The Great Pumpkin

November 5, 2011 § 2 Comments

What, you ask, is THAT?  It’s the coolest cooking experience you will have this Thanksgiving, that’s what. Whoa. That was kind of forceful wasn’t it?  Ok, You can do what you want with your cooking this Thanksgiving, but  how can you beat a whole, cooked pumpkin, stuffed with savory goodness, making a dramatic entrance to your table? Is the green bean casserole going to beat it? The stove top stuffing? Um, no.

This recipe is from the ever amazing Around My French Table, so as usual, I was pleased from the first read-through.  First, it’s flexible with the ingredients you can use, so I immediately was drawn in: I love a recipe where I can fudge and swap ingredients.  But, when it comes down to it, the reason this recipe became a reality is simple: you turn a pumpkin into an edible pot. I’ve tried really hard to put into words why this appeals to me so much.  Maybe it’s the mixture of pumpkin carving and fine dining. Maybe it’s the rustic, cozy, farm-to-table appeal.  Maybe I just like that an edible pot means less dishes.

Cinderella squash? I never figured it out.

Using Dorie Greenspan’s recipe as a general guide, I put together a somewhat haphazard combination of herbs,garlic, bread, sausage, green apples, cheeses,and cream, filled the pumpkin, and baked it for a few hours (the smaller the pumpkin or squash, the shorter the time, but this one was family sized).

It came out with a great balance of flavors that pleased almost everyone at my table (If ever everyone was pleased with a meal at my house, I would think the sky was falling), but there ARE a few things I will do differently next time:

**Swap bread cubes for some cooked rice (this would make it gluten-free, too)

**Add some nuts into the  mixture for some crunch

**Use all the cream the recipe calls for (I was running low, so I fudged with broth)

**Remember to salt the inside of the scraped out pumpkin before filling with all the good stuff  (I could tell the filling was well seasoned, but not the pumpkin itself)

**Use a small lipped tray for cooking (I used my pizza stone and there was some spilling when I went to cut it…a lip, would have saved me)


Other notes on this:

*You could use an acorn or calabaza squash, mini pumpkins….whatever…for smaller, more manageable portions.

*Fill this thing with whatever sounds good to you…the possibilities are wide open (see the comments on the recipe as it appears on Epicurious for ideas).




Beets: part one

February 23, 2011 § 4 Comments

I pulled some beets out of the garden yesterday. Hooray!  Tomorrow, I will cook the beet “bodies” (based on the recipe from this article).  Tonight, however,I used the greens (the tops that show above ground).  With a quick saute, some bacon, a little smashed garlic, parmesan, and some gifted pappardelle noodles from Susan, dinner was served.

Reasons for me to like this dish:

  • used garden produce (cheap me likes this)
  • used a part of the plant that is often tossed (waste hating me likes this)
  • tasted rich from the bacon and parmesan (luxurious me likes this)
  • beet greens are high in vitamin C (me who hates being sick likes this)

Pappardelle with Beet Greens, Bacon, and Parmesan

4 pieces bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces

Greens from 6 beets, cut roughly into 2-inch pieces

2 cloves garlic, smashed

80z dried pappardelle pasta (I used Trader Joe’s version, but any kind will do)

Grated parmesan cheese

Start water for the pasta.  When the water boils, add salt and pasta to the water.  Cook according to the package directions.

In the mean time, cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium high heat. When browned nicely, remove the bacon from the pan and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

Pour off all but one tablespoon of bacon grease and return the skillet to the stove.

Add  beet greens to the pan and saute, again, over medium high heat, until wilted, about 3 minutes. Add garlic to the pan and continue to saute until fragrant. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add cooked pasta to the pan just to coat the pasta.

Sprinkle grated parmesan and serve.

Makes 4 medium-sized portions.

Pioneer Woman’s Spicy Pulled Pork

February 12, 2011 § 11 Comments

Ok.  I’m one of those people who roll out of bed late most mornings. My kids and I are always running out the door, breakfast to eat, shoes to put on, hair to be brushed (or not), all in the car on the way to wherever we are going. Picture Hugh grant and “Scarlett” (I don’t know the actress’ name) in Four Weddings and a Funeral…late to every wedding and cursing all the way (well, I may do a little less cursing than that when the kids are in the car).

Well, don’t ask me how it happened, but this morning I was up early enough to consider the fact that we would have NOTHING to eat when we got home from the soccer field. (5 games in one morning!)  And there would be no stopping for something on the way home. (You don’t stop for convenience food when you have to make it four more days without spending even one more dollar. Yep, It’s one of those times.) The kids would be hungry, Vince would be hungry, I would be angry AND hungry…it wasn’t going to be pretty.

I’d been planning on making Pioneer Woman‘s Spicy Pulled Pork sometime soon, b/c pork shoulder was on sale when I went to the store this week. I decided the 30 minutes I had before we left for the field should be spent getting the pork into the oven and starting it’s 5 hour cooking session. (Crockpot people, you know how this goes…so satisfying to leave something behind working while you are gone!) So, I slathered on the marinade/wet rub, put it in a pot, put the pot in the oven, and left for soccer (We still didn’t do much hair-brushing, but we did brush our teeth! And I got to take the picture of the meat!)

We got home,  I  shredded the meat (like it was nothing! so tender!), and oh my goodness…yum.  Now, I did serve it with some of the extra “sauce” you rub on it before it cooks. The recipe made more than I needed for the rub, so I just used it on the cooked meat. It was dee-licious. Seriously. It’s a great flavor: sweet and smoky with a little garlic. mmmm.

All I can say is, This may be life changing. Yes, life changing.  My attitude about being at the soccer field every saturday morning could drastically improve thanks to this recipe. My husband will be so pleased. At the very least, I know I’ll be making it again, and that will please him, even if I have a bad attitude (well, maybe). A cheap cut of meat, a long, slow braise, ingredients I always have around the house? This one is going on the regular “meat meal” schedule. (Thank you Sarah for lending me this book!)

Spicy Pulled Pork From The Pioneer Woman Cooks

One 5-7-pound pork shoulder (mine was about 4 lbs)

1 whole onion, quartered

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/2 cup brown sugar

4 garlic cloves

1 tsp dried oregano (I used “Italian Seasoning” b/c I couldn’t find my oregano.)

2 tsps ground cumin

1-2 Tablespoons salt

freshly ground pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

lime wedges

flour tortillas (we just ate it without the tortillas, but either way…)

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F.

In a food processor, combine the onion, chili powder, brown sugar, garlic cloves, oregano, cumin, salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar.  Puree until smooth (mine wasn’t super smooth, but it didn’t bother me).

Rub the mixture all over the pork, getting in all the cracks and crevices.

Place the pork in a dutch oven with 2 cups of water.

Cover tightly, and cook in the oven for 6-7 hours (mine only took 5 b/c of it’s smaller size).

If the pork is easy to pierce with a fork, turn the oven up to 425 degrees F and roast, uncovered for 15 minutes, until crispy (ish) on top.

Shred the pork with two forks, pour the pan juices over the meat, and serve with tortillas and lime wedges. (Beer would be good, too.)

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