Sunday, November 29, 2009

Glazed Butternut Squash with Brown Rice and Feta

I just love roasted butternut squash. When the weather turns cooler, I eat it at least twice per week. It's so simple and delicious: cube it, toss with olive oil and salt and pepper, and roast it for about 45 minutes. The result is a deep, sweet squash flavour that makes the perfect side dish.

However, what to do when you want to eat squash, but the oven is busy cooking your main dish? Recently, I decided to find a way to make killer stove-top squash. I'm not a huge fan of boiled and mashed squash, so I went with a sauté. When I roast squash I leave the skin on and it becomes edible, but since sautéing is a gentler method, I decided to peel it before seeding and cubing it.

I sautéed the squash pieces in a few tablespoons of butter, with salt and pepper, stirring occasionally until they were cooked through.

After about 15 minutes or so, I was eager to taste it. The result Kind of boring. I missed the punch of flavour that I'm used to after roasting. I didn't want to settle, so I did a quick search to get some inspiration; as always, Martha Stewart to the rescue!

Inspired by Martha's website, I added chicken broth and water to the pan, and replaced her brown sugar with (what else?) maple syrup. After a few minutes, the liquid boiled away, and the squash was nicely glazed. (As you can see, I ran out of natural light at this point. Damn shorter days!)

Phenomenal! I cannot tell you how well the salty-sweet combination of broth and maple works. The best part was that it really brought out the flavour of the squash, just like roasting does.

Now, it's a fantastic side dish on its own. You really don't need to do anything more to it. However, just to try something different, I decided to take the salty-sweet idea to the next level, and combined the glazed squash with some brown rice and feta cheese. I just mixed everything up in the pan on low heat, and put the lid on for a few minutes to slightly melt the cheese.

Yum!! It looked and smelled so good, that even Bullet the puppy couldn't resist trying to get a glimpse of the leftovers.

Serve this with a simple main, because it will steal the show. I think this is substantial enough for a vegetarian main dish (made with vegetable broth, of course), perhaps with some sauteed spinach thrown in for a green. I just love this combination, and I think it will show up in my dinner rotation as often as roasted squash.

Try making glazed butternut squash with brown rice and feta tonight. Trust this squash lover when she says your tastebuds will thank you.

Glazed Butternut Squash with Brown Rice and Feta: The Recipe

I followed this recipe from Martha Stewart, except I used maple syrup instead of brown sugar.

Once squash is glazed, set heat to low and add 2 cups cooked brown rice and a few handfuls of cubed feta cheese to the pan. Stir to distribute, then cover for 5 minutes until cheese is slightly melted.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Roasted Apple Sauce

An adorable little girl knocked on my door a couple of weeks ago and offered to sell me some apples for her school's fundraising efforts. Who could resist? I ordered 10 lbs of local McIntosh apples; since they're such a great cooking apple, I've been dreaming of what I want to do with them ever since.
Apple sauce, which I've never made before, was the first thing on my list. While I originally had planned to cook it on the stove, I came across a few recipes that used a roasting method. Since I love what roasting does to food, my interest was certainly piqued!

Now that I've made my own apple sauce, I realize that the hardest part is peeling and coring the apples. Needless to say, apple sauce is now on my list of Things People Should Make Themselves Instead of Buying.

Since I'm much more likely to eat apple sauce on pork or cottage cheese as opposed to on ice cream, I barely sweetened mine. A couple of tablespoons of dark brown sugar were all I added; then, on a whim, I drizzled in about a tablespoon of maple syrup. I mixed the sweetened apples with apple juice and lemon juice, a few generous shakes of nutmeg, and a pinch of salt.

I poured the apple chunks into a roasting pan and nestled a couple of cinnamon sticks and a few shavings of lemon peel among them.

After roasting until the house smelled divine, I removed the cinnamon sticks and lemon peel, and stirred the apples. They just fell apart! I used a potato masher to smooth it out a little bit, but it didn't take very much work.

This apple sauce is delicious! It's spicy, with a deep, concentrated apple flavour, and just a bit of sweetness, and I'm not ashamed to say it's the best I've ever had. I'd love to try making some more with the addition of cranberries or blueberries.

I think I'll leave a little bit of it stored in the fridge for this week, and then freeze the rest in small portions. Besides eating it with pork or cottage cheese, as I mentioned earlier, can anyone suggest other ways to use it? Please let me know!

However, even if you don't, I suspect I'll be just fine eating it on its own.

Roasted Apple Sauce: The Recipe

4 lbs apples (12 large, 16 small) peeled, cored, and chopped
1 cup apple cider or apple juice
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tbsp pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp nutmeg
pinch salt

2 cinnamon sticks
few shavings lemon peel

Toss apples with juices, sugar, maple syrup, nutmeg and salt. Pour into a roasting pan and add cinnamon sticks and lemon peel. Roast in a 400F oven for 45 minutes. Remove cinnamon and lemon peel, and mash with a potato masher.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sausage and Cheddar Crepes

Back before Jeff and I got into cooking, we used to go out for breakfast at least once every single weekend. Now that cooking is a hobby and we'd rather hang out in our own dining room, going out is more of an occasional treat. To ensure that we don't feel like we're missing out on anything, sometimes I take it upon myself to recreate dishes that we used to regularly enjoy in restaurants. I've been dreadfully sick for the past few weeks, but since I'm starting to feel human again and it's poor Jeff's turn to lie on the couch, all drugged up on cold medicine, I thought that I would use one of his old favourites, buckwheat crepes rolled around sausage and cheddar cheese, as inspiration for Sunday brunch.

Crepe batter is essentially pancake batter that is thinned out with more milk. I decided to use whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose, since they were for a more savoury application and I thought that, like the original buckwheat, the denseness would work well. Making crepes is a little challenging, since you have to work quickly at rotating the pan after pouring the batter in, so that you can spread it out in a thin layer. I realize that my crepes wouldn't win any beauty contests, but I can't be bothered. I'll just call them "rustic crepes." Yeah, that's it!

I roasted my locally-made breakfast sausage links, and laid them on a bed of grated 4-year-old cheddar cheese (the sharper the better!) on the end of each crepe.

Then I just rolled them up and placed them seam-side down in a baking dish.

I topped them with a little more cheddar for decoration, and baked them for about 10 minutes, then broiled them for a few more. Next time I will only cook the crepes until very lightly browned, and then I will bake the rolls for about 20-30 min. (The cheddar in the final product was not as melted as I would have liked, but I was afraid of the crepes becoming too crunchy. Oh well, you cook and you learn!)

These babies don't need much in the way of side dishes. Just a few slices of apple tossed with lemon juice is all you need. Jeff enjoys his sausage and cheddar crepes with maple syrup, but I like them as is.

I can't say that I magically cured Jeff's cold, but I do know that he appreciated my efforts to help him not feel so crummy, at least for a little while. Even though the kitchen looks like a war zone, I really enjoy going to extra mile to enjoy breakfast at home.

Who needs restaurants, anyway, when you can eat delicious dishes like sausage and cheddar crepes in your jammies?