Friday, October 28, 2011

Apple-Pear and Pinenut Crisp

Those who know me well know that I'm a real sucker for dessert.  In fact, the first thing I ever remember cooking was, as my Dad called it when I was little (and sometimes still does) peach "crips," otherwise known as crisp.  What I love about fruit crisps is that they are simple, sweet, and they really allow seasonal fruit to take center stage.

This crisp is as easy to make as any ol' crisp, but it has some unusual ingredients to give this very traditional dessert a unique twist.  I used almond flour, pine nuts and almond extract to give the topping a wonderful marzipan-like flavor, with the wintry spices of apple cider to enhance the Fall fruits.  The ratio of pears to apples is just what I happened to have in the fridge at the time - you can do half and half or even make an all-apple or all-pear crisp if you like.  I used Jonathan apples because their tart flavor pairs nicely with the rich sweetness of the pears and honey.  You can use any variety of apple you like and there's no need to peel the fruit - the skin gives the dessert a lovely color. 

Apple-Pear and Pinenut Crisp
6 small or 4 large servings

1 cup sliced Barlett pears (about 1 medium pear)
5 cups sliced Jonathan apples (about 3-4 medium apples)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 T honey
1 tsp cornstarch
2/3 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup almond flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
5 T butter, cold and cut into squares
1/4 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a 9-inch square pan, combine sliced fruit, lemon juice, honey and cornstarch and toss well to combine. 

Add remaining ingredients to a food processor and pulse until mixture is coarse and crumbly.  Spread topping evenly across the apples and pat down.  Bake until golden brown on top, about 35 to 40 minutes.  Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Colorado Kabocha Curry

It's another squash recipe!  Hooray!

Sadly, we have reached the end of the season with our CSA from Red Wagon Organic Farms.  The good news is that they had "winter keeper" boxes available for purchase, so we are now the proud owners of over 35 lbs of squash (not to mention a whole lotta potatoes, onions and shallots)!

So, needless to say, there will be a plethora of squash recipes posted in the coming months.  I think this one is a pleasant change of pace - an unusual way to utilize Colorado's Fall bounty, but surprisingly wonderful-tasting and a nice departure from the sage-spiced butternut soups we see all too often.  The curry is definitely not what I would call "authentic" (I'm not sure there are any traditional Indian recipes with Kabocha squash and leeks!) but for lovers of Indian food and locally-grown produce, it will not disappoint.  Make sure you use the best curry powder you can get your hands on for the best-tasting results.

Colorado Kabocha Curry
serves 4-6

1 medium Kabocha Squash (around 4 lbs - yields 2 1/2 cups cooked squash)
1 T peanut oil
1 T ghee (or butter)
1 large leek, sliced
1 shallot, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
2 medium red potatoes, diced
1 1/2 T curry powder
1 pinch ginger powder
2 pinches cayenne powder
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 cups water
3 cups chopped, fresh spinach
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Cut Kabocha in half and scrape out the pulp and seeds with a spoon.  Fill a shallow pan with about 2 inches of water and place Kabocha halves cut-side down in the pan.  Roast until very soft, about 30 to 40 minutes.  Reduce heat to 375.  Toast the shredded coconut on a sheet pan until golden, about 5 minutes.  Set aside.

While Kabocha is roasting, heat a large pot to medium and add oil and butter.  Saute the leek until soft and lightly caramelized, about 7 minutes.  Add shallot, carrots and potatoes and saute an additional minute.  Add curry powder and liquids and stir well to combine.  Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover.

Once Kabocha is cooked and cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and add to the curry mixture.  Mix well and continue to simmer until liquid thickens and potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes or more. 

Once curry is thick and vegetables are cooked, add chopped spinach and cook for two minutes until wilted but still bright green in color.  Season curry with salt and pepper and serve hot, over cooked brown basmati rice, and sprinkle toasted coconut on top. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Delicata Squash and Pinto Stew

Whether you shop at the grocery store, the farmer's market, or the farm stand, (or all three!) you can't go anywhere without running into squash right now!  The best markets will already have a rather diverse selection, which might include kabocha, acorn, buttercup, delicata, butternut, spaghetti, and carnival squash.  All are wonderfully flavorful and nutritious, and each has it's own unique characteristics that make it special. 

