Sunday, February 28, 2010

Butternut Squash... Pasta!

Lately, a lot of restaurants in the Twin Cities have been posting specials that involve some combination of butternut squash and pasta. It's often offered up in the form of ravioli, and it's usually served in a light but creamy sauce that has some sage in it. Having enjoyed this at a number of local establishments, I realized that I had a butternut squash that was waiting to be eaten, and decided that I'd take a stab at this concept - and it worked!

I chopped the squash up into chunks and roasted it in the oven until soft. Meanwhile, I cooked a chunky pasta. When both were cooked, I removed the peel from the squash. Then I stirred the pasta and the squash chunks together, mashing the squash up a bit, and added a spoonful or two of sour cream, a few tablespoons of butter, and a sprinkling of dried sage. With a generous shaking of salt and pepper over the top, I had a warm bowl of butternut squash pasta, and it was delicious. Give it a try!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Berry Cobbler

Growing up, a very favorite summer dessert of mine was the Blueberry Peach Cobbler that our mom made - with fresh Maine blueberries and canned peaches, if I remember correctly. I have learned that just about any combination of fruit and berries (fresh, frozen, or canned) works pretty well, and makes this a good year-round option for a fruit based dessert that is quick and easy. I recently made it with a can of pears (drained), and about 1 cup of frozen berries - odds and ends from my freezer that needed to be used up or thrown away.

Here's the recipe: filling, crust, and topping.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cook until thick:
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cold water

Add to that mixture:
3 cups of fruit (see above for ideas)
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Pour this fruit filling into an oven-safe dish.

Mix the following crust, and pour it on top of the fruit filling in the dish:
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup milk
1/8 cup oil

Mix the following topping, and sprinkle it on top of the crust:
2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Put the whole production in the oven, and bake it for 30 minutes. It's good warm and cold, with ice cream or whipped cream or plain. I usually eat the leftovers for breakfast. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Egg Salad

Until recently, I had considered egg salad to be a sort of smelly, mushy, mayonnaise-heavy slop. However, unexpectedly, I decided about a month ago that I very much desired to eat an egg salad sandwich. And I wanted to make it myself, to be sure that it didn't fit into any of the above categories. I turned to my Cook's Country cookbook, where the trusty folks at America's Test Kitchen tend to offer very helpful suggestions for, as they put it, "American Home Cooking" - and once again, they saved the day!

From what I can tell there are just a few important things to know:
1) Achieve perfect hard-boiled eggs: place them in a pan of tap water, put a lid on, let it reach a hard boil, and then take them off the heat. Ten minutes later, you'll have hard-boiled eggs.
2) Slice your eggs, don't mash them. Ideally, slice them in an egg slicer, criss-crossed two or three times until you've got cubes or at least slender slivers.
3) Figure about 2 Tbsp of mayonnaise for every 3 eggs. This particular combination makes enough for two sandwiches, as far as I'm concerned. Adjust accordingly.
4) If you've got them, toss in a spoonful of dijon mustard and a tsp or so of lemon juice.
5) Salt and pepper are essential here - if you leave them out, the whole thing tastes boring.
6) Adjust as you see fit: I like to add green olives or sliced red pepper. This cookbook suggests a more standard mixture of celery, parsley, and red onion.