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New ingredient – delicata squash

Some kind person (I’ve completely forgotten who) randomly gave me a delicata.

And, since it’s a winter squash, it sat about on my counter for a while as I perused the internet for tasty recipes.

Finally, after much research, I decided on Delicata squash with spiced pecans and dried cranberries. Yum.

So I set about acquiring dried cranberries – which really should not be that hard. I couldn’t find them at the grocery across the street. I kept forgetting to check the indian grocer. The fancy grocery three blocks away had some tiny bags that had extra sugar added (which they all might, for all I know, but they weren’t very pleasant about giving me directions to the dried fruit area), so I didn’t buy theirs. Today, I tried the spice lady at the farmers’ market, and while I cleaned her out of dried tomatoes and passed by her dried peaches, there was not a single cranberry to be found.

Secretly, however, I had already started forming other plans a few days before the farmers’ market. And I had gone and acquired mushrooms.

And so I call my dish

Autumnal Delicata

Slice the squash in half, lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds. Slice each half in half, and then into 1/2″ slices. Because the internet says you can eat the skin.

Chuck the slices into a plastic bag. Add 1tsp olive oil and some salt and pepper. Twist the bag closed, and then shake the squash around so it is evenly coated. Dump the squash onto a roasting pan, and stick it in a 350F oven.

Take a container of baby portabella mushrooms; peel the caps, wipe off the stems, and cut the pieces into large chunks (roughly 1″ square). Dump the pieces into the same plastic bag. Add 1 tsp olive oil, 1 tsp balsamic vinegar, and some salt and pepper. Shake about.

When the squash is stirred/turned over (approximately 20 minutes, but I wasn’t timing it), dump the mushrooms on top and let them join in the cooking.

In a large skillet, heat up 2 tsps olive oil. Add some fresh rosemary (I find that if you get the right balance of frying the rosemary, without burning it, you get delicious crunchy pieces, instead of chewy ones, with minimal prep effort). After the oil had had a chance to bubble around the rosemary, add 1 tsp red wine and 2 tsp balsamic vinegar.

Let the wine and vinegar reduce a little, but as soon as it starts looking thick, add 1 diced onion. I also had a leek to use up, so I added it (white and green parts, sliced and cleaned) at this time, too.

Once the onions are looking all glisteny and brown from the vinegar, add some (2+ cloves) garlic.

Only once your alliums are looking seriously intimidated, pull out the pan from the oven and dump the squash and mushrooms into the skillet. (note: if you leave time for the squash to cool, it would be easy to slip off the peels at this point)

Stir, stir, stir.

I had ready some stock to add if things started to look dry, but I ended up not using any.

And then I finished off with a handful of fresh sage and fennel (leaves only, minced) and over a tablespoon (the rest of what was left in my jar) of apricot jelly.

And then I dumped it in a bowl and ate it all up.

Other things I could add: pasta/risotto, a little bit of ground clove/nutmeg, red pepper, sexy sharp cheese.

Final impression: I didn’t like the skin on the squash, so I ended up picking the squash pieces out first so I could deal with separating the skins. Just because a thing can be done, that does not necessarily mean it should be done. But other than that, the flavors came together very well and it was tres sexy. While the mushrooms where the genius that led me to this approach, the apricot jelly was the cleverest part of this scheme.

Notes for modifications to try in a future attempt: I have read on the internet that you can peel delicata raw with a vegetable peeler, but I don’t believe them. So if you want the squash peeled, you might want to be sure you time it earlier (or have teflon fingers)… and then if you time it earlier, you might want to start the mushrooms with the onions instead of with the squash. That sort of thing. But I trust you to figure out the details so that they’ll work for you.

Cookbooks review – Georgeanne Brennan (+ bonus Creamy Peas recipe)

One of the food blogs I have read in the last month, has been raving about recipes from various cookbooks written by Georgeanne Brennan. So I checked my library and its newly massive cookbook collection, and I had a look at the two they have.

Down to Earth – her exploration of root vegetables. Instead of trying to be comprehensive, she instead offers a few recipes each for potatoes, jerusalem artichokes, jicama, lotus root, carrots, radishes, salsify, celery root, horseradish, turnips, leeks, sweet potatoes, and onions. And so if you are going, “OOoooo… I wonder which recipe she chose to highlight onions instead of just counting them as an ingredient as everything… maybe something with really sexy caramelization,” you’d be wrong (and you’d be looking for Smitten Kitchen, instead) – onions just sometimes show up in a lot of recipes, as they do, not really highlighted. I think, I ended up returning the book after looking through it for an hour. It didn’t even make it home. Because while it had a really lovely section talking about the ingredients, the food wasn’t anything I couldn’t figure out on my own. Jicama – apparently, no, there’s no way to cook it or give it flavor, just cut it into little strips and pretend you like the crunch while it bulks out your salad. Horseradish – did you know you could add it to sauces for meat? You get the idea. So by all means, you should grab someone else’s copy and look through the first chapter, but not so much spending money on your own copy.

Great Greens – Suffers from pretty much the exact same problem, but I can talk about it more since this one made it home with me, and I even bookmarked three recipes that might be interesting (Bacon-wrapped cabbage rolls with blue cheese and walnuts, Taco salad with cabbage and red snapper, and Shepherd’s pie with three greens). Actually, you know what? I was going to pan this one just as much as the other one, but then I went to the farmers’ market today – and there was a woman with greens I’d never seen before but recognized from this particular cookbook, so I bought them and have reached for the cookbook to give me ideas. So this one is not a total wash.

So her glossary of greens includes: arugula, bok choi (only one variety, I think), cabbage (many varieties), chard, chicories (belgian endive, radicchio, curly endive/frisee (which I hate with a passion, and she apparently loves with a similar passion), and escarole), kale (oddly, only the lacinato variety, instead of the kind I see cheap and plentiful at the stores), lettuces (crispheads, butterhead, iceberg, looseleaf, romaine), mâche, mesclun (separate from the lettuces), spinach, and watercress. With this variety, you’d think there’d be some pretty exciting recipes, yes? Well, I listed three for you. And that’s about it for me. I mean, there’s a lovely roast chicken with cornbread recipe, served with a garnish (kid you not! Just a garnish) of mâche. There’s some pretty standard soups you’d see anywhere. Salads… with lettuces. Starters such as: make a nifty dip and then serve it on individual leaves. And healthy side dishes like: gratin of belgian endive with pancetta or savoy cabbage gratin or creamed spinach gratin (isn’t that a little redundant?).

So, yeah, it’s not a keeper, but it’s worth a slightly longer term borrow.


Meanwhile, today for lunch I made fried rice. For some reason, it is ingrained into my psyche that fried rice must contain peas.

Well, about a year ago, I found a great sale on canned vegetables and I only really trusted two kinds: peas and corn. So I bought 5 cans of each. I have been very happy with having cans of corn on hand to dump randomly into soups – I only have one left. However, I have 3.75 cans of peas left.

The only recipe I have for canned peas is from Meghan:

Make some bacon. With the bacon grease, make a béchamel sauce. Dump in peas. Maybe half a teaspoon of brown mustard. If there are any pieces of the bacon still uneaten, crumble them on top. If you were being really fancy, there could be another pot getting dirty making some pasta to go with that, but we aren’t that fancy.

But for every other purpose, I have learned that I much prefer frozen peas.

I mean, sure, there are fresh peas, but I have only seen them in the early spring at the farmers’ market in Baltimore where you have to wake up early in order to fight your way to the head of the line before the peas run out.

So in conclusion, I think I can reconcile myself to losing $1.50 to donate the remaining three cans to some Thanksgiving food drive and then let myself buy some proper frozen food.