Tag Archives: cook it

acorn squash two ways

8 Nov

I’ve been in the mood to cook lately. Part of it is because I’ve been on vacation and whenever I have more free time the first thing I want to do is cook again. Another part of it is the weather, though. Whenever it starts getting colder, there are certain dishes I crave.

Last night I made acorn squash stuffed with ground pork and buttered breadcrumbs, something my mother just turned me on to a few weeks ago when she made it. Trevor doesn’t like squash so I just put his ground pork on top of mashed potatoes, but that also meant more squash for me. I ended up making half the squash savory, stuffed with the pork, and the other half sweet, with butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. That sweet acorn squash has been a fall/winter standby in my family since I was little. I actually used to hate it – or rather, refuse to try to eat it. But as I’ve grown older both my tastes and my openness to trying new things has changed a lot, and this is one of those things I now love.

The other great part about both the sweet and savory versions of this acorn squash preparation is that it is SO easy.

For savory acorn squash with ground pork:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (f).

Take an acorn squash, wash and dry it, then cut it in half lengthwise. You may want to use a vegetable peeler to gouge out a little even plain on the bottom of the squash so that it will lay flat in your baking dish.

Scoop out the innards of each side of the squash and discard.

Rub the inside of the squash with a little olive oil, and set aside.

In a skillet, fully cook your ground pork. You can add whichever type of flavorings/herbs/spices you want. I just kept mine simple with salt, pepper, and a little paprika.

While the meat is browning, put a tablespoon of butter in a mug, add in a heap of breadcrumbs, and microwave about 30 seconds. Then stir them together to make sure all the breadcrumbs are nice and buttery.

When the meat is done, fill your acorn squash with the meat, top with the breadcrumbs, and fill a pyrex baking dish with about an inch of water and set the acorn squash inside it, “hole up”. Now it goes in the oven for 45 min-1 hour. Check at 45 min to see if you need to keep cooking them – they are done when you can easily pierce the squash “meat” with a fork.

For the sweet acorn squash:

Do the same prep on the squash, including rubbing with a light-tasting olive oil.

Then take 1-2 tablespoons butter and put it in the squash. Cover with 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar. Then sprinkle cinnamon on top to taste.

This squash is cooked exactly the same way: fill a pyrex baking dish with about an inch of water and set the acorn squash inside it, “hole up”. Now it goes in the oven for 45 min-1 hour. Check at 45 min to see if you need to keep cooking them – they are done when you can easily pierce the squash “meat” with a fork.

The nice thing about the cooking time being the same is you can do just as I did and make a sweet and savory version in one by doing each half differently – then you have an entree and dessert!

I’ve been slowly trying to clean the apartment for Sunday’s Cookbook Club meeting, but I’ve gotten precious little done. I’m feeling very sloth-like lately, and the only things I really want to do bear directly on the kitchen area alone. So, besides cooking – today I am also attempting a chicken stew after being inspired by Erin’s post over at Gingers Like it Hot – I also was able to reorganize/clean out our cabinets, something I have been wanting to do for awhile.

I’ve been trying to be much more conscientious lately about using the stuff we already have in our kitchen before going out and buying new stuff. But almost every time I went to grab something out of our cupboards I kept finding that it was past its expiration date. On the one hand, this just verifies that I am correct in my thinking that we should be trying to use those things first, since clearly we otherwise do not get to them in time. It’s also making me a little more savvy or aware of what I am buying and whether or not we are actually likely to really use it. But on the other hand, it’s totally depressing. Although we bought these items over many months (even years in some cases, gasp!) – it was still sobering to see two giant paper bags FULL of food that I had to throw away. What a waste! But oh is it satisfying to see our nice, bare cabinets, properly stocked only with things that are usable. Although I don’t have a before photo for comparison, I really think the after is a thing of beauty regardless:

Anyway, I’m supposed to be cleaning and my stew’s almost ready. I’ll let you know how that went tomorrow!

culinary alchemy: italian sausage soup

22 Nov

The alchemy of cooking never ceases to amaze me. If you were me, you were standing over the soup pot the other night gravely concerned about how wine-y it was smelling as it simmered – UNTIL you added the zucchini and green pepper (and just a little chicken broth, it’s true, I was that concerned), and pasta shells, and parmesan – and then you hesitantly took your first taste when it was all done and BLAMMO! Amazing culinary alchemy! Yummy soup from what you had thought might turn out to be wine-y mess! Another lesson in trusting the recipe. Although sometimes the lesson is actually “you should have followed your gut and NOT trusted that recipe”, luckily this time the recipe proved out.

