yet receive the attention they are warranted. We may get there.

To keep up on those strange farm-related activities in Germany, did you hear about the herd of cattle adopting a wild boar?

In other news, please enjoy this (#starwars):

And now on to an actual recipe (of sorts. We’ve been over the no-recipe recipe deliberation).

Seedy stuffed winter squash
Quinoa
Delicata squash, or other varieties (delicata cooks quickest)
Mushrooms, any variety
Nuts and seeds: almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
Anything else you feel like (chopped kale, 
Miso, 1/2 tablespoon or so
Butter or oil
A handful of cranberries (optional, adds an exciting tang)
Secret ingredient: seaweed flakes
Melty cheese, to top

Start the quinoa cooking: add twice as much water as quinoa, bring to a boil, then turn down and let it simmer until fluffy.

Roast the squash: wash, cut in half, scoop out the seeds, and cook for 20 or so minutes in a hot (350-400º) oven, until just soft. Remove from oven.

In the meantime, compile everything else: chop up mushrooms and sauté them briefly, pull out whatever nuts and seeds you like and toast them (on a baking sheet in the oven for 5-10 minutes, watching carefully so they don’t burn).

When the quinoa is cooked, take out however much you want to make into filling and put it in a large bowl. Thin the miso with a little water, mix with butter (or oil), and stir into quinoa. Add nuts, seeds, mushrooms, cranberries, and a few seaweed flakes (we have this mix). Taste and add more seasonings, as desired.

With cooked squash cut-side up, fill the cavity with the filling mix, piling it up nice and high. Top with cheese, as desired, and place under the broiler for a few minutes, until cheese is melted and golden.

Makes for good leftovers #desklunch the next day, too (especially paired with a creamy tahini-dressed salad).

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Kale and Sausage Stuffed Delicata

stuffed squash

This was in my CSA newsletter a few weeks ago, and is very worth sharing. I’m sure I’ll make a vegetarian version sometime soon, although the sausage was so, so tasty… Not great timing perhaps, as we just learned (or perhaps were only reminded) that red and processed meats cause cancer. Not a huge surprise. Of course the meat industry says not to discriminate and that meat is an important part of a balanced diet, which although not untrue isn’t a great defense for not cutting down on meat consumption (reading through the double negatives: lobbyists are biased and eat less meat). You can do that after you’ve made this.

I would guess that a pig you could’ve met has less carcinogenic potential than something raised in a factory. At least you can buy organic meat. Old news by now but did you hear about how Bhutan, that tiny Asian country somewhere between India and China, aims to be 100% organic by 2020? Quite a feat, although perhaps less difficult without an entrenched industrial agricultural complex as we have here—even our version of organic has been co-opted. Similar to Maine, Bhutan has small pockets of viable land tucked into mountains and hills, which makes organic and permaculture more cost efficient. Maybe we should start measuring gross domestic happiness too, and we’d get there sooner.

Instead, we live in a country where the idea that diet and the sustainability of the planet are related is too much for us, according to the recent dietary guidelines. Michael Pollan and co have exactly the right idea, we need a national food policy, and as Mark Bittman adds, it would help if we encouraged our political candidates to talk about food. It seems like a no-brainer: food and agriculture in particular has the ability to transcend political boundaries, uniting staunch conservatives and hippie young democrats. I imagine any issue with that much potential voter power to be tantalizing to politicians. But, finding ways for people to work together across party lines is not exactly our current political spirit.

My other great political theory at this point in life is that if we fed everyone delicious food all the time (which is not something that everyone has access to, but that’s a story for another time), they’d be in a more convivial and collaborative spirit. Cooking provides a handy metaphor, by combining various ingredients into something new and more fulfilling than the separate ingredients alone. Here, the sweetness of the squash plays very nicely with the fatty sausage, a little vegetable oomph from the kale, texture from the grain…and salty creaminess is what cheese does best.

I would’ve made this wth rice but ran out, so ended up cooking barley instead, and loved the texture. Use whatever grain suits your fancy, or endures your pantry.

Sausage-stuffed delicata squash
2 or 3 Delicata squash, halved lengthwise 
lb sausage (your choice) 
1 1/2 cups cooked rice, or other grain
A bunch of kale, minced 
One (or more if you like onion) large onion, diced 
Garlic (3 or 4 cloves, minced)
Grated cheddar
Salt, pepper

Cook the rice/grain, if you haven’t already, and chop the onion, garlic, kale.

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Wash squash, cut in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds and guts. Place faceup in a pan or a rimmed baking sheet and add a little water. Start to bake while you prep the other ingredients.

Heat up a pan over medium-high, and brown then cook sausage through. Remove from pan, leaving the drippings, and chop up as fine as desired, or remove from casing. Add onions and garlic to pan and start to cook until slightly translucent, then add kale. When cooked, mix in rice, sausage, and salt and pepper to taste (make sure to taste. You may have extra filling, I doubt it’ll present a huge challenge).

When squash is soft (easily punctured with fork, 20-30 min), remove from oven and fill with stuffing mixture. Sprinkle with cheese and place back in oven, under the broiler if you want it crispy, until cheese is melted.

