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stuffed delicata squash: two ways

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Stuffed delicata squash is a fantasic fall dish. Creamy sweet inside like a sweet potato, one of the benefits of this winter squash is that the rind can be roasted and eaten, another is that it’s easy to slice into. Squash boats can accomodate a wide range of stuffing variations which overall are easy to prepare. It’s a meal that can satisfy meat lovers to vegivores alike. It also makes for an impressive side dish. Recipe and directions below.

Roasted Squash
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Slice two prewashed squash lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds. Drizzle or rub a 1/4 teaspoon of olive oil on all sides, and set the squash face down in a baking plan. Place in the oven for roughly 15-20 minutes. The squash should be soft yet firm.

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Mushroom Stuffed Delicata Squash
1 cup chopped mushrooms such as cremini, button, shiitake or a mix
1 medium diced shallot
1 tablespoon vegetable broth
1 1/2 tablespoons seasoned breadcrumbs
2-3 teaspoons Parmesean cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons sunflower or canola oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Kosher salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
* 1 delicata squash

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While the squash is roasting in the oven, begin preparing the stuffing. Heat the oil in a pan and add the shallots followed by the chopped mushrooms. Add a dash of salt and cook on medium heat for several minutes until the mushrooms reduce. Then add the liquid to the pan and continue cooking. Add a bit of the breadcrumbs and mix thoroughly. The mixture should be moist, not too dry. The cheese can be added at this stage, leaving a bit to top the squash. If aiming for a vegan dish, omit the cheese altogether. Add the seasoning, taste and adjust as needed. When the squash is out of the oven, gently scoop out the center and add it to the pan. Be sure to leave the rind intact. Mix the squash with the mushroom mixture. When combined, spoon the stuffing into both sides of the squash. Sprinkle with the remaining breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. Place the stuffed squash back into a baking dish and into the oven for 20 minutes. Remove when the top is slighghtly brown. Garnish before serving.

Sausage Stuffed Delicata Squash
1 sausage link, decased
1 medium diced shallot
1 1/2 tablespoons seasoned breadcrumbs
2-3 teaspoons Parmesean cheese
1 1/2 tablespoons sunflower or canola oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or oregano
Kosher salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
* 1 delicata squash

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Similar to the mushroom-stuffed preparation above, while the squash is roasting in the oven, begin preparing the stuffing. Heat the oil in a pan and add the shallots followed by the sausage. Add a bit of the breadcrumbs and cheese, leaving a bit to top the squash later, mix thoroughly. Add the seasoning, taste and adjust as needed. When the squash is out of the oven, gently scoop out the center and add it to the pan. Be sure to leave the rind intact. Mix the squash with the sausage mixture. When the sausage is browned and combined with the squash, spoon the stuffing into both sides of the squash boat. Sprinkle with the remaining breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. Place the stuffed squash back into a baking dish and into the oven for 20 minutes. Garnish with chopped scallions or parsely before serving.

Stuffed delicious delicata squash. Enjoy!

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dutch puff pancake

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A simple-to-make pancake with several names, I first tasted this along the Turquoise Trail in New Mexico. My host called it a Dutch Puff, though it also goes by the name Dutch Baby or German Pancake. Fluffy-light but filling, the soufflé-crêpe-popover-esque pancake whips up in no time and makes for an impressive plate. The batter can be blended together the night prior and then heated in the oven to serve on the spot. It’s a perfect dish to serve for breakfast or brunch, and it can be topped with a range of jams, jellies or marmalade, fresh fruit or dusted with seasoned sugar. Serve it for dinner or dessert, it won’t disappoint, it’s delicious.

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Dutch Puff Pancake
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a medium cast-iron pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter (ensure that it doesn’t brown) and set aside. In a blender, combine the eggs, milk, flour, salt, vanilla, and 1/4 cup sugar. Blend until smooth and foamy, about 1 minute. Pour the batter into your skillet; bake until the pancake is fluffy like a soufflé and lightly brown,roughly 20 minutes. Serve immediately while hot. Don’t expect any leftovers.

