mulberryshoots

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Roasted acorn squash and wild rice . . .

Last week, I saw a photo of a stuffed acorn squash recipe that looked promising. The only reservation I had as I selected a medium size squash was how to cut it crosswise into thick rings.

And it wasn’t easy either, I would caution you. First, I cooked a packet of Minnesota wild rice in a pan along with a handful of golden raisins. Alongside, I sauteed fresh mushroom pieces with some diced red onion. Once the rice was cooked, I thought it was a little too wet and sauteed it (like fried rice) with the mushroom onion mix until the moisture was absorbed.

Cutting the acorn squash lengthwise required a sharp weighty bread knife, alternating with a sharp-pointed slicing knife. Between the two of them, I managed to make 1-inch slices, cleaning out the seeds. On a baking sheet, I added a little spring water to the aluminum foil in the pan before placing the squash slices in a 400 degree oven. Forty-five minutes later, I melted some butter, added it to brown sugar and glazed the tops of the squash, letting it cook 15 minutes longer. By this step, the acorn squash was cooked through before adding rice to it.

When cooled, I poured off any residual water in the baking pan, and scooped a handful of the wild rice mushroom mixture into each opening. I brushed the edges of the squash with the brown sugar/butter glaze.

Before serving, I’ll pop the stuffed squash into a 375 degree oven for another 20-30 minutes. Along with the squash, I’m baking a batch of Pillsbury buttermilk biscuits (they’re handy to have in the fridge for meals like this.)

We just enjoyed this supper – a new dish for us, and it was really delicious! We’re fans of golden raisins and they were plumped up from being cooked with the wild rice. I ate the peel of the squash and G. ate the squash from the inside out – but we both agreed it was really tasty! A keeper!

 

New England apple pie! . . .

Today, I made an apple pie for us to enjoy while we watch the Patriots game against Tampa Bay tonight. It’s been ideal New England Fall weather the last couple of days although it’s quite a bit warmer today. Despite that, I picked up some Cortland apples at the store to make an old-fashioned apple pie. Recently, it’s occurred to me that I enjoy making (and eating) pies more than making cakes. I don’t really know why, but it’s a really different cooking process and eating experience too!

The biggest difference of course is the crust. I confess I used to buy frozen pie crusts and just use two of them over the cored apple mixture. But recently, I’ve been interested in making pie crust from scratch. The last time, I used too much ice water to the flour/fat mixture and the resulting crust was hard and not tender at all.  This time, here’s what I did for my second try at homemade pie crust:

  1. Measured 2 1/2 cups of King Arthur flour into the bowl of  my Cuisinart
  2. Took two very cold (hard) sticks of unsalted butter from the fridge.
  3. Unwrapped them, cut them lengthwise twice, and then into small bits.
  4. Put the bits of cold butter into the Cuisinart and pulsed a couple of times until the butter was incorporated in tiny bits in the dry flour.
  5. Added salt (1/2 teaspoon); Added scant 1/2 cup of ice water while pulsing the mixture until it was still crumbly but still able to be patted into a ball without any other handling when I turned the machine off.
  6. Wrapped up the ball of crust (for bottom and top crusts) and refrigerated for about 4 hours (honestly!)

To make the filling and finish making the pie:

  1. I peeled about 8 Cortland apples (I have a new peeler for thin skins like peaches, tomatoes and apples – it works great!)
  2. Sliced the usable apple pieces into a bowl, discarding bruised spots, cores and skin.
  3. In a separate large bowl, I mixed together 1/3 cup of flour, 1/3 cup of sugar, 2 heaping teaspoons of Indonesian cinnamon spice; 1 heaping teaspoon of nutmeg, salt. Mixed the dry ingredients together really well and poured the prepared apple pieces into it, mixing well with my hands.
  4. Then poured the coated apple mixture back into the pie crust and dotted the top with bits of butter.
  5. I rolled out the top crust and used a crimped scone cutter to make impressions into the crust for decoration and also to provide steam holes when the apples bake. Crimped the edge into a pretty design and sprinkled the top of the pie with a little sugar.
  6. I tore three lengths of aluminum foil and wrapped them around the crust so that it wouldn’t burn prematurely.
  7. Into a preheated 400 degree oven, I turned on the oven light and set the timer for an hour.

We like to reheat the pie right before eating so it’s still a bit warm. With some vanilla ice cream, it’s a dream dessert. Especially here in New England during apple season and when we’re looking forward to watching a football game tonight!

Go Pats!

Sunday meatballs for after the game! . . .