I got this recipe, for Italian Sausage soup, from another blog I frequently read (and link to), Posie Gets Cozy. Alicia got the recipe from “Noteworthy: A Collection of Recipes from the Ravinia Festival”. And now I am duplicating it below:


1 1/2 lbs Italian Sausage (mild or hot), cut in 1/2 inch slices

2 large onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

28 oz. canned Italian-style tomatoes with liquid

42 oz. beef broth

1 1/2 cups dry red wine (I used Burgundy)

1/2 tsp. dried basil leaves

2 medium zucchini, cut in 1/4 inch slices

1 medium green pepper, seeded and chopped

3 tbl chopped fresh parsley

2 cups medium shell noodles

lots of grated Parmesan

I prepped the veggies, herbs, and meat first, so that I could just have everything ready when I needed it:

1. In large pot (I used a dutch oven), saute sausage until lightly browned. Drain and discard fat:

2. Add onions and garlic. Saute until onions are limp:

3. Stir in tomatoes, breaking them up.

4. Add broth, wine, and basil, then simmer for 30 minutes. I wasn’t paying attention and put some of the parsley in, too, but I caught myself before dumping it all in there. (About half-way through this step is also the point when I decided it was too wine-y for my tastes, and added some chicken broth):

5. Add the zucchini, green pepper, and (now) the parsley, and simmer for 15 minutes more. At about this time I would also start getting your shell noodles going. You can either do them separately in either water or chicken broth, or you can just throw them in with the soup during the last 12 minutes or so – I prefer to do them separately:

6. Finally, spoon into bowls and top with lots of Parmesan cheese (this is the best part, really):

It was delicious, and I’ve been mawing it down for 3 days straight now. By the third day everything was a little too mushy so I ended up straining out the broth, making a new batch of noodles and just eating it as a very simple pasta soup (again topped with lots of Parmesan, of course).

In retrospect the only things I might do differently are use half-wine/half-chicken-broth from the get-go next time (instead of the full 1 1/2 cups wine) and then keep the noodles separate and spoon them into each individual bowl, instead of dumping them all into the soup pot – that way the soup can maintain its integrity a little longer since the noodles are the first thing to get mushiest.

the perfect fried egg

27 Sep

I’m on a quest – to find, or, rather, make, the perfect fried egg. Fried eggs have always been a shortcoming of mine. I mean, they come out okay, they’re edible – but they’re never pretty and there’s always something just slightly “off”. They’re certainly never as good as when my mom makes them, or when I have them at breakfast joints.

Today I tried Jamie Oliver’s method. He basically “boils them in oil”, as my mom put it. Which sounds pretty disgusting, but he promises in his recipe (which can be found in Jamie’s Food Revolution) that once you blot the eggs with a paper towel after cooking they’re just fine.

I used fewer eggs (2, as opposed to 4) and FAR less oil than Jamie says to use ( he says to use a 1/2 inch! So unnecessary!). Plus I used vegetable oil instead of olive oil because I didn’t have the extra-light olive oil on hand and I didn’t want my eggs to be too olive-y. BONUS FACT: I just learned two days ago that extra virgin and extra light mean two different things!

I went with the vegetable oil because I wanted the eggs to be as un-oily tasting as possible, but it turned out that wasn’t quite neutral enough (or the oil taste is inescapable regardless, I’m not sure) because the eggs still had a distinct “hi, I’ve been fried in oil” taste to them, even post-blotting.

