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Posts tagged ‘herbs’

Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good


No…really…this is nothing more and nothing less than a small pumpkin stuffed with everything good!  As it is the first day (FINALLY) of fall weather here (actual rain is falling as I type), I will take a brief break from my tomato and corn obsession.

I am not the first to plaster this recipe on a blog…and I certainly won’t be the last.  This is surely a recipe that will span the test of time…and on the interwebs, that is not something to take lightly.  Take Pinterest for example; it is chock-full of seasonal sweets that utilize cookie dough, a popular candy bar and for good measure, some marshmallow fluff (examples found here, here and here).  Admittedly, my sweet tooth prefers understated, almost savory desserts (I’m not calling myself objective here!) and while these recipes have a purpose (bake-sales, holiday parties, novelty, etc.), our grandmothers would not recognize them from their recipe repertoire.  They are trends.  They may, in fact, even taste good…but they are not staples and certainly not classics.  I’m sure many out there disagree with me and that is fine…as I firmly believe that it takes all kinds.  This recipe is a classic for so many reasons – it is more an idea than a recipe, it is flexible, it is seasonal and does not waste any bits, it can be made up of leftovers and pantry items or each ingredient bought for its specific purpose, it is cheap and can serve a crowd.  For these reasons and many more, it has a place in my recipe box.  A quick google search will prove this true for many others.

The recipe is available all over the web, however I’ve posted it here is taken directly from Dorie Greenspan‘s book Around My French Table.  This dish epitomizes a perfect change of seasons dish…still emphasizing the freshness of squash while the filling is casserole and stuffing all wrapped into one.  Serve it with a crisp salad lightly dressed earlier in the fall or with some seared chicken sausages when a chill in the air is familiar and calls for heartier meals.

  • 1 pumpkin, about 3 pounds
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 pound stale bread, thinly sliced and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1/4 pound cheese, such as Gruyère, Emmenthal, cheddar, or a combination, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2–4 garlic cloves (to taste), split, germ removed, and coarsely chopped
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked until crisp, drained, and chopped
  • About 1/4 cup snipped fresh chives or sliced scallions
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
  • About 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment.

Cut the top off of the pumpkin and scrape any seeds and strings from the lid, do the same to the inside of the pumpkin.  Once it is cleaned to your satisfaction, liberally season the inside of the pumpkin with kosher salt and pepper, you can also drizzle a little bit of olive oil in there as well, but it doesn’t absolutely need it.  Place it on the parchment on the baking sheet.

Toss all the stuffing ingredients together in a bowl (bread, cheese, garlic, onion, bacon, and herbs).  I had some kale on hand, so I chopped it up and tossed that in as well.  Season the mixtures with fresh ground pepper and some additional salt being careful not to over-salt as the cheese and bacon are already a bit salty.

Pack the mixture into the pumpkin…make sure it is filled!  We ended up with enough stuffing for an entire additional casserole dish which we buttered before adding the stuffing.

Mix the cream together with the nutmeg and of course, season with salt and pepper and then pour it over the stuffing into the pumpkin.

The cream provides the majority of the moisture for the stuffing, so don’t skimp…but your stuffing should not be swimming in the cream either.

Put the cap in place and bake the pumpkin for about 2 hours—check after 90 minutes—or until everything inside the pumpkin is bubbling and the flesh of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife.  It was so cute, I could hardly stand it!

 

Because the pumpkin will have exuded liquid, I like to remove the cap during the last 20 minutes or so, so that the liquid can bake away and the top of the stuffing can brown a little.

When the pumpkin is ready, carefully, very carefully—it’s heavy, hot, and wobbly—bring it to the table or transfer it to a platter that you’ll bring to the table.

I cut wedges and plated it with a lightly dressed salad the included some microgreens from Trader Joe’s.

The stuffing itself is delicious, but with a scoop of the tender pumpkin flesh, it is *literally* a perfect fall dinner.  I’ve got so many ideas of what to stuff a little pumpkin with…sausage, wild rice, apples, linguiza, chestnuts, the list is endless!  What would you stuff your pumpkin with?

It is wonderfully chilly outside now, but I need to temper my excitement for fall as the forecast is calling for 90′s next week.  Look for yet another post containing corn or tomatoes…or both.

 

 

Stuffed Squash Blossoms with Shaved Baby Zucchini & Toasted Pepitas


When someone utters the words “…this is the best thing we’ve made…ever!”  ’nuff said.

Squash blossoms are available for only a short period of time in the summer and are the epitome of ‘seasonal’.  They are typically picked in the morning and brought to the farmer’s market that day and are best used within a couple of hours.  This dish is perfectly simple and refreshingly light without being short on flavor.

I spotted the original recipe on epicurious as we were walking through the farmer’s market trying to solidify our dinner plans.  Our modified recipe is shown below.

Besides squash blossoms, in looking for shallots, we stumbled upon green shallots, which I don’t believe I’ve used before.  I am positive the dish would have been delightful with regular, good ‘ole shallots…but I believe the green shallots made it just a touch more special!

Let’s talk tomatoes!  Tomatoes in the summer are serious business.  It is not summer without tomatoes that need nothing other than to be plucked from the vine and tossed in one’s mouth and with a tiny squeeze of the jaw burst forth with flavor and juice.  These miniature (sometimes referred to as Sweet 100′s) citrusy orange delights would have been so offended had we tried to cook them…they would have sprouted legs and walked right out of the kitchen (original recipe called for roasting the tomatoes).

I am often made fun of for appreciating things that come in small proportions (read: I love anything that is small or comes in a miniature size).  Prime examples of such behavior: I refuse to use anything other than the mini-taster spoons when eating ice cream from a shop; we shouldn’t even talk about the number of small bowls that crowd my cupboards; and I am addicted to small notepads and mini-books and have recently discovered some half-size mechanical pencils; so my love for baby vegetables should not surprise anyone!

How can you resist these little guys!?!

Make sure to roast the pepitas, the nuttiness and the crunch are very important for the final dish!

For squash blossoms

2 teaspoons olive oil
1-2 oz mild fresh goat cheese (6 tablespoons) at room temperature
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 tablespoons chopped green (hulled) pumpkin seeds (pepitas), toasted until they puff
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
6 male squash blossoms with stems (not with baby zucchini), stems trimmed to 1 inch

Filling:

Stir together goat cheese, cream, pumpkin seeds, basil, salt, and pepper in a bowl and set aside.

Pipe filling into each blossom and twist ends of petals gently to close.  We used a ziplock bag and cut off the tip to pipe the filling into the squash blossoms.  Chill them covered, until ready to fry.

*We realized that we should have made the mixture immediately upon returning from the farmer’s market and filled the blossoms as soon as possible as the flowers were open when we bought them and closed up tighter and tighter as the day went on making it more difficult to fill them later on without ripping the delicate petals.

For vinaigrette and shaved squash

1 tablespoon rice vinegar (not seasoned)
1 tablespoon minced green shallots
2 tablespoons mild extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3-4 baby zucchini, rinsed and stems discarded

Purée vinegar, shallot, oil, pepper, and salt in a blender until smooth and emulsified.

Slice squash paper-thin (lengthwise) using a mandoline, then overlap squash slices decoratively on 2 plates.  Do this shortly before frying the blossoms and plating the dish, otherwise the slices will dry out.

For tempura batter and frying

6 cups vegetable oil (preferably canola or grapeseed)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup chilled sparkling water

Make tempura batter and fry blossoms:
Heat 2 inches of oil in a 3-quart saucepan to 350°F on thermometer.

Set a bowl in a larger bowl of ice and cold water, then whisk together flour and salt in smaller bowl. Then whisk in sparkling water until combined well.

Working in batches of 2 or 3, coat blossoms in batter, lifting each out by its stem and letting excess drip off, then fry, turning, until batter is crisp (it will not brown), 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer blossoms as fried with a slotted spoon to paper towels, drain, then season with salt.

For topping

2 tablespoons green (hulled) pumpkin seeds, toasted until they puff
Handful of small basil leaves (preferably Thai) or sliced larger leaves
1 cup small cherry tomatoes (sweeter the better), halved lengthwise or served whole 

Assemble plates:

Drizzle vinaigrette over squash slices, then arrange 3 fried blossoms in middle of each plate. Sprinkle remaining oven-dried tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, and basil around blossoms and season with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately and enjoy with a glass of white wine – we went with a 2008 Russian River Chardonnay.

The crisp raw zucchini where perfect paired with the crunch of the tempura and the richness of the goat cheese…add in the juicy tomatoes and the acid from the vinaigrette…and it was perfection!  Seriously…perfection!

We are dying to make this again…but just might have to wait until squash blossoms are back in season next summer!

What are your favorite completely seasonal dishes for summer?

 

Dinner Last Week…


Bacon, Onion, Herb and Gouda Quiche

Last week was hectic.  I was getting over a cold…it was a week where we tried to see everyone before they left town on summer adventures, where we barely cooked…and where I had to think about and actually do lots of packing.  If you know me at all…you know I have issues packing.  We managed to pull off a quiche on Sunday night, hoping for leftovers for lunches during the week.

This quiche is slightly different.  You might notice the crust looks a little flakier, a little puffier – well…it’s puff pastry.  Besides being a little raggedy…it works very well.  The filling was onions, bacon, herbs and some aged gouda.  We were scrounging the dregs of the fridge since we left town on Friday…so it’s a bit of a hodgepodge.

Duck Confit Sous Vide


Guest Author: Woody (with technical help from Liz)

We’ve had good success cooking beef, chicken, and fish sous vide, but we finally decided to tackle duck confit.  The basic idea behind a confit is that duck legs are immersed in duck fat and cooked in a low oven until all of the connective tissue (collagen) is rendered to gelatin.  Then the legs are pulled out of the fat and fried in a pan until the skin is crispy.  This is usually one of those foods that one doesn’t make at home.  It requires a huge amount of duck fat, not a problem for a restaurant that goes through dozens of ducks/night, but far more than would make sense for the home cook to keep around.  While it’s possible to purchase this much fat, we’ve been dying to try making duck confit using a sous vide method.  The benefit here is getting the duck cooked correctly (maximum rendering of collagen without making the protein excessively dry), while using far less fat than the conventional method because the legs are sealed in a vacuum bag with little volume to fill.

Following loosely on the recipe and timing provided in Thomas Keller’s Under Pressure...

Cure 4 duck legs overnight in kosher salt, seasoned with several cloves of crushed garlic, 40 black peppercorns, 4 bay leaves, 10 thyme sprigs. The cure is really important for developing flavor, but helps with food safety as well, because the legs require a long time in the bath.

Wash off the salt.  Dry and place in a vacuum bag.  Add 4oz. duck fat.  Make a bouquet garni with a few of the bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns and thyme, rinsed and patted dry from the salt cure.

Bouquet garni at bottom right, looking like a giant spliff…not that I would know what that looks like.

Creative method offered by Keller.  The problem with simply adding herbs and spices to the bag during sous vide cooking is that they  inevitably end up in contact with only one portion of the meat or vegetable.  The flavor is not always uniformly distributed beyond the portion of the food that they are touching.  Keller’s fix is to make a bouquet garni using plastic wrap in place of the traditional outer leek leaves with herbs bundled inside and the ends cut off to allow fluid and flavor transfer.  The herbs and spices do not contact the food directly, but can communicate their flavors via the duck fat in the bag.  This method worked very well and has clear applications beyond duck confit.

Cook for 8 hours at 82.2° C or 180° in the circulating water bath.  Just 8 hours until duck perfection!

Pull legs out of the vacuum bags (careful to save all the duck fat, which can be gravitationally separated from any other juices) and crisp the skin using propane torch.  The torch is faster than pan frying and worked well because the legs were already warm through from the water bath.  The torch also allows the browning of all the good nooks and crannies.  This has become our favorite method for browning meats post-bath.

We ate the confit alongside a potato gratin, and a watercress salad with a sherry vinaigrette, topped with a poached egg.

It was incredibly tasty, and we still have two confited legs stored/preserved in a container of cooled duck fat in the fridge.

We’re planning to use the “leftovers” for a duck and potato pizza, or maybe some duck tacos.

Thoughts…?  Ideas…?  What do you think we should use the leftover duck confit for?

PS:  Cleo really REALLY liked the smell of all that duck fat!

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