Myra's Kitchen Blog  

Lacto-fermented Mayonaise
Saturday, December 5, 2015

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In today’s Video, I show how to make homemade mayonnaise—two versions, actually— using a combination of oils. Homemade mayonnaise, unlike any that you can purchase, can be a healthful ingredient, a way to get high quality fats into your diet. Besides being made with great oils, these two versions contain a secret ingredient, whey, which keeps them fresh for much longer than the usual homemade versions.

The key to a great mayonnaise is to start with good oil. I make my mayonnaise with one cup of oil in total, but I mix a combination of oils to make that one cup. In the video, I show two different combinations. The first one consists of 1/3 aroma-free coconut oil, 1/3 extra virgin olive oil, and 1/3 avocado oil. The second combination of oils include the same amounts of coconut and olive oils, but the avocado oil is replaced with 1/3 cup unrefined sesame oil, a combination inspired by the lipid researcher Mary Enig.

Either oil combination has a mild flavor: the aroma-free coconut oil is neutral tasting, so the impact of the stronger flavored oils is diluted. Any one of the oils by themselves would not make a good mayonnaise, but the combinations are synergistic. The results are two delicious mixes containing stable healthful lipids— perfect for sautéing as well as for sauces. Keep these mixes in jars at room temperature to use any time.

To make the mayonnaise (also known as an emulsion sauce), start with 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard and 2 egg yolks. Whisk these together in a medium bowl, then slowly whisk in the oil. It helps if you anchor your bowl with a wet towel so that both of your hands are free, one to pour and one to whisk. Start slowly; then, as the mixture begins to emulsify, you can pour and whisk faster. You can speed up the process by using a food processor; leave the motor running as you slowly drizzle in the oil. When you’ve worked in all of the oil, add a splash of lemon juice, a sprinkle of salt, and a tablespoon of whey.

You make whey by draining full-fat unflavored yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined strainer. The longer you let the yogurt drip, the more whey you’ll have. You’ll also have thick yogurt, and if you leave it to drain long enough (24 hours), you’ll have thick yogurt “cheese.” Transfer the whey to a jar and keep for up to 6 months in the refrigerator. (Use a splash when soaking grains to deactivate mineral-inhibiting phytates.)

When you add just a tablespoon of whey to your mayonnaise, it will keep fresh for 2 weeks to a month in the refrigerator. Because of the coconut oil,

this mayonnaise also will thicken up beautifully.

I add tarragon to the mayonnaise presented in the video, and then I use it to dress two salads. One is a potato salad mixed with hard-boiled eggs, celery, and scallions. The second starts with tinned salmon mixed with red onion, celery, and scallions. Of course, these are just two of the myriad dishes you can whip together quickly with this delicious sauce. You’ll find this mayonnaise as tasty as it is versatile!

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Acai Bowls
Thursday, June 25, 2015

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In today’s Video on how to make acai bowls, I show how to make a couple of fun frozen concoctions known as acai (pronounce ah-sigh-ee) bowls, which start with a base of acai berries.  These Amazonian berries look like a cross between grapes and blueberries, and their flavor resembles a cross between those of berries and chocolate.

Acai berries contain many beneficial compounds, such as powerful antioxidants, fiber, monounsaturated fats (oleic acid), and anthocyanins, which are all clinically proven to have health benefits.

Because they’re so low not only in sugar, but also in the acid that protects most fruits, they must be picked, processed, and flash frozen before being transported out of the Amazon. Otherwise the fruit would oxidize, turn brown, and lose its beneficial nutrients.

The berries are squeezed into juice or—my favorite—pureed into frozen smoothie packs. These are sold in the freezer section of natural food stores. You can take advantage of the packs by making delicious frozen treats without using an ice cream maker.  The only equipment required is a food processor.

In today’s video, I demonstrate two delicious bowls that are suitable for dessert, snacks, or even breakfast. Each one has healthy fat added to keep your blood sugar stable and help you feel satisfied for hours. They’re quick to make: You whirl a few ingredients together, then immediately eat what you’ve made. You can store leftovers in the freezer, but you do have to let them thaw before eating.

