Archive for ‘photography’

October 19, 2011

What’s in Season Wednesday – Butternut Squash

Welcome to beautiful fall!

I think the fall season is the epitome of Henry David Thoreau’s famous quote:  ‘Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.’ I am happy to say I have completely resigned myself to fall; crisp and savory foods and an assortment of delicious october inspired  beers make this by far my favorite season of flavors and tastes.

Fall is the peak time in New England for apples, arugula, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, beets, cranberries, onions, potatoes, and squash. Make sure to shop for locally grown produce, you’ll be able to taste a difference (and most importantly will support your local farms!)

Over the past few years I have really begun to love squash – butternut, spaghetti, acorn – there are so many varieties and each can be used in so many different ways. Technically, there are two types of squash – winter and summer. Butternut is considered a winter squash which means it is harvested in the early fall for use in during the late fall and winter months. The most popular variety of butternut squash is actually the Waltham Butternut so this squash has roots just outside Boston!

Think of squash like a potato, the cooking methods are endless, so you might as well get creative. It can be roasted, baked, or mashed, and the subtle sweetness of squash pairs so well with many other flavors and textures. To celebrate squash and fall I made one of my favorites – butternut squash and spinach stuffed shells with homemade vodka cream sauce.  And of course, there is lots of cheese… ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan collectively bring a perfect level of savory to the sweet squash.

I  made A LOT of this dish so I’d have leftovers for a week and could share with my hungry friends :-) so the recipe below has actually been trimmed down for 1 butternut squash worth of stuffed shells ( I realize most people don’t cook enough food for 20+ servings on a normal day).

Butternut squash and spinach stuffed shells:

1 medium sized butternut squash
1 box of extra large shells (you will probably only use 1/2 to 3/4 of the shells)
1 big bunch of spinach (my farmers market bunch was extra big)
1 8 oz. ball of fresh mozzarella
16 oz. container of part-skim ricotta cheese 
about 1.5 cups grated parm cheese
1/3 cup of light cream
salt & pepper

Directions:

1) Cut open butternut squash (I quartered mine) and scrap out the seeds and mush from the belly of the squash (I forgot to do this until after I baked it, as you can see in the photo, and it worked out fine doing it after). You can use all of the flesh from the butternut squash. Once cut open, place flesh side down on a baking sheet with a small layer of water. Bake for about 20-25 minutes at 350.
2) Meanwhile, prepare shells as the box instructs and place aside once cooked al dente.
3) Lightly steam the spinach, place aside.
4) Once the butternut squash is soft to the touch (and your kitchen smells marvelous), take it out of the oven and let them cool.
5) After they’ve cooled, scrap the flesh of the butternut squash skin into a big bowl and mash with a fork. Add spinach, light cream, ricotta and half of the parm to the squash and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.
6) Stuff mixture into shells, and place into greased baking dish. Pour vodka cream sauce (recipe below) on and around shells. Chop the mozzarella into small pieces and add on and around shells. Finally, sprinkle the rest of the parmesan cheese on top.
7) Bake about 20-25 minutes at 350 – don’t bake for too long or you will dry out the shells. Broil for 3-5 minutes at the end for a crispy textured top.

Vodka Cream Sauce:
This recipe is adapted from Trattoria, by Patricia Wells. This is a spectacular book, I highly recommend it.

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
6-8 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 large can crushed tomatoes (I got the largest the store had)
1 nip of vodka
1.5 cups light cream
chives, chopped
lots of parsley, chopped
salt & pepper

Directions:

1) Add oil to a large sauce pan, then add chopped garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook on low-medium heat carefully, it is very easy to burn garlic!
2) After a couple of minutes add chopped tomatoes and stir. Let ingredients cook for about 15-20 minutes to achieve the right consistency of the sauce, stirring occasionally.
3) Add vodka to sauce.
4) While stirring, add light cream slowly. You might need to add a little more than 1.5 cups, depending on how much sauce you want on your shells (it will be absorbed by the shells so add extra if you really want a sauce-heavy dish).
5) Add parsley and chives, stir a bit more and salt and pepper to taste.
*This sauce is really, really good. It is a wonderful match for the sweet squash, but it is also delicious on penne pasta, where it really shines as the main part of the dish… it is much better than any jar of vodka sauce you’ll find and worth the effort, I promise. :-)

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September 21, 2011

At the buzzer!

With only days to spare I am going to get this Gazpacho post up while it is still in fact summer! Gazpacho is one of my absolute favorite things about the summer season… there is something about it that is just so refreshing. Cool, fresh and delicious, it is the perfect way to beat the summertime heat.  I also love eating a dish that is completely raw – no cooking required!

I have been meaning to post this since July, prime Gazpacho time, but things got crazy. Don’t despair, there is still time to enjoy this wonderful summertime soup one more time before the highly anticipated transition to heartier soups. I cannot wait for fall soup season!

This is the kind of ‘recipe’ that all you recipe-lovers hate, because it isn’t one. Everytime I make gazpacho I do it a wee bit differently and adjust ingredients to taste. So what you’ll need are the ingredients below and a good food processor to smush it all together! Add, remove and adjust ingredients to your liking! Mine typically includes extra bell peppers, scallions, and some fresh jalapeno.

Ingredients:

lots of ripe tomatoes, cored (seeds and guts removed)
colored bell peppers – chopped
scallions – chopped
red and white onion – chopped
cucumbers – peeled and chopped
fresh jalapeno – diced
garlic – diced
stale bread crumbs – chopped, included to add texture (not necessary)

I blend all of the above in a food processor and then add (to taste):

olive oil
hot sauce
parsley
cilantro
tomato juice
fresh lime juice
salt and pepper – very important with gazpacho!

Also important, let the gazpacho sit at least 12 hours, if not a full 24 hours. The flavors really need to blend together in order to come out perfect!

May 27, 2011

Seared Scallops with Butternut Squash Puree


I am officially obsessed with scallops.

I do not know exactly when this obsession started, but I feel like I could cook them every single night and it is impossible to order anything else if I see scallops on a menu. Literally, impossible. Although I eat scallops year round, spring and summer heighten my obsession of this perfect, sweet and rich shellfish.

I spent much of the winter eating Trader Joe’s frozen scallops – a quick, inexpensive way to get my fix. Now that is warmer and seafood is constantly my mind, I have been splurging on only the best scallops. I am weary of Shaw’s and Stop and Shop when it comes to seafood – everything always looks so old and tired and off-color. Enter the newest aspect of my scallop obsession: Wulf’s Fish Market. This place is all about fresh and local seafood, and the scallops I have been getting there, although pricey, have been absolutely delicious and fresh, and well worth the extra cost.

Last week I wanted to keep the scallops simple and sweet. I recommend trying the recipe below with high-quality DRY scallops (as opposed to evil wet scallops treated with phosphates, which results in them absorbing more water – so you pay more per pound – which then evaporates during cooking leaving you with shrunken, dry and tasteless scallops – I could go on and on about this, but I’ll spare you).

The slightly spiced scallops pair extremely well with the butternut squash puree which is sweet and savory, and adds a little texture. Also served with grilled asparagus and sauteed spinach with fresh lemon juice. This meal was light and extremely delicious!

Pan Seared Scallops

  • around 1/3 to 1/2 pound of scallops for each person
  • chili powder
  • paprika
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • sea salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons of unsalted butter

1) remove extra moisture from scallops by placing them between layers of paper towel on a level surface and put something on top to add a little pressure – I use a cutting board.
2) meanwhile, mix a little more than a teaspoon of each of the spices above together on a small plate
3) add butter to a large saute pan on medium-high heat.
4) after they chill in the paper towels for about 5 minutes,  put both sides of each scallop in the spice mixture and add to buttered pan and don’t move them around! It can be hard not to move them/check on them, but if you want the nice pan-seared crust you must leave them alone! Also, do not overcrowd the pan or you will steam, not sear the scallops.
5) cook for about three minutes, then flip to the other side (pans/stoves are different, so peek before flipping to make sure you have a brown/golden crust)
6) cook the other side 2-3 minutes depending on size. Don’t overcook your scallops – it is easy to do. When they are done they should be springy to the touch, and have a light translucent center.