It is the most glorious Sunday, weather-wise at least – and I decided to make a batch of meatballs to stir into sauce for our supper tonight after the Patriots play this afternoon.

I discovered that baking meatballs on cookie sheets is a much simpler and easier way to make meatballs than browning them in a skillet and turning them over. Here’s a very simple and tasty recipe that I use, sometimes I use ground turkey and sometimes a meatloaf mixture of ground veal, pork and beef.

  1. Pour about 2/3rds cup of dry Pepperidge Farm stuffing crumbs into a bowl.
  2. Add milk to moisten – but not runny – about 1/2 cup.
  3. Grate a raw onion half into the crumbs; sprinkle generously with Lawry’s garlic salt and freshly ground pepper; add dried parsley flakes.
  4. Add an egg and mix the whole thing together until well blended.
  5. Add a pack of meatloaf mixture into the breadcrumb/onion mixture.
  6. Blend gently until the ground meat and crumb mixture are combined.
  7. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  8. Using your hands, gently form meatballs that are not too big and not too small and place on the sheets so they are not touching each other.
  9. Bake for about 25-30 minutes. The meatballs will continue cooking after they’re taken out of the oven.
  10. Depending on the size of the meatballs, I’ll save 3-4 each serving for spaghetti tonight (Ragu sauce, thin spaghetti, hand grated parmesan cheese on top.)
  11. Then when the meatballs are cool, I’ll freeze them in packs of 6-8 where they will come in handy to serve either Swedish meatballs (beef broth and sour cream with parsley and noodles) or more Spaghetti and meatballs.

This is a foolproof, quick to put together recipe to make a lot of meatballs! They’re tender and full of flavor. Enjoy!

 

salmon “poke” salad with seaweed and jasmine rice

 

We’re fortunate to live in New England so the fish that is sold at fish markets and even grocery stores is pretty high quality most of the week. I was a little hesitant to buy salmon on a Monday but it turned out to be tasty in a “poke” salad bowl that I served for dinner tonight along with freshly made jasmine rice.

Sometimes in Hawaii where the “poke” (pronounced po’kay;) tradition emanates, they place the marinated raw fish on a mound of rice. I avoided that because I didn’t want the temperature of the warm rice to diminish the freshness of the raw salmon. So, here’s how I put together this dish:

  1. I bought 3/4 pound of the freshest salmon I could find today.
  2. Also picked up a container of seaweed salad which added a wonderful taste to the salad.
  3. I skinned the fillet of salmon after rinsing it in cold water and drying it with paper towels. I then cut it up in medium sized cubes.
  4. For a marinade, I put powdered wasabi in a bowl, added Ohsawa soy sauce, diluted it with a little cold water, added sesame oil, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. A tiny bit of honey to take the edge off – then added a few spoonfuls of the marinade on the fish, turning it around and then put it in the fridge. This was about half an hour before dinner.
  5. I cooked jasmine rice in my rice cooker and served it in separate bowls. We really like this rice, especially when it’s made right before we eat and served hot.
  6. Preparing the salad included using two shallow bowls, lining it with fresh lettuce, cut up endive, a Persian cucumber quarter cut and lightly covered with the same marinade as for the salmon.
  7. Then, I piled up the marinated salmon in the middle and finished it with the seaweed salad ringed around it with some on top of the fish.

We enjoyed this supper because the tastes were very clean and all in all, it was pretty healthy too.

fresh spinach! . . .

At the farmstand this week, I picked through some farm grown spinach for tender sprouts of spinach. Back home, I showed it to G. and he suggested we have it for dinner – all of it! So, I made a spinach souffle from scratch after soaking the spinach to get rid of the grit – and saved the tender leaves for a salad to go alongside.

Making spinach salad is one of my favorites because I cook a few slices of bacon, break it up and slice up a fresh mushrooms dressed with a simple vinaigrette. It’s tasty and refreshing!

 

 

homemade lobster macaroni and cheese! . . .

Yesterday at the Stop and Shop, I happened upon a small cooked lobster at the seafood counter. I picked it up and asked the counterwoman if there were any more and she said she hadn’t had any time to steam any more because it had been so busy.

I decided to buy it anyhow and shelled it when I got home, thinking there might just be enough for a couple of lobster rolls for dinner but there didn’t seem to be enough for two of us.  Somehow, I got distracted and I decided to make the wild mushroom pasta with lemon sauce instead. So, what to do with the shelled lobster?

