Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving Sonoma Style

I'm planning a Sonoma County-sourced Thanksgiving.  Fresh, free-range turkey, local potatoes and veggies.  My heirloom Halloween decorations have already been baked and are waiting in the freezer to become delicious Thanksgiving pies.

Rose hips, persimmons, pumpkins and pomegranates from the garden will make a beautiful centerpiece.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Is it a Soup or a Stew?

Hearty soups and stews are on the menu this time of year.  It always seems that when the first of the cold weather shows, our bodies crave the warmth of thick, warming and brothy dishes.

So put on a sweater and slurp up some soup.  This minestrone will keep you toasty. This is no soup for light-weights.  Big chunks of meat, mushrooms and pasta make this almost a stew.

(By the way, I found the grass-fed Chuck at my local Safeway supermarket.  Kudos to Safeway for stocking more and more grass-fed meats, chicken and eggs.  And kudos to all of you out there who vote with your wallets, making it possible for stores like Safeway to stock their meat departments with high-quality health-promoting product.)

Minestrone with Grass-Fed Chuck Roast

This soup is a meal all on its own.  Serve it alone, or add a green salad on the side if you wish.

The grass-fed chuck I used was tender and delicious.  Be sure not to overcook the meat and do not let the soup come to a boil once the meat has been added.

1 1/2 lb grass fed Chuck cut into bit-sized pieces and gristle cut away (I found the grass-fed chuck at my local Safeway)
3 T olive oil
1 onion chopped medium-fine
2 c celery chopped medium-fine
1 large carrot chopped medium-fine
1 clove of garlic minced
1/3 c red wine
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
32 oz organic beef broth
1 15 oz can cannellini beans drained and rinsed thoroughly
6 oz mushrooms sliced
5-6 oz quinoa pasta rotelle shaped
2 c water
Generous fresh ground Himalayan pink sea salt and black pepper to taste
1 t oregano dried
1/2 t basil dried
Fresh basil leaves
Optional:  Parmesan Cheese

Add the olive oil to a large soup pot and raise heat to medium-high.  When oil is heated, add half the meat to the pot and brown and sear stirring for several minutes.  Remove meat to a bowl while there is still some pink showing through.  Do not overcook.  Brown and sear the remaining meat.  Remove and let sit.

Add the onion, celery, carrot and garlic to the pan and cook until vegetables are turning soft.  Add the 1/3 cup wine.  Add the tomatoes and beef broth and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes with lid on.

Remove lid and add in the cannellini, mushrooms, spices and quinoa pasta.  If the liquid seems to have cooked down and there is not enough broth, add the 2 cups of water.  Cook about 8 minutes.  Add the beef.  Serve with chopped basil on top.

This soup is perfectly delicious without any cheese, so don't feel like you're missing anything if you are avoiding dairy.  If you're not, go ahead and sprinkle fresh grated Parmesan cheese into each bowl.  

Thursday, November 13, 2014

And More Squash!

We're still eating squash...and loving it.  In fact, right now, with the leaves still golden, coral and salmon outside, we're in the mood for foods in those very same gorgeous warm and rosy colors.  Autumn season is short and sweet, why not celebrate it in every way possible?  

Gorgeous Autumn Colors!

Butternut Salmon Thai Curry

This is a truly delicious dish.  Serve it with rice and you've got a meal.  We're loving the Tru Roots sprouted brown rice these days.  It has a great texture and the sprouting makes it more alkaline and easier to digest.  Yes!  Healthy, plus delicious, is our favorite combination.