Remove, serve, and stuff your face.

Brown Butter Squash Pine Nut Pasta

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Wondering what to make for dinner? Look no further. This is from NYTimes Cooking Newsletter (so, #NYTCooking and all that), one of their no-recipe Wednesday non-recipes. Well, most of my recipes are non-recipes anyway so I’m going to give you one.

I keep telling you to roast squash, so if you get bored of just eating it straight (how could you?), this is a fabulous dish to put it in. Sweet, just a little tangy, tastes nice and toasty. And assuming you have pre-roasted squash and toasted pine nuts on hand (you should), it takes exactly the time for boiling a pot of noodles.

Lemons are one of the few perishable ingredients that I keep around even though I haven’t yet seen them growing in Maine (particularly during the winter). They honestly make everything better. Modernity is good for some things.

I was in a hurry the last couple times I made this (it’s so good I made it one week and then again the next—which I guess makes sense in terms of habit, because most dishes I eat as leftovers for at least one meal and this you just cook what you need), so I’m going to pretend that you are too. (Actually I was in so much of a hurry that I didn’t take a proper photo, I just stuffed it into a jar from the pan to take and eat post-frisbee. Both times.)

Brown butter squash pine nut pasta
Your favorite pasta
3-4 tablespoons butter
A few sage leaves, ripped apart gently
A handful of toasted pine nuts (keep them in the fridge)
Maybe 1/2 roasted squash, in vague chunks (any variety—I think kobocha might be my favorite, but delicata is featured here, nice because you can eat the skin)
Juice from about 1/4 lemon

Start by putting a pot of water on to boil, since this will take the most time. If you have an electric kettle, often that will heat up water faster than a stove, so I like to put both on at the same time and then pour the kettle water into the pot when the kettle boils. Make sure to salt the water—I’ve read varying accounts as to the affect this has on the temperature of the water (not everyone is convinced that a minimal amount of salt will increase the boiling point of the water), but it makes the pasta taste way better, so do it anyway. When boiling, add the pasta to the pot.

Melt the butter in a medium pan with the sage. Carefully keep it over the heat until it begins to brown, swirling gently, then stir in pine nuts and squash, take it off the heat, and swirl in the lemon juice, stopping the cooking process (browning will happen quickly, so be prepared to act). Check the pasta, and drain when done (reserve some cooking liquid to thin the sauce if necessary—I may have told you already but apparently the starch in pasta water helps sauce adhere to pasta, and is a very useful addition to thick sauces). Throw however much pasta you want to eat into the pan with the sauce and mix around, then plate and serve. Top with a little pepper and a little parmesan (or similar) if you feel so inclined. Yuum.

Bean Squash Kale Chili

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Sometimes you need a good, hearty chili, heavy on the beans. To mix it up from classic tomato-based chili, add squash and kale, and extra garlic (we all know by now that squash and kale go super well together. I put them on pizza, flatbread, in pasta, and evidently in chili). Great with a nice chunk of cornbread on the side (hopefully made with local cornmeal).

I admittedly made this a few months ago when I had a few more fresh vegetables. But still manageable now, if you’ve got kale left, or soon when the farms have it again (the trouble with growing vegetables this time of year is the light, or lack thereof).

Basis for the recipe from Goop (the link keeps changing for some reason so if it doesn’t work and you’re dying to look at it, google “black bean squash chili goop”).

Bean squash chili
1 cup dry beans (any kind you want—black is more traditional, but I used Jacob's cattle beans because I love them and it's what I had)
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
A few diced tomatoes, or 1 small can
Other veggies (like sweet peppers), if you have them
Olive oil
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 hot peppers (chipotle would be best, although not what I had), roughly chopped
1/2 of a small butternut squash
3-4 large leaves of kale, washed and chopped
salt + pepper

Soak the beans overnight, or the morning before cooking them. I also roasted the squash a little bit first—it gives it more flavor, and makes it easier to chop up; but this is pretty flexible. You can either roast it in halves first, until pretty soft, and then scoop out and chop up and add it at the end; peel and chop before roasting (good for flavor but kind of a huge pain) and add at the end (or don’t even roast, and just boil with the beans); or a mix—roast it part way, enough to make it easier to peel, and then either roast the rest of the way or throw in the chili earlier. I did the last, which seemed easiest.

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Chop or mince all the veggies. Heat up your pan with the spices (not salt) and toast them for 30-ish seconds until fragrant (this is the secret to getting the most out of your spices). Then add the oil and sauté for a few minutes, until the veggies are getting soft. Add the beans, and stock (or water), and cook for a while, until beans are starting to get soft. Depending on how much you are pre-cooking the squash, add them at some point (the squash takes about as long to cook as the beans). When both beans and squash are mixed together and basically cooked, add the salt, pepper, and chopped kale pieces. Cook the chili with the kale for a few minutes (it will soften up), taste and adjust seasonings, then serve.

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If you have cilantro, sour cream, or a little cheese, little garnishes are an excellent supplement to any chili. Enjoy!