Maple Glazed Squash with Figs and Pomegranate

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I don’t know very many people who look forward to the sweet potato dish on the table at Thanksgiving. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Pacific Northwest? Maybe we don’t know how to treat sweet potatoes the way they do in the South? Whatever the reason, the whole sweet potato with marshmallows thing has always seemed odd to me. (PS that recipe was invented by a marshmallow factory owner in the early 1900’s to sell more marshmallows) Everyone knows that the stuffing is the best thing on the table anyway, right?

I offer this dish as an alternative to the sweet potato casserole. It’s extremely easy to make.  It’s colorful and beautiful to look at. The syrup gives it an earthy sweetness while the pomegranate gives it a colorful, tart pop! You can assemble the components ahead of time and reheat briefly before serving so it won’t take up turkey-space in the oven.  It’s also a lot healthier than the sweet potato casserole because it has no refined sugar, and there’s not a marshmallow in site.

  • 1 kabocha squash, peeled, seeded, and sliced into thin slices, you could another type of squash, like acorn or butternut.  I like kabocha for its bright orange flesh. You need about a 3 lb. squash.
  • 3 T. maple syrup, plus more for drizzling
  • 3 T. butter, melted, you could use olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 t. chili powder
  • 1 small sprig of rosemary, needles off the stem and chopped
  • 1/2 C. chopped, dried black figs
  • 1/2 C. of fresh pomegranate seeds

Heat the oven to 400 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment.  In a large bowl, toss the squash with the syrup, butter, salt and pepper, cayenne pepper, the rosemary, and the figs to coat with the butter and syrup. Arrange the squash mixture on the baking sheet in one layer. Roast for about 25 to 30 minutes, tossing the mixture once or twice. You want the squash to be tender and the edges to be caramely and golden brown.  Arrange in a serving bowl, finish with a drizzle of syrup, a little more salt, and sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds.  This could be served at room temperature, or reheated without the pomegranite just before serving.

 

 

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Apple Cider and Fennel Brined Turkey

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Brining is my favorite way to ensure a flavorful and juicy turkey.  This year I decided to go with a new-to-me idea of using apple cider and fennel in the brine.  The cider really enhances the natural sweetness in the turkey and makes for an ultra-juicy bird. You won’t be disappointed!  To read my full turkey diatribe and find out why I never carve the turkey at the table, click here. 

Brine for a 10 to 15 lb. turkey

  • 1/2 C. Kosher salt
  • 1 T. celery seed
  • 1 T. mustard seeds
  • 1 T. black peppercorns
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 1 750 ml. bottle of dry white wine
  • 1/2 gallon apple cider (or unfiltered apple juice), not spiced, fresh if available
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, sliced
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • cold water

For roasting:

  • 1 bunch of fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 stick butter, melted.

In a small saucepan, heat the salt with 1 1/2 C. water and stir until the salt is dissolved. Set aside to cool. In a dry pan, gently heat the celery seeds, mustard seeds, peppercorns, and star anise until you start to smell the spices. This helps to release some of the oils and will impart more flavor to the finished dish. In a pot big enough to hold your turkey (a plastic bag in a cooler works well if you don’t have a big enough pot) add the salt solution, the spices, the wine, the cider, the apples, the fennel, and the shallots. Stir to combine. Rinse your turkey, remove all the giblets, neck, etc. Pat it dry with a paper towel and immerse it in the brine solution.  Add enough cold water to cover the bird.  Put the whole thing into the fridge for at least 24 hours and up to 48.

To roast, heat the oven to 450 degrees.  Remove the turkey from the brine, pat it dry and place it into a roasting rack. Fish out some of the apple and fennel slices and put them inside the cavity of the turkey along with the fresh parsley.  Tie legs together with kitchen twine and tuck the wings under the bird. Brush the turkey all over with the melted butter. Roast breast-side up for 30 minutes. Turn the turkey over and roast for the rest of the time upside down.  This keeps the breast from drying out. Turn the heat down to 350 and roast for 1 1/2-2 hours longer, or until the juices in the thigh run clear. Baste every thirty to forty minutes.  When the turkey is done, allow it to rest, tented with foil for at least 40 minutes to an hour.  Your turkey will stay hot for an hour after removing it from the oven.  Resting is VERY important. It is the difference between juicy and dry.  Take a look at my turkey post for carving directions. I hope you love this brine as much as we did!

 

 

 

 

 

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Delicata Squash Gratin

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Delicata squash is a favorite of mine not just for its subtle, nutty flavor, but for the fact that the peel is so thin you can eat it!  It’s so nice to be able to skip the peeling step in this recipe.  You just have to cut it in half, scrape out the minimal seeds, and slice it thinly.  You can roast delicata squash on a baking sheet with a little olive oil and salt for a delicious and healthy side dish, or you can combine it with breadcrumbs and cheese and make this delicious, satisfying gratin.

  • 1 delicata squash, about 10 inches long, seeds scraped out and sliced thinly
  • 1 C. panko breadcrumbs, divided
  • 1/2 C. grated or shredded parmesan cheese
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the squash into very thin slices and set aside. In a baking dish, drizzle a little oil and create a layer of squash.  Sprinkle the layer with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with about 1/4 C. of the breadcrumbs and 1/8 C. of the cheese.  Drizzle again with a little oil.  Repeat with another layer of squash, then salt and pepper, then breadcrumbs and cheese.  Continue to repeat until you’ve used all the squash.  You will probably have about four layers. Be sure to finish with the last of the crumbs and cheese and another drizzle of the oil on top. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the squash is tender and the cheese is melted and golden brown.

