Thursday, December 18, 2008


ahh in the hurried descent of the sun, biting winds, and treacherous sidewalks, young fancies turn to thoughts of squash!

two recipes: spaghetti squash... gratin? and whatever squash you like gratin. the first is a molly kotzen recipe, and the second is the esteemed deborah m.

let's begin the medley with the any winter squash gratin because i know spaghetti squash freaks some people out and we may as well ease into it.

thus preheat the oven to 325 degrees, though perhaps not quite at the beginning since the chopping, dicing really, of the squash can take quite a while. unless of course your kitchen is really cold and you need an excuse to warm it up.

2 winter squash(es?), i have only used butternut, peeled and diced as small as your arm can take
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1/2 cup fresh parsley
some salt and pepper

toss the squash pieces with the above ingredients in a large bowl. then add 3 tbs of flour and toss again. pour/scrape/finegle the mixture into a oiled casserole dish, leaving the leftover flour in the mixing bowl. bake for like 2 hours.

the spaghetti squash has more ingredients but is faster in terms of from cutting board to mouth time. the temperature suggested is 375 degrees.

halve a spaghetti squash, they are yellow and disguise their inherent freakishness rather well. you can either bake it in the oven for half an hour, or wrap the halves in saran wrap and microwave them, i would say 8 minutes, and then another 5-8. either way when it is done scrape out the seeds and let them cool.

meanwhile combine the following in a pan:
1 cup of chopped onion, you may as well put more
2 cloves of chopped garlic
salt and pepper
some mushrooms, probably one of those blue boxes, or more if you feel inspired
1/2 tsp oregano
some basil and some thyme

when they are sauted, add 2 chopped tomatoes and cook until the t-juices are mostly gone.
scrape out the squash innards and put them in the pan with everything else. yes, i also find them (the innards) a little disturbing.

transfer the squash melange into a greased casserole dish and cover with grated mozarella. if you want less of an upper skin of cheese you can mix it in, but really i don't understand why you wouldn't want a bubbling browning layer of cheese. on top of that add some breadcrumbs and parmesan. bake for about 40 minutes and voila. strange and disturbing but so delicious.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

breakfast beans.

okay so probably you could eat these beans anytime. but this morning i had one of those moments of realizing that i had already eaten eggs two days in a row but was craving something hearty with a high protein content - and here is what i came up with. it is quick, dirty, and leftovers are even better.

you need:
1 can black beans (or about a cup and a half cooked, if you want to pre-meditate this and soak overnight).
1 large onion, small dice
a heaping spoonful of cumin and one of dried coriander
hot red pepper flakes to taste
salt and pepper to taste
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped (you could use canned diced or crushed if you don't have tomatoes handy)
1 small sweet potato (i had a VERY small jamaican sweet potato and this worked well), diced extremely small - and i mean this, for rapid fire cooking and eating.

all the extras...... corn tortillas, avocado, sour cream or yogurt if you like, fresh coriander if you've got it, some grated cheese.

Put some olive oil in a skillet with lid or saucepan on medium heat and add the onions until slightly browned. Add spices to your taste, stirring often to make sure to avoid burning and sticking. add the tomatoes which will start to turn the base into a saucy, spicy mess. Then add the sweet potatoes if using, cover and let cook on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes, or until the potatoes start to soften (so i when i say chop small, it's serious!). when the potatoes are soft and the mixture is sizzling, add the black beans and cook until everything in the pan is equally hot.

And that's all. Serve however you like - with corn tortillas and the works, or in a bowl topped with a little bit of cheese or sour cream or the like. This is also good cold the next day, or as filling for an omellette if you're feeling crazy.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


there have been a lot of harsh words about breakfast being tossed around these days. grim, boring, routine........ and it pains me greatly. the fact that breakfast is the most important meal of the day is not just a silly cliche. or perhaps it is, but as a friend of mine likes to say, "cliches are cliches for a reason". hmm. well, ponder that later but the truth is, a better breakfast makes for a better day. so let's get the ball rolling on spicing up our mornings. here's a little something i like to make when my taste buds refuse to give me breakfast directions.

wheatberry morning delight:
serving size cooked wheatberries or spelt berries (these are the best if you can get your hands on them. sometimes also called 'farro').
plain yogurt
really delicious honey
chopped peaches
chopped pistachios

so here's what you do. you can cook wheatberries or spelt berries the night before and they keep for about a week in the fridge. depending on how many people you eat breakfast with, cook about 1 1/2 or 2 cups of berries in a large saucepan. the measurements don't matter since it's not absorption method cooking - just make sure that there is enough water to cover the grains. bring the water to a bowl and set the heat on low until the berries are cooked, usually about 45 minutes to an hour.

to assemble your exciting new breakfast, take however many berries you want to eat, cover with yogurt, add chopped peaches or other fruit, drizzle with honey (maple syrup works too, as always, but i prefer honey in this), top with ground cinnamon, cardamom, and pistachios. eat this with green tea while working on a crossword and you will have a lovely day, guarateed.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

impromtu peanut sauce

why? why not! everyone gets tired of the old low-quality olive oil and garlic combo. but if you've got some vegetables that, if i may quote the great isaac hayes, are aching for some hot buttered soul, why not try the peanut?

a few spoonfuls of peanut butter
some water (for thinning purposes)
sesame oil
brown sugar
chopped garlic

put the ingredients all up in each other's business in a frying pan, adjust quantities by taste and pour a little out for george washington carver, the peanut pimp daddy.

pumpkin cranberry "i wish i wasn't moving" bread.

dear fellow comfort food enthusiasts (not to be presumptuous or anything...),

as you may or may not know, i'm preparing to move yet again in a mere 48 hours. the logical thing for me to be doing right now would be, of course, to... pack? unfortunately, my desperate desire to pretend that i'm in fact not moving led me to spend the day baking four loaves of pumpkin cranberry bread - festive yet warm and comforting, certainly "home-y". (this recipe - adapted from Gourmet magazine circa 1996 and the internet). so if you find yourselves in a similar situation (any case of denying the inevitable), you might want to acquire the following things:

1 cup solid-pack pumpkin puree
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup water
1/4 vegetable oil (or half apple sauce, half vegetable oil - universal rule.)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (although i usually use at least double this)
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

now, here goes. preheat your oven to 350 if you have everything at hand - i have consistently "matched the preheat" on this one. in a large bowl with an electric hand-held mixer if you've got one or the raw power of your biceps and a whisk, combine the pumpkin, eggs, oil, water, and sugar. when smooth, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. (the recipe recommends sifting all of these ingredients but i have ignored this every time and it turns out fine). stir until just combined (over-mixing will result in an odd, densely textured bread). add the cranberries and tenderly spoon the batter into a buttered loaf pan (or four, depending on how many times you multiply this recipe).

let bake for about an hour and fifteen minutes (until a knife inserted in the centre comes out clean) for this little loaf to achieve its full potential.

enjoy in denial of future vagabond life.