At the heart of our Autumn cuisine is the squash. The signs of fall are all around us — cool, crisp mornings, the leaves have started to wear their autumn colors and winter squash is appearing in the farmer’s markets.
Winter squash are harvested late summer through fall, then ‘hardened off’ or ‘cured’ in the open air to toughen their exterior. Spaghetti squash is known for its unique flesh that separates into pasta-like strands after it is cooked. These squash are not particularly sweet but have a mild flavor that takes to a wide variety of preparations.
Native people considered corn, beans and squash three inseparable ‘sisters’. They planted the three crops together to create a more nutritious, sustainable soil with the exchange of nutrients between them.
Spaghetti squash has also been called ‘vegetable spaghetti’. In this recipe I’m serving it with tomato-beef meat sauce. Some fresh, homemade, Parmesan bread sticks should make a nice compliment to this meal.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Microwave squash for a few minutes to soften shell. Cut lengthwise & remove membrane & seeds. In a baking dish, place cut side down & bake for 45 minutes until tender. Remove from oven & cool until it can be handled. Using a fork, run it inside the squash to create spaghetti 'noodles'.
In a large saucepan, brown ground beef, onions, garlic & mushrooms. Cook until meat is no longer pink. Stir in tomatoes, green pepper & spices. Reduce heat & simmer for 10 minutes.
Divide spaghetti noodles between 4 serving plates & top each with a quarter of the meat sauce. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan & serve with fresh bread sticks.
Its already late August so BBQ’s and salads are in full swing. There’s just something about cooking food outdoors on the grill that we Canadians absolutely love. If your a true BBQ lover, it doesn’t matter if its a block away, you will still catch that glorious smell.
BBQ season is not only for meat eaters. Just about any vegetable as well as numerous desserts can be cooked on the grill. For me, I love seafood, fish & chicken, for Brion, I guess I would have to add a bit of pork and beef.
This meal is a nice combination of shrimp, Parmesan zucchini and pasta salad. I kept the pasta salad real simple since we already had a vegetable. To give it some extra pizzaz, I made a roasted red pepper sauce which the little orecchietti pasta cups nicely. Nothing fancy, just plain good!
In a food processor, blend red roasted peppers along with 2 Tbsp of liquid from the jar. Puree the peppers until smooth, adding a Tbsp or two of water if needed to help it blend ( avoid adding too much liquid from the jar as it can be very acidic). Mince the garlic & add it to a skillet with the butter. Saute for 1-2 minutes or just until garlic has softened but not brown. Pour in the pureed peppers; add basil & pepper & stir to combine.
Allow sauce to come to a simmer; turn heat to low & simmer about 10 minutes, stirring often, until mixture thickens. Add cream, stirring until smooth. Meanwhile, cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente about 12-13 minutes. Drain & add to sauce. Serve warm or cold.
In a bowl, whisk together all shrimp marinade ingredients; add shrimp & marinate at least 30 minutes.
Prepare zucchini. In a bowl, combine Parmesan & garlic powder. Melt butter; toss zucchini slices in butter then coat with Parmesan mixture. On wooden skewers, alternate marinated shrimp with cubes of Parmesan zucchini. Roast in oven or on BBQ until shrimp is pink & cooked being careful not to overcook. Serve with orecchiette pasta salad.
This tomato-free sauce could also be used as an alternative to a traditional pizza sauce.
Shrimp makes for a unique and elegant twist on a stuffed baked potato. For most part, a baked potato with a pat of butter and a little salt is just great on its own. But stuff them, with an assortment of savory ingredients such as shrimp, oysters or ground meat and it easily constitutes a whole meal.
I think my first encounter with this idea came when the Wendy’s restaurant chain introduced the Stuffed Baked Potato to their menu in 1983. Their original goal was to give the customer another choice or alternative to the same old ‘fries’. I think it retailed for 99 cents at the time. The one I remember having a couple of times was with the cheese sauce and fresh broccoli. It tasted great to me, not being a fried food lover.Of course, since then the whole concept has been ratcheted up in both flavor and eye appeal.
For Canadians, barbecue season lasts until the first snow falls (sometimes even a bit after). This is a meal that can easily be cooked on the BBQ as well as in the oven and it is soooo– good!
Preheat oven to 400 F. Rub potatoes with oil & place on a baking sheet. Bake about an hour or until soft to the touch. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Cut a slice off the top of each potato lengthwise. Scoop out pulp, leaving a thin shell. Place pulp in a large bowl & mash.
In a small skillet, fry bacon until crisp. Drain on a paper towel & crumble. Saute green onions in 1/4 cup butter until tender. In a small dish, stir Ranch dressing powder (mix) into sour cream & add to potato pulp along with milk, salt & pepper. Fold in half of the cheese. Divide mixture between potato shells & drizzle with remaining butter. Place baking pan on BBQ where the heat is lower & warm potatoes through while shrimp is cooking.
In a foil BBQ pan, Gently combine shrimp, olive oil, garlic, oregano, basil, parmigiana-reggiano, salt & pepper. Roast until pink, firm & cooked through, about 6-8 minutes.
On each serving plate, place a stuffed potato, top with shrimp & garnish with crumbled bacon & remaining cheese.
Today, July 25th, is my sister Loretta’s birthday. I am truly grateful for having the privilege of Loretta in my life. More than family, she has always been a friend. Her support, encouragement and selfless love have always been a constant throughout my life. Loretta and her precious little Dachshund ‘Amigo’, have spent a lot of time over the years ‘house sitting’ for Brion and I so we could enjoy some holiday time. Her own ‘personalized’ bedroom at our house is there any time they can come to visit.
Loretta shares our love of seafood, so I’m making a shrimp etouffee for supper. This year, we have the pleasure of Loretta & Amigo being here with us on this date, making the meal extra special.
The word etouffee means ‘smothered or braised’. Classic seafood etouffee consists of butter, flour for a roux, onion, celery, green pepper, garlic & salt. One constant always remains in any etouffee and that is that it served over a plate of hot rice. Etouffee starts with roux, the color tends to be warm brown and most often butter is used rather than oil. The sauce will benefit greatly from using a shrimp stock.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LORETTA!
OUR FAMILY CELEBRATES YOU WITH LOVE ON YOUR SPECIAL DAY
Remove shrimp shells (heads & tails) & devein. Rinse shrimp & lay on paper towels & refrigerate. In a saucepan, pour chicken stock over shrimp shells & bring to a boil. Allow to a simmer & cook for 10-20 minutes; remove from heat. Pour stock through a wire-mesh strainer over a measuring cup. Add a little water if needed to equal 1 1/2 cups.
In a small bowl, whisk together SPICE BLEND mixture
In a heavy skillet, melt butter; sprinkle with flour & stir quickly to combine butter & flour evenly into a thick, smooth roux. Continue cooking, stirring often, as the roux turns from white to golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add spice blend, onion, green pepper, celery & garlic & stir quickly, mixing the vegetables into the roux. Cook until everything is fragrant & softened, 1-2 minutes more.
Slowly add the stock, stirring & scraping to mix it in evenly. When the sauce is bubbling & boiling gently, lower the heat. Cook, stirring now & then, until sauce is thickened & smooth, about 15 minutes.
Scatter in the shrimp & allow them to cook undisturbed until the sides are turning visibly orange to pink, about 1 minutes. Toss well & continue cooking, stirring often, until the shrimp are pink, firm & cooked through & nicely flavored by the sauce. Add green onions & parsley; stir well. Transfer the etouffee to a serving dish. Serve hot over rice.