But the eggs did look a little better than usual:

Here’s Jamie’s recipe:

“Get your frying pan to a medium to low heat and add 1/2 inch of olive oil. Crack 4 large free-range or organic eggs into the pan. As the oil gets hotter you’ll see it start to change the color of the eggs. When they turn white, spoon some of the hot oil over the eggs as this will help to cook them through evenly. If the oil starts to spit it’s because it’s too hot, so turn the heat right down. You want this to be a gentle method of cooking – if the oil gets too hot too fast, you’ll end up with crispy, bubbly eggs, but you want them to be soft and silky. When they’re ready, remove the pan from heat and take the eggs out using a slotted spoon. Place them on a plate and dab them with some paper towels to soak up any excess oil.”

And here are some other egg-frying tips I’ve picked up along my quest so far:

– do (or don’t) use room temperature eggs – I don’t think it really matters, but I’ve found a couple recipes that have suggested it. Usually room temperature eggs are called for in baking recipes because you need to create a water-in-fat emulsion and introducing cold eggs hinders that process, but I have no idea why it’s supposedly better to use room temperature eggs for egg-frying, too. The only thing I can think of is that room temperature eggs must cook faster, so that’s nice I guess.

Anyway, just take however many eggs you want to cook out of the fridge about 2-3 hours before you want to use them, and set them aside somewhere safe until you need them. Another cheat-y thing you can do is put your eggs in a warm-water bath for 20 minutes or so to speed up the process (not too warm or anywhere near boiling though, because obviously that will start to cook the eggs). Or, you know, just use them straight out of the fridge, like I do almost every time.

-if you want to make cheat-y over-easy eggs, my mom says to just place the lid over the pan as the eggs are finishing cooking. The steam and heat now trapped inside the pan sort-of cooks the tops of the eggs, and you pull out something resembling, but not quite, over-easy eggs.

-use medium to low heat when frying eggs: Jamie suggests this in his recipe above, and Mark Bittman says it helps them stay tender and become evenly firm.

Do any of you have any fancy egg-frying tips or tricks up your sleeves? You’re welcome to share in the comments if you do.

the greek salad that will change your life

19 Aug

Guess what, guys?! Cucumber water? So-so. But I think this is mainly because of three things: 1.) I put way too much cucumber in, and 2.) I let it “steep” for too long before drinking it, so that basically it tasted like I was drinking a cucumber, instead of cucumber-flavored water. 3.) I have just recently become appreciative of cucumber as a food. I previously only ever used cucumber in order to reenact scenes from “Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead” (if you have never seen the movie, this must sound like it has the potential to be really perverse and titillating, but I promise it’s not). So, you know, I kinda like cucumber, I guess. Next time, I’m going to use blood oranges, which I know I like, and see what happens. Also, I will probably use less fruit, and not let it sit as long either.


There’s a certain Greek salad that has been making the rounds where I work. By this I mean Dimitri (who is the only actual Greek involved) made it for Esther, Esther made it for Kristen and for me, and then Esther also made it for her roommate, Paul, and then made a different version again for Kristen and me. And I just finished making another variation, which I am taking to work tomorrow for Esther and me to share. That’s how delicious this salad is. I’ve eaten it twice this week already, with another round coming up tomorrow. Esther, I’m pretty sure, has eaten it almost every day for the last two weeks. IT’S THAT AMAZING!

It’s also an incredibly simple recipe:

Take: oil & vinegar (3/1 ratio or just use a store-bought vinaigrette), tomato, cucumber, onion, green pepper, feta cheese crumbles.

Slice all the vegetables up, add the feta cheese, toss in oil & vinegar, then add generous amounts of oregano, as well as salt & pepper. Toss until everything is well-coated in vinaigrette, and then store in the fridge overnight to let everything marinate.

Then take a loaf of french bread or whatever your pleasure and use this to dip in/scoop up salad.

Esther’s variation: add peppercinis

My variation: Although I love what they do when they’re together, I don’t actually love all the involved vegetables, so up until now I’ve mostly been nomming down on the dressing-flavored bread bits and feta cheese and onion. So I went ahead and made some pasta, which I then rinsed to cool before adding it to the vegetables and mixing everything as above. So what I’m taking to work tomorrow is basically greek pasta salad – I used extra virgin olive oil, which website after website said was perfectly okay to do with a vinaigrette, but having taken a little taste already, this may still turn out to be a mistake. After my cucumber water debacle, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.