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Butternut squash are oppressing my people

March 10, 2011
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But I think my people kind of like it.

I’ve been getting a couple of huge butternut squashes each week in my produce box, but I prefer to use kabochas for roasting, which is my default squash-prep method. So what’s a girl to do with all the butternut piling up?

Make soup:

Roasted butternut squash-harissa soup with thyme-almond pesto

Roasted butternut squash-harissa soup with thyme-almond pesto

This first soup, from a couple of weeks ago, had a healthy dose of harissa (a dried pepper and spice paste) added just at the end of sauteeing some onions, and a bit of lemon juice to finish it before serving. The thyme pesto also had some arugula because a pesto made with just almonds and thyme would be too intense for me. I sprinkled on toasted almonds for a touch of crunch.

And then you make more soup, to keep the pile of squash in the corner of the counter from tipping over:

Butternut squash and casabel chile soup with sunflower seeds, grated romano cheese and whipped avocado

Butternut squash and casabel chile soup with sunflower seeds, grated romano cheese and whipped avocado

The second soup followed the same formula, but with dried casabel chiles, fire roasted tomatoes, toasted cumin and a little masa harina as seasoning. The crunchy bits there were sunflower seeds roasted with some honey, cumin and soy sauce. The avocado plopped on top to be stirred in for a creamy cool accent, was whipped together with tomatillo salsa for acidity and extra flavor.

Butternut is great for soup; it has a nice deep flavor and blends up perfectly smoothly with no little stringy bits (I prefer kabocha for roasting because it’s just so smooth and dense and holds together nicely.)

We got another squash yesterday in the produce box, but I think the season is over very very soon, and that makes me a little sad, and also relieved.

This Nutella dessert should be sweeping the nation any minute now

March 6, 2011

It’s really good. And absurdly easy:

Nutella-yogurt mousse with brownie chunks, raspberries and toasted hazelnuts

Nutella-yogurt mousse with brownie chunks, raspberries and toasted hazelnuts

I just took fat free, plain, Greek yogurt (really any fat level Greek yogurt would work; the fatty ones would probably be that much tastier) and mixed it with a few tablespoons of Nutella, 1-2 tablespoons of Nutella per cup, depending on how chocolatey you want it. The batch pictured had some chopped up brownies I had leftover, raspberries and toasted hazelnuts, all layered like a trifle.

I’ve been making this sort of thing at work once a month or so, when I want to have a dessert, but don’t have a lot of extra time to bake something from scratch, or when I have leftover cake or cookies to use up (this is rare!)

If you like nutella, you’ll like this. The tangy Greek yogurt (which is pretty much just strained plain yogurt) goes perfectly with the Nutella.

Someone at work suggested mixing in dulce de leche (a sort of latin american caramel sauce) instead of Nutella, which sounds great. I also want to try making some homemade Nutella. And another batch of Greek yogurt ice cream. And coat it with some Nutella-coconut oil magic shell (a random idea which just struck me now; it seems like it would work.) I hope SmugMug HQ is up for testing all that goodness.

Vaguely mediterranean

February 27, 2011

A couple of times a week at SmugMug HQ we have a menu that usually involves roasted chicken, roasted fish, some soup and a few salads. This time the sides were sort of mediterranean-ish. It feels very California to me to have these sorts of meals mostly consisting of vegetables prepared in interesting ways with influences from all over, but that might just be that I’ve lived in California for the past 11 years and that’s how I like to cook.

Hummus is so so tasty (especially mine, if I do say so myself. I use little if any oil, but plenty of tahini and lots of processing time, which makes for a very smooth and rich tasting hummus.) It’s not especially pretty, though. Think of it like a canvas of tan waiting for decoration:

Hummus with zatar, tahini and roasted chickpeas on top

Hummus with zatar, tahini and roasted chickpeas on top

It’s especially nice if your decorations are also delicious. The purply stuff on the hummus is zatar, an herb and sesame seed blend. Mine contains sumac (dried berries of an edible kind of sumac; the sumac we had in Minnesota when I was a kid caused rashes if you even touched it, so I wouldn’t want that on my hummus.) Sumac adds a nice lemony taste to things. I especially love it on pink lentil soup.

Pea shoots are a fun ingredient that I can get year round at our Whole Foods, in huge bags, I think maybe people use them for juicing. But I like to use them in salads:

Spinach and pea shoots with roasted mushrooms, radishes and mustard dressing

Spinach and pea shoots with roasted mushrooms, radishes and mustard dressing

They taste just like snap peas!