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along the turquoise trail

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Flying in to Albuquerque, New Mexico from there I took the Turquoise Trail to reach Santa Fe and spent a night at a Bed and Breakfast on a ranch along the way. A National Scenic Byway, Highway 14 starts to get interesting once you reach Madrid. A small old mining town that’s full of character, it’s a quaint stop. It’s also full of dust, but bright colors splashed everywhere from stores to mailboxes makes up for it. The Mine Shaft Tavern is a must-stop to enjoy a local beer and catch Harley riders. It also happens to be a historic saloon, and a gem of a spot. The locals quickly pointed out it’s pronounced Maad-rid unlike the city in Spain. There’s plenty of art studios, galleries, vintage shops and cowboy boots to find along the main street. Venturing on to Cerrillos, you’ll feel as though you ventured back in time. It’s a quintessential old American Western town. A number of films have been made in the area, it captures the heart of the West. Though you won’t find turquoise along the way, one of the best things about sleeping in one of the resorts or ranches along the trail is that you will find a multitude of stars at night. Serene and peaceful is the best way to describe my overnight stay. A short trip, with still more to explore, I hope to venture back.

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For more posts on New Mexico, have a taste of Chimayó Chiles.

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chimayó chiles

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San Francisco Chronicle’s Michael Bauer spent time in Santa Fe earlier this month and shared a taste of his visit to the city’s farmer’s market for a green chile cheeseburger smackdown. With harvest behind, bushels of peppers to buy and festivals to look forward to, it’s prime chile season in New Mexico this time of year. Reading about it reminded me of my own trip to the Land of Enchantment a couple of years back, and it served as an incentive to revisit and dish up my own memories.

With the exception of staying a few nights along The Turquoise Trail, Santa Fe served as my home base for the duration of my visit to New Mexico allowing me to take leisurely day trips to nearby places of interest. With the hopes of capturing postcard views, I set my sites on a northeastern town that promised adobes and an opportunity to experience local culture.

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Destination: Chimayó
Roughly 28 miles heading northeast from Santa Fe along what’s dubbed as the high-desert corridor, I set out to see El Santuario de Chimayóm, an old adobe church that’s visited by thousands of pilgrims each year. Food is always on my mind, but traveling a bit on a whim I hadn’t realized at the time that Chimayó is not only a draw for its church, but it’s also famous for its chiles. I learned this along the way when I stopped at a roadside stand selling green and red heirloom peppers along with locally grown squash.

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Harvested in late summer, Chimayó chiles are picked when green, or left longer to ripen on the vine and then picked later in the fall when a lush red. The red dried peppers are strung into chains or wreaths that are called ristras or dried and ground into a chile molido or powder. Though both are from the same plant, the green chiles tend to be fleshier than their red counterparts. The red peppers tend to exhibit a deeper, richer flavor. The founders of the Chimayo Chile Project describe the flavor of these peppers as “chocolaty with more flavor than heat” and “if sunbaked they get an added tang”. Red or green, chiles are synonymous with New Mexico’s cuisine and are incorporated into almost all traditional dishes.

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The Chimayó Chile Project grows its chiles using “natural cultivation methods” and is intent on preserving the seeds to pass on to future generations. These heirlooms have a long history, arriving with the Spanish to the New World more than 300 years ago. Similar to wine, “terroir” and uniqueness of place is important to this industry as well as the state goes to great lengths to protect its name affiliated with these premium homegrown peppers.

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If you’re curious for more about Chimayó chiles and for a taste, here are a few reads and recipes:
Chimayó’s Chile Culture Saveur
Mrs. Sanchez’s Red Chile Sauce Saveur
Huntley Dent’s Red Chile Sauce Serious Eats
Chimayó-Chile Risotto with Shiitake Mushrooms Food & Wine

While you have chiles on your mind, be sure to checkout East of Eden’s Chili Corn Bread made with Hatch chiles, a variety also grown in New Meixco.

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caramelized onion, red pepper and feta galettes

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These puff pastry bites are simple to make and perfect for a picnic. The seasoning here has a Mediterranean flare to it, but you can be creative and try a variety of different spices and herbs to find your favorite combination. The filling makes a great pizza as well. Delicious, it’s a crowd-pleasing dish.