The delicata squash may look rather unassuming next to the cute and colorful carnival squashes or the rustic, brightly-colored sunshine kabocha, but it is actually a wonderful little gourd!  Delicatas are small and yellow with green striping and are one of the easiest squashes to prepare raw because of their small, easy-to-manage size and their thinner skin.  Their flavor is rather mild and "delicate" compared to other varieties of winter squash.  The delicata blends well with other ingredients because of it's unassuming flavor but still lends that signature nutty-sweet flavor of squash to any dish.

This stew is a nice, easy weekday meal with a lot of the cooking time being inactive.  It is healthy yet hearty and quite inexpensive to put together, and makes great use of a lot of kitchen and pantry staples.  Since it has some distinctly mexican characteristics to it, I had a couple tortillas on the side (and for dipping!) to make it a nice, filling meal. 

Delicata Squash and Pinto Stew
Serves 6

2 T olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 celery rib, diced
1 Delicata squash, peeled, seeded and diced
1 large green pepper, seeded and diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
1 1/2 cups dried pinto beans, cooked
about 6 cups vegetable stock
1 1/2 T ground cumin
1-2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp Mexican oregano
salt and pepper to taste
Tortillas, to eat alongside the stew (optional)

In a large soup pot over medium heat, add olive oil.  Add onions and celery and cook until onions are soft and lightly browned, about 6 minutes.  Add squash and peppers and cook another five minutes.  Add garlic in the last minute.  Deglaze pan with white wine and allow liquid to reduce for about two minutes.  Add pinto beans, stir well, then add enough vegetable stock to just cover all the vegetables.  Bring liquid to a boil, then add spices.  Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer until fragrant and slightly thickened, at least 20 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and serve with warmed tortillas on the side.

Optional step:  Using an immersion blender, puree the soup for about a minute so that there are still lots of diced vegetables

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Spicy Chipotle-Kabocha Soup

Here in Colorado, Fall is in full swing!  The aspen trees are the most vibrant yellow, the mountain air is barely crisp, and the markets are abundant with local squash of seemingly endless varieties!  Admittedly, this is my favorite time of year for food.  As a full-fledged food lover I try not to play favorites, but there's something about the flavors of Fall that I can't help but favor. 

If you've never tried Kabocha squash, you are really in for a treat.  Also known as the Japanese Pumpkin, the Kabocha is more intense, sweet, and vibrant-colored than the American varieties.  The skin of this squash is edible when cooked, but since this soup is pureed it is best to remove it and use for making pumpkin stock. 

What you'll love about this soup is the wonderful flavor contrasts of spicy and sweet.  If you remove the seeds from the chipotles before adding to the soup, you will get a milder, smoky heat.  If you want some sinus-clearing spice (that's Obe's favorite heat level!), leave the seeds in.  It might just be the tastiest cold medicine you've ever sipped!

Spicy Chipotle-Kabocha Soup
serves 8

1 Kabocha Squash (any color)
1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced
3 T butter or olive oil
1/4 cup brandy
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 oz (1/4 of a can) Chipotles in adobo sauce
2 cups Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
1 cup water
about 6 cups of vegetable stock (or homemade Kabocha stock)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Prep the squash:  Halve the squash and scrape out the pulp and seeds (set aside for stock).  Fill a large, shallow pan with about 2 inches of water.  Place squash halves cut-side down in the pan and place in the oven.  Roast until squash is very soft, about 30 minutes.

In a large pot over medium-high heat, melt butter.  Add onions and cook until golden-brown and caramelized, about 10 minutes.  Add garlic and saute for 1 minute.  Deglaze pan with brandy and add chipotles, potatoes and water.  Bring liquid to a boil, then add stock.  Bring to a boil again, then lower the heat to allow the soup to simmer.

Once squash is cool enough to handle, peel away the skin, scraping any stubborn bits off with a spoon.  Set the skin aside for stock.  Stir the kabocha flesh into the soup and continue to simmer until potatoes are completely soft and the liquid thickens, about 30 minutes.  Using an immersian blender, puree soup until smooth.  Remove from heat and serve immediately.