It goes without saying that Portugal has a national love affair with pork. Just look through their cookbooks or at a restaurant menu and you can’t help but see the devotion to this particular meat. There are hundreds of recipe variations: roasted, fried, grilled or broiled. Dishes are reinvented over and over again with lemons, dates, apples, oranges, fresh herbs, mushrooms, chestnuts and of course pineapple.
The Azorean pineapple is special. It owes its quality and unique taste to the way it is produced. The Azores archipelago is an autonomous region of Portugal located in the North Atlantic ocean. Since the sub-tropical islands don’t benefit from hot equatorial sun, the small crowned fruits are grown in glass greenhouses, which are intentionally filled with smoke to help catalyze simultaneous flowering. Each pineapple takes two years to mature. Sweeter and more succulent than their larger, tropical grown siblings. Nowhere else in the world is pineapple grown in this manner, making it completely unique to the Azores.
This is one of those kind of recipes that is very basic but tasty.
In a resealable, large plastic bag, combine garlic, rosemary, bay leaf & vinegar. Season ribs with salt & pepper & add to marinade. Allow ribs to marinate in refrigerator for about an hour.
Preheat oven to 300 F. Pour ribs & marinade into a baking dish; top with onion slices & drizzle with oil. Roast slowly for about an hour or until VERY tender. Remove ribs from oven & add pineapple pieces. Return to oven for another 5 minutes or so, ribs should be slightly golden brown. Serve with some steamed rice to which some peas have been added.
Years ago, shrimp was low on my personal priority list among seafood. Breaded oysters would never fail to get my attention but somehow tastes change. Brion, on the other hand, loves shrimp and it seems to have rubbed off on me. Strangely enough, deep fried food doesn’t appeal to me and never has. I put it down to the fact that I spent many years in the commercial food atmosphere so that deep frying smell just doesn’t work for me. Now when it comes to oven baked ‘frying’ that’s another story.
Cooking shrimp in the oven preserves the natural flavors. Frying and grilling will cause flavor and moisture loss, which can make the shrimp turn out rubbery after it cooks. In this recipe the shrimp is prepared with a parmesan/garlic coating which bakes up nice and crispy. As a side, I’m making some jicama fries. If you have never tasted this vegetable, it is very unique. A perfect description would be like a ‘savory apple’. A root vegetable, native to Mexico, sometimes referred to as a Mexican turnip or potato. Then to add a little pizzaz to the meal, I’ve made a garlic avocado ranch dip for both the shrimp and fries.
The classic Ranch dressing has been around since the 1950’s. While very popular in Canada and the United States, it is virtually unknown in other parts of the world. Typically made with buttermilk, onion, garlic, herbs and spices all combined into a mayo based sauce. This low-fat version of garlic avocado ranch is perfect for this oven fried meal.
Peel, core & mash avocado. In a food processor, add avocado, yogurt, garlic, herbs, onion powder & lime juice. Pulse a few seconds until well blended. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to serve.
Peel jicama & cut into french fry pieces. In a saucepot of boiling water, sprinkle 1/2 tsp salt; add jicama fries & boil for 10 minutes. Drain well. In a large bowl, combine fries with oil, 1/4 tsp salt, garlic powder, cumin & smoked paprika. Coat well, blending spices. Preheat oven to 400 F. Spread fries onto a lightly oiled baking pan & bake for about 30 minutes, turning halfway through baking time, until fries are crisp.
Preheat oven to 400 F. In a bowl, combine oil, garlic, oregano, basil, parmesan, salt & pepper. Add shrimp & toss gently & thread on wooden skewers. Line a baking pan with foil & lightly oil. Place shrimp in oven & roast JUST until pink, firm & cooked through, about 6-8 minutes. Serve immediately with lemon wedges. jicama fries & dip.
Creating interesting, flavorful meals with the smallest number of ingredients and the least fuss, lets you explore new avenues. Using roasted red pepper puree can do just that. To give an example, spoon some puree on a plate, lay a piece of grilled chicken or fish on top. Next sprinkle with chopped fresh herbs and you’ve got it — stunning and delicious!
Roasting red peppers not only makes them easy to peel but incredibly sweet and flavorful. When pureed, they give an amazing boost of flavor to whatever you choose to use them in.
I’ve always loved stuffed pasta shells, Brion probably not so much, but once in a while it works. Instead of using a pasta sauce in this version, I decided to go with the puree. Since a jar of roasted red peppers is a staple in my pantry, I’m doing a short cut idea. It actually worked out quite well.
Pasta Shells with Beef, Artichokes & Roasted Red Pepper
In a large stockpot, boil jumbo shells in salted water for about 15 minutes; drain & rinse under under cold water. While pasta is cooking, stir-fry ground beef & drain on a paper towels; set aside. Add oil & butter to saucepan & saute garlic, onions, mushrooms for about 2-3 minutes. Add chopped red peppers & sun-dried tomatoes; cook another 2-3 minutes.
Cool slightly, transfer to a food processor & process mixture ( you should still have some texture in the peppers when finished). Pour puree back into the skillet; add broth, spices & Roasted Garlic Alfredo Sauce, combine well. Add a small amount of sauce to ground beef; mix well.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread some sauce mixture over bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Inside of each pasta shell place a piece of drained artichoke; divide beef mixture between the shells.
Stand filled pasta shells, single file on top of sauce. Pour remaining sauce over all & top with grated parmigano-reggiano cheese. Cover with foil & bake about 35-40 minutes.
Although rice takes top priority at our house, noodles (pasta) are always a staple nevertheless. Some years ago, we started using the ‘no yolks’ version of egg noodles.
Like many old world pasta products, there is a history. In 1976, Robert Strom created NO YOLKS. They would become the world’s first no-cholesterol egg noodle. They are made with Durum wheat semolina, corn flour, egg whites and have no problem cooking up firm and fluffy.
In Canada, they are the top selling noodle and come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. In this recipe, I have paired them with my favorite Chia Chicken Meatballs. Does it get more healthy than that?!
In a small bowl, mix together chia seeds & water; let stand for about 20 minutes. In a large bowl, combine remaining meatball ingredients. When chia gel is ready, add to meat mixture. Using your hands, combine ingredients well. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with foil & lightly coat with baking spray. Scoop into 50 meatballs; place on baking sheet & bake 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven, cool completely if you are choosing to freeze half for a later meal. Set aside the amount you are using for this meal.
Sauce / Noodles
In a saucepan, melt margarine; saute zucchini & green onion until tender. Sprinkle with flour & seasonings. Add milk/broth & cook, stirring until slightly thickened. Meanwhile, cook no-yolk noodles as directed on package in salted boiling water to which 1 Tbsp of olive oil has been added. Drain.
In the pot you cooked the noodles, combine noodles with sauce & meatballs. Fold together & serve topped with some parmigano-reggiano if you wish.
Over the years, Brion and I have vacationed many times in the Carmel / Monterey area on the California coast. As a rule, we make Pacific Grove ‘home base’ and from there do numerous day trips. About a 20 minute drive inland from Monterey Bay is the tiny agricultural town of Castroville. It is surrounded by robust fields of artichokes. When you enter into the town you will see a sign that says ‘Artichoke Center of the World’.
As the Italians migrated in large numbers to the United States in the early 1920’s, they brought with them some of their cherished and favorite foods. One of them was the globe artichoke. Landowner, Andrew Molera was approached to grow artichokes. The idea was encouraging because they were very expensive and looked like he could make better money than with his current crop of sugar beets.
The loamy, well drained soil and cool foggy summers were a good match for this crop. More than nine decades later, nearly 100 percent of America’s fresh artichoke supply comes from California and nearly two thirds are still grown in Castroville.
Today, I’m using artichokes in a quiche with a potato pastry. This type of pastry was very popular during WWII, as rationing was tightened. It enabled homemakers to stretch their flour ration with potatoes from their gardens. I think potato pastry makes the perfect crust for this kind of quiche. The Red Pepper Puree is the ‘icing on the cake’, as they say.
In a bowl, combine potato, flours & salt. With a pastry cutter, add butter. Knead dough lightly on a floured work surface. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes then press into quiche pan. Preheat oven to 425 F. 'Blind' bake until lightly golden.
Reduce oven temperature to 375 F. Place salmon fillets on a lightly oiled foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 14 minutes. Flake cooked salmon & set aside. In a large skillet, saute mushrooms, onions for about 5-7 minutes. Dice artichokes into quarters & add to skillet along with garlic; cook 3-4 minutes & remove from heat. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, fresh basil & spices.
Spread half if the Gruyere cheese on bottom of quiche crust. Top with flaked salmon & sauteed vegetables. Carefully pour egg/milk mixture over all. Top with remaining Gruyere & Parmigano-Reggiano cheeses. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until quiche is 'set'.
Meanwhile, place the roasted red peppers in a food processor & process until almost smooth. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Serve with quiche.
A nice alternate crust would be one made with cheddar cheese.
This is a meal that is as much about the process as the final plate. Most everyone has made ‘zucchini boats’ at one time or another and this is a lovely rendition of them.
I have learned from travelling across cultures, that one thing can truly bring people together, no matter where in the world you are from, and that is food.
No doubt, every culture has its own equivalent of ‘comfort food’. Stuffing vegetables is a Middle Eastern food trend that has been popular for thousands of years, combining spices and food groups in unique ways.
In truth, zucchini are simply immature cultivars of the squash family, eaten while the rind is still edible. Developed in Northern Italy, zucchini was not introduced to the rest of the world until the 1930’s.
‘Kousa Mahshi’ (Arabic for stuffed zucchini), is a type of yellow squash found in the Middle East which is hollowed out, stuffed with a meat/rice filling and steeped in a seasoned tomato broth. These were likely a reinvention of the ‘stuffed grape leaves’ common in the Mediterranean, Balkans and Persian Gulf.
I found the idea of hollowing out the small zucchini and stuffing them quite unique as opposed to just slicing them to make ‘boats’. Rather than using a meat/rice combo in my zucchini rolls, I used a ground turkey/mushroom stuffing and served them over a ‘simple’ Spanish Rice Pilaf.
This is not a difficult recipe, just one that takes a bit of time but is worth it in taste and eye appeal.
Wash zucchini & slice off stem end. Use a long narrow apple or vegetable corer to core zucchini, leaving 1/2-inch walls. Care should be taken not pierce the shell or the end. If you are cutting your zucchini in half, make sure to leave your cut end with a solid bottom. Gently remove all the pulp from the rolls & set aside. Reserve pulp for turkey filling.
In a skillet, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil. Saute onion & garlic until soft. Add mushrooms & reserved zucchini pulp; saute about another 2 minutes. Remove from skillet & set aside.
In the same skillet, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil; add ground turkey. Lightly brown, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Stir in reserved onion & mushroom mixture. Add chicken broth; stir in tomato, basil & rosemary & cook 1 minute longer. Drain off any excess fat, remove mixture from heat & set aside. When mixture has cooled, add cheese, egg, salt & pepper. Fill zucchini rolls with mixture.
Preheat oven to 375 F. In a Dutch oven, place stewed tomatoes & water. Arrange stuffed zucchini in the pot. Cover & bake for 25-30 or until zucchini is tender-crisp. With a slotted spoon lift rolls out of pot & serve on top of rice or serve in stewed tomatoes WITH rice, your choice!
'Simple' Spanish Rice
In a large pot, heat oil. Stir in onion & saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Mix rice into pot & stir until it begins to brown. Stir in chicken broth & salsa. Reduce heat & simmer (covered) for 20 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed & the rice is cooked.