2 cups canned coconut milk
2 T red Thai curry
3 c chicken broth
6 T fish sauce
4 lemon grass stalks cut into thirds and smashed with the flat blade of a knife
grated peel from 2 tangerines  (great for healing skin conditions)
1 t turmeric
3-4 cups cubed butternut squash (about 1 lb)
2 cans organic garbanzo beans (rinsed thoroughly to aid digestion)
1 lb salmon filet cut into bite-sized pieces*  
6 oz shiitake mushrooms stems removed and sliced
bok choy leaves (2 generous handfuls) roughly chopped into large pieces
chopped cilantro for garnish

Put the coconut milk and curry in a stock pot and whisk together over medium high heat.  Add the broth, fish sauce, lemon grass, turmeric, and squash and cook ten minutes.  Add the garbanzo beans and cook another ten minutes watching the squash until it is about 5 minutes away from being cooked. Add the salmon* and mushrooms and cook another few minutes until the salmon just barely cooked. Add the bok choy leaves. Serve in bowls with rice and sprinkle cilantro over the top. 

*If you find it difficult to remove the skin from the salmon, place the whole filet in the soup pot skin side down for about 60 seconds.  Pull the filet out and the skin should peel off easily. Chop the filet and add back to the pot to continue cooking.   

  Pumpkin or Squash Tart

2 cups baked pumpkin or butternut squash cubes
1 grated baked potato
1 sweet onion sliced and carmelized
3 scallions, sliced thinly
For pumpkin add 2 T coconut nectar
3 eggs, beaten

With a fork, slightly mash together all of the ingredients except the eggs.  Stir in the eggs just enough to coat the other ingredients.  Spoon into the center of einkorn pastry circles (see here for recipe).  Fold up all of the edges 1/3 of the way to the center and press onto filling.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until filling is just firm to the touch and crust is golden brown.

A few other really great squash recipes:

Pumpkin Stuffed With Everything Good

Sugar Free Low Gluten Pumpkin Pie--It's Yummy!

And for the best pumpkin soup ever (of course, you have to make the ham to get the ham stock), but this recipe is spectacular--my family begs for it!  It's from one of Chef Gordon Ramsay's Christmas specials.  I've attached the video below, but I've also pasted in the actual recipes for your convenience.  Fabulous!

Chef Gordon Ramsay's Roasted Pumpkin Soup (to serve with ham--need ham broth--see recipe below)

About 1.5kg cooking pumpkin .
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
1 bulb garlic, cut in half horizontally.
Handful of rosemary sprigs.
1½ tbsp olive oil.
1 onion, peeled and chopped.
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg .
30g grated parmesan cheese (or a small block of parmesan rind).
About 800ml hot ham stock or chicken stock.
100ml double cream.
15g butter.

To garnish

1½ tbsp olive oil, plus extra to drizzle.
400g wild mushrooms (e.g. trompette de la mort, pied de mouton and chanterelle), cleaned and trimmed.
Parmesan shavings.
1.Preheat oven to 190°C/gas mark 5. First, cut the pumpkin in half horizontally and remove the seeds (reserve the seeds as they can be cleaned and roasted later). Score the pumpkin flesh using a small sharp knife and season with salt and pepper. Rub the pumpkin flesh with the cut garlic halves, then lay the rosemary sprigs and garlic pieces in the centre of each half. Drizzle both pumpkin halves with a little olive oil.
.2.Put the pumpkin halves in large roasting trays and roast for 1-1½ hours, or until tender. (The exact cooking time will vary based on differences in oven temperature and the variety, shape, density and thickness of the pumpkin). The pumpkin is ready when you can effortlessly slip a knife into the thickest part of the flesh. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Once cooled, remove the rosemary and garlic from the pumpkin and reserve the garlic. Scoop out the pumpkin flesh and set aside.
.3.Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and stir frequently for 5-6 minutes until translucent but not browned. Scoop out 2-3 cloves of the reserved roasted garlic and add to the pan along with a touch of seasoning and pinch of grated nutmeg. Continue to sauté for a further 1-2 minutes. Add the pumpkin flesh to the pan along with the grated parmesan and stir together.
.4.Pour in the ham stock, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes. Stir in the double cream and heat for a further minute. In several batches, ladle the soup into a blender and blend until smooth. Add the butter and blitz again until you reach a rich, velvety smooth texture. Pour the soup into a clean pan to reheat.
.5.For the garnish, heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan until hot and then add the mushrooms. Fry over a high heat for a few minutes until the moisture released from the mushrooms has cooked off and the pan is quite dry. Season the mushrooms and remove the pan from the heat.
.6.Spoon the sautéed mushrooms into the middle of each serving bowl and top with parmesan shavings. Carefully pour the hot soup around the mushrooms and serve immediately.

