Tag Archives: fall

The Stuffed Squash Project

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Before my roommate took off on a 4-month Southeast Asian adventure, we were in our San Francisco apartment on a typical lazy Sunday. With no particular plans other than avoiding a rainy San Francisco day and the gnawing feeling that we needed to clean, we decided to make the most by being as domestic as we could, and incorporating as much pumpkin into the day as humanly possible. This left us with a clean apartment and a lot of food to write about. It became the day of our second annual Stuffed Squash Project. This is where we decide to get fancy and with no recipe in particular, hollow out a squash of some sort, and stuff it with something delicious. For those of you who watch Portlandia, stuffing anything into a squash is the “put a bird on it” of San Francisco. It’s pretty much a guaranteed crowd-pleaser, but sometimes it can end up flavorless or tiring. I have to say, our first annual attempt ended up this way. We had some mushy quinoa with sparce toppings, and it was a noble, but anticlimactic end result. Most hollowed out squashes are pretty big, so you risk ending up with mostly dry, flavorless grains. This is no good. You need to stay entertained for the full squash. The goal is to have a completely satisfying meal in one edible bowl.

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So instead of going with a recipe, we decided to pick what we liked. We bought some acorn squash, and a handful of other yummy things – a wild rice medley, sautéed mushrooms and onions, kale, pecans, parsley, and feta cheese. This is my favorite combo I’ve had yet. The wild rice holds up well and keeps from getting mushy. Browning the mushrooms beforehand gives them a rich flavor and color. The kale adds a little heft and makes you feel healthy. The crunch of the pecans and plenty of salty feta keeps things interesting the whole way through.

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I recommend combining this with a hefty dark beer, the heat turned up, and an easy desert baking in the oven – we made pumpkin brownies from a Trader Joe’s mix (hey, not everything is a blog post). Happy holidays!

Ivy Street Stuffed Acorn Squash
1 cup of a wild or brown rice medley , cooked (Trader Joe’s has good ones)
1 bunch of shredded lacinato kale
1 package of button mushrooms
1 white onion, chopped
spices: thyme, salt and pepper, and anything else you want to add 1/2 a cup of pecans
container of crumbled feta cheese
1 bunch of fresh parsley or chives

Halve the acorn squash, hollow out, pierce with a fork, and rub with olive oil. Salt on the inside. Heat the oven to about 400 degrees and roast the acorn squash until soft, about an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes. While the squash cooks, cook the rice according to package directions. In a pan, add olive oil and butter and brown the mushrooms, a la Julia Child (aka, don’t crowd the mushrooms or they don’t brown!). Transfer to a large bowl. Next, sautee onions in olive oil until soft and browning, about 10 minutes. Add in shredded kale and cook until soft, another 5-7 minutes. Add these to your bowl. Mix in chopped parsley, most of the pecans, most of the feta, and seasonings. Combine thoroughly, and then stuff the acorn squash as full as you can. Bake together for another 15 minutes. Remove and garnish with more pecans and feta.

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Fueling up

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Although I am prone to baking sweet sweet desserts, every so often I do make something savory (and that I actually consume instead of pawn off to coworkers and friends). I thought about bringing this dish to thanksgiving to moderate the carboload, but quickly reconsidered to avoid having to defend quinoa to my entire extended family. Japanese people take their grains very seriously.

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This is a second-hand recipe from 101 Cookbooks, grandfathered from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Bittman is more or less a prophet of the plant-based diet, his NTY column his prophecy. Heidi from 101 Cookbooks is also a veg goddess in her own right, and I’ve made many of her recipes to stellar reviews. Her SF-based blog is also an aesthetic inspiration, with great photography that really captures the misty and magical essence of her city.

The butternut squash quinoa bake you see before you is a deliciously hearty vegan recipe that I made entirely with ingredients from my CSA box! Whenever I am able to use 80% of my produce the first week it feels like a major feat… It’s the small things!

photo (5)It’s time to fuel your body well in these final weeks of the year! Your body will thank you after you’ve wrecked havoc on it with a champagne diet on NYE, which is a completely acceptable social diet when you’re used to spinach, quinoa and kale the rest of the year, right? RIGHT??

Mark Bittman’s Autumn Quinoa Bake
adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus oil for the dish
3/4 cup quinoa (Bittman and Heidi both use Millet, but I had quinoa on hand)
1 medium butternut or other winter squash or 1 small pumpkin, peeled seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes (learn to appropriately cut a butternut squash here)
1 cup fresh cranberries
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon minced sage leaves
1 tablespoon minced thyme and/or rosemary
2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
1 cup vegetable stock or water, warmed
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds or coarsely chopped hazelnuts

Preheat the oven to 375F and grease a 2-quart casserole, a large gratin dish, or a 9×13-inch baking dish with olive oil.

Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the millet and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and golden, about 3 minutes. Spread in the bottom of the prepared baking dish.

Scatter the squash or pumpkin cubes and the cranberries on top of the quinoa. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and the sage and drizzle with syrup. Carefully pour the warmed water (or stock) over all. Cover tightly with foil and bake without disturbing, for 45 minutes. (Don’t forget to cover! I did the first time and needed to add a lot of water to make up for the dryness)

Carefully uncover and turn the oven to 400F. As discreetly as possible, sneak a taste and adjust the seasoning. If it looks too dry, add a spoonful or two of water or stock. Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds on top, and return the dish to the oven. Bake until the mixture bubbles and the top is browned, another 10 minutes or so. Serve piping hot or at room temperature (hs note: drizzled with the remaining olive oil if you like).

Love

I’m not a hugger. I’m not good at giving compliments or telling friends I love you. I’m not always good at talking about important things and I sometimes forget birthdays. But I do know how to feed.

A couple weeks ago I had two of my best buds from middle school visit (you’ll know for me those aren’t even the longest friendships I have, but let’s not split hairs.) For three days my quiet, tiny San Francisco apartment was filled with giggles, shrieks, squeals, and everything else that makes you miss your old girlfriends. And I became a sixth grader. I bickered with them, shared a tiny little bed with them and didn’t sleep, woke up cranky and pouty and overly defensive of my questionable outfit choice. But  one thing was different – I cooked for them. Baked pasta. With cheese. And eggplant. And sausage. I call it Love in a Pan.

I’ve been making this dish for loved ones for a long time. It’s taken from Tyler’s Ultimate – that show where Tyler Florence picks a dish and figures out how to make the most ultimate version of it. This was from his baked pasta episode, and it really lives up to the name. It’s very serious and not for the faint-hearted, with lots of everything, especially cheese. It does takes some time sauteeing the eggplant, browning the sausage, making the pasta, and then baking it all until beautiful, golden, and bubbly. It’s done best when you’re hanging out with some people you can pass days or years with, especially over a bottle of red wine. You can save time a few places – half the time (okay, more than half) I throw in pre-made marinara sauce instead of starting with the canned San Marzanos. I also usually end up buying pre-cooked chicken sausage instead of the raw pork, so all you have to do is brown it. This stuff lasts for days and I never get sick of it. We ate it all weekend – for dinner, and then when ravenously hungry around 2am later that night.  Probably while laughing a lot.

Baked Rigatoni with Eggplant and Sausage
Adapted from Tyler Florence

  • Kosher Salt
  • Olive oil
  • 6 links italian sausage (pork or chicken), chopped
  • 1 large eggplant, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, chopped (if making sauce)
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped (if making sauce)
  • 1 large can (28 ounces) peeled whole tomatoes, preferably San Marzano (or a bottle of San Marzano tomato sauce)
  • A bunch of basil
  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup freshly grated good Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta to while you start prepping everything else. Get out a big baking pan. Don’t overcook the pasta!

Heat a 2 count of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausages and toss in the hot oil for 3 to 4 minutes, until nicely browned. Set aside in a large bowl.

Turn the heat down to medium. Add a generous 1/3 cup of oil to the skillet and get it hot. Add as many eggplant pieces as you can comfortably fit in a single layer and sprinkle well with salt. Cook, turning, for 7 to 8 minutes, until the eggplant browned on the outside and soft on the inside. Repeat as needed for the rest of the eggplant, and add to bowl.

If making sauce: Add another 2 count of oil to the skillet, then your onion and garlic, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until translucent. Dump the whole can of tomatoes and their juices into a bowl and crush the tomatoes with your hands to break them up; add that to the pan with the basil and cook it down until pulpy and relatively thick, about 15 minutes. If using pre-made sauce, skip this step!

Add the tomato sauce, rigatoni, half the mozzarella, and salt and pepper to the bowl and mix. Pour this into your baking sheet, cover with the other half of the mozzarella and dust with Parmesan cheese. Drizzle with a touch more olive oil and baked for half an hour or until deeply golden brown. Share with good people.

First Fall Soup


I decided to make my first soup of the fall season. I was torn about it at first, thinking I should hold onto those ripe heirloom tomatoes, California avocados, and summery salads for as long as I could. But there was no denying a certain crispness to the air, school starting again – even Smitten Kitchen decided it was time to start doing baked pastas. And then I got a sore throat and that sealed the deal – time to make soup.

I really love soup. This is one of my favorites, and it’s super easy to do. It’s from a Bon Appetit issue in January that included recipes for a 3-week health cleanse. I challenged myself to make all of them that month and ended up with a few recipes worth doing even when you’re not being particularly health-ambitious.

The recipe is simple – start by sauteeing onions, garlic and ginger, add lots of spices, and then squash, carrots, and an apple. To make it even simpler, buy pre-chopped butternut squash – yes it’s lazy, but my last attempt at chopping a whole butternut squash caused my entire hand to peel off (apparently some people are allergic to raw butternut squash). Go ahead and use the same excuse if you need to – pre-chopped is so much easier anyway! The recipe is highly flexible, so if you accidentally ate that apple yesterday because you forgot it was for this soup (true story) or accidentally dropped in way more cinnamon than you needed (also true story), the recipe still works out. Just simmer it all for about 25 minutes and finish off in an immersion blender. The spices alone make you feel like you can fend off a fall cold!

OH, and let’s not forget – I also made pumpernickel croutons from our fabulous star chef Chloe Coscarelli. A great great combo, and the croutons work just as well in salad the next day!

Spiced Butternut Squash Soup
From Bon Appetit

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 inch of chopped fresh ginger
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cardamom
a dash of ground cloves
2 peeled, chopped carrots
1 tart apple
4 cups chopped butternut squash
3 cups water (if you’re not on a cleanse, I recommend a combo of vegetable broth & water)

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until tender (6-8 minutes). Add the ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add carrots, apple, and squash, and liquid. Bring to a boil; cover partially and reduce to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper and cook until vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly, and then blend (either with an immersion blender or in a regular blender).

Chloe’s Pumpernickel Croutons
Chop up 6 slices of pumpernickel bread. Toss with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and bake at 325 for about 30 minutes. Store in an airtight container – lasts surprisingly long.