Butternut Squash Puree:

  • 1 medium-large butternut squash
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp light cream
  • fresh chives
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

1) pre-heat oven to 350
2) slice squash in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds and flesh and place on a baking sheet, skin-side down
3) bake for about 35 – 45 minutes, or until the flesh is easily pierced with a fork
4) scrape flesh out of squash and add to food processor and puree for a minute or two while adding ingredients above. You do not have to add all of the above ingredients, the puree will be sweet and smooth on its own, but I think the extra ingredients make it even more delicious. Especially the fresh chives, salt and pepper.

note: to make this an extra veggie filled dinner I grilled some asparagus, and sauteed some spinach in a bit of olive oil and then squeezed some fresh lemon juice on top. The lemon brought some needed acidity to the dish so I recommend it.

nutritionally speaking: 
excellent source of potassium, selenium,  protein, folate, omega-3,
vitamins A, B6, B12, C, E, K

April 13, 2011

Welcome to Spring!

Spring is finally here! Over the past few weeks we’ve had quite a few sunny days, and I do have to say that there is nothing like a bright blue spring sky to uplift spirits. I’ve started to see leaves on trees and colorful flowers beginning to bloom all over the city. With the onset of warmer weathers things begin to get exciting in food again – I’m (almost) done with squash, root vegetables, and potatoes, and I am ready to move on to lighter fruits and vegetables.

Summer is my favorite food season – grilling, fresh fruit, seafood, and my favorite part – farmer’s markets! Boston is lucky to have an abundance of wonderful farmer’s markets throughout the city neighborhoods, and I plan to visit as many as possible this summer and feature them here.

So, in honor of a new season, this week’s edition of What’s in Season Wednesday is dedicated to spring! A variety of fruits and vegetables are in season in New England throughout spring and into early summer. I have listed a few of my favorite spring produce items below and included their individual harvest seasons:

Arugula – mid May – late September
Asparagus – late April – late June
Beets – mid May – late September
Broccoli – mid June – late October
Cabbage – early June – late October
Chard – mid May – mid September
Collards – mid May – mid November
Fava beans – May – late June
Garlic greens – mid May – late June
Mint – early April – early September
Onions – early June –  September
Parsley – mid May – October
Rhubarb – mid May – late August
Spinach – April – early July
Strawberries – mid May – mid July
Thyme – mid May – September

March 29, 2011

Panko crusted salmon with roasted potatoes and garlic kale

This dinner was AMAZING. It was one of those nights where you don’t plan to cook, but a little window of time opens up  and you get creative and fresh and delicious and are so glad you did!

There isn’t much too much follow for this one – its simple.

For the salmon:

I covered the flesh side of the salmon with a little spicy mustard and added panko bread crumbs – panko is a flakey light bread crumb often found in Japanese cooking, it tends to be more crunchy and crispier than regular bread crumbs because it is baked without crusts. Because its easy to find, I recommend McCormick Crusting Panko Blend, with garlic, lemon and rosemary – especially if its your first time cooking with panko, you can always explore after that. Keep in mind – it also goes very well as a crust on baked chicken.

Then I added the salmon filets, skin side down, in a saute pan that had about 1-2 tablespoons of hot olive oil in it. I let them cook about 4 minutes, then threw the entire pan in the oven at 375 for about 10 more minutes – your kitchen will begin to be filled with the wonderful aroma of rosemary and garlic.

In addition, I chopped red bliss potatoes, added parsley and garlic and olive oil, and baked them for about 25-30 minutes, until the potatoes were done.

And of course the garlic kale you’ve seen before. In case you missed it the first time, simply heat up 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, add chopped garlic and shallots and the kale. Let it cook down for about 10-15 minutes, depending on how much you cook.

Simple, fun and healthy!

nutritionally speaking: excellent source of vitamins A*, C, B6, B12, Niacin
great source of magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, folate

*one serving of kale is 354% of your vitamin A!

March 17, 2011

Guinness cupcakes with Baileys frosting

Although I do not typically go our of my way to celebrate St. Patrick’s day, I do love any excuse to cook or bake with beer….  So this year I made Guinness cupcakes with Baileys frosting to celebrate in my own beer-inspired way.

These cupcakes are amazing, everyone who has tried them has simply raved. They are not overly sweet by any means, the Guinness really mellows out the cocoa and chocolate vibe of the cake, and the frosting is just boozey enough to cut out the typical overly sweet factor of frosting. These just might be the ideal “I don’t like sweets” cupcakes!