The first bowl that I demonstrate in the video is flavored with cherries, cocoa, and almonds, all of which complement the acai. Begin by adding 2 unsweetened smoothie packages to the bowl of a food processor. It’s best to let the acai pack sit out for 5 minutes or so to thaw slightly, so it’s not rock hard when you whirl it. Add a cup of frozen cherries, half a ripe avocado, a couple tablespoons cocoa powder, a tablespoon raw honey, and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract. Now you’re ready to whirl, except you need to add about 1/2 cup of liquid to loosen up the mixture. (In the demo video I add coconut milk, but almond and cashew milk are both delicious as well.) A quick whirl in the food processor melds these ingredients into a luscious concoction. To add a bit of texture, top the two servings with a sprinkling of almonds and cocoa nibs, and a dash of cocoa powder.

The second bowl features bananas and almond butter. Again, start with two packages of acai smoothie packs, the contents broken into chunky pieces. Add one chopped frozen banana, 3 pitted medjool dates, a tablespoon almond butter, and a dash cinnamon. Loosen the whole mix with 1/2 cup of coconut milk. Again, a quick whirl transforms the whole mix into frozen ambrosia. Top this banana-almond acai bowl with large flakes of dried coconut and rosy goji berries.

These simple blends are so easy to make with ingredients that you can keep handy in your freezer and pantry. These bowls (which can serve as a snack, a breakfast, or a dessert) underscore that a luscious frozen treat can both satisfy a sweet tooth and be truly health-promoting.

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Spring Greens Pie (kuku)
Saturday, May 2, 2015

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One of the first signs of spring is the abundance of greens that show up in farmers’ markets and grocery stores. In today’s video on how to make a greens kukuI take advantage of the copious selections and demonstrate a kuku, a Persian frittata which resembles a crustless quiche. While it’s baking, the pie forms a bottom crust as well as a top crust. The result is a luscious spring greens pie.

The selection of greens that I show in the video includes chicory, which adds a delightful bitterness, as well as arugula and watercress, which lend a bright peppery bite.  The more exotic additions include two that are just starting to show up at the farmer’s market: Claytonia, a delicate mild-flavored green; and sorrel, a delightfully lemony herb with a bright tart liveliness. Since this kuku lends itself to countless variations, you can also make it with the other spring greens you find or fancy, and mix in some fresh leafy herbs:  Basil, chives, cilantro, dill, and chervil are all excellent choices.

Begin by wilting the greens. A drop of water in the skillet gets the leaves off to a good start. Start with the amount that will fit in the pan, and add more as the greens start to cook. Add handfuls to the skillet, and use a tongs to turn the uncooked leaves to the bottom of the skillet. The heat of the pan and the cooked greens help cook the raw ones quickly. You’ll want about 4 cups of cooked greens and mixed herbs total; to end up with this amount, begin with 2 to 3 large bunches—about 3 to 4 pounds before cooking. No need to wilt the fresh herbs; simply chop them. When the greens are sufficiently wilted, transfer to a strainer set over a bowl, and allow to cool and drain. Press the greens against the strainer to remove any excess liquid. Transfer to a cutting board, chop into bite-sized pieces, and set aside.

While the greens are cooling, warm enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a medium skillet over medium heat, and add a heaping cup or so sliced onions. Sauté for a few minutes, toss in a few cloves minced garlic, and cook until the onions are caramelized.

Dollop a tablespoon butter (or coconut or olive oil) onto a 9-inch pie plate, and set the plate in a 350 degree oven to warm in the pan for a few minutes as you mix the ingredients for your pie together.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 4 eggs. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt, a tablespoon flour and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. Since you’re using such a small amount of flour, even unbleached white flour is okay—so long as you don’t have gluten intolerance.  The flour in combination with the baking powder lends an extra lift to the pie, making it especially airy.

Stir in the chopped greens, the fresh herbs, the onions and the garlic. In the kuku in the video, I add also a cup of crumbled sheep’s milk feta as well as a cup of sheep’s milk gruyere. That touch of flavorful cheese imparts rich flavor, but the kuku is already certainly scrumptious when made without the dairy. Stir in a generous dusting of black pepper, and mix everything well. You’ll notice that the eggs bind the greens together inconspicuously and disappear into the batter.

By this time, the butter will have melted and the pan will be hot. Remove it from the oven and swirl the butter around so that it coats the pan evenly. Pat the filling into the pie plate, and return to the oven to bake for about 20 minutes, until you see some browning around the sides. Dollop another tablespoon of fat on top—the heat of the oven will spread it—and return the kuku to the oven for another 20 minutes or so, until it develops a gorgeous deep golden top crust.

