Glorious Autumn Squash
Monday, October 7, 2013
Glorious autumn squashes and pumpkins in a variety of shapes and sizes abound in greenmarkets and grocery stores at this time of year. In the video today, I go over a few ins and outs of cooking with these vegetables as well as demonstrate a delicious and easy recipe that work with many of the varieties available.
Here are six of my favorite types of squash among those that you’re likely to see. Two that have sweet dry rich orange flesh include the forest-green kabocha squash and the flaming red kuri pumpkin. These are wonderful for soups, stews, roasting, or mashing. Of course, cutting into one of these tough guys can seem like a dangerous undertaking. Here’s my favorite tip for handling an intimidating squash: turn the oven to between 325˚F and 375˚F (whatever is appropriate for the recipe), and simply toss the whole pumpkin into the oven for 10 to 15 minutes. That little bit of precooking is enough to enable you to be able to cut down the middle of a hard squash with even a thin-bladed knife. You can even peel the skin easily and cube the squash as well. Here’s an alternative method: simply bake the entire pumpkin without cutting into it first at all. If this is what you plan to do, make sure to place your squash on a baking tray, however, or you’re in for a messy oven-cleaning job when the juices start to drip.
Another one of my favorite varieties includes the oblong delicata squash, characterized by its pale yellow skin with green stripes. The thin skin is eatable, so no need to peel these. To prep the squash, cut it lengthwise down the center, scoop out the seeds, and cut it into wedges. Toss the wedges in a little olive oil and salt, and roast for 20 minutes or so at 400˚F on a parchment-covered baking sheet.
The small sweet dumpling squash is a variety that is perfect for stuffing. Give it a preliminary 10-to 20-minute bake before cutting the top off and scoop out the seeds, then stuff the inside and bake until tender.
The football-shaped spaghetti squash is a fun variety with a stringy spaghetti-like texture. Initially, just toss the whole squash in the oven for about an hour. After it sits out of the oven for a few minutes and is soft and cool enough to handle, slice it down the middle, scoop out the seeds, and then scrape out the stringy flesh with a fork. Treat the strands like pasta and toss them with your favorite spaghetti sauce.
The workhorse of the squash world is the butternut. This variety is softer than some of the other types, so it doesn’t need a head start in the oven before being cut or peeled. Treat it like two separate vegetables when dicing. The oblong part in the middle is dense, and it can be sliced like a potato: the bulbous bottom part contains all of the seeds, so it’s best to cut that part into wedges first. Use a t-shaped peeler, the kind that takes thick skins off, to make peeling the squash efficient. For the oblong part, first cut a thin piece off the bottom to anchor the squash on your cutting board, then cut downward slabs. Cut the slabs into long “batons,”, then cut the batons into dice. When you roast the butternut squash, do so by slicing it down the center first and placing it face down on a parchment-covered baking sheet. It’s so much easier to take out the seeds after the squash is cooked.
The recipe that I demo in the video is sautéed butternut squash with pears and ginger. The pears harmonize beautifully with the squash—they’re both in season at the same time—and the ginger and cayenne add warmth to the dish. I start with some extra virgin olive oil. I warm a couple of tablespoons over medium heat in a large skillet. I then add the cubed squash with one diced pear—comice, Anjou and Barlett are all good—and cook uncovered over medium heat until the pieces are just tender and starting to brown, (about 6 to 8 minutes). I then push the squash to one side of the pan and add a tablespoon or so of butter (you can also use extra virgin olive oil). When the butter melts, I add the ginger and cook it a minute or so until fragrant. I then stir the ginger—along with ½ teaspoon of salt and a pinch of cayenne—into the mix. I finish the dish by stirring in a splash of balsamic vinegar. This dish is fragrant, fast, and flavorful.
What a good time to get creative with all of the delicious varieties of squash that are out right now. They’re not difficult at all to use, so have a wonderful time!