Guinness Cupcakes:

  • 1 can Guinness stout (14.9 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1.5 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, I use Hersheys
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2) In a large mixing bowl mix Guinness, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla together. Beat in eggs one at a time, and mix in sour cream last.
3) In another bowl mix cocoa powder, sugar, flour and baking soda.
4) Gradually mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients.. your batter should have a bit more liquid than traditional cupcake or cake batter.
5) Pour into cupcake pans, filling to a little more than 2/3 full. You can fill them a little higher if you want taller, rounder cupcakes. I used both regular size cupcake pans and mini pans for bite size cupcakes (great portion control!).
6) Bake for at least 30 minutes, cupcakes are done when a toothpick is inserted and comes out clean. Mine needed about 35 minutes (less for mini cupcakes). Let cupcakes cook completely before frosting them or you’ll have a gooey frosting disaster on your hands.

Baileys Frosting:

  • 1  cup butter (room temp)
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 pounds confectioners sugar
  • 4-6 tablespoons COLD Baileys Irish Cream (to taste)

Directions:

1) Cream butter and shortening at a low speed until well mixed.
2) Add vanilla, mix well.
3) Slowly incorporate sugar while mixing at a medium-low speed.
4) Add tablespoons of Baileys slowly, one at a time. I keep the Baileys in the freezer to make sure it is extra cold when I add it to the mixture. Add to taste, I typically add about 6 tablespoons but you could add more or less.

Once the cupcakes have cooled completely add the frosting. If you are really into the St. Patrick’s green theme you can dye the frosting green with food color, but that is a bit much for me.

Enjoy!

March 2, 2011

white chocolate chip & coconut gingerbread

when basic chocolate chip cookies and brownies just won’t do, i recommend this white chocolate chip and coconut gingerbread recipe. there are so many delicious and warming flavors in this dessert – it is a great treat for parties or dish-to-pass events.  and the molasses officially makes this a perfect comfort food, i’d recommend eating the gingerbread warm with ice cream, whipped cream and a tiny bit of cinnamon and sugar!

white chocolate chip & coconut gingerbread:

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs and 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 12 oz. white chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut flakes

directions:

1) preheat oven to 350 and spray a 9×13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
2)  in a large bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, salt and all of the spices.
3) in a mixer (or regular large bowl if you want an arm workout) cream the butter and sugars at low-medium speed until well mixed and a lovely shade of light brown.
4) add eggs, and single egg yolk, one at a time, mixing well between. after 2-3 minutes add vanilla and molasses.
5) set mixer at low speed (important!) and gradually add the floor mixture until everything is just incorporated – don’t over mix.
6) add white chocolate chips and coconut and mix on lowest speed… make sure you are not mashing up the chips – this is just to distribute the chocolate and coconut through the batter!
7) spread the very heavy mixture in the greased pan, a trick i use is wetting my fingers or a wooden spoon to push the mixture into the corners and level it.
8 ) bake at least 35 minutes.. the gingerbread is done when a toothpick comes out clean, or almost clean, the top is golden brown, and the edges have begun to pull away from the sides of the pan. they might need more than 35 minutes. mine took about 45 minutes. watch carefully towards the end!
9) let the gingerbread cool completely, then cut into squares.

February 11, 2011

grilled cheese & apple sandwich


grilled cheese has to be one of the best comfort foods ever. lately restaurants have been including traditional versions of both grilled cheese and mac & cheese, as well as variations on both classic dishes on their menus. yay for cheese!

this is a classic grilled cheese and apple sandwich. made with toasted whole grain sour dough bread, extra-sharp cheddar cheese and slices of gala apple you cannot go wrong. this sandwich is ideal for saturday afternoon lunch- in any season- but seems to hit the spot extremely well in late fall and winter.

to create this delicious masterpiece at home (its simple!):
1) make sure to have good, hearty bread. i prefer whole grain, 3-grain, sourdough, or something similar.
2) slice apples and cheese
3) butter the bread very lightly on two sides, layer the apples and cheese in-between the buttered bread slices (butter facing out)
4) with the stove on medium, heat a small amount of butter on a fry pan until the fry pan is thinly covered with the butter in the center
5) cook sandwich on both sides until the bread is nicely browned, usually about 3-4 minutes a side
6)  sometimes it helps to put a small plate on the sandwich to get it closer to the heat source – this can help make the bread crispy
7) serve with trader joe’s creamy tomato soup (highly recommended)
8) enjoy!