This pie stays fresh for days in the refrigerator. You can just cut yourself a piece and heat up what you want to eat, or reheat the whole pan. The one-dish meal can be served any time of the day for a light meal or snack. In Judeo/Christian traditions, eggs are a symbol of rebirth and are featured on spring religious holidays. It feels appropriate to celebrate this long-awaited season with this delicious greens and eggs medley.

 

 

 

Cauliflower-crusted Pizzas
Thursday, April 16, 2015

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In today’s video on cauliflower-crusted pizzas, I show how to make a couple of variations on a cauliflower-crusted pizza. These delicious pizzas are light and low carb, yet as satisfying as traditional pizza. And, of course, you can vary the toppings to suit your preferences.

To begin, cut a medium-sized cauliflower into florets. Pulverize the florets in a food processor until they take on a crumbly, couscous-like texture. Because you’re grinding the cauliflower raw, you’re not in danger of turning it into a puree. Next, have ready a pot with about an inch of boiling water. Add the cauliflower and blanch for 2 to 3 minutes, then pour into a fine mesh strainer to drain.  Let the cauliflower cool for a few minutes. Now—and this part is very important—wrap the cauliflower granules in a tea towel and squeeze to extract as much liquid as you can. You may be surprised at just how much water comes out. Finally, turn the squeezed mass into a bowl; by this time, the cauliflower actually has the texture of a dough, and you’re ready to flavor it.

The crust needs a binder; for this purpose, a couple of lightly beaten eggs are essential. To flavor the dough, stir in a teaspoon of dried thyme, and half that amount of garlic powder and salt. Next, decide whether or not you wish your crust to contain a little cheese or to be dairy free. Stir in 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan for a delectable cheese version. For an equally scrumptious dairy-free variation, replace the cheese with 1/4 cup almond flour and 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast. The nutritional yeast lends a cheese-like flavor to the combination. In the video, I demonstrate a half version of both the crust with cheese and the crust with almond flour.

The next step is to press out the crust on a parchment-covered baking sheet. A medium sized head of cauliflower should press into about two 8-inch pizzas. Press the crust down to about 1/8-inch thickness, leaving a raised border around the edges. You do need to bake it until golden before topping. 30 to 40 minutes in a 400˚F oven will color the crust just right. You can assemble the crusts and bake them up to a day in advance; refrigerate them until you’re ready to add the toppings and bake the pizzas.

I present two toppings in the video, but these are merely two ideas out of many. The first one is a classic combination of toppings: the requisite tomato pizza sauce and dollops of fresh mozzarella. Refrain from overdoing the mozzarella since it tends to spread a lot when it melts. This one also has crumbled cooked ground beef and wilted spinach.  The surface is then dusted with grated Parmesan.

The second is a goat cheese topping. Four ounces of soft cheese are mashed in a bowl with a clove of minced garlic, a dollop of Dijon mustard, a couple tablespoons fresh thyme, a tablespoon olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt. Using an offset spatula makes spreading the cheese over the crust smooth and effortless. Both pizzas return to the oven for 10 minutes, until the toppings have colored, the cheese is melted, and everything is heated through.

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Transforming cauliflower into a crust is exciting, and the pizzas taste amazing. This is a deliciously fun way to have your pizza and your vegetables too!

 

Building a Satisfying Salad
Monday, July 14, 2014

Building a Satisfying Salad

In today’s video, I demonstrate one of my favorite summer lunches, a beautiful light yet substantial main course salad. The focus of the video is on the components that make up a satisfying salad. My ideal summer salad has a homemade dressing, a gorgeous mix of greens, a protein, a raw vegetable or two, a fermented vegetable, a sprinkling of something fatty, and some kind of crunchy, dehydrated vegetable or sprouted chip. This composed salad lends itself to infinite variations, and I explore three. Happily, all of these colorful, multi-textured salads take only minutes to assemble, and they are hearty enough to keep you going strong until dinner.

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The most important factor in a salutary salad is the dressing. Bottled salad dressings are not healthy; they all contain inflammatory polyunsaturated oils, such as soybean oil, as their primary ingredient. Making your own dressing, however, is quick and cost-effective as well as healthy and delicious. Here’s how to make a basic vinaigrette: First, place a damp dishtowel in a ring shape on your counter to hold your bowl steady. Doing this will free both hands. Place a dab of mustard in the bowl, then add a tablespoon of minced shallots. Next, pour in a couple tablespoons of your favorite vinegar (the dressing used in the video is golden balsamic), then whisk in about 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. You can also add a splash of flax seed oil to boost the omega-3 content. Stir in a few tablespoons of fresh herbs, and make sure to include a generous sprinkling of salt and black pepper. Transfer the dressing to a jar, and refrigerate it for up to two weeks. You now have a delicious dressing available whenever you want to enjoy a salad.

