Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Butternut Squash Pepper Poppers

The challenge: In my house, except for me, squash is OK, only as long as it tends towards the savory and not the sweet.  And crunchy is always preferred.

Hard, because butternut squash for me always reads creamy and sweet - butternut squash risotto with mushrooms and maybe a little bacon/spek/prosciutto/pancetta (you get the idea) is one of MY absolute faves.

So after making some soups - what to do that is squashy, but unexpected....

Fridge search reveals Trader Joe's "Peri Peri Peppadrops,"
 and pecorino cheese. (sweet, spicy, salty... on to something...)

Pine nuts of the new world
as far as I'm concerned.

And the pantry turns up bread crumbs and.... drum roll please... pumpkin seeds - the "pepita" kind.

Sage is invulnerable, and is out there doing just fine.  Leaves please...
but not too many or the whole thing will taste like SOAP!

The recipe:
This should make a nice platter at your next fall party!

1 jar of the Peri-Peri Peppadrops
about 1lb of butternut squash cubes/wedges (pre cooked... see below)
1/2 C of bread crumbs - unseasoned
1/4+ C pepitas
2 oz Pecorino Romano grated fine (this comes out to over a cup on a microplane type)
3 - 6 sage leaves (depends on size) sliced into tiny ribbons and then chopped again (mined fine)
salt to taste
(oil - olive or other mild/neutral tasting)

If your squash is not cooked, preheat the oven to 350.
Toss the squash it with a drizzle of oil & a sprinkle of salt, and bake it in the oven in peeled wedges or cubes no bigger than an inch thick for 20 - 40+ minutes depending on the squash.  Shake and turn it after 15 min to get an idea of how it is doing.  It is done when fork tender (a fork goes in easily.) AND it has some brown on the edges... you want the squash to get a little bit drier than normal for this one.

Use a melon baller to scoop leftover seeds out of the peppers.  Set them up on a tray.

When the squash is cool enough to handle, chop it/smash it into small bits.  Food mill, knife, potato masher or food processor all work (FWIW I used my food mill).
In a large bowl combine the bread crumbs, grated cheese and half the minced sage.
Add in the squash, taste for salt & sage.  If it needs more, add it now.  The flavors should be strong rather than subtle, but not overpowering.

Stuff them into the peppers, and at the last minute push about 3 pepitas into the center of the squash stuffing.

SERVE!  (With a nice bitter beer was one taster's suggestion...  I bet a tart chianti would be a good bet too.  I have to make them again and try...)

P.S. you can add the pepitas into the stuffing mix but they will lose their crunch fairly quickly.

DamnIt! Where can a girl get a quality ham?

So... one of those seasonal things.  I have just reduced POUNDS, even kilos of fruit to chutney.  The English, pub kind you eat with cheese and cold meat.  And a great cold meat to eat a spicy sweet chutney with is ham!

Seattle, while being bacon CRAZY, (among other things the home of "Bacon Jam"), but not a great place to get ham.  While not the tip-top, this town couldn't even support a "Honey Baked Ham" store, and I remember as a kid, they weren't bad... just a little flabby for the purist.

Searching for ham in Seattle is now a mission.
It may require a bus ride to Pike Place and/or the CID.

I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime...

The River Cottage Preserves Handbook (by Pam Corbin) is where I got the chutney recipe to deal with about 5 pounds of fruit (apples, pears & plums) that was hanging over my head.  Sweet, sour, sticky and gingery with a little kick.  I've got to bottle it so it can properly mature.

I'm going to bet it goes great with leftover pot roast.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Cider Tour!

 A little while ago I went on a tour of North Western Washington Cider.

We only really had 1 day to do it.  We could spend Saturday night out, but had to be back on Sunday afternoon.  Amazingly - we did it, and did it in fine style.

These cider spots are all pretty new.  If you are looking for consistency... look elsewhere.  If you are looking to be in on the birth of a vibrant Washington State cider industry, strap on the shoes, choose a designated driver, and take the car for a spin!

The MAP:  Check out the cider tour on Google Maps

The places:

1. Red Barn Cider (http://redbarncider.com/) - An impressive selection of tastes.  And it will be different next pressing.  In Mt. Vernon, about 1.5 hrs north of Seattle.  It seems a little far, but it is the gateway to the rest.  Show up there at 11 (or call and arrange to show up at 10:30, so lunch is more relaxing on Whidbey Is.)

***take the Keystone/Coupville - Port Townsend Ferry (GET A RESERVATION!!! ) *** don't meant to yell, but this is essential.  We were on the 1:30 ferry.  Just had to get there at 1ish.

2.  Wildfire Cider (http://www.wildfirecider.com/) - Pretty close to Port Townsend.  The 1st place we went.  Be sure to call and see if they are open.  They weren't the weekend we went (fooey!).  2 food festivals that weekend, I s'pose I can forgive them.  I need to taste their stuff.  It can be found at Central Market... and other places.  Lesson, call ahead.

3.  Eaglemount Cider (http://www.eaglemountwinery.com/)  The largest selection... and nice and dry.  May I also recommend the Ginger Cider.  They are also a respectable winery.  But we were just tasting cider.

4.Finn River Farm (http://www.finnriverfarm.com/) Apple cider champagne?  Well, if done right, with cider rather than dessert (eating out of hand apples) YES!  it can be done.... and done well.  Surprisingly well.  This was a great last stop.  Their Perry (pear dessert cider) was my favorite.  And it was practically back to back with the place we spent the night.

Nap Time and where we spent the night...

5.  Solstice Farm (http://www.solsticefarmstay.com/)  A comfortable, homey clean place with a wonderful atrium, and a crazy good breakfast.  Engage in conversation knowing it will be an extended engagement if you want it.

6.  Dinner in Port Hadlock/Irondale area.  We went to Halibut and the Scampi's, but if you want to really Do-it-up-Right, check out the Ajax Cafe.  http://www.ajaxcafe.com/funstuff.htm

Pick a designated driver (the one who has to spit), and go for it!

7. Take the Kingston - to - Edmonds ferry back.  If you get on before Noon.  Then you are home free.  And you will wonder why you don't go to the Olympic Peninsula more often.  It is SO close!

Have fun.