February 9, 2011

what’s in season wednesday

no, that isn’t a monster vegetable… this week’s edition of what’s in season wednesday is turnips! once considered a poor man’s vegetable, turnips have a delicious, hearty and unique flavor that helps them to really stand out amongst the winter vegetables.

turnips are root vegetables, and like last week’s what’s in season wednesday, are members of the cabbage family. turnips are high in calcium, potassium and vitamin c. turnips can be white/cream colored or purple and should not be bruised on the outside.

things to remember about turnips:
1) due to a high water content they do not store long. i recommend keeping them in the fridge in a plastic bag
2) flavors and spices that enhance the turnip flavor include: curry, black pepper, lemon juice, chives, parsley, and thyme
3) turnips are fabulous in a winter vegetable stew

typically i roast turnips with carrots, parsnips and potatoes to make a delicious side dish. however, last week my friend gave me some extra turnips that she wasn’t going to use and i decided to try potato and turnip pancakes. it was a delicious alternative to simply roasting the turnips!

potato & turnip pancakes:
5-6 small to medium turnips, peeled and cut into small cubes
1-2 medium to large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 bunch of thinly sliced scallions
1 egg beaten lightly
1/2 cup flour
canola or vegetable oil
salt and pepper and chili powder
paprika
sour cream

cook the chopped turnips and potatoes to boiling water  until soft. remove from heat and mash turnips and potatoes while adding scallions, egg, flour and salt, pepper, chili powder (to your taste).

meanwhile, heat about 1/4 of an inch of oil in a large fry pan. the oil is hot enough once a few drops of water sizzle in the pan. drop small amounts of turnip and potato mixture and flatten with a wooden spoon while they fry. depending on how hot the oil is 4-6 minutes on each side will cook them through.

transfer to a paper towel and let cool 1-2 minutes. sprinkle paprika, a few raw scallions on top of each pancake and serve sour cream on the side!

January 27, 2011

what’s in season wednesday

brussels sprouts are the feature of this edition of what’s in season wednesday. a versatile vegetable with belgium origins (approx. 16th century), brussels sprouts are extremely good for you – one serving has more vitamin c than 3 whole oranges! about 75% of our nation’s brussels sprouts are grown in california. brussels sprouts have a notoriously bad reputation, but if cooked well and seasoned just right, brussels sprouts are a wonderful, delicious and nutritious side dish to any winter meal.

a beautiful cold season crop – the peak season runs september to february -brussels sprouts are lucky to be in the same family as the famously nutritious broccoli, cabbage, collard greens, kale and mustard greens. they really are just tiny versions of cabbage.

it is best to steam your sprouts, or roast them for an extra crispy texture and flavor. i’ve even had them fried buffalo style, and they were delicious. boiling/overcooking brussels sprouts is a bad idea because it will significantly reduce the amount of sulforaphane, which is believed to prevent cancer. they are also a great source of indole-3-carbinol, believed to block the growth of cancer cells.

to make delicious chili-powder brussels sprouts:

try to buy sprouts still on the stalk when possible. they’ll be fresher, and its fun to cut them off. sprouts already removed from the stalk work fine too. wash them well, and slice them in half. in a large fry pan heat up 1-4 tablespoons of butter (depends how many sprouts you have, and how much you like butter) and add sprouts. put a lid on the fry pan and steam for about 10 minutes.

next add flavor… season the sprouts with salt, pepper and chili powder. the chili powder is key here – i discovered last winter that brussels sprouts come alive when spiced with chili power, the combination is delicious. how much you add depends on your spice/heat tolerance. i add a lot! continue to steam on low/medium heat until sprouts are cooked well – tasting is the best method to determine if they are done. they should be slightly crisp, but easy to chew. if you have overcooked your sprouts they will be bitter and have a bad after taste (hence the bad reputation!). chili-powder brussels sprouts are simple and reheat very well so make extra!

nutritionally speaking: excellent source of vitamins a, b6 and c, great source of manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, thiamin and very high in dietary fiber. low in saturated fat, sodium, and no cholesterol