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Next, pick a selection of delectable greens. Bins at your local greenmarket contain the most exciting varieties; but mesclun, arugula, and watercress are readily available in most grocery stores. Toss the greens with just enough dressing to coat, and place in your salad bowl.

Now for the composed part: Top the greens with a serving of protein. The three examples in the video feature tinned crab, smoked mackerel, and lamb pastrami. Other delicious pantry staples or ready-to-use proteins include tinned sardines, salmon, tuna, smoked oysters, and shrimp. Cold proteins, such as poached fish, chicken, turkey, or beef from a previous meal can be used as well.

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Since so many fine fresh vegetables are available in the summer, be sure to add a fresh raw vegetable or two. In the video, I show grated radishes and carrots, thinly sliced beets, sliced snow peas, shelled English peas, and whole sugar snap peas, which, when fresh, are delicious eaten raw. I recommend also including a fermented vegetable; not only are fermented vegetables refrigerator staples, but they lend a wonderful tangy flavor to the salad, and they make the proteins in the salad easy to digest.

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Next, sprinkle over your salad a “fatty” component such as nuts, olives, or crumbled cheese. A little of these go a long way.

The last essential ingredient—again, something that keeps well in the pantry—is some kind of a crunchy vegetable chip. There are so many tasty dehydrated vegetable chips on the market now: kale chips, onion chips, arugula chips, and dehydrated vegetable crackers, to name a few. A little mound adds a fun element to the salad.

Mix and match and come up with all kinds of salad variations. I hope that you develop your own hot weather favorite combinations and that you turn out to be as excited about these salads as I am!

 

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Home Made Nut Butters
Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Finished Almond Butter

Finished Almond Butter

In today’s video, I show how to make nut butters from scratch. Not only is homemade nut butter more delicious and economical than the store-bought variety, it’s a lot more digestible. After you do a small amount of preparation, it’s also quite simple to make.

Nut Butter Video

Nuts contain an enzyme inhibitor called phytic acid, which keeps them protected from rancidity and growth. They won’t germinate until the right conditions—moisture and time— are present. You can mimic nature’s process by soaking the nuts overnight in water with a little salt (a tablespoon per pound) for flavor. The next step is to drain and rinse the nuts before spreading them on a parchment-covered baking tray. Bake them in an oven set to 300 degrees for about an hour or so— until dry and toasted —to make nut butter that tastes roasted. You can also dry the nuts slowly at low heat, ranging from 115˚ in a dehydrator to 200˚ in an oven. Just make sure that whatever the heat that you use (the lower the temperature, the longer the nuts take to crisp), you don’t remove the nuts until they are really dry.  At this point, you can store the prepared nuts at room temperature for up to a month. In today’s video, I’m starting with 3 cups of almonds, about a pound, which turns into 2 cups of butter.

The one piece of equipment needed to make nut butter is a food processor fitted with the metal blade. There’s also one essential little trick:  rub the inside of the food processor with oil—coconut oil is especially good—which keeps the butter from sticking to the sides. Add the nuts and whirl, and keep processing until you have what you want. That’s all there is to it. In the first stage, the nuts turn to powder. After a couple of minutes of whirling, the nuts start to stick together and clump. At this point, you’ll be able to appreciate how that preliminary greasing keeps the nuts from sticking to the sides. Don’t stop at this first stage; you’ll have better results if you let the processor go longer. After 6 to 12 minutes, the natural oils in the almonds are released and rise to the top; and you have a creamy, smooth, finished butter. Transfer the finished product to jars, and store in the refrigerator.

In the video, the almond butter took only 6 minutes, but sometimes it does take longer: be patient, and keep on whirling. The cashew butter I demo in the video took 9 minutes of processing. Cashews, by the way, should be soaked only 4 to 6 hours or else their texture can be compromised.  Almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, and walnuts benefit from an overnight soak. I’ve kept the nut butters here simple, but if you like you can stir or pulse in all kinds of flavorings once the butter is finished: salt, raisins, honey, or preserves are just a few ideas. Embellished or simple, the glistening spreads are truly irresistible, and they really do feel lighter on the belly than any store-bought varieties. Once you make your own, you’re likely to be as excited about these as I am, and you’re not likely to want to return to commercial selections.