Glazed Ham
3kg unsmoked boneless gammon joint.
4 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped .
1 leek, cleaned and roughly chopped .
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped .
1 tsp black peppercorns, lightly crushed .
1 tsp coriander seeds, lightly crushed.
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half.
3 bay leaves.
Handful of cloves .

Honey glaze

100g demerara sugar .
50ml Madeira .
25ml sherry vinegar .
125g honey.
1.Put the gammon into a large saucepan and pour on enough cold water to cover. Add the carrots, leek, onion, peppercorns, coriander seeds, cinnamon stick and bay leaves. Bring to the boil, turn down to a simmer and cook for 3 hours, topping up with more boiling water if necessary. Skim off the froth and any impurities that rise to the surface from time to time. If cooking in advance, leave the ham to cool in the stock overnight. Otherwise, allow it to cool a little, then remove from the pan. Strain the stock (and save for soups, sauces, etc.).
.2.To make the glaze, put the sugar, Madeira, sherry vinegar and honey into a pan
.3.and stir over a low heat. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for 3–4 minutes, until you have a glossy dark syrup. Do not leave unattended, as it can easily boil over.
.4.Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas mark 5. Lift the ham onto a board. Snip and remove the string and then cut away the skin from the ham, leaving behind an even layer of fat. Lightly score the fat all over in a criss-cross, diamond pattern, taking care not to cut into the meat. Stud the centre of each diamond with a clove.
.5.Put the ham into a roasting tin and pour half of the glaze over the surface. Roast for 15 minutes.
.6.Pour on the rest of the glaze and return to the oven for another 25–35 minutes until the ham is golden brown, basting with the pan juices frequently. It also helps to turn the pan as you baste to ensure that the joint colours evenly.
.7.Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 15 minutes before carving.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Squash Season!!

Beautiful autumn squash is everywhere these days.  Are you cooking with it?  

One of the things I love about squash is how easy the prepping and cooking can be.  Of course, like any ingredient, you can make it complicated if you want to, but autumn squash taste great simply prepared.  

With squash, most of the effort is in the cutting.  Once you have that done, the oven does the rest.

Here are a few simple ways you can prepare squash ...and then, because we just couldn't stop ourselves, some more complicated ideas are below and in the next posting.  They're all delicious.

Delicata Squash

Slice thinly using a mandolin.  Toss the squash with olive oil and garlic salt.  Bake at 300 degrees until brown.  Serve like chips or over kale with balsamic drizzle.

Acorn Squash

1 acorn squash
2 T grass-fed butter
sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 T coconut palm sugar or coconut nectar  

Cut a butternut squash in half and scrape out seeds and stringy pulp.  Put cut side down in a baking dish and add 1 cup of water.  Bake 40 minutes.  Check for tenderness.   To serve, while hot and just out of the oven, turn the squash inner side up.  Add the butter, salt and pepper and coconut sugar and let the ingredients melt in with each other.  1 squash serves 2 generously or 4 modestly. 

Kabocha Coconut Soup
1/2 Kabocha Squash
2 tablespoon chopped green onions
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
1 cup chicken broth
1 can coconut milk

Toss squash, green onions and ginger in a soup pot with 1 cup chicken broth and simmer until tender. Puree in food processor. Return to pan, add coconut milk and heat. 

Links to other squash recipes:

Low Gluten, Sugar-Free Pumpkin Pie

Spaghetti Squash with Shitaki