Savory Salmon-Coconut Muffins
Friday, August 23, 2013
Breakfast can be a challenge, especially during those hectic mornings when there’s limited time. I find it helpful to have on hand ready-made items that require no more time to prepare than it takes to pop a piece of toast in the toaster oven. That kind of healthy instant breakfast does requires a bit of planning. Today’s video features one of my favorite such breakfasts: savory salmon muffins. Most of the time we associate muffins with a sugary high carbohydrate load, but these muffins are different. They are nutrient-dense little parcels, full of protein and great fat, but low on carbohydrates. They’re filling, but they don’t weigh you down.
Savory Salmon-Coconut Muffins
To start, I whisk together ½ cup of coconut flour, 1 teaspoon baking power, and ¼ teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Half a cup of coconut flour is not very much; but coconut flour—made from the flesh of the mature coconut after all of the liquid has been squeezed out—really absorbs liquid, so a little goes a long way. In another bowl, I whisk together 6 eggs, along with ½ cup of melted coconut oil. I use the aroma-free variety of coconut oil since I don’t want any coconut flavor coming from the oil. Aroma-free coconut oil still has the great nutritional benefits of the virgin variety: the short list is that it’s good for the thyroid, good for the digestive tract, and great for the metabolism. It keeps the muffins moist as well. Then I pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and whisk the two together. I stir in a large (7.5 ounce) can of salmon. I favor the kind with bones (these are soft enough to eat), which provide a good dose of calcium along with vitamin D, the omega three fatty acids DHA and EPA, and astaxanthin, the antioxidant that gives wild salmon its red-orange color. I add some walnuts, which, besides adding flavor and texture, have a whole host of great health properties, including the omega three fatty acid ALA. I also add ¼ cup of chopped fresh herbs. In the video, I use a combination of dill, tarragon, and chives; but other herbs, such as parsley, sorrel or cilantro, are delicious as well.
I’m now ready to add my batter to the muffin tins. Instead of “tins,” I favor silicon muffin holders. This way, there’s no need to grease the tins, and the coconut muffins pop right out. I bake the muffins at 400˚ for 20 minutes, just until springy and lightly browned. It’s best not to over bake these or they run the risk of drying out. This recipe makes 7 large muffins, enough for seven full breakfasts. They keep refrigerated for up to a week, and you can freeze them (slice in half first) as well. I savor them toasted with a few slices of avocado, which lend more good fat, folic acid, vitamin E, and of course, deliciousness. These muffins are truly convenient for those busy mornings when you need to take breakfast on the run. Most importantly, they will keep you humming along all the way until lunch.
Savory Salmon-Coconut Muffins with Sliced Avocado
Friday, June 28, 2013
Do you know about Greensquare Tavern?
Words like “organic” are thrown around too loosely these days. So-called “organic” and “free-range” chickens, for instance, are not raised outside on pasture, and they don’t have a natural diet. I buy pastured-raised meat and eggs myself, so when I find a restaurant that carries pasture-raised food, I know that’s a place that I can really trust. Greensquare Tavern is one such place.
At Greensquare, the quality of the ingredients is among the best in New York, and the prices are quite reasonable in light of this extraordinary quality. Chef Proprietor John Marsh doesn’t toot his own horn nearly enough. The menu tells us that the eggs come from Clearview Farm, in Lancaster County. What it doesn’t say is that these are superlative eggs provided by Abner Lapp, an Amish Farmer who raises his chickens the traditional way, which means they move around outdoors and peck in the ground. These chickens produce nutrient-dense eggs with deep orange yolks. These eggs taste delicious. I know Abner, and he’s one of the true independents.
The other ingredients are just as high-quality. In fact, John sources everything from local farms. The beef is from Creekstone Ranch; the Turkey is from Plainville Farms; and all the vegetables are from the local farms as well. He even fries his French fries in tallow, a traditional, healthy oil, which is remarkable for a restaurant. Don’t be fooled about the much-hyped move away from hydrogenated oils. Most venues today, even the most high-end restaurants, use the junkiest fry oil (in New York it’s called “interestified” oil), which is arguably one of the worst culprits when it comes to health concerns.
The folks at Greensquare also make sure that there are good vegetarian and vegan choices. These include a good house-made vege burger and a delicious chipotle- marinated tofu with spiced portobello mushrooms and crispy kale.
I want to see good neighborhood restaurants thrive, so please spread the word about this gem; and if you get a chance, stop by, and help it prosper.
A Comparison of Soaked and Dehydrated and Toasted Nuts
Sunday, April 14, 2013
Soaking nuts serves to inactivate the phytates and enzyme inhibitors that make the minerals in them (zinc, magnesium, iron, and calcium) difficult to absorb.
You can drain the nuts and leave them in the refrigerator for a couple of days, which is good if you wish to make nut milks or don’t have time to dry them out immediately. However, if you want to have delicious nuts to munch on or add to your recipes, you need to dry them out. There are a number of ways to do this, and it’s a matter of preference as to which ones suit your taste best.
Yesterday I compared the times and tastes of nuts that had been soaked, then dried at 3 different temperatures. I did this for almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds. I soaked them all over night, with the exception of the cashews, which got a four hour soak. It’s not good to soak cashews over seven hours, as the texture changes. I drained the cashews, refrigerated them, and dried them with the other nuts. I included 1 tablespoon celtic salt in the the soaking water for each pound of nuts.
The three comparisons were with a dehydrator at 115˚, an oven at 200˚, and an oven at 300˚.
The nuts at 200 degrees took 3 hours for a beautiful light toast with delicious flavor.
The nuts at 300 degrees should have come out at about 45 minutes. I left them in an hour, and while tasty, they were slightly over-toasted.
The dehydrated nuts took about six hours.
While in a previous post I listed the minimum times for soaking nuts, I find it’s easiest to simply soak most of the nuts for about the same amount of time, about six hours. To repeat, cashews should not go longer than seven. Almonds need a minimum of six hours, but they are even better longer.
Here are the different nuts at different degrees of toasted. They range from light (dehydrator) to darkest (300 degree oven).
My conclusion is that for eating out of hand I prefer the nuts toasted at the higher temperature. For a neutral nut that will later be used in cooking or baking I would go with the 115 dehydrator or 200 degree oven.
These delicious nuts stay fresh at room temperature for minimum of a month. Once exception is walnuts, which should be refrigerated. For super oily nuts like pine nuts, store them in the refrigerator or freezer. No need to toast them first.
If this is too much for you, there is always Wilderness Family Naturals, which sends you nuts that have already been soaked and dehydrated.
My Favorite Farm-to-Table Restaurants in Lower Manhattan
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
First two are for a quick lunch:
City Bakery, on 18th St. between 5th and 6th. They have a beautiful fresh pay-by-the-pound “salad” bar with green market choices, as well as soups, hot foods, and lots of baked goods. I stick to the savory food and avoid most of the baked with one exception. I relish the pretzel croissants, which are strikingly fresh and buttery and sprinkled with sesame seeds.
Hu Kitchen, a new addition to Union Square (they are on 5th Avenue ½ block below 14th street), has pasture-raised rotisserie chicken, cauliflower-coconut milk mash, chia seed puddings, and lots of fresh pressed juices.
Greensquare Tavern on 21st between 5th and 6th, right off of 5th Avenue. All of their animal food is pasture-raised, they use good-quality fats (French fries cooked in tallow, kale in coconut oil), and they have substantial down-to-earth food. It gets a little loud at night, so I tend to go on the early side.
For upscale meals, I favor Veritas, located is on 43 E. 20th street. It has an especially relaxing ambiance and it is a bit of a sleeper still, so I’m usually able to get in without reservations. I go there when I want a lovely meal out of the New York city fray.
A wonderful place for brunch is Locanda Verde, located on 337 Greenwich St on the corner of N. Moore and Greenwich, in Tribeca, in the Greenwich hotel. It has beautiful ambience. Eggs are from an upstate farm. They have breakfast every day 8 to 11 and Brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 10 to 3 p.m.
Northern Spy Food Company on 511 E. 12th St. is a hole-in-the-wall farm-to-table with really delicious food, good for lunch and dinner.