 

Homemade Nut Milk
Tuesday, April 8, 2014

In today’s video, I show just how easy it is to make your own nut milks. Homemade versions are not only fresher than the store-bought (which contain synthetic vitamins, thickeners, and sweeteners): they are also healthier and more flavorful. You can use these versatile beverages as a base for smoothies, hot chocolate, or cereal, or as an alternative to dairy in your baked goods. Or, add a touch of natural sweetener and a dash of spice to make a simple nut-milk drink.

Nut milk video

The basic prep technique is the same for most nuts. Step one is to soak the nuts. Almonds require a good overnight soak; it’s even okay to let them go for as long as 12 hours. The reason for the soak is as follows: nuts and seeds are naturally adapted to lie dormant in nature until proper sprouting conditions are present. When it rains, nuts and seeds get wet; then they germinate, and the plants grow. When we soak the almonds, we are mimicking nature’s incubating process. When there is moisture, enzyme inhibitors and toxic substances called phytic acid are washed away naturally. In other words, phytic acid is nature’s padlock, and water is the key. Once the nuts are soaked, all of the enzymes & minerals available in them—almonds have phosphorous, magnesium, manganese, & copper—become available to the body. These soaked nuts become swollen and soft so that they blend easily into a rich nut milk, and they are noticeably easy to digest.

Next you rinse and drain the nuts. If you’re not ready to make nut milk right away, leave the drained nuts refrigerated for up to 3 days. When ready, blend them with fresh water at a ratio of 3 parts water to 1 part nuts. A high-speed blender, such as a Vitamix, is convenient for whizzing the nuts into a foamy beverage in a blink; other blenders take a couple of minutes. The last step is to squeeze the frothy liquid through a nylon mesh nut bag, which you can conveniently use over and over again, or a double layer of cheesecloth draped over a strainer. The leftover pulp has all the flavor squeezed out of it; you can simply compost or discard it.

Cashew milk is different from the typical nut milk. Cashews blend up so pulverized that the particles squeeze through the fine mesh of the bag, so don’t bother to strain them! Do add an extra cup water for a 4 to 1 ratio of water to cashews; this way your milk won’t be too heavy or too thick.

In the last part of the video, I demo a speedy hot chocolate made with only two other ingredients besides the cashew milk. I stir a tablespoon of cocoa powder and 2 tablespoons maple syrup in the bottom of a small pot until bubbling; then I add a couple cups of nut milk and let the liquid come to a boil. That’s it: soothing and delectable, and just one of the many luscious comestibles that you can concoct with homemade nut milk.

 

Cashew Milk and Hot Chocolate

Cashew Milk and Hot Chocolate

 

Chicken Bone Broth
Monday, March 10, 2014

In the video presented here, I show how to make a nutrient-dense bone broth. There’s a South American proverb that goes “good broth will resurrect the dead.” If only that were true. What is true is that slow-cooked stocks that are made from bones aid in healing the chronically compromised as well as in keeping the healthy robust. What’s more, good broths—something which every chef knows—are the basis for delicious soups and sauces. What distinguishes a nutrient-dense broth from a mediocre stock is the gelatin. Gelatin is what is found in the joints of animal bones.

Chicken Bone Broth

A word first about Dr. Weston A. Price, author of the tome Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. Price was a Cleveland dentist who, in the 1920’s and 30’s, traveled the world to find existing cultures that had not yet been exposed to the processed foods of Western civilization.  Over the course of ten years, he visited a dozen isolated healthy peoples around the world. Without fail, all of the people with these isolated food traditions not only had robust health, but straight gorgeous teeth without dental decay—and none of the societies had modern dentistry. Price meticulously recorded his findings and observed that, although each culture’s  diet varied tremendously, they had in common ten times higher levels of fat soluble vitamins and four times higher level of minerals than those of the mainstream American diet. All of the peoples he visited consumed soups or stews based on bone broths made from fish, fowl, or meat.

