Another Quick Dinner and Some Sage Advice…

February 28th, 2008

I have another confession. I love butternut squash. I can’t get enough of it. I am always looking for new, interesting and delicious ways to prepare butternut squash. One of my greatest successes but also failures was my butternut squash ravioli. Please, ask my family about that story and they will crack up!

A couple years ago, I decided I was going to make dinner for my family. I had this recipe in mind for butternut squash ravioli that filled wonton wrappers with a goat cheese butternut squash mixture. It sounded divine! I figured it would be fairly easy to make but I was very very wrong. I am a naturally messy cook but this was a disaster. Filling and wonton wrappers were everywhere. But I finally made a small bowl of butternut squash ravioli, which I put on my nicely set table and called my family to dinner. My sister, brother and parents each served themselves a couple (about 3) ravioli. They loved them but then asked “What is for dinner?” Yes, I kind of misjudged the quantity needed to feed a family of five. I will never live down that kitchen adventure but at least the ravioli tasted good!

I keep noticing Ruth‘s Presto Pasta Night but have never gotten my act together to add one to the roundup. For its first birthday, I decided to enter this dish. The original recipe came from a New York Times article encouraging the reader to eat more vegetables with less pasta. I cannot promise that we always do that but the pasta sauce is delicious. I added sage because butternut squash and sage are the perfect pair. Check out the round-up for other pasta dishes at Once Upon A Feast.

Pasta with Butternut Squash and Tomatoes
(adapted from NY Times)

Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped or pressed
1 shallot, sliced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 tablespoon sage, chopped
1 can (14.5 ounces) chopped tomatoes
1 pound peeled, pre-cut butternut squash (I love the already cut up squash you can buy at the store, it is worth the extra expense for me not to have to risk a digit cutting up the squash)

1/2 pound cut pasta, like ziti or penne

Freshly chopped parsley or Parmesan for garnish.

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it.

2. Put olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, shallots, sage and pepper flakes and cook for about a minute.

3. Add tomatoes and squash, and cook with some salt and pepper.

4. When squash is tender — about 15 minutes — cook pasta until it is tender. Combine sauce and pasta, and serve, garnished with parsley or Parmesan.

P.S. Some more sage advice…One of my favorite dishes to make is a simple brown butter sauce with sage over ravioli or tortellini. Take about 3 tablespoons of butter and heat over medium heat until it begins to melt and bubble. Take about 5 leaves of sage (I like to dice them) and put in the melting butter. Cook until the butter begin to brown. Pour over some ravioli, sprinkle with Parmesan and eat! yummy!

A Quick Dinner and a Guest Blogger

February 26th, 2008

This week has already been really stressful and exhausting (I know, it is only Tuesday). When I came home today, I wanted to have a decent meal but I was starving so it had to be quick. I knew what I was going to make (we will get to that soon) but I was impatient. Also, I, dedicated blogger that I am, wanted to get some photos of my meal. As I was cooking, I grabbed my camera, set up the background, rummaged around for something to accompany the main dish (broccoli, in this case) and discovered that my camera’s batteries were dead! But this crazy blogging lady would not be stopped. I grabbed the remote out of my roommates hands (I really wish that wasn’t true), borrowed those batteries, took a few quick shots and finally sat down to eat. It was delicious and really was quick! I made Rosemary Sage Chops that I had found on Blue Kitchenby Terry when I was searching for some way to use an abundance of fresh sage and satisfy my pork craving. I used a mixture of fresh sage and dried rosemary because that is what I had. I also decided to add a new flavor by adding Parmesan.

Now, I had mentioned something about a guest blogger. My desire to make pork chops came from an email that my sister sent me regarding her most recent cooking adventure. She is also a excellent cook, although not as crazy as I am. I found it amusing so I thought I would share it, as an example of the trials and tribulations one sometimes faces cooking with roommates in an apartment building:

My apartment lacks air circulation, so when I was cooking a pork chop it got a bit smoky. I wasn’t even burning the thing. I opened the windows and it started to clear out, but not fast enough for my roommate. She opened the front door which set off the fire alarm. I called the fire department to ask them to turn it off, but they said it wasn’t there job and to just call my landlord. It took some time to get him on the phone, but eventually he called back and gave instructions on how to turn the thing off. Meanwhile, someone upstairs called 911. The fire department showed up and gave us shit for turning the alarm off because they are supposed to investigate. I’m mortified! I just wanted a damn pork chop.

Rosemary Sage Parmesan Chops

(adapted from Blue Kitchen)

Serves 1 to 2

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon dried rosemary or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
2 tablespoons of parmesan per chop, shredded
1 to 2 bone-in pork chops
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil.

2. When it starts to shimmer, stir in sage, rosemary and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. In the meantime, pat chops dry with a paper towel and season on both sides with salt and pepper.

4. Increase heat on skillet to medium-high and add chops to pan, directly on top of herb/garlic mixture.

5. Cover pan and cook chops undisturbed for 3 minutes (make sure to cover the pan because the grease will spit everywhere).

6. Turn chops, cover pan, reduce heat to medium and cook for 3 minutes.

7. Sprinkle the side of the pork chop with 1 tablespoon of shredded parmesan and flip to create a parmesan crust on the pork chop. Cook for 2 minutes.

8. Sprinkle the other side of the pork chop with 1 tablespoon of shredded parmesan and flip to create a parmesan crust on the pork chop. Cook for 2 minutes or until the pork is cooked through.

P.S. How to cook the pork, a vegetable and starch in 30 minutes?
1. Put water on high to boil for pasta or 5 min rice. If you are cooking for one or two, you will only need a medium saucepan.
2. Prepare the pork-chops through step 5.
3. Prepare frozen vegetables according to the package in the microwave (for quick dinners, frozen works the best).
4. Flip the pork (step 6).
5. When the water boils, prepare the rice or pasta according to the instructions on the box.
6. Finish pork.
7. Drain starch.
8. Put everything on a plate and season as you desire.
9. Does this make sense? I just wanted to give you an idea of how to multi-task in order to eat quickly.

Sunlight, Sunday Morning, Scones

February 24th, 2008

Sunshine peeking through the blinds woke me up this morning. Well, to be honest, the text from my roommate did but…sunlight woke me up the second time. Something about it made me crave my family’s big weekend brunches. My mother will make scones, coffee cake, Züpfe (a Swiss braided bread similar to Challah), or some other sort of breakfast bread. We will get out a variety of different cheeses and fruit. Then, the whole family sits down to a leisurely breakfast. If it is warm, which in North Carolina is almost year round, we will move everything onto the back porch, basking in the sunshine and enjoying the fresh air. I love these brunches. It is always nice to be with my family and it brings back wonderful memories of our years spent in Switzerland.

This morning, I decided that I could at least replicate the food of these brunches. I made some Scones, got out the Brie, brewed some strong coffee and climbed onto the couch to watch TV with my roommates. So, not exactly the same as breakfast at my parent’s house but…at least I had scones! The scones were good but like all things never as good as my mother’s. I adapted the original recipe from The Best of Priscilla’s English Tea Room. This tea room was in Hillsborough, North Carolina but, unfortunately, closed and I can find no reference online. I have adapted it for only two to three people. I sometimes add cinnamon to add some extra flavor.

The English Scone
(adapted from The Best of Priscilla’s English Tea Room)

2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup currants
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Mix dry ingredients together.
3. Blend dry ingredients with butter using a pastry cutter until the butter is in very small pieces and fully incorporated.
4. Make a well in the middle and pour in the milk. Mix until just incorporated. Dough will be sticky and moist.
5. Place on a floured surface and pat into a rectangle. Mine ended up being about 8″ x 4″ x 1/2″. Cut down the middle and cut each half into triangles (about 8 per side).
6. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes until browned.
7. Serve with honey, jam, butter, lemon curd… I prefer honey!

P.S. Do you not have a pastry cutter? My sister gave me one for Christmas this past year. I always ask for new kitchen gadgets for presents. Before this wonderful tool entered my life, I would use two kitchen knifes to cut the butter when making scones, biscuits and other such bake goods. In order to do this, hold a knife in each hand with the blades pointed down and out. Cross the blades over the butter and then pull out cutting the butter. Continue this crossing method, mixing the butter with the flour mixture until the butter is in small enough pieces and throughly mixed in with the flour.