Many places I have looked feature a lobster macaroni and cheese dish which I’ve always thought was a cringe-worthy gilding the lily kind of dish. I mean, why would anyone put lobster into mac and cheese? Well, tonight, I’m going to find out. I looked at numerous lobster mac and cheese recipes online (Ree Drummond, Ina Garten, Bobby Flay,) and was struck by how expensive and how many types of cheese were included in their recipes to make the dish: cheddar, gruyere, goat cheese, fontina, pecorino, parmesan and on and on.

Being somewhat of a luddite when it comes to making an erstwhile pretty simple dish for supper, I went to the grocery store and bought extra-large elbow macaroni (the better to soak up the sauce); a package of Kraft white sharp grated cheese; and whole milk. I already had unsalted butter, flour and of course the lobster.

One of the tips from the recipes (I think it was Ree Drummond’s) was to lightly warm the lobster pieces in a skillet of melted butter first and then set aside; otherwise the lobster might be watery. After that,  it’s the usual 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter, 2 tablespoons of flour stirred in to make a roux and then, adding whole milk to make a bechamel sauce base and then melting the cheese in it. I planned to do that, then folded in the buttered lobster pieces, mixing gently. For the finishing touch, I melted a little butter in the microwave and stirred some panko crumbs in it, covering them to make them brown in golden bits on top of the casserole. I then grated some fresh parmesan cheese on top and baked it in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes.

The proportions of the sauce and the macaroni was perfect as it baked – because when we served it, there was no gooey mess (too much sauce) and the plump elbow macaroni was scrumptions! I could have eaten the whole thing without lobster too – but that too was good. Gives me some more ideas of other simple macaroni casseroles to make – with ground beef, green peppers, onions and tomato sauce, right?

 

 

fresh pasta with wild mushrooms & lemon sauce. . .

While I was in Gloucester this week, my daughter took me to a pasta store named  Pastaio via corta where I bought some freshly made curly edged pasta called Mafalda. I’ve cooked it before from a package of dried pasta – this was slightly thinner and very tender to the bite when cooked.

We had just shared a tasty lunch of pasta with lemon sauce and caviar, whose basic lemon sauce I also used for this recipe. At Idylwylde Farm, I picked up a pack of assorted wild mushrooms which I saved to cook with the fresh pasta. So in a skillet, I melted a tablespoon of unsalted butter and when it was sizzling, I threw the whole pack of mushrooms in to cook gently. On the back burner, I boiled water to cook the pasta, which was done in about 9 minutes. I drained it, saving some of the pasta water and then shook it to make sure it was separated.

The recipe called for zest of one lemon and the juice of same. I had done that and set it aside. In a large mixing bowl, I put three tablespoons of butter, tossed the warm pasta in it and added a little pasta water. Then, I added the lemon zest and lemon juice, tossing the pasta well. The pasta looked beautifully creamy although there was no dairy in this dish. I divided the pasta onto two plates and then lay the wild mushrooms on top – a twist of cracked pepper is all that it needed. We had parmesan cheese on the side but the flavor of the lemon pasta was so clean and pure that it didn’t warrant adding any grated cheese to the mix.

It’s a keeper and I’m looking forward to going back and buying more fresh pasta – this time, enough so that I can freeze it for future meals!

 

lemon chiffon pie! . . .

I make a key lime pie that is a family favorite – my 98-year old mother-in-law who lives across the street from us especially enjoys it. But today, I read about a restaurant in NYC that served a scrumptious lemon chiffon pie. I thought that might be nice to try and so went to the store to buy fresh lemons, a graham cracker crust and some heavy whipping cream.

The recipe from Epicurious sounded pretty straightforward but the lemon filling part turned out to be a little tricky when I tried it. Here’s the steps I followed:

  1. Baked a store-bought graham crust in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.
  2. During that time, I zested two lemons and separated 4 eggs, retaining the yolks.
  3. I squeezed 3/4 cup lemon juice using my Oster electric citrus juicer (handy for this pie and also key lime pie!)
  4. Set an envelope of gelatin into 1/4 cup of water and stirred it together, letting it set for 15 minutes.
  5. Cooked the 3/4 cup sugar, 3/4 lemon juice, 4 egg yolks and lemon zest in a saucepan on the stove. Forgot to add the salt. Stirred it under boiling for 6 minutes. It blended together but didn’t thicken very much. I added the gelatin mixture and stirred it over heat for another minute (following the recipe.)
  6. Placed the filling in a bowl of ice water. During this step, I moved the filling and a little water got into the mixture  (roll eyes!) – so I put it back in a smaller saucepan and tried to cook off the extra water for about 5 more minutes.  Back into the ice water bath to cool down.
  7. I had put a stainless bowl and beater into the freezer to chill for whipping the cream. Took it out when the lemon filling had cooled and wasn’t warm anymore.
  8. I beat the cream until stiff – didn’t take very long because of the chilled utensils which always helps. Then I folded a third of the whipped cream into the lemon filling, using the whipping beater to gently fold it in – then in four more payloads of whipping cream, I folded in the rest. It looked creamy and fluffy – which was good because I had been worried the filling wasn’t thick enough.
  9. I poured the filling into the cooled crust and piled it higher in the middle. Set four toothpicks and put a clingwrap over the top. Instead of chilling it in the fridge, I placed the pie in the freezer, hoping it would “take” for our supper tonight. By this time, it was 4 o’clock and the recipe had called for chilling in the fridge for 4 hours.

I couldn’t resist tasting a little of the filling while washing up. It was delicious! I had used less sugar in both the filling and the whipped cream and a little more lemon juice because we like things tart. It will be interesting to see how chilling it will affect the taste.

I’ll caution you that making this pie was about three times more work than the key lime pie that I make pretty often – the cooking, 6 minutes of stirring the filling, the gelatin, cooling, whipping cream and folding it in. But, I’m also thinking that it might be at least twice as tasty!  We’ll see about that.

Later, I thought of folding the whipped cream into the key lime pie filling rather than putting it on later. The texture of that pie would change dramatically too!

Anyhow, both are nice summer desserts. Good for colder weather too when there are heavier meals – and it would be refreshing to have a light, cool dessert!

Note: We just ate our first slice of pie – it was very different from the key lime pie – the texture in particular was smoother with the whipped cream incorporated into the lemon filling. Plus, there was gelatin in this recipe and you can tell. It’s lemons vs. limes but both pies are very tasty!

 

tofu dishes . . .

Last week, Caitlin and I had lunch at a sushi bar in Cambridge. A cold tofu appetizer was delicious – a cube of tofu with a little tamari or soy with nori strips and sesame seeds – it was refreshing and tasty. Today, I read a bewitching article in the NYTimes “Eat” section by Gabrielle Hamilton about making tofu from scratch and serving it in a novel way.

This afternoon, I opened a pack of “silken” tofu and spooned about a third of the contents into a large white bowl. It was just enough for a mid-afternoon snack after a rather sparse salad for lunch. To it, I poured a little Ohsawa organic soy sauce, snipped some “spicy nori strips” on top and sprinkled on some Eden brand Gomasio (sesame seeds, seaweed salt, etc.) on top.

It was tasty and satisfied my craving for something cool and savory on a summer Sunday afternoon. If you like fresh cilantro, a little on top might be tasty too.

a (white) peach pie for summer! . . .

I’ve been wanting to make a peach pie all summer but I haven’t found any fruit that was ripe enough to use. Even the local peaches at the farm stand were rock hard. So today at the grocery store, I found some white peaches that were fragrant and felt ripe but not too ripe. I bought six of them and put them in a simmering pot of water for about 3-4 minutes. I took them out and under cold running water, their skins peeled off readily and as easily as any I’ve ever prepared.

The peeled peaches lend an extra challenge when using because the center of the peach has a crusty rough part that sticks to the peach segments when you cut them up. I cut them off the first peach but then cut slices around the core to avoid the tough red stuff on the others. To the sliced peaches, I mixed together about a third of a cup of flour, a third of a cup of sugar, two tablespoons of cinnamon and a tablespoon of ground nutmeg. I stirred it together until finely mixed and added it to the peaches, stirring gently until all the fruit was covered.

Instead of making a pie crust, I had taken out a piece of puff pastry from the freezer when I had begun to prepare the peaches. After it thawed, I spread a little flour on a board and laid it out, rolling it gently with a rolling pin until it was as thin as it could be and still hold together to be a crust.

I then spooned the peach mixture onto the puff pastry sheet and drew up both sides, leaving the top open and closing the sides by pinching the dough together. The trickiest part was lifting the pie in one piece onto parchment paper in a baking pan (next time, I’ll put the pastry on the parchment paper and fill it there!)  Into a 400 degree oven, I set the timer for about 45 minutes.

We’ll give a portion to George’s brother and Mom who live across the street, and serve ours warmed up with a little vanilla ice cream I have in the freezer tonight. A luscious dessert to enjoy after a rather spartan dinner. Yum!