In the video shown here, I focus on chicken broth. There are so many ways to make chicken broth; the method can be varied every time, depending on what you have around. I generally use about five pounds of bones. These invariably include a raw carcass, a few feet, a few necks, and any backs or cooked carcasses that I have around. I’ve made chicken bone broth from several raw carcasses or from just necks and feet as well. Chicken feet are perhaps the most important, underrated element in a great broth. Even using two can add so much gelatin to your brew. If you use a bagful, your chilled stock will be so gelatinous that you can stand a spoon straight up in it! Place all of the bones in a tall stockpot and cover them with water. Then add two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to draw out the minerals. Let the stock sit for half an hour before turning on the flame. You can add an onion, a couple of carrots and celery if you like, but it’s not necessary.

The next step is to bring the stock up to a boil. At that point you have to spend a few minutes skimming the scum that rises to the surface. You really do want to get rid of the scum, since it will compromise and muddy your stock. Next, lower the heat until there is barely any movement on the surface of the liquid; let the stock cook anywhere from six to twenty four hours. You can turn off the stock at any point if you need to go out. You can leave it untouched for up to nine hours at a stretch. When you start the broth again, simply bring the liquid to a boil again, skim off the scum, lower the heat, and let it roll.  When you’ve cooked the broth for as long as you like,  strain the liquid through a sieve, then transfer it to containers. I favor one-quart heavy-duty food-grade plastic. Next, chill the stock, and scrape off the fat that has risen to the top. Notice how wobbly and gelatinous your stock is after it’s been chilled. Now you can keep the stock refrigerated for up to five days, or longer if you reboil it; or, you can freeze it for months, keeping it ready to turn quickly into a delicious dish whenever you like.

The gelatin in meat broths has the unusual property of attracting liquid (the term is hydrophilic) even after it has been heated. Gelatin acts as an aid to digestion. Furthermore, it acts as a protein sparer, allowing the body to more fully utilize complete proteins that are ingested. It is useful in the treatment of many chronic disorders, including but not restricted to anemia, diabetes, hyperacidity, colitis, and Crohn’s. Again, to emphasize: in order to make a stock truly nutrient-dense, it’s important to use some joint bones along with some of the other bones that provide minerals. Truly, bone broth is one of the mainstays of my kitchen—a real life saver.

 

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.

Autumn Squash

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scallops with Lemon-Tarragon Browned-Butter Sauce and Garlicky Arugula
Friday, May 10, 2013

After the heavier foods of winter, spicy and bitter spring greens are cleansing to the body and taste delicious. Peppery lettuces such as arugula and watercress are typically served raw in salads, but they are very tasty when cooked as well. In this video, I show how to make a quick spring meal that you can put together in just 10 minutes. It features seared scallops in a lemony tarragon browned-butter sauce as well as garlicky sautéed arugula.

Scallops in Lemon-Tarragon Browned-Butter Sauce

Start with the scallops, since they take longer to cook than the greens. Make sure to purchase dry scallops that have not been soaked in any solution. Dry them well with a paper towel, and pull the tough little muscle off. (It is often attached at the side.) Toss the scallops with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat a thin film of fat in a non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium flame. Fats that are good for this dish include ghee, aroma-free coconut oil, or extra virgin olive oil.  Heat the oil over a medium-high flame until your hand, when it’s held one inch above the pan, feels hot.  Add the scallops—they should sizzle—and cook for about three minutes, until seared on the first side. Using a tongs, flip the scallops and cook them on the second side for another three minutes or so until they feel firm, with just a little give.

Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons butter in a small pot on another burner over medium-high heat. You’ll notice that the butter starts gurgling right away, which means that the water content of the butter is evaporating. After about three minutes, the butter will foam and smell nutty. Use a spoon to push the foam aside and see the color of the butter, which should have turned a burnished chestnut color. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and pour in a couple of teaspoons or so of lemon juice to stop the cooking process. Add a tablespoon chopped tarragon to infuse the lemony buttery sauce with a fresh herby flair. Now you have a delicious sauce that is versatile as well.

In a medium skillet, add a splash of olive oil with a couple cloves minced garlic. Start heating the oil and the garlic at the same time, which will keep the garlic from burning. When the oil starts to sizzle, and the garlic just starts to take on some light color, add a pile of greens and toss to cook. In the video, I use arugula, but watercress is delicious as well. The greens wilt and are ready in under a minute. Sprinkle with a dash salt and a splash lemon. Greens cook down a lot, so make sure you plan for two cups of loosely packed greens per person.

Serve the scallops drizzled with the browned butter sauce accompanied by a mound of the garlicky greens. You’ll marvel at how something so tasty was so easy to make.

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Photo: Tess Steinkolk

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