Il Buco Alimetari on 53 Great Jones St. is a rustic Italian with gorgeous bread made on the premises. One of my favorite dishes is a harissa-roasted pastured chicken, and they have a scrumptious short rib sandwich as well. This is one of my favorite brunch spots in the city.
One lucky Duck (all food is raw) is a great place to get dessert (2 locations, one at 125 E. 17th St. and one in Chelsea market at 425 W. 15th St.) or a juice, smoothie, or even a big salad. The best dessert is the malamar.
For two more upscale restaurants there’s also Blue Hill, 75 Washington Place. They grow a lot of their own food on their farm up at Stone Barns and ABC Kitchen, on 35 East 18th street, is in the beautiful ABC building.
If you visit Chelsea Market, The Green Table on 75 ninth avenue (between 15th and 16th) has local market comfort food.
Day Before Thanksgiving Feast
Saturday, November 24, 2012
This time of year I get a hankering to cook a Thanksgiving meal, even if I’m not the one having the guests over. My local traditional foods club has farmers that bring in stunning pasture-raised Turkeys, so I couldn’t resist buying a couple. I invited a friend over to cook a no-stress pre-Thanksgiving meal with me and split the bounty. (We cooked the 13-pound Turkey. I still have a wee 7-pound turkey in the freezer.)
This is what we made, based on what looked good at the greenmarket when I went shopping that morning:
Cranberry glazed turkey: I planned this one. I made a glaze by simmering cranberries, maple syrup, thyme, orange zest, garlic, and brown rice vinegar in a small pot. When the cranberries had burst, I pushed everything through a strainer. I served this same glaze for a recent lunch party on duck breasts.
Cranberry Glaze in the Pot
I received the turkey Tuesday night and did a little prep. I dry-brined it with salt (basically just rubbed it all over) and slipped some thyme-rosemary-sage butter under the skin to keep the breast moist. I laid the turkey on a rack in the roasting pan and refrigerated it overnight. Wednesday I baked it breast-side down at 325˚F. for an hour, then flipped it, and cooked the turkey about another 2 hours. I glazed the bird the last 40 minutes. Next time I won’t be lazy, and I’ll tie the turkey legs together.
Gravy was the pan drippings with a roux made from chickpea flour and butter (the whole meal was gluten free), with some gelatinous chicken stock. (I had simmered a whole chicken with a bunch of extra feet overnight to make a gelatinous chicken stock.)
Stuffing: I made a gluten-free cornmeal with cornmeal and sorghum flour (soaked the flours in buttermilk overnight, then proceeded with the recipe), then sautéed onions with cranberries, dates, and prunes. I added some wine, apple cider, and a smidge of maple sugar to deglaze, and cooked this until the cranberries burst. I added the mix to a bowl with some sage, chopped pecans, toasted cornbread cubes, a pound of turkey sausage (I cooked it first), and a splash of sherry vinegar (and salt and pepper of course) and a couple eggs. I baked this separately in an 8×11 roasting pan at 350 for about 20 minutes. Next time I’ll have the stuffing ready in advance and I’ll fill the bird with it.
Stuffing in Progress
Celery root-apple-sage pancakes: recipe from The Healthy Hedonist Holidays. I used chickpea flour instead of unbleached white flour to make these gluten-free.
Chard with cipolline onions: We cooked cipolline onions in olive oil and balsamic vinegar and added a couple bunches of wilted chard.
Buttered Green Beans with anchovies, garlic, and sage: We crushed the anchovies with salt so that they disappeared, and finished the green beans off with a splash of lemon juice.
Brussels Sprouts with leeks and shiitake mushrooms: We sweated the leeks and mushrooms with olive oil and a splash of tamari, until shrunken and tender. We removed them from the pan. We then added the Brussels Sprouts with butter, water, thyme, and salt, and cooked them until tender. We uncovered the lid and added balsamic vinegar and mustard, stirred the mushroom mix back in, and finished with a sprinkle of fresh tarragon.
