The Real Food Journal
Try Thanksgiving Sushi, Really
Last week, I posted an updated Shepherd’s Pie, with a few delicious tweaks that made it oh so delicious. This week, I’m giving you a Thanksgiving option that might seem a little bit radical. Are you ready for Thanksgiving Sushi?
Before you hit the brakes, let me tell you just what qualifies this sushi to serves as an appetizer or side at this most hide-bound and traditional of meals. First, the sushi rice is laced with wild rice, a Thanksgiving regular. Inside the roll, you have sweet potatoes that have been roasted in a maple syrup and soy sauce glaze. Then there are crisp apples alongside. To take it a step further, a dab of sage-laced mayonnaise, and crunchy roasted hazelnuts complete the theme.
Are you with me? Good.
If you are sharing a meal with people who love sushi, or just a bunch of people who like a little something different, this could be your new tradition.
It’s still sushi, with vinegar-laced, tender sushi rice, nori, and the usual dipping sauces and condiments. Trust, me, all the flavors work together. I love the snap of the honeycrisp apples and toasty hazelnut chunks.
Sushi may seem intimidating, but don’t worry. You can make it at home. I did use an bamboo rolling mat, or takisu, to make the rolls, and then shape the roll into petal forms. It’s such an easy trick, once I show people at my sushi classes, they get it right away. If you don’t have a mat, you can use plastic wrap to form the roll, too.
One caveat: you do need to use real, hand harvested wild rice for the filling. It cooks in the same amount of time as sushi rice, so you can cook them together. If you must use cultivated wild rice, cook it separately and fold it in. But seriously, the real thing is worth seeking out.
Have a great holiday meal, no matter what you serve. This sushi would be a perfect meal for the week after, too!
Thanksgiving Sushi with Wild Rice, Sweet Potatoes, and Apple
Ditch those tired sweet potato sides, and try roasting slices of sweet potato with maple, tamari and sesame oil, then rolling it in sushi with wild rice, hazelnuts, and crisp apple.
- 12 ounces sweet potato a small one
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon tamari
- 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
- 1 1/2 cups sushi rice
- 1/2 cup real wild rice
- 2 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon ground sage
- 1 large honeycrisp
- 6 nori sheets
- 1/2 cup hazelnuts toasted, skinned and chopped
- wasabi, pickled ginger, soy sauce for dipping
Put the sushi rice into a bowl of cold water and swirl and swish until the water turns white, then pour off the water, drain well. Put washed rice, wild rice and 2 1/4 cups water in pot on stove and bring to a simmer. Stir and cover, lower heat. Cook 15 minutes, until water is absorbed; stir, cover, and cool. Stir together vinegar and sugar, stir into rice.
While rice is cooking, heat oven to 400 degrees. Slice sweet potato into long french fry shapes, toss with maple, tamari and sesame oil on a sheet pan. Roast uncovered for 15 minutes, then turn the strips and bake for 20 minutes longer, until tender when pierced with a paring knife. Remove to rack to cool.
Slice the apple into 1/2 inch thick batons, about the same size as the sweet potato pieces. Mix the mayo with sage in a small cup.
To assemble, place a sheet of nori on a bamboo rolling mat. spread 3/4 cup cooked rice on each sheet of nori, leaving a strip about 1 inch wide along the top edge exposed. Sprinkle hazelnuts over the rice. Smear a teaspoon of mayonnaise across the bottom of the rice. Lay two rows of strips of sweet potato on the bottom third of the rice, place a couple rows of apple. Brush water on exposed nori. Roll up with even pressure, lay with seam side down to seal.
To make the flower petal shape, use the mat to shape by pressing down on one side after you've made the roll, using the mat to create the angle down to a point.
Let sit to firm up for a few seconds, then slice with moistened serrated knife into 6 to 8 slices per roll. Arrange each on a plate. Sprinkle hazelnuts over the slices, and garnish with wasabi, pickled ginger, and shoyu or tamari for dipping.
Thanksgiving is all about Thanksgiving Sides
Has your search for the perfect Thanksgiving menu started yet? I won’t decide on the final picks until it’s time to shop, but I like to let some ideas percolate in my mind for a few weeks prior. The days fly by, and it’s far better to have my Thanksgiving sides in mind than to be blindsided by the big day.
Thanksgiving sides are a big deal to me, and most meatless diners, because they are our way to integrate into the traditional Thanksgiving feast. Someone else can make a turkey, we bring our best Thanksgiving sides, and plan to eat them as main courses. It all makes for a great spread, and in my own way, I tempt my friends and family to crowd that plate with plant-based food, perhaps nudging into the space where another slice of turkey would go.
They can save that for tomorrow’s lunch.
Bringing People Together
There are plenty of reasons to avoid your family, but food should not be one of them. This holiday is about giving thanks, and is a throwback to ancient harvest celebrations. It can be as pagan or religious as you make it, or you can focus on the mashed potatoes and keep it all about the food.
I’m lucky to be a guest this year, invited to bring sides to share with one of my oldest and dearest friends, and her extended family and friends, and I can’t wait. Because I don’t have to do the heavy lifting of making the main course, I’m free to explore the Thanksgiving side dish, in all its harvest season glory.
So I’m trying out this creamy, herb-laced version of shepherd’s pie. Usually shepherd’s pie is covered with a deep, boring layer of of mashed potatoes. So, I roasted some whole garlic cloves until they were sticky and sweet, and pureed them with parsnips. I love parsnips, and can’t believe that I still meet people who don’t know what they are. Try my Easy Thai Roasted Red Curry with Parsnips, or my Comforting Parsnip Soup, to explore the long white root. You can pick your milk- almond, coconut, or if you are into dairy, go for half and half. As you can see from the photo, I did a quick piping job- it only takes a few minutes to pop them into a piping bag and make decorative dollops on top of the filling. Of course, you can just spread them on top, too.
As I contemplated the usual shepherd’s pie filling, I wanted to freshen it up, so I went for spinach. I’ve found that dishes with spinach appeal to just about everyone, and the bright green just gives the casserole curb appeal. A few carrots for color contrast, a creamy sauce, and a generous dose of fresh sage, and I have a winning Thanksgiving side.
Make Your Thanksgiving Side into a Main
For the vegetarians, you can make it a main with a package of seitan, a can of mock duck, or a can of white beans. Just drain and stir into the spinach mixture before topping. Gluten-free folks can use white rice flour instead of unbleached for thickening the sauce.
Because making sure there is a good option for everyone is one way to share love and compassion this Thanksgiving. As well as great food.
Roasted Garlic Parsnip Spinach Shepherd's Pie
For a hearty, colorful side dish, make this creamy, comforting casserole. For a hefty main, add some chopped mock duck or cooked white beