Smoky ‘Shroom-and-Kale-Stuffed Pattypan Squash

I wish I’d been around when humans got down to the business of naming things.  I’d definitely be pretty psyched to have been the one to point at a scurrying gray rodent with an endearingly bushy tail and say, “We should call that a ‘squirrel’ from now on.” And speaking of awesome names, heirloom vegetables might just be one of the deepest wellsprings of hilarious, beautiful and downright odd monikers known to man.  In the tomato family alone, there’s “Chocolate Stripes,” “Mortgage Lifter,” “Pink Oxheart,” “Brandywine,” “Big Rainbow,” “Enchantment,” “German Johnson,” and “Grandma’s Recliner.” No wait, that last one was made up by Molly and Matt of Spilled Milk, one of my very favorite podcasts.

Take pattypan squash.  It’s hard to say without a hint of a smile, right? These flower-shaped beauties are also known as scallop squash, which describes the elegant curves of their edges.  (Cue John Legend song here.)  Come to think of it, that tune could very well have been written about heirloom veggies: all your perfect imperfections… Anyway, according to rareseeds.com, pattypan is “a very ancient native American heirloom squash, grown by the northern Indians for hundreds of years.”  So thank you northern Indians, for cultivating this delicious fruit we still enjoy today.

beautiful vegetables

The pattypans we got in our box this week were about fist size, perfect for stuffing with goodness to preserve their unique geometry and create a hot-lookin’ main dish.  To stuff a pattypan squash, treat it like a pumpkin destined for jack o’ lantern status: saw out the top of the squash with a paring knife by aiming the blade at about a 45 degree angle down into the flesh and cut in a circle; you should wind up with a cone shape when you pull off the top. Then using a metal spoon, scrape out the seeds and some of the flesh of the pattypan, making a decent sized compartment for whatever you’d like to stuff inside.

hollow squash

My creation was born of what dwelt in the fridge: collard greens, red Russian kale, cream cheese, and cremini mushrooms.  You can stuff yours with just about anything; grains, greens, and/or cheese work especially well.  Here’s my recipe:

Smoky ‘Shroom-and-Kale-Stuffed Pattypan Squash

Ingredients:

2 large Pattypan squash, tops removed and insides hollowed as described above

2 Tbsp olive oil, divided

2 cloves garlic, minced

5 collard green leaves, ribs removed and shredded

5 red Russian kale leaves, ribs removed and shredded

8 whole cremini mushrooms, diced

¼ cup cream cheese

smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, and salt to taste

stuffed pattypan squash

Method:

In a medium sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and sauté for a brief minute before adding the shredded greens.  Reduce the heat slightly and cook the greens until bright green and tender, adding water to deglaze the pan as needed, as you don’t want the garlic or the greens to brown or burn.  Remove greens from the pan to a small bowl and set aside.

Using the same pan over medium heat, add the second tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the diced mushrooms to the pan and stir to coat with oil.  Once the mushrooms are tender and glossy, lower the heat and add the cream cheese, stirring to encourage melting. Add smoked paprika, cayenne and salt, tasting the mixture with each addition. (Don’t be shy with your spices, the cream cheese tempers the heat quite nicely.) Add the cooked greens back to the pan and mix all ingredients (except squash) until uniformly incorporated, then remove filling mixture from heat.

Using a spoon, stuff the kale and mushroom mixture into the squashes, pushing down on the filling with the back of the spoon to make room for more goodness.  Overstuff so some filling is visible coming out of the squash, then place the little caps on top. Cover the outside of the squash with a light sheen of olive oil to prevent scorching.

Bake stuffed squash in a 400°F oven for about 20 minutes or until thickest part of squash can be pierced with a fork without much difficulty (but is not totally mushy.)

Serve warm alongside a simple green salad and sliced fruit of the season.

kale and mushroom stuffed pattypan squash

kale and shroom stuffed pattypans

Sage, Arugula and Leek Omelette for Two (and one more CSA-inspired recipe!)

Happy first day of summer. I’ve issued myself a challenge: one blog entry per week showcasing the produce from our weekly CSA box. We’re two boxes in and I’ve yet to write a post about the awesomely fresh, local, organic veggies I’ve been cooking, eating and loving lately , so looks like this one’s gonna be a two-fer folks. These recipes will be more loose and versatile than others I’ve posted; they’re meant to inspire you to grab whatever’s fresh at the market and make from it something simple and delicious, that showcases the flavors of the season. Please interpret these with your own creative twist, and leave a comment about what you came up with, I’d love to hear from you. Let’s share some local love!

From some of the shining stars of our first box, which we conveniently pick up at the nearby Tosa farmer’s market every Saturday morning, I whipped up a tasty midday omelette filled with leeks, sage, baby arugula (not from the CSA ) and goat cheese.

sage, arugula and leek omelette

I’m no omelette pro, but the key to keeping it together seems to be touching the eggs as little as possible while they’re cooking. I’m sure they are plenty of excellent omelette-making tutorials on YouTube so I won’t go into great depth with the instructions.

Sage, Arugula and Leek Omelette for Two

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon butter or olive oil (divided)
5 free range eggs (bonus if you can get them at the market)
salt to taste
1 tablespoon half and half (or whole milk, heavy cream, or coconut milk)
two handfuls baby arugula
about 8 sage leaves, chopped
1 small (spring) leek, sliced into half moons, rinsed
¼ cup fresh goat cheese, crumbled
fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Method:

Heat ½ tablespoon of the butter or oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When butter is melted or oil runs loosely in the pan, add the leeks and stir until slightly softened. Next, add the arugula and sage, cooking until wilted. Turn off heat and remove mixture to a separate plate; cover with a bowl to keep warm. Wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel.

Whisk together the eggs, cream, and salt in a bowl. Add another ½ tablespoon of fat to the skillet.

When butter is melted or oil runs loosely in the pan, pour the eggs into it and swirl to cover the surface of the skillet. Let the eggs sit for a quick minute, until the bottom of the omelette is just firm. Then, using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, gently peel back the cooked eggs and tilt the pan so the runny eggs run into the open space in the skillet. Continue this process maybe one or two more times until the eggs are mostly cooked but still soft.

Add the arugula mixture to the center of the omelette in a loose line, then sprinkle the filling with about half of the goat cheese. Carefully fold the omelette edges over the filling. Cover the skillet and cook for one more minute if you are concerned there may be some runny egg lurking.

Remove omelette from the skillet and serve topped with remaining goat cheese crumbles, pepper, and a sage garnish if you’re feelin’ fancy. Cut in two and enjoy with a loved one or save half for tomorrow’s lunch (cold omelette = delish).

sage, arugula and leek omelette

Week two’s box brought us strawberries, kale, leeks, radishes, asparagus, and more! Today, I whipped up a simple cooked salad of sautéed kale and asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts and parmesan which we enjoyed alongside a rotisserie chicken and some good crusty bread (wine too).

fresh loca asparagus

Roasted Kale and Asparagus Salad with Nutmeg

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb. asparagus, trimmed of woody ends
1 bunch red Russian (or any other variety) kale, stems removed, leaves chopped
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan or other hard cheese
¼ cup pine nuts
salt, pepper to taste

sauteed kale and asparagus salad

Heat half of the oil in a large skillet, medium heat. Add the asparagus and sauté until bright green and still very crisp, about 4 minutes. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Remove from pan and set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in the same skillet. Add the chopped kale leaves and sauté until bright green and tender. Add the sun dried tomatoes, cooking minute or two longer. Remove skillet from heat and stir in parmesan and pine nuts. Salt and pepper to taste, add addition olive oil as desired.

In a large bowl or on a serving platter, first make a layer of the sautéed kale, then top with the asparagus, finishing with more parmesan and pine nuts for garnish.

Serve warm, cold, or at room temperature.

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Homemade Almond Milk and Almond Meal Thumbprint Cookies – plus Quinoa for Breakfast!

I love the fresh feeling that a new year swirls into life.  Even though I don’t have a laundry list of resolutions this go round, I’m laced with the desire to take small steps of self improvement.  One that’s been on my mind is increasing my self-sufficiency, becoming less reliant on convenience and ready-made products and more apt to make things myself or improvise with something I’ve already got.  It’s so easy for me to go to the store any time and buy most ANY thing I want or need, but what if I first comb through a few forgotten basement alternatives or YouTube how to fix the thing I already have, or gosh, even just hit up Goodwill before heading to Target?  I figure this could be good for my soul and my pocketbook.

Another small change I’d like to work on is generating less food waste.  This summer I read Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal which embraces economical cooking: not wasting the parts of food we tend to throw away.  I tried some of her tricks but then got a little lazy (and also tired of all the broccoli stems and cauliflower cores building up in my fridge), but I’m willing to try again with some New-Year-zaza energy!

The recipes that follow are manifestations of these two small changes: homemade almond milk to prove I can do it myself (without carageenan and potassium sorbate to boot!) and almond meal thumbprint cookies to showcase how delicious and worth keeping the “byproduct” of almond milk can be.  Then, in celebration of all our New Year clean-eating intentions, there’s a recipe for tummy-friendly quinoa breakfast porridge simmered with chocolate almond milk and topped with pecans and cinnamon.  Happy New Year.

freshly soaked almonds

Homemade Almond Milk

Ingredients: 

2 cups almonds

6 cups filtered water

pinch of salt

optional add-ins: cinnamon, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, maple syrup

almond nuggets of joy

Method:

1. In a large bowl, cover almonds with 2 inches of water.  Let soak for 8-12 hours.

2. Drain and rinse almonds.

3. In a blender, combine 2 cups almonds and 6 cups filtered water. Blend on high speed for 3 minutes, or until almonds are completely pulverized and liquid is milky in color and consistency.  Add salt and any flavorings and blend on low until incorporated.

4. To strain almond milk, set a strainer over a large bowl or pitcher. Line strainer with cheesecloth.  Slowly pour the milk from the blender into the lined strainer, watching to make sure it doesn’t overflow.

5. Allow milk to drain for a minute or so.  Now, the fun part: gather cheesecloth ends to form a pouch, making sure the almond meal is totally enclosed in the cloth.  Next, with clean hands squeeze the pouch in all different spots, wringing out every last drop of milk.

6. Transfer your almond milk to an airtight container and store in the fridge.  Shake well before use.  It should last about a week!

*To utilize the leftover almond meal, heat your oven to 200°F.  Pour almond meal out of the cheesecloth onto a baking sheet with raised sides and spread it into an even layer.  Dry almond meal in the oven for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10.  Almond meal is done when fluffy and mostly dry but not crispy or sand-like.*

almond meal

Almond Meal Thumbprint Cookies 

makes about 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

¾ cup natural cane sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

½ tsp almond extract

¼ tsp sea salt

almond meal from 3 cups almonds (~2 cups meal)

jam or preserves of choice (I used raspberry jam, because raspberry and almonds are the KimYe of baking, duh.)

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F and cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, combine softened butter and sugar.  Whisk until light and fluffy.  Stir in the egg, vanilla, almond extract, and salt.  Add the almond meal and stir to combine, making sure there are no dry spots.

3. Gently roll dough into tablespoon-sized balls and place on your cookie sheet at least two inches apart. Make a “thumbprint” in the middle of each cookie.

4. Bake cookies for 9-10 minutes or until they’re just beginning to crack and brown slightly.

5. While cookies are still cooling, fill the thumbprints with about ½ – 1 teaspoon of jam.  Cool completely before serving.  I also made some without jam and they are almost as delicious.

almond meal cookies IMG_0746

Quinoa Breakfast Porridge

Ingredients:

½ cup quinoa, rinsed

¾ cup almond milk

¼ cup water

¼ tsp cardamom

½ tsp cinnamon

pinch of salt

toppings of choice (see below)

Method:

1. In a small saucepan, combine quinoa, milk, water, spices and salt.

2. Bring mixture to a boil for a few seconds, then reduce heat to a low simmer and cover, cooking for 15 minutes.

3. Turn off heat and allow quinoa to sit covered for another 15 minutes.  After sitting, remove pan lid and fluff quinoa with a fork.

4. Serve this quinoa porridge warm with more homemade almond milk poured over the top (chocolate almond milk preferred!).  Other yummy toppings include: chopped nuts, banana slices, maple syrup, and more cinnamon.

quinoa for breakfast

Sweet Potato Pie with Creamy Vanilla Swirl, People!

Just as there are dog people and cat people, there are most definitely pie people and cake people.  I’d say most dog people are pie people, and many cat people are cake people, but let’s not get into it, okay?  I am both a dog and pie person, but I think even cat-loving cake people will enjoy this pie.

I whipped this baby up for a family get-together during the Christmas season.  It went over swimmingly, with only an enigmatic trapezoid-shaped slice left at the end.  For the love of my GF aunt, it’s wheat-free and the crust is made of (GF) gingersnaps!  Daintily swirled with vanilla scented cream cheese and permeated with soul-warming spices, this pie offers melt in your mouth comfort but doesn’t weigh you down like that slice of triple chocolate cheesecake you wish you hadn’t had.  Beckoning you with loads of vitamin A and antioxidant-laden spices, this is the kind of pie you may have to have a second slice of.

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I came across the recipe in Eating Well magazine, this year’s holiday issue to be exact, which I promptly plastered with post-it notes because ALL the recipes looked amazing.  Aside from this pie, I also made an awesome quinoa & beet salad they featured in a section on ancient grains (pictured below).  The process is simpler if you have a food processor or blender. If not, I’d reluctantly suggest buying canned sweet potato, or better yet, go to Goodwill and hunt down a secondhand blending appliance!  I ❤ my immersion blender.

I adapted this recipe from Eating Well.  I changed a few things, first switching out traditional store-bought gingersnaps for gluten free ones (Mi-Del brand are awesome; try not to eat them all before you make the pie).  I also substituted European-style yogurt for the called-for vanilla Greek variety, (it’s what I had in the fridge and was an easy way cut out some of the added sugar) and then added a teaspoon of vanilla extract. I made the crust with coconut oil instead of canola and bumped up the spices a couple notches.  The sweet potatoes should be roasted in the oven, but can surely be microwaved in a pinch.

Go on, have your pie, and eat it too!

Sweet Potato Pie with Creamy Vanilla Swirl

Prep: 40 minutes              Cooking & cooling time: 4 ½ hours

Serves: however many slices you cut it into : )

Ingredients:

2 medium-large sweet potatoes

6 ounces crispy, gluten free (Mi-del brand) gingersnap cookies (26-28 small cookies)

2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

3/4 cup plain (European-style or Greek) yogurt , divided

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 large egg yolk

1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon allspice

1/4  cup (2 ounces) reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel)

3 tablespoons powdered sugar

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Method:

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Wrap sweet potatoes in foil and place on a baking sheet. Roast until very tender (test with fork), about an hour. Carefully unwrap and set aside to cool.

Reduce oven temperature to 350°.

Process gingersnaps in a food processor until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl, add coconut oil and stir until well combined.

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Using your fingers, spread and pat the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie pan.

Bake until just barely beginning to darken and your kitchen smells like a gingerbread man’s butthole, about 10 minutes.

Wipe out the food processor workbowl of any lingering gingersnap crumbs.

Peel the sweet potatoes and transfer to the food processor. Puree until smooth, then measure out 1 ½ cups of sweet potato (if you have extra puree, reserve it for another use or eat it, NOW). Return the 1 ½ cups puree to the food processor and add brown sugar, 1/2 cup of the yogurt, eggs, egg yolk, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice; pulse just until combined.

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Pour the sweet potato filling into the (possibly still warm) crust and spread to distribute evenly.

Clean and dry the workbowl.  Add the remaining 1/4 cup yogurt, vanilla extract, Neufchâtel cream cheese, powdered sugar and ginger.  Puree until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed.

Now, the fun part(!!!)  Plop tablespoonfuls of the cream cheese mixture onto the sweet potato filling, spacing them evenly. Draw the tip of a wooden skewer or a butter knife through the cream cheese mixture and sweet potato filling repeatedly to create a whimsical swirled design.

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Bake the pie until firm to the touch and starting to puff around the edges, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack, at least 2 hours.  Cracks may occur, don’t cry; you’re about to experience heaven… in pie form.  Now go adopt a Weimaraner and call it a day.

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And here, the lovely ruby-hued quinoa & beet salad:

quinoa beet salad