Monday, October 30, 2006

Galapagos Penguin

Finally sent around the URL for this blog to friends and family and got back a really cute photo from Cousins Tom and Nora of Florida of a Galapagos Penguin. Thanks Nora and Tom! Now click on Comments at the bottom of this post and let me know how it looks.
And, no, this bird is not for cooking. We'll get back to food soon.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

What to do with all that squash

We had a late (for us) spring here in northern Sonoma County due to late rains and chill. As a result the squash seedlings were planted late and recently, instead of late summer, I have been getting lots of squash. One of my favorite answers to the annual question of what to do with all that squash is to use it for my favorite pasta sauce.

The recipe is based on a vegetarian one that I found in the mid 70's in the Oakland Tribune. Over the years there have been lots of opportunites to change parts of it, so it's quite different than the original. It's a good way to stretch ground meat into a meal or two. It's also another recipe using canned goods. I swear I really do cook from scratch most of the time. Maybe the next post I'll do a from scratch one.

The thing I've found useful about this sauce is that the squash takes on the flavors of the herbs and tomatos fairly quickly, which means that a short time simmering gives intensity of flavor that would take much longer if the squash were replaced with meat.

When using the blender for this dish, pulse it and even remove the top and stir the mixture every couple of pulses so that the squash stays a little chunky. This gives the sauce a more meatly look than blending the mixture until the sauce is smoother.

Too Much Squash Pasta Sauce

1/2 lb ground meat if using (beef or turkey - I use turkey) (or 8 oz. sliced mushrooms)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium squash, cut into chunks (any summer squash, but zucchini works best)
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes in juice
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon dry basil
1/4 teaspoon dry rosemary
note - fresh oregano, basil and rosemary can be used - use twice as much, or more, to taste
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

In large skillet heat oil over medium high heat. Brown ground meat. Set aside.

If doing the meatless version, skip the browning. Just add the oil to the pan and proceed as below.
Using same pan, cook onion and garlic until translucent and barely brown, about 5 minutes, stirring now and then.

While meat (if using) and then onions/garlic cook, put half of squash in a blender. Add 1/2 of the can of tomato sauce and 1 tablespoon of water. Pulse blender, removing top and stirring every couple of pulses, until mixture is broken down but still chunky. Once onions have finished, pour this mixture into the pan. Lower heat to simmer and deglaze the pan with the tomato mixture, scraping up the browned bits.

Return browned meat to the pan and stir (if using meat). Put the rest of the squash into the blender, add rest of tomato sauce, pulse the same way the first batch was done. Add this batch to the pan of meat mixture and stir.

Add diced tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper to pan, stir. If not using meat, add 8 oz. sliced mushrooms to the pan along with the diced tomatoes and seasonings.

Return to boil, cover, turn down heat and simmer at least 2 minutes, stirring about every 10 minutes to avoid scorching. (The longer the sauce simmers, the better it will taste.)

While sauce is simmering, bring large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to directions on package, until al dente. Drain pasta well.

Put generous serving of pasta on plate. Top with pasta sauce and garnish with fresh basil and/or good parmesan cheese shards.

note - this sauce tastes even better if allowed to cool and left in the refrigerator overnight to blend the flavors. Reheat over low heat until simmering.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Photo of Fall Soup

Fall Soup

Even though today was pretty warm, and I'd been slapping gray paint on the raw wood under the eaves of the new roof on the storage building, some hearty vegetable soup seemed like a good lunch. I had a glass of water (it was HOT painting!), and some green grapes with the soup. Pretty tasty.

This recipe is my variation of Weight Watchers 0 point Garden Vegetable Soup. With the changes I've made, it's no longer 0 points, although it's still pretty healthy. If you prefer to not use canned stuff, you can make broth and cook white beans ahead of time and use fresh tomatoes. If you have no problem with shortcuts, you can use frozen green beans and pre-chopped garlic, too. It's hard to mess this soup up.

Fall Soup

1 Tablespoon olive oil
2/3 Cup sliced carrots
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 Cups (2 cans) 99% fat free broth (I used chicken, but vegetable and beef work too)
1/4 to 1/2 medium head green cabbage, diced (depends on how much you like cabbage)
3/4 Cup green beans
2 medium tomatoes, diced or 1 can Ready Cut style diced tomatoes and juice
1/2 teaspoon dried basil or twice as much fresh
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano or twice as much fresh
1/2 Cup diced zucchini or 1 small summer squash, diced

  1. In a large saucepan heat the olive oil, then saute the carrots and onions over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring every minute or so. Add garlic and saute another minute.
  2. Add about 1/2 cup of broth to the pan and deglaze pan (scrape up the browned bits from the bottom and sides with a wooden spoon), then add rest of broth, cabbage, tomatoes, basil and oregano; bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add one can of cannelli beans or other cooked white bean, including the soft stuff at the bottom of the can. Add the squash and green beans. Stir. Put the lid back on and heat another 5 minutes. Check beans. If too crisp, cook another minute or two. Serve hot.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Feeding My Enthusiasms

After about a month of visiting a bunch of great food blogs, I decided to join the fun.

Food is one of my earliest enthusiasms. Baking was how I got started and it remains one of my favorite ways of being creative. Then there are all of the beautiful fruits and nuts just outside my back door in season...pretty California...apples in the fall, but we've gone through blackberries, plums, peaches, pears, walnuts, quince, persimmon in their turn over the years. I grow tomatoes, green beans and lots of summer squash, plus herbs.

Other enthusiasms are painting & drawing, photography, gardening (flowers, too) and writing a bit. Seems like most of these can be enjoyed while blogging or will add to the blog.

I love trying new things and have been cooking long enough that I take the results of new recipes, untasted, to parties and often make small changes to recipes the first time I try them.Foolish? Intrepid? Confident? Who knows?

Looking forward to tasting new things, making new friends and having a good time.