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Caramelized Onion, Red Pepper and Feta Galettes

Ingredients
1 medium onion
1 small red pepper
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
3-4 fresh thyme sprigs, chopped, stems removed
1 teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup feta cheese (more or less based on preference)
1 tbsp sour cream
1 sheet of puff pastry dough
1 ggg for an egg wash
Filling makes about 4 individual size puff pastry bites

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the pepper (discard the seeds) into long strips. Peel and slice the onion into strips as well. Sauté the pepper and onion in a pan on the stove, medium heat, for roughly 10 minutes. Add the fresh thyme sprigs and seasoning. Continue to cook for an additional minute or so until onions are golden to light brown in color and the red pepper is soft. The vegetables will continue to cook once in the oven.

Roll out the puff pastry and cut into squares, then place on a baking tray. Brush the edges of the pastry with the egg wash. Spoon a thin to medium layer of sour cream around the center. Add a spoonful of the sautéed vegetables on top along with crumbled bits of feta cheese. (Note, preferable to crumble the cheese on your own). Bake for roughly 7-10 minutes, depending on your oven, remove when the crust is browned. Sprinkle with parsley before serving. Enjoy!

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Notes and Variations
– Pitted Kalamata olives are a wonderful addition to the onions, peppers and feta
– Additional toppings that would work well here include: roasted garlic, artichokes, pine nuts
– Try adding a sprinkle of the spice blend za’atar, add chili flakes

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stuffed mushrooms

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A home cookbook isn’t complete without at least one recipe for stuffed mushrooms. It’s the kind of dish that’s coveted by a crowd and goes fast at any party. Easy to make, the variations are endless. This classic appetizer is widely popular in many cookbooks worldwide and worth a bite.

Stuffed Mushrooms
20 medium white button or crimini mushrooms
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (more or less to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (more or less to taste)

Directions: Wash and dry the mushrooms. Grasp one at a time, cap face down in the palm of your hand, and gently gripping at the base, wiggle the stalk loose and remove, then set aside. Repeat this step until all the mushroom have a hollow center. Prep the stalks by slicing and discarding the dark ends then finely chop the rest. Note that some stalks may not be suitable for cooking and should be discarded. In a large pan on the stovetop, melt the butter on medium heat. Cook the mushrooms cap face down for several minutes until lightly brown before turning over and cooking on the opposite side for another minute or two. At this stage add the wine to the pan and cook for an additional minute. Remove the mushrooms and place them in an oven-proof baking dish. Using the same pan, sauté the scallions for a couple of minutes, then add the remaining ingredients. Taste and add additional seasoning as required. When the mixture is ready, spoon a portion into the hollow center of each mushroom. Place the stuffed mushrooms in a 300 degree oven; bake for approximately 15-20 minutes prior to serving. Serve warm.

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Notes: Once you get a hang of removing the stems, all sorts of fillings can be stuffed inside. In place of scallions, shallots are a superb and tasty option as are leeks. Fresh chopped garlic is also a great addition. For an extra bite add Parmigian-Reggiano cheese to the mix. For a vegan version, replace the butter with an olive oil that is naturally buttery in taste.

The filling inside the mushrooms can be mile-high and overstuffed, or the filling filled up to the rim, it’s up to the cook to decide. Try adding sausage for a meat-lovers version or crab if you’re craving seafood fare. Different types of cheese can be blended in as well, or the mushrooms can even be stuffed with a creamy spinach or artichoke mix. There’s lots of room for creativity. I can assure though this simple recipe is mouth-watering as is. Since the recipe calls for a dry white wine, try Dry Creek Fumé Blanc which is enjoyable both for drinking and cooking. Cheers and bon appétit!

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spring pea and ricotta crostini

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With spring bursting across the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s hard to not be inspired in the kitchen by the bright green grass and early buds suddenly covering the landscape outside. This open-faced sandwich can easily be prepared year-round, though the combination of flavors seems to suggest spring. No matter where you’re located, the ingredients are relatively easy to find, and as with any dish, using the finest will add zing to the plate and your palate. This creamy ricotta and garden pea combination works wonders with pasta, or is perfect spread across crostini. Bright, fresh it’s like biting into the season.

Spring Pea and Ricotta Crostini
Adapted from Sonali, the Foodie Physician | Food52

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 cups fresh or frozen spring peas
1/2 cup low sodium vegetable stock
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 1/4 cups fresh ricotta cheese
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 loaf of rustic bread or baguette
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese shavings for garnish*

In a saucepan on the stovetop, sauté the shallots and garlic in two tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat. Cook until translucent, then add the peas and broth. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover the pan; cook until the peas are tender. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and add the lemon zest, tarragon and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. The original recipe* calls for 1/4 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese added to the mix; I omitted this and changed the quantity on the ricotta to accommodate. Either way, it’s a matter of preference. Purée until smooth. Add the ricotta and pulse until combined. Season with kosher salt and pepper to taste.

