Thursday, October 31, 2013

Trick or Treat, Spaghetti or Squash? Both

Happy Halloween!  Trick or treating is really the best part of Halloween.  However, as adults we find other means besides candy to indulge.  Well, at least we have the best intentions.  Looking at the seasonal produce, I saw so much squash.  And spaghetti squash has a special quality about it.  Once it's cooked, it breaks down into a spaghetti-like texture.  I know it's an old trick, but it doesn't get old.  It's easy, nutritious, takes on whatever flavor you give it, and everyone can enjoy it.  I am partial to spaghetti, with lots of oregano.  And spaghetti squash goes even better than pasta with oregano.  Please take a look at an old blog post of mine about the chemistry of oregano and another great recipe: Spaghetti. With Lots of Oregano.  Use a strong oregano that you can smell - the stronger, the better.  I kept it really simple: roasted the spaghetti squash for best flavor and to ensure even cooking; tossed it with really good extra virgin olive oil, salt, white pepper, and  strong oregano.  To add a little Halloween flavor to it, sprinkle some black salt on top.  Yes, this is a luxurious option.  But why not?

Halloween Spaghetti Squash
  • spaghetti squash, 1 large
  • olive oil, 1/4 cup total at most
  • salt, garlic salt or powder, and white pepper to taste
  • oregano to taste, about 1 teaspoon
  • black salt for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. Cut squash in half length-wise (the most difficult - be careful!) and scoop out the seeds and center goop with a large metal spoon.  Drizzle olive oil and generously salt the cut side/inside part of the squash.  Place face side down onto a foil-lined jelly roll pan.  Cook at 425F for about 45 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool enough to handle. 
  3. Now the fun part: using a fork, grate and fluff up the spaghetti squash.  Place the grated squash into a large mixing bowl.  Toss it with salt, garlic (salt, powder, or granulated), and white pepper to taste.  Add in the oregano and toss until uniformly mixed.  Split into 4 servings and sprinkle black salt on top.
Enjoy and may your day be not too frightening.

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

This is part of Food Network's Fall Fest. Check out The FN Dish.  The summer produce we're focusing on here is Halloween related product.  On twitter, we're tagging #FallFest. Here are other Halloween inspired recipes to try out:  

Here’s the link to our Pinterest board:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Spanakopita Minus The -Opita

What the what?!  You know, the Greek spinach pie with the phyllo - spanakopita without the phyllo.  "Pita" means pie in Greek....  So I guess it's really more like Greek spinach casserole, but spanakopita minus the -opita sounds like more fun to me.  My ex-Greek-mother-in-law would make a small dish of this for me during the holidays.  Personally, I make this for just about every holiday and party that I'm asked to bring food throughout the whole year.  This is super easy to make and everyone loves it.  Better still, it is gluten-free, lactose-free, and can be served at any temperature.  Since this recipe uses such few ingredients, the quality is paramount.  Use fresh baby spinach, nice and tender green onions/scallions, and the best sheep's milk (naturally lactose-free) feta you can find.  Please, for the love of god, don't ever buy the pre-crumbled feta.  My favorite feta is the French sheep's milk feta cheese at Costco, which is super-affordable.  Costco is a great place to buy the spinach, too.

My last spinach recipe I posted was Catalan Spinach with Raisins, Pinenuts & Bacon (Espinacas a la Catalana).  Hands down, this is my favorite way to saute spinach. Check it out: recipe link here.

Spanakopita Minus The -Opita
  • olive oil, 1/4 cup
  • spinach, fresh, 1 pound
  • salt, 1 teaspoon
  • pepper, black &/or white, 1/2 teaspoon
  • dill, 1/2 teaspoon dry or 1 teaspoon fresh
  • oregano, 1/2 teaspoon dry (optional)
  • green onions/scallions, 1 bunch
  • sheep's milk feta, 1/2 pound / 8 ounces
  • eggs, 4 large, lightly scrambled
  1. Preheat oven to 375F.  Lightly spray a brownie pan (8x8).  I used my work-horse toaster oven.
  2. Heat up a large wok over medium heat, or a large skillet will work.  A wok works best, because it's kind of a bowl and reduces the need to get out a large mixing bowl.  Put in the olive oil.  Grab a large handful of the spinach, chop up the spinach into thick strips and immediately add into the wok.  Saute with a spatula, and repeat this process handful by handful until gone.  This way the moisture has time and space to cook off before adding in more spinach and you aren't overwhelmed with too much on the cutting board.  Chop and cook as you go is the way to go.  Add in the salt, pepper, dill, oregano and mix well.  Chop up the scallions, white end first, add into the wok.  Follow with the green part of the scallions, chopped.  Turn off the heat.  Allow to cool, stirring occasionally.
  3. Make sure the spinach mixture is not hot.  Crumble up the feta coarsely and far from perfect and add into the spinach mixture and gently fold in.  This is the time to add in taste, before adding in the eggs!  Adjust seasonings as needed.  Add in the eggs and carefully fold in mixture until somewhat homogeneous.
  4. Turn into the lightly oiled pan, smooth top with silicone spatula/spoon, and cook in a preheated (toaster) oven at 375F degrees for about 30 minutes.  The top will turn a nice brown color.  Allow to cool before cutting and serving.  Makes about 9-12 portions, depending how you cut it.
-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

This is part of Food Network's Fall Fest. Check out The FN Dish.  The summer produce we're focusing on here is spinach.  On twitter, we're tagging #FallFest. Here are other delicious spinach recipes to try out:  

Here’s the link to our Pinterest board:

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Chimichurri Carrots

Carrots are such the staple, that we almost consider them neutral.  Carrots are in the same plant class with celery, parsley, and cilantro.  I think all of them have strong flavors, in a good way.  The carrot can hold its own in so many things, even in cake.  Think about that... weird, right?  Lately I've been loving chimichurri sauce, an Argentine "salsa," if you will, made with olive oil, parsley and/or cilantro, garlic, acid (in form of vinegar or lemon, and optional chili, coriander, red bell pepper, tomato, etc....  Traditionally, it's used as a marinade for meat.  It's so good.  I figured why not toss some hot carrots with chimichurri to brighten up and compliment the carrots.  I wanted to cook the carrots very simply, cutting into rondelles and microwaving for a few minutes.  Microwaving?  Yes!  The microwave works with the water content and will not dilute the nutritional content of the vegetables.  And it's so easy and fast.  This dish is best served at room temperature and with toothpicks to share, or as a side dish with some good charred steak.

Chimichurri Carrots
  • Carrots, 4-6 large, peeled and cut into rounds/rondelles
  • Olive oil, 1/4 cup extra virgin/first press
  • Parsley and/or cilantro, 1/2 bunch wash, dried, leaves only
  • Garlic,4 cloves, optional: boil first for 1 minute to remove "the burn"
  • Salt, 1 teaspoon
  • Chili flake,1/4 teaspoon, optional
  • Vinegar or lemon juice, 2 tablespoons

  1. Prepare the chimichurri sauce first.  This way the sauce will be ready to toss on the hot carrots fresh out of the microwave to infuse as much flavor possible into the carrots and remove some of that fresh garlic heat.  In a food processor, pulse together the oil and garlic first to get the garlic as small as possible.  Add in the parsley/cilantro, salt, other seasonings if applicable, and the acid.  Pulse for a few moments until it resembles a pesto texture.
  2. Place the cut/prepared carrots into a medium micorwave safe bowl, preferably glass.  Cover tight with plastic wrap.  Microwave on high for 3-4 minutes, removing once to stir and check on done-ness.  The target should be al dente, a little crisp, yet tender.  Drain any residual water and toss in the chimichurri sauce and coat until evenly distributed.  Serves 4-6 people.  Keeps well in the fridge, covered.  Enjoy!
-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

This is part of Food Network's Fall Fest. Check out The FN Dish.  The summer produce we're focusing on here are carrots.  On twitter, we're tagging #FallFest. Here are other delicious carrot recipes to try out:  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mashed Turnips with Celery Root

Turnips.  The enigmatic root vegetable.  Deceivingly peppery with a pretty fuchsia exterior and a perfectly white interior.  Typically for root vegetables, I either roast them or mash them.  Look at this picture, root vegetables appear imperfectly beautiful.  Last year, I wrote a recipe for roasted turnips with rosemary.  This time, I thought celery root would make for a good flavor pairing with the turnips, given its intense celeriac character.  Keeping it simple with rustic, with a dash of nutmeg, garlic, and white pepper for a hint of fall.  Here's the final product which I find rustic and comforting.

Mashed Turnips with Celery Root

  • turnips: 2, peeled and cut into uniform medium cubes
  • celery root: 1, peeled and cut into uniform small cubes
  • butter: 4 tablespoons
  • salt, white pepper, nutmeg, granulated garlic to taste
  • milk or half and half: about 1/2 cup
  1. In a large pan, bring salted water to a boil.  Add in the celery root first (takes longer to cook, and that's why we want to cut it smaller), followed by the turnips.  Cook until fork tender, about 30 minutes.
  2. Drain well.  In a bowl, or return to pan, mash with masher.  Add in the butter, and seasonings.  Taste while mashing more.  (Alternately, for a smoother texture, make this in the food processor.)  Once the desired texture is achieved, add in the milk or half and half.   Again, taste for seasonings and adjust.
  3. Makes about 4-6 servings.
-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

This is part of Food Network's Fall Fest. Check out The FN Dish.  The summer produce we're focusing on here are turnips.  On twitter, we're tagging #FallFest. Here are other delicious turnip recipes to try out:  

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Pumpkin Panna Cotta with Pumpkin Seed Brittle

Pumpkin is such a quintessential autumn ingredient.  At first, I wanted to make pumpkin whoopie pies and realized I posted those last year.  Here's the link:  The only difference is that I would make maple marshmallows using maple syrup instead of molasses.  Much better flavor pairing.  Maybe I will make those for the weekend.  Then I remembered another favorite of mine I have not made since probably two years ago: pumpkin panna cotta with a pepitas (pumpkin seed) brittle.  Panna cotta is Italian for cooked cream and it is generally a simmered cream, sugar, and gelatin mixture that is eaten once cold and set up.  It is one of my favorite desserts.  I took the standard recipe and replaced half the cream with pumpkin pulp, used brown sugar instead of white sugar, and added in traditional spices.  I thought a brittle would compliment the texture well, and using raw pumpkin seeds/pepitas works perfectly.  Yes, the brittle is a "technical" component, meaning that for best results, use precision: weighing the ingredients, monitoring temperature, and working fast.  Just read through the ingredients and instructions twice before trying it.  You can do it, I have confidence in you.  Notes: glucose can be found at any baking/candy supply store and most craft stores; allow 4 hours to set; makes 6 servings.

Pumpkin Panna Cotta
  • gelatin: 2 teaspoons (6.5g)
  • cold water: 2 tablespoons (30g)
  • heavy cream: 1 1/2 cups (345g)
  • pumpkin, canned: 1 1/2 cups (370g)
  • brown sugar: 3/4 cup (150g)
  • vanilla extract: 1 teaspoon (7g)
  • cinnamon: 1 teaspoon (3g)
  • salt: 3/4 teaspoon (3g)
  • nutmeg, ginger, allspice: 1/4 teaspoon (0.5g) each
  • sour cream: 8 ounces (220g)

Pepitas (Pumpkin Seed) Brittle
  • sugar: 90g
  • glucose/corn syrup: 60g
  • water: 38g
  • pepitas, raw: 70g
  • butter: 6g
  • vanilla: 3g
  • salt: 0.6g
  • baking soda: 1.0g

Pumpkin Panna Cotta
  1. In a small bowl, put in the gelatin and add the cold water on top of it, covering it completely.  Allow to bloom for 10-15 minutes.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the heavy cream, pumpkin, sugar, salt, and spices (but not the vanilla yet since it's more heat sensitive).  Whisk over medium-low heat with constant stirring.  Once warm, add in the hydrated gelatin and whisk with constant stirring until dissolved.  Heat until not even simmering, about 10-15 minutes total time, 2-3 minutes once the gelatin has been added.  Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla extract.
  3. In a large bowl, add in the sour cream at once.  To that, slowly whisk in the pumpkin/cream mixture.  Constantly whisk until completely mixed.  Evenly divide into 6 ramekins/custard cups.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to set up in fridge for at least 4 hours.
Pepitas (Pumpkin Seed) Brittle
  1. Lightly oil a marble slab or silpat or parchment on a cookie sheet.
  2. Combine the sugar, glucose, and water in a small, heavy saucepan.  Bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar and make a syrup.  Boil the syrup until the temperature reaches 250F.
  3. Add in the raw pepitas and butter.  Continue to boil until the mixture reaches 312F.  Stir constantly and gently to prevent burning on the bottom.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat.  Stir in the vanilla, salt, and baking soda.  Use cation, as the hot syrup will foam up for a moment.
  5. Pour the mixture onto the slab you prepared.  Using an oiled spatula, gently and very quickly spread out the mixture as evenly as possible.  Immediately, lightly salt the top. 
  6. Using a large, strong knife or cleaver, carefully cut the brittle into strips, squares, whatever shape you would like.
  7. Cool completely and store in airtight containers.
-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

This is part of Food Network's Fall Fest. Check out The FN Dish.  The summer produce we're focusing on here are pumpkins.  On twitter, we're tagging #FallFest. Here are other delicious pumpkin recipes to try out: