Embrace The Summer Squash Pie

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Need a plan for that bounty of squash you may have received from your CSA basket/farmers market/generous neighbor?  I did, when I was given my basket from Big Moon Farm, the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm that I’m a member of.  This sunshine-y Squash Pie is the perfect plan, and you can use any type of summer squash you have in abundance like yellow squash, zucchini, patty pan or a mixture.

This pie is something between a crust-less quiche and a frittata, and is baked in the oven.  It’s open to many variations of not just the squash, but also the herbs and cheese depending on what you have on hand.  Make sure to completely drain the squash so the pie doesn’t become runny.

Now, embrace that bag of squash and savor the summer.

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Squash Pie

makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 pound (about 2 or 3) yellow squash, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tomato, thinly sliced
  • 1 ounce feta cheese, crumbled

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the squash, green onions, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until squash has softened and is beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl to cool.
  3. Drain the cooled squash in a colander, pressing gently to remove extra liquid. Return to the bowl.
  4. Add the basil, parsley, and eggs to the squash, stir to combine. Pour into a round, deep baking dish. Cover with the tomato slices and sprinkle with feta. Bake until set, 50 to 60 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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Bitter Much? MY LIFE FROM SCRATCH {The Kitchen Reader}

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What thought kept going through my mind as I read Gesine Bullock-Prado’s memoir My Life from Scratch: A Sweet Journey of Starting Over, One Cake at a Time?  It was this:  bitter much?

Gesine is Sandra Bullock’s sister and former president of her production company.  Unsatisfied with her career in Hollywood, she decides after having a sort of “waking dream” that she should be baking instead to bring happiness to others.

The memoir is sweet with memories of her love for sugar and her German and Southern families’ influence on her baking style.  There are recipes included along with funny anecdotes about running a bakery.  It is an inspiration to all of us who have ever dreamed of owning our own bakery.

But it is also full of bitterness about being considered Sandra Bullock’s less attractive sister, the “Sand-me-down” clothing, having to be the go-between for all the crazed fans, and the fact that no one can pronounce her name correctly (how about letting us know at the beginning of the book how to pronounce it so we don’t spend half the time saying it wrong in our heads, Ja-zeen?).

This is a story of someone trying to find herself, to break free from the shadow of a super-famous older sister and evolve into her own person.  It just happens to be through baking that Gesine finds her way, and she puts it all on the table for us to read.

*This Kitchen Reader selection was chosen by Shelley at My Little Chickadees.  See what the other members thought about the book on The Kitchen Reader blog.

In From The Cold Butternut Squash And Pumpkin Soup

From the look of things, there’s probably snow on the ground where a lot of you are.  It’s hard to believe we had a big enough snow here in the South to make a snowman, but it happens on occasion.  However, unless you’re from somewhere not too far below the Mason-Dixon Line you might need a lesson on how to build one.

I’ll tell you how to make some soup that will warm you to your toes after being out in the frigid air, though.  A Butternut Squash and Pumpkin Soup that is flecked with tiny bits of bacon and warmed by a splash of sherry will do the trick nicely.  Sprinkle a few toasted pumpkin seeds and bacon pieces on top and you’ll forget all about the snow.

Butternut Squash and Pumpkin Soup

from Shortbread

makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1 small pumpkin
  • 4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup cream sherry
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Peel squash and cut off top and bottom. Slice lengthwise and scoop out seeds with a spoon. Chop into 2 inch pieces. Repeat with the pumpkin.
  3. Pile squash and pumpkin chunks into a baking dish and add 1/2 cup water. Bake about 1 hour until tender when pierced with a knife.
  4. Put the bacon pieces in a large pot and turn on the heat to medium-low. Cook until bacon is deep brown and crisp. Remove to a plate, leaving the drippings in the pot.
  5. Add the yellow and green onions and the garlic to the pot and sauté over medium heat until softened. Strip the leaves from the thyme sprigs and add them along with the bay leaf, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir for about one minute.
  6. Add the roasted squash and pumpkin and sauté 5 minutes longer, then add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.
  7. Remove the bay leaf from the pot, and puree the soup in a blender, food processor, or with a stick blender until smooth. Return the soup to the pot and bring back to a simmer. Add the sherry and simmer gently for another 3-5 minutes. Pour in the cream and heat through.
  8. Add additional salt and pepper if needed. Serve with a sprinkle of nutmeg and top with  the reserved bacon pieces.

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EAT LESS MEAT, PEOPLE: A Food Journey

 

I’ve been on something of a “food journey” lately, kicked off by my “concern of keeping my family fed” as Barbara Kingsolver pledges in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, and fueled by the eagerness to be sure I gave them the most healthful and sustaining foods possible.  Little did I know what an eye-opening journey it would turn out to be.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I had a feeling there were problems with the way our food system worked, but I had conveniently put it there thinking there was nothing I could do about it.  But it wouldn’t stay put.  That feeling crept into my conscious when I heard about another salmonella or e-coli outbreak or when I read articles about the amount of residual pesticides in foods.  So instead of ignoring the facts I faced them.  Being the provider of food for my family and also someone who really loved to cook and eat,  I felt that there must be a way I could use those roles to make some kind of difference.

I began to research things such as organic produce and hormone and antibiotic-free meat and dairy – were these things too good to be true or just some popular fad?  I stumbled across Lia Huber’s Nourish Network website where these issues are really broken down in a way I could understand.  Wanting to further my understanding and knowledge, I began Lia’s My Nourish Mentor program where I’m being guided through the process of delving into the good, bad and ugly of our current food system and fleshing out my priorities in my relationship with food.  Looking for a kick-start yourself?  Watch Food, Inc.

In one of those funny coincidences our online book group The Kitchen Reader has made each of its last three choices books that are particularly relevant in my quest for knowledge about our food system.  The first, Mark Bittman’s Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating, focuses on the effect industrial meat production has on the environment (“In terms of energy consumption, serving a typical family-of-four steak dinner is the rough equivalent of driving around in an SUV for three hours while leaving all the lights on at home”).  His point is not to give up meat, but to eat less of it from better, preferably local, sources, and fill the empty space on your plate with plants – vegetables, fruits, and grains.

The next book on our list was In Defense of Food: An Eaters Manifesto, by Michael Pollan.  After delving into the industrialized food production scene, Pollan has discovered that the things we have given over freely to the government and industries are the very things that are hurting us and our Earth.  Things like pesticides, antibiotics and hormones, genetically modified plants, over-crowded animal containment factories and more are making or food less healthy and even sometimes dangerous.  How do we make a difference?  With our food dollars, he suggests.  Purchase most of your food from farmers markets or farm stands and look for sources of meat that are more natural, local if at all possible.  Then, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

The culmination of all this information I found in this month’s selection, the book I chose for our group to read.  In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver does what most people on a similar food journey would like to do – moves to a farm with her family and lives only on local, seasonal food grown on her land or on nearby farms.  Her husband and two children, one a teenager and the other much younger, agree to make this their goal for one year to see if it can be done.  As Kingsolver recounts in a lighthearted but at the same time serious tone the month-by-month progress her family makes, she addresses her reasoning behind making the choice to live locally – to avoid harmful chemicals in their foods, to bring back heirloom varieties of produce and meats, to support other local farmers being weeded out by industrialization, to protect the environment, and to raise children to do the same – and along the way “keeping her family fed”.

Of course the majority of us can’t pick up and move to a farm and grow all the food we need, but we can take small steps to bring a similar change as Kingsolver puts it:

“I share with almost every adult I know this crazy quilt of optimism and worries, feeling locked into certain habits but keen to change them in the right direction.  And the tendency to feel like a jerk for falling short of absolute conversion. . . These earnest efforts might just get us past the train-wreck of the daily news, or the anguish of standing behind a child, looking with her at the road ahead, searching out redemption where we can find it: recycling or carpooling or growing a garden or saving a species or something.  Small, stepwise changes in personal habits aren’t trivial.  Ultimately they will, or won’t, add up to having been the thing that mattered.”

I’m voting for change with my food dollars , one small step at a time.  Here’s how you can get started, too.

1. Purchase some locally grown, seasonal produce from a farmers market or farm that offers a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).

2. Reduce the amount of meat you prepare by half, and look for the most naturally-grown, local meat you can find.

3. Plant something – in a pot, in the yard, anywhere.

 http://www.localharvest.org/

http://www.eatwellguide.org/

http://www.sustainabletable.org/shop/csa/

TENDER AT THE BONE Artpark Brownies {The Kitchen Reader}

For the month of May, The Kitchen Readers read Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table, by Ruth Reichl.  She is the well known restaurant critic for The New York Times, and in her book she shares the experiences growing up that she feels led to her great appreciation of food.

With her mother suffering from bouts of manic-depression, Reichl must intervene in her cooking “experiments” to keep her from making guests sick.  When her parents are often absent, she finds herself cooking for others to make friends and keep from being lonely.

When she is then surprised by her mother enrolling her in a French school far from home, Reichl makes friends with a schoolmate who’s father introduces her to the joys of fine food.  She spends much of her young adulthood traveling abroad experiencing the foods of the regions, and then joins a co-op restaurant as part owner where she learns about the restaurant business and acquires her first stalker.

It seems that Ruth Reichl naturally moved through her life on a path paved by food, as if it was destiny that she would eventually find herself surrounded by people like James Beard and Marion Cunningham.  Tender at the Bone is filled with humorous, self-effacing stories that make this book fun and easy to read.  And if all the recipes included are as tasty as these rich, fudgy brownies, that’s an even greater bonus.  I strongly recommend serving them with a scoop of ice cream.

Thanks to the sweet and talented Jill of Jill’s Blog for this month’s book selection.

Artpark Brownies

from Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl

makes 12 brownies

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 5 ounces unsweetened, best-quality French chocolate
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup sifted flour

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Butter and flour a 9-inch square baking pan.
  3. Melt butter and chocolate in double boiler, over boiling water. When melted, add vanilla and set aside.
  4. Beat eggs and salt in mixer. Add sugar and beat at high speed for about 10 minutes, or until the mixture is quite white.
  5. Add chocolate and butter mixture and beat at low speed, just until mixed. Add flour and combine quickly, until there are no white streaks.
  6. Pour batter into baking pan and put in oven. Immediately turn oven down to 350 degrees and bake for 40 minutes. (The normal toothpick test will not work on these brownies, but if you want to try pricking them with a toothpick, it should come out not quite clean.) Do not overbake; these brownies should be fudgy.

Dreamy Greek Salad

I have a dream.  To live on the side of a Greek island overlooking the beautiful sea, where I can walk or bike all over the town making stops at market stalls to buy fresh produce and seafood all year long.  The ocean waves would lull me to sleep at every night.

Maybe in another life.  For today, I’ll have to pacify myself by making My Favorite Greek Salad.  Probably not authentic, but close enough for me.  This salad is so very easy, but so very delicious, and perfect as a main course or appetizer size before a meal.

My Favorite Greek Salad

from Shortbread

serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • large pinch kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 cups romaine lettuce, chopped, washed and dried
  • 1/4 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 medium cucumber, chopped into large chunks
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives
  • 1 cup canned garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 8-12 pepperoncini peppers

Directions

  1. In a large salad bowl combine the olive oil, vinegar, oregano, salt, and pepper to taste.  Whisk with a fork or small whisk until combined.
  2. Add remaining ingredients except pepperoncini peppers to the bowl and toss with hands or salad servers.
  3. Divide salad between bowls and serve with peppers on the side. Top with additional black pepper, if desired.

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{Cocktail O’Clock} Dark And Stormy

When I was in the sixth grade I begged my parents to let me have a boy-girl party on Halloween.  They finally agreed and I wrote out the invitations and told all my girl friends that it was on.

At school the next day I gave the invitations out to the girls, but ended up being too much of a chicken to even give them out to the boys.  Us girls had lots of fun dressed up as punk rockers dancing to Thriller in my basement.

Nowadays I’m not quite as painfully shy as I was in the sixth grade, and I’ve been known to throw a few boy-girl parties since then.  I especially love a good cocktail party, since you can set out a few snacks, some wine and beer, and plan on one or two special cocktails to mix for those that want them.

A fun drink for the rum drinkers is the Dark and Stormy.  It’s made with dark rum and ginger beer or ginger ale, and is said to be a remedy for a sailor’s seasickness.  But it’s definitely better without a queasy stomach!

Dark and Stormy

from Shortbread

makes 1 drink

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 ounces dark rum
  • ginger beer or ginger ale
  • orange wedge for garnish (optional)

Directions

  1. Fill a highball glass with ice and pour rum on top.
  2. Add ginger beer/ale to fill glass.
  3. Garnish with orange wedge, if desired.

 

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