Squash-Chestnut soup: We cooked hubbard squash soup with chestnuts, and added a splash of scotch. Served it with a swirl of yogurt, although crème fraiche would have been even more luscious.
Hubbard Squash and Chestnut Soup
Russet apples: Roasted in ginger-cinnamon mulled cider.
Then we feasted, and divided the spoils. No room for dessert, but it wasn’t necessary. Had leftovers of this one (espresso pudding with pumpkin whipped cream).
Chocolate-Espresso Pudding with Pumpkin Cream and Whipped Cream
I’ll admit that on Thanksgiving I had salmon, since I didn’t want to exhaust my enthusiasm for Turkey. The next night I was into Turkey again. This is my second night of leftovers, and it’s so good.
The whole plate: Turkey, Stuffing, Chard with Cipollines, Brussels Sprouts, Russet Apples, and Celery Root Pancakes
Caçik: Savory Turkish Yogurt Dip
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
All over Turkey, some form or another of savory—not sweet—yogurt is served at practically every meal. Caçik, the classic yogurt-based dish, is made from thick yogurt mixed with garlic and salt to which diced cucumber and mint is added. Rumi, the great Sufi mystic and poet of the thirteenth century, mentions this dish in his writings, so we know that savory yogurt dishes are rooted in a long tradition. The dish can be part of a mezze platter or can be served alongside a meal.
Caçik: Savory Yogurt Dip Three Ways
Caçik starts with thick yogurt. You can use Greek style, which is already thick, or you can take a thinner yogurt and thicken it yourself. To thicken the yogurt, place it in a cheesecloth-lined strainer for a few hours. You’ll get a lot of whey dripping into your bowl, which you can use for other dishes. The longer you strain the yogurt, the thicker it gets. If you strain your yogurt overnight, and it is as thick as cheese, simply whisk a few tablespoons of water into it to thin the yogurt to the desired consistency. Sheep’s or cow’s milk yogurt both are traditional; in the video I make the classic caçik with strained cow milk yogurt, and the variations with a Greek-style sheep’s yogurt.
Besides the classic caçik, lots of variations are relished as well. One striking variation is made with diced fresh beets. The dish starts the same way, with yogurt, salt, and garlic. A couple of cups of beets stirred in turns the yogurt a luminescent pink. It’s also common to stir into the garlicky yogurt a pile of wilted chopped greens. I’ve used spinach in the video, but other greens such as chard are tasty as well. Make sure to squeeze out the excess water from cooking and chill the greens to room temperature before mixing them in.
Purslane, a leafy green that in the states is rather unusual—it’s found in green markets June through October—is more of an everyday vegetable in Turkey. It has round slick leaves with a singular nutritional profile; besides being high in vitamins and minerals, purslane is high in omega three fatty acids. In Turkey, handfuls of raw purslane are stirred into the garlicky yogurt base and enjoyed as part of a mezze platter.
Caçik with Purslane
Use your imagination and vary the vegetables. It’s amazing how tasty something so simple can be.
Caçik Three Ways with Sardine Salad
Summer Herb Salad
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Herbs are fresh and abundant in warm weather, and I love using all different kinds regularly in my dishes. I often turn the bits and pieces that are inevitably left over—especially from the leafy ones—into an herb salad. I start with a base of a zesty green like watercress or arugula and then add whatever I have. In this video, I’ve put together a mix of watercress, parsley, dill, cilantro, and sorrel. Sorrel gives the salad a delicious lemony punch and is in season all summer. Other herbs I’ve used include chives, tarragon, mint, chervil and lovage. Every mouthful is exciting! I make a simple dressing to complement the herbs. It consists of 1 part lemon juice to 2 parts extra virgin olive oil, along with some lemon zest and a sprinkling salt and pepper. I place everything in a jar, shake it for 10 seconds to mix, and I’ve got a tasty dressing that will keep refrigerated for up to two weeks. This salad is topped with matchstick radishes and a sprinkling of pistachios, but this base lends itself to a large array of possibilities. A piece of sautéed fish or chicken turns the salad into a light main course as well.
Herbed Salad with Lemon-Olive Oil Vinaigrette