 

 

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Apple Fritters

Apple Fritters

I love making breakfast on the weekends, but I was getting tired of the same old pancakes.  These fritters made a great change of pace.  They are a cinch to make.  All it is is a pancake batter with shredded apples added to the mix.  If you use a saucepan that isn’t very wide (7 inches or less) you won’t need to use much oil to get to 1 1/2  inches deep.  Also, the oil may be strained and reused for another frying job, so there is almost no waste.  These are tastiest when they are hot.  Keep the finished fritters in a low oven as you prepare the rest so they’ll all be hot and ready to serve at the same time.

  • Canola oil for frying
  • 2 c. Bisquick (yes, Bisquick)
  • 2/3 C. milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 c. apples, shredded, grated, or diced very small ( I used the Cuisinart)
  • Powdered sugar
  • Maple syrup

Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan until it reaches 360 degrees on a candy thermometer.  Combine the  Bisquick, milk and egg until well blended. Fold in apples.

Drop by spoonfuls into hot oil. Turn and fry until golden brown on both sides.

Drain on paper towels.  Serve hot with syrup and powdered sugar.

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Fresh Tomato Pesto

When the tomatoes are ripe and get that intense flavor of summer I love to come up with different uses for them.  This is an uncooked sauce that can be tossed with any type of pasta.  We used it for spaghetti.  It has a brightness from the fresh tomatoes and basil and a rich nuttiness from the walnuts.  Great for all ages!

  • 3/4 C. basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1/8 C. olive oil
  • 2 T. parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 C. walnuts
  • 4-5 small, ripe tomatoes, I used plum tomatoes
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/2 t. salt

Combine all ingredients in the food processor and pulse until smooth.  Cook 1 lb. of pasta according to the package directions.  Toss the pesto with the hot pasta and serve with more cheese and chopped basil.

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Easy Ahi Poke

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Portland food trends come and go, but I hope the luscious poke I see on menus everywhere is here to stay! If you haven’t tried poke (say poh-kay), I really encourage you to give it a go.  It has a silky texture, and the addition of sesame and soy means it’s packed with umami flavor! It’s very easy, quick to make, and healthy to boot.  Ahi is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein and magnesium. PS- I bought a rice cooker! I used to scoff at them and say, “why would you need an appliance just for that?” Well, now I know that rice cooked in a rice cooker IS SO MUCH BETTER!!! Sorry for yelling. Serves 2 as an entree, or 4 as an appetizer. The fish is raw, so use your best judgement about food safety. You should not have any problems if you buy it fresh from a reputable fishmonger such as Portland Fish Market. 

  • 1/2 lb. highest quality, fresh ahi tuna (you can use albacore, but it soaks up the sauce more, so go easy or it will be too salty)
  • 1/4 C. soy sauce (gluten free if necessary)
  • 1/4 C. sesame oil
  • 1/4 C. mirin (sweet rice wine)
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 t. sesame seeds
  • 1/4 t. hot chili sauce, such as Sriracha (or more if you love spice)
  • 2-3 small sheets of toasted seaweed to crumble over the top (optional)

Freeze the ahi just for about ten minutes, it makes it a little easier to make clean cuts and not smash it. While it’s in the freezer, in a large bowl, whisk together all the remaining ingredients.  Reserve a few seeds and scallions to scatter on top for garnish.  Cut the ahi into small cubes, about 1/2 inch square.  Try to handle it as little as possible.  Gently toss the fish with the dressing.  Taste for seasoning and adjust.  Garnish with a few scallions, sesame seeds, and flakes of dried seaweed. Serve right away, or refrigerate.  Poke can be made about an hour ahead of time, but more than that and it will become a bit mushy. You can prep the fish and sauce separately up to a day ahead and toss it just before serving. Serve the cold poke over warm, steamed white rice.

 

 

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Laurie’s Heirloom Tomatoes with Smoked Paprika Vinaigrette

Happy Birthday Laurie!

This salad was inspired by one I ate several years ago at a Farm to Fork dinner with my friend Laurie.  It was her bachelorette dinner (happy-almost-anniversary, Laurie and Chad) and we all absolutely loved this salad.  Smoked paprika can be found at better grocery stores and is sometimes labeled Pimenton de la Vera.  Look for imported Spanish Pimenton de la Vera- it’s not expensive, but it has an unmatched smoky flavor.

  • 2-4 Large heirloom tomatoes
  • 1/4 C. fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 1.4 C. good quality olive oil – on the grassy side
  • 1/8 C. champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 1 t. smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1/2 t. Kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper

Slice the tomatoes and arrange them on a platter.  Sprinkle them with parsley, salt, and pepper.  Combine the oil, vinegar, and paprika with a pinch of salt and shake to combine.  Pour over the tomatoes and serve.  The salad we had at the dinner also had some blanched green beans, toasted almonds, and blue cheese crumbles.  Yum!

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