On the ricotta, I recommend Grande Ricotta Sopraffina if you’re able to locate it at your market. It’s beyond delicious and worthy of being eaten just with a spoon. A friend suggests Bellwether Farms ricotta (I trust their opinion, though I haven’t had this yet myself). In Israel, Romania, Bulgaria and other parts Urdă is almost identical to ricotta and can be found at many markets.

For serving, select a rustic hearty bread. I choose to use a loaf I picked up from the Manresa Bread Project available at a local farmers’ market. Slice your bread or baguette, place on a baking sheet and brush both sides with the remaining olive oil. Place the sheet in a hot oven and bake until lightly toasted on both sides. Spread some of the pea and ricotta mixture across each slice. Top each with a bit of Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings and tarragon, along with crushed pepper. A simple, creamy and delightful way to enjoy the season. Bon appétit!

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buckwheat blini

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Blinis, Russian in origin, are small pancakes that are traditionally made with buckwheat flour. It’s served with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraîche on top, along with either caviar or smoked salmon. Other smoked, pickled or salted fish can be substituted; the slightly sweet almost nutty-flavored pancakes are incredible with the contrasting salty fish and creamy crème fraîche. Paired with Champagne, it’s a classic appetizer to serve during the winter holidays, and is popular for Mardi Gras or Shrove Tuesday, but there’s no reason not to prepare blinis year-round. It’s wonderful not just with a flute filled with something bubbly, vodka is the drink of choice in Russia and makes a crowd-pleasing drink with this pancake.

Blini and caviar is a dish that’s on the Mad Men menu for those who are fans of the hit television show. Season one, episode six, Israel’s Ministry of Tourism finds itself shopping for an advertising agency and delegates pay a visit to Sterling Cooper. Early 1960s, Roger Sterling proposes positioning the young Jewish state as a land of “exotic luxury”. There’s a lot of thought behind serving the blini which speaks to the roots of many early pioneers of Israel of whom hail from Eastern Europe and Russia. More details can be found in The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook: Inside the Kitchens, Bars, and Restaurants of Mad Men. Regardless if you’re preparing a Mad Men cocktail party, buckwheat blini is a hint sweet and savory hors d’oeuvre to add to your menu any time of year. As I often say, it’s a party for your taste buds.

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Buckwheat Blini
recipe adapted from Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous
My Search for Jewish Cooking in France by Joan Nathan

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
3 teaspoons honey
2 1/2 cups warm whole milk
3 tablespoons melted butter
3 eggs, separated
butter, canola oil or cooking spray for frying
makes approximately 24 blinis

In a bowl dissolve the yeast in the milk and add the honey (or substitute with sugar) and set aside until bubbly for about 7-8 minutes. In a separate bowl, mix the first three dry ingredients together. Pour the dry ingredients into the yeast mixture, add the egg yolks along with the melted butter and blend well. Cover with a dish towel and set aside in a warm area for an hour.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff then slowly fold into the batter just before it’s ready to prepare on the stove. The secret to relatively round blinis is a squeeze bottle usually used to serve condiments. Pour the batter into the bottle. Heat a skillet or griddle to medium heat and coat lightly with butter. Squeeze a small amount of the batter in a circular motion onto the pan. When the batter starts to bubble on the surface, flip the blini over with a spatula and cook for roughly an additional minute. Transfer to a plate and keep warm. Serve with sour cream or crème fraîche topped with caviar or smoked fish such as salmon or lox, whitefish or trout. Garnish with dill or chopped chives.

The caviar captured here is called Tobiko, Flying Fish roe or Tobiuo in Japanese. Tobiko is referred to as the “poor man’s caviar“. Sustainable seafood is the preferred choice for any recipe; a few tips on selecting sustainable caviar on a budget. For more appetizer ideas to nibble on, try Bagna Càuda, a scrumptious and easy garlic and anchovies recipe, and try delicious freshwater prawns prepared as Gambas au Beurre d’Escargot. Cheers to happy eating!

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