Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Classic Baked Acorn Squash

The first baked squash of the season! With one of the first truly cold nights down here in Texas, you feel compelled to make some fall and wintery dishes for dinner. First to my mind was baked squash!

I learned a tip tonight that was very helpful; scoring the squash really helped the flavorings (brown sugar, butter, and syrup) get distributed across the vegetable. This is not something I've done before, but a step I will certainly take from now on!

Classic Baked Acorn Squash

1 acorn squash
1 T butter
2 T brown sugar
2 tsp maple syrup
dash salt

Preheat oven to 400.

Cut the acorn squash in half. Scrape out the seeds and stringy pulp. leaving only the firm flesh.

Using a small paring knife, score the squash flesh - deep enough so that the fillings can soak in. Set squash in a baking dish, and add water to the pan (I go about half way up the pan -- enough so that it won't boil dry, but not so much that I can't carry the pan across the kitchen).

To each squash, add butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, and dash salt. (I forgot and it turns out just fine, though many people may want to finish with salt before serving.)

Bake for about 75 minutes. The squash will be very very soft.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Spinach-Mushroom Mac and Cheese

I find it difficult to get a good picture of mac and cheese. Especially when you are in a hurry to eat because your mac and cheese just came out of the oven. Instead of my picture trying to convince you to try this dish, I must rely on my words.

This is a hearty, yet surprisingly diverse, mac and cheese casserole. There is enough going on with the ingredients and flavor that you do not feel like you have a chore of getting through a plate full of mac and cheese. Not that that is ever too much of a chore.

Spinach-Mushroom Mac and Cheese
The Heart of the Plate - Molly Katzen

1/2 lb orecchiette
1 T olive oil
1 c milk
1 T unsalted butter
1/2 lb mushrooms, in 1/2" dice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp dijon-style mustard
2 T flour
1 c beer, room temperature (I didn't have any; used chicken stock instead)
1 lb spinach (original recipe calls for chopping - I threw it in whole - worked just fine)
1 1/2 c sharp white cheddar (6 oz)
3/4 c bread crumbs
1/2 c walnuts, minced (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly spray a 2-quart baking dish or 8" square pan with nonstick spray.

Put a pot of water on to boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and transfer to a bowl. Toss with a little olive oil and set aside.

Heat milk, in micro, until steaming and hot to the touch, but not boiling. Set hot milk near stove.

In a saucepan, add oil and butter. Add mushrooms and 1/2 tsp salt and cook 5 minutes. Whisk in garlic and mustard, then turn heat to low and sprinkle in flour, whisking constantly. Continue to whisk another 15 seconds or so.

Keep pan over low heat as you drizzle in hot milk, whisking constantly. When milk is incorporated, whisk in beer. Turn heat up to medium and stir constantly as you add chopped spinach and remaining 1/2 tsp salt. Cook 5 minutes, or until spinach wilts into sauce. Remove from heat and stir in cooked pasta and cheese.

Transfer mixture to baking pan. Top with bread crumbs and walnuts and book uncovered 15-20 minutes. Serve hot.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Broccoli with Rosemary

I love this dish. Super simple to prepare, but adding a flavor element you wouldn't normally add to broccoli.

Broccoli with Rosemary
Vegetarian Times, October 2001

1 medium bunch broccoli
3 T butter
1 tsp rosemary, finely chopped

Cut broccoli into florets. Peel stems and slice crosswise across stems into 1/2" pieces.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add broccoli and cook, uncovered, until just tender -- about 6 minutes. Drain well. Transfer to a serving bowl.

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium heat until it starts to brown. Immediately add chopped rosemary and 1 tsp salt, swirling to blend. Pour hot butter mixture over broccoli. Season with pepper. Toss to combine. Serve hot.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Mushroom, Goat Cheese, and Mint Hand Pies

Seriously one of the best things that has ever come out of my kitchen. Ever. And not really that hard to do.

Highly recommended! And, anyone coming to visit at my house in the next year or two, anticipate being served this as an appetizer, because this is going to be my go-to dish for a while!

I changed some things in the recipe. The grocery was actually out of shallots, so I used 1/2 half of a white onion. And, I always hate wasting an egg on an egg wash, so I skipped that part. 

One thing I would not change is the proportions of the filling. I was tempted to add more chevre and more mint. Uncooked, the filling looked too heavy on mushrooms. But cooked, this balance was perfection. Everything tasted like mushroom and cheese, with just the most fleeting glimpse of mint -- enough for someone to say "What on earth was that?" and then move on. 


Mushroom, Goat Cheese, and Mint Hand Pies
Savory Pies - Greg Henry

pie dough of your choice
2 T unsalted butter
1 lb button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 tsp coarse salt
2 T shallots, minced
2 T spearmint, minced
1 oz goat cheese, crumbled, room temperature
2 oz mozzarella, fresh (low-moisture), in 1/2" dice
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tsp water

Prepare the pastry dough and shape into 2 squares about 5x5" and 3/4" thick. Wrap in plastic and chill at least1 hour, and up to 2 days.

Melt butter in a skillet. Add mushrooms and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms have given up their moisture, about 5 minutes. Add shallot and cook until softened, 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in mint and goat cheese until mushroom mixture is well coated. Let come to room temperature.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out one dough square to a 10-11" square, 1/8" thick. Use a paring knife to trim the edges neatly. Cut into four 5" squares.

Place on parchment-lined baking sheet about 1/2" apart. Repeat with second square of dough.

Divide mozzarella among the squares, leaving a 1" border all around. Place 2 heaping tablespoons of mushroom filling on top.

Working with one square at a time, fold all 4 corners over the filling so the points come NEAR the center, but to not touch (leave about 1/4" between them). 


Press lightly to distribute the filling somewhat, being careful to not let any escape. Fridge until chilled, about 20 minutes.


While pies are chilling, place an oven rack in the center position. Preheat oven to 400.

Brush the tops and edges of the chilled pies with egg wash and sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden brown and filling is oozing out a little -- 25 minutes.

Move to a wire rack to cool somewhat. Serve warm or at room temperature.