This green bean salad made me like green beans, which I usually find sort of unpleasantly textured. The key is barely cooking them at all, then making a nice sharp dressing and eating them cold, I love them like that:

Green beans, peas and snap peas with lemon-mustard seed dressing

Green beans, peas and snap peas with lemon-mustard seed dressing

This soup has a TON of garlic in it, but it’s cooked slowly for a nice long time so that it’s mellow and rich:

Garlic-saffron soup with harissa, greek yogurt and beans

Garlic-saffron soup with harissa, greek yogurt and beans

The saffron adds a nice bite, and the beans add something filing and meaty.

My jasmine vines are blooming, rhubarb is in the grocery stores and I saw daffodils blooming on the way to work Friday. Spring is here! Enjoy it with some fresh produce, let any cuisine influence you and play with your vegetables.

Your mom’s a smut

February 21, 2011
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Does this look like something you’d want to eat?

Corn smut on my cutting board

Corn smut on my cutting board

If you ever get the chance, do eat it, because it’s delicious. It’s called huitlacoche or corn smut, and is in season with corn (ie not now).

I got my hands on a whole bunch of infected corn cobs last summer:

Corn smut on the cob

Corn smut on the cob

I used them to make a filling for plantain-dough empanadas. I told the lunch-eaters at SmugMug HQ that they had ‘corn mushrooms’ in them, and people loved them. It has a sort of delicate mushroom taste, earthy and rich, and went very well with roasted corn and beans. A mole poblano as a dipping/drizzling sauce made boss-man Don happy. Hopefully this summer I can get some again.

Linzer bars

February 7, 2011
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I had better post something before everyone thinks I’m dead, or that SmugMug has quit eating my delicious food.

It’s been super busy around the SmugMug offices. We’ve been hiring like crazy and are now up to around 30 mouths to feed at Headquarters. Very exciting how fast we’re growing, but also a lot of work, especially since our kitchen is not meant to cook for that many. But we’re expanding our kitchen (more on that another day), and my assistant is coming in at 10:30 instead of 11:30, so things are feeling a little more under control again.

Anyway, on to pretty pictures of what we’re eating:

Raspberry hazelnut bars

Raspberry hazelnut bars

They sometimes have these great raspberry linzer bars at whole foods, but they’re pretty sweet and greasy and I thought I could do better. After hunting around for a recipe, I decided to try the one for raspberry bars I found in my online Cooks Illustrated subscription. I don’t want to post it because they’re…. touchy about that, but I’ll link to someone else who did.

They were exactly what I was hoping for, and I have a few jars of raspberry jam waiting to make these again for the lucky mouths at SmugMug. Again, we’re hiring so come work for us and eat my cooking every day!

Whiskeyfest inspired food

December 29, 2010
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A couple of times in the past year my husband Sam dragged me to some sort of whiskey festival/tasting thing. Well, the first one he dragged me and it was really fun, so the second one I went gladly to, and we’re going again in March. I don’t really like whisk(e)y but have learned to tell which ones are good, and can appreciate all the complex flavors a single bottle offers. Of course I spend much of the time in the sessions scribbling down food pairing ideas or recipes using the various whiskeys we’re tasting.

This salad was inspired by a recent festival and a session where we tasted a bunch of very sea-peaty whiskeys:

Barley and smoked tofu salad with whisky dressing and seaweed

Barley and smoked tofu salad with whisky dressing and seaweed

I have usually had whiskey in sweet foods, but it was perfect in the dressing for this salad. It brought together all the smokey salty flavors of the various foods and a hint of sweet caramelyness.

Happy birthday Baldy cake

December 9, 2010

Baldy’s birthday is long past, but I’ve made a version of this easy, easy filling several times and people always want the recipe after they try it, love it, and then find out what’s in it:

Chocolate pie with maple-glazed sliced almonds and raspberry sauce. 100% Vegan.

Chocolate pie with maple-glazed sliced almonds and raspberry sauce. 100% Vegan.

The filling is awesome and so simple. I think of it as an old school-hippie dessert, and have been making it since I discovered tofu. You can use it for a pudding with fruit, pie filling like here, or even frosting. Or on a spoon out of the blender.

For this pie, I melted a 6 oz bag of dark chocolate chips (high quality, vegan ones) and blended it up with two packs of mori-nu silken tofu. And a touch of vanilla. That’s it.

The nut is a basic nut crust, usually hazelnut or almond since I can get those pre-ground. I pre-bake it in the spring-form pan before adding the tofu mix and chilling. Almonds boiled with maple syrup until pretty dry in the pan and boiled, reduced, strained frozen raspberries are the simple garnishes.

Try blending up some silken tofu with chocolate. You won’t be sorry. If you’re feeling really hippie, you can do avocado and chocolate.

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