Friday, October 21, 2011

Oven Roast Acorn Squash

Squash. Probably not the most exciting food out there, but it deserves attention. 

You know, Native Americans grew corn, beans, and squash together. The beans climbed the corn stalks, and the squash plants covered the ground. The three together were called the Three Sisters. They were beneficial for the health of each plant and made a sustainable food source.

I have grown all three plants before in our garden, but I did not do it that way. Our garden was arranged in rows. The corn didn't do so well. They were infested with earwigs. Half the bean plants just up and died. But the squash plants were great! That year, we discovered we grew awesome onions and tons and tons of potatoes and carrots.

This summer, we built new garden boxes following the All New Square Foot Gardening book my cousin sent me. We didn't get it done in time to grow squash, but we did get a few things in. Next year, I will grow lots of squash, especially acorn squash. They are sort of cute.

As a kid, my mom would make these with butter, sugar, and cinnamon for dessert. I didn't like squash back then. Now I do and sometimes, I make it just like Mom.

1 acorn squash, green or white variety
Optional: butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, ground cardamom

1. Cut squash lengthwise in half. Remove the seeds and seed membrane.

2. Place squash cut side down in a glass dish. Fill with water to about 1/4 inch deep. A little more water is OK.

3. Place in preheated 350F oven and roast about 45 minutes, or until squash is tender.

4. Fully cooked squash will be very tender and the color will deepen a bit. You can stop here and serve these cut into chunks or quarters, which will serve 4 as a side dish. You could also give an entire half to one person, then one squash serves 2 people. 

5. If you want to enhance the sweetness, flip over cooked halves and fill each with 2 Tablespoons butter, 2 heaping Tablespoons brown sugar, a good sprinkle of cinnamon, and a dash of cardamom. Return to oven just long enough to melt the butter. Sometimes, I like this as a dessert, or even just alone as a comfort food.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Barley Pilaf

Usually, I love rice. To be different, I made pilaf with barley.

I think not too many people really eat barley. I like it. It's tasty, hearty. I love it in veggie beef soup. Every once in a while, I make some plain barley just to change things up.

This was a good change up. Just be aware that barley takes a lot longer to cook than rice. You may end up boiling for a good hour before it's ready to eat.  Make sure to use a bit more liquid than rice. I went for 1 cup barley to 2.5 cups liquid.

1 Tablespoon butter
1 cup pearl barley
1/2 medium yellow onion, minced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 1/2 cups stock or broth (I used chicken stock)

1. In a 2 Qt. saucepan, saute onion and carrot in the butter until softened and starting to brown. 

2.  Add the barley and continue sauteeing about 2 minutes. You want the barley to get a little glossy.

3. Stir in your stock.  Bring up to a boil.  Cover and keep at a low boil for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until the barley is tender and has absorbed all the stock. Barley takes a long time to cook at altitude so you may even need another 15 minutes.

3. Serve warm. This makes a nice bed for other foods.

With pilafs, you can add other vegetables if you want them. Some common additions to pilaf are green peas, pine nuts, parsley, or sliced mushrooms (evil mushrooms).

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Poached Eggs

First, I have to apologize to you all for this beautiful photo of Eggs Benedict.  I truly love runny poached eggs as part of Eggs Benedict. The yolk getting  mixed with the Hollandaise sauce and the salty Canadian bacon, fluffy egg white, crunchy toast...delish!

I chose this photo because who wants to see plain old poached eggs on a plain plate? Not exciting, if you asked me. Oozing sauce, the variation of textures, nice! Sorry I didn't show the yolk oozing into the sauce. I was too busy snarfing to take another photo.

2 eggs per person, really fresh
2 Qts. water
2 Tablespoons white vinegar

1.Combine water and vinegar in a saucepan. Bring up to a simmer. You want it to be gentle, just bubbling a tiny bit. A hard boil will ruin your eggs.

2. Break eggs into separate bowls.

3. Give the water a little stir and carefully slide your first egg into the middle. You want to be as close to the water's surface as possible so the egg doesn't break up as you drop it. Give it just a few seconds to start to set up. Using your slotted spoon, sort of coax it into a little ball so if you have egg white that's trying to spread out, it goes back to a rounded shape.

Some people don't stir the hot water and just slide them in along the edge. I've tried this and not liked the results. I think the little swirl helps to keep it round. Also note that the more eggs you cook, the frothier your poaching water will become. It's normal. If you have a lot of floating cooked egg white residue, you should skim it off.

When the first egg is holding together well, add the second egg. Now don't go and confuse which egg is which.

4. For a really nice runny yolk, cook 2-3 minutes.  If you go over 3 minutes, it will get too firm. I aim for about 2 1/2 minutes. Remove egg with a slotted spoon and let as much water run off as possible.

5. I like to serve poached eggs on top of toasted English muffins with Canadian bacon and Hollandaise sauce, as Eggs Benedict. You can top it with minced parsley, chives, or green onions.

I tried the Julia Child blender-method Hollandaise sauce. It worked, but I didn't like the flavor. I guess I can attribute the difference, the nuances, to the cooking method and amount of lemon juice. I prefer less lemony-ness. If you're like me, try Gordon Ramsay's Hollandaise. I'm not big on tarragon, it's sort of like licorice. You may to experiment with amounts of tarragon before making a bunch of sauce you don't like.