Thursday, September 16, 2010

Recipe: Stuffed Pattypan

It's a shame that ingredients like pattypan squash aren't utilized more often in mainstream cuisine.  Squash dishes are increasingly being reduced to pumpkin, zucchini, and butternut (in certain geographic areas.)  Many people don't realize that squash offer huge gastronomic potential.  The savory, yet a sweet, taste and wonderful texture really brightens up the fall.  The flesh of the squash is tender while the skin adds a little bit of crispness.
I just cooked up this recipe today (my own invention) and it is wonderful.  I hope you all enjoy.

3 pattypan squash
3 slices of bread (I used two large loaf heels)
2 medium onions, chopped
1 sausage link (I used smoked kielbasa.  Bacon is also a good substitute.)
1/2 cup of bread crumbs
1/4 cup of cheese (I used a mild feta)
1 egg
1 stick of butter

Preheat the oven to 400º F.  Cut top third of the squashes off and scoop out seeds inside to create a small bowl.  Steam the squashes until tender (about eight-ten minutes.  You can steam them by placing them in a baking dish with a half-inch of water at the bottom.  Cover the dish and place in a hot oven.)  In a saucepan, caramelize the onions in oil.  Put the onions in a medium-bowl.  Bisect the sausage along its length, then cut into pieces.  Fry up the sausage in the leftover oil from the onions over high heat.  Add the sausage, cheese, 1/2 stick of the butter, egg, to the bowl with the onion.  Rip and shred the bread and add as well.  Mix the stuffing all together, making sure the cheese and butter melt slightly and are evenly distributed.  Stuff the stuffing into the squashes.  Put the squashes and caps into a baking dish.  Use the rest of the butter and top the squashes and their caps with pats of butter (the butter will melt in the oven and soak into the flesh of the squash.)  Bake the squashes in the oven until the top of the stuffing starts to uniformly turn brown, about 15 minutes.  Serve.
This dish will immediately get you laid if you make it for a girl.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Things I Won't Eat

Here is a short list of things I don't like, never liked, never did like:
Offal in general
Mussels, clams
Any anal part of any animal
Rocky mountain oysters
Blood [insert dish here] (sausage, pudding, soup)
Products made with aspic

Now, I consider myself adventurous.  I like octopus and squid; I've eaten and enjoyed beef tongue; I've eaten raw meat and eggs (steak tartare.)  It's just that some things are too revolting or make me too squeamish to eat.  It's a mixture of the texture and taste (liver is hideous in both aspects), or sometimes just texture (aspic) or just taste (blood sausage.)  Beyond some of these, the worst of the worst, I generally consider myself a non-picky eater and enjoy a great many dishes and cuisines.  I'm not above stooping to try something like eel or hakarl, even if I think they're gross, but I do have a few "will not eat" foods, regardless of the situation.  I don't care if the Queen is serving it, I won't eat liver.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Pickling Things

With fall fast approaching, the farmers markets will soon empty out and cease their operations for the year.  That means that you ought to get as many fresh vegetables and can and pickle them.  Pickled cucumbers (pickles) are a no-brainer and easy, but it's fun to branch out a little.  I recently bought a whole bunch of tomatoes, potatoes, and onions, all of which I intend to can and pickle for the winter months.

Basic brine:
 I use a ratio of 1 tsp of salt (kosher or sea salt) to 1 cup of water.  When brining, I like to add in a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice and/or white vinegar.

Boil the jars to sterilize them.  Wash the vegetables well and cut out any bruises or soft parts.  With tomatoes, remove the seeds and surrounding gel.  Some vegetables, like onions and potatoes, should be peeled.  Most vegetables should be pickled raw.
Boil together a solution of salt and water (brine) and mix in some lemon juice or vinegar.  Pack the vegetables into the jars well, but not so they are smushing each other.  Pour in the brine and tap the jar to get rid of the air pockets.  Place the capped jars into boiling water for ten minutes.  Remove, and let them cool naturally (don't cool them by running under cold water, placing in the fridge, placing in ice water.  This will cause the glass to shatter.)
Onions and tomatoes to be enjoyed for the months to come.

Soon, I'll write about making your own sauerkraut, which can be wonderful.

Friday, September 10, 2010

My Harvest: Tomatoes

What you see there is a small part of my harvest of cherry tomatoes.  I have about nineteen plants on my balcony, all producing.  Most of them are red cherries, but I also have some pear-shaped ones and larger grape tomatoes.  I'm saving the seeds (another post) to plant next year.

Recipe: French Onion Soup

French onion soup is a personal favorite of mine, owing to its simplicity and hearty taste.  I'm a big fan of onions and try to buy them as cheaply and as much as I can.  This soup is perfect for almost any season and can be mastered with extreme ease.  This is the recipe I use (I tinkered with it a little to bring out a richer and more full flavor.)

You will need:
8-9 medium onions (green, white, or yellow), chopped
10 cups of beef broth or stock (bouillon works well)
Sliced bread
Brandy (two shots' worth)
2 tablespoons of honey
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
Cheese (traditionally Gruyere)
Pepper to taste
Oil to sauté

Add the broth to a big pot.  Peel and chop the onions.  In a saucepan, over medium-high heat, caramelize the onions in oil (about eight minutes), stirring constantly.  When the onions are turning brown, add the honey and the balsamic vinegar.  When the onions are caramelized, add everything in the saucepan to the broth and bring to a simmer.  Add in the brandy and grate in some pepper to taste.  Simmer for ten minutes or so.  Ladle the soup into bowls; top each bowl with a slice of bread and a thick layer of grated cheese.  The hot soup should melt the cheese over the bread and the top of the soup.  Serve.
Makes: about six servings.

If you let the soup sit for a day, the flavors will blend and meld better, making for a better soup.  But you can serve immediately as well.
I add the honey and balsamic to the onions, as I find it makes for a richer soup.  The vinegar and the honey cook a bit into the onion, allowing for a sweeter, yet more savory, soup.
Also, try serving in bread bowls for the ultimate experience.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Use of Eggshells

Eggshells are a must for any gardener.  They are primarily made up of calcium held together by protein, and they can serve many uses.  I save all my eggshells for several reasons:  I crush them up and mix them in soil as a sort of fertilizer; I use them as mini-pots to start seedlings; and I use them to shield the soil in pots from the water.

The last use may seem a little odd, but I swear, it's practical.  Have you ever watered your pots, but been annoyed when the stream of water digs into the soil and exposes the roots of the plant?  Use empty eggshells on the top to bear the brunt of the water and let it harmlessly disperse into the dirt.
The most common use for eggshells is to crush them up into dust or small pieces and use them to fertilize the soil.  As they decompose, they will release calcium carbonate into the soil, which most plants need.  The are especially useful for tomato plants.
If you crack your eggshells right, you can create nice little mini-pots to start seedlings.  Just add some dirt and a seed to each eggshell.

Your new best friend in the garden.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


I started this blog to meld two of my favorite activities:  cooking and gardening.

My own garden consists of what I can fit on my windowsills and balcony.  Right now, I'm pretty bullish on tomatoes, but I also have other things like chives, lobelia, basil, and avocado (it's growing quite rapidly.)

My cooking is constantly evolving.  I started out as a poor college student, cooking whatever was cheapest (a lot of potatoes.)  Right now, I'm trying to branch out into different and exciting cuisines.  My successes and failures will be documented.

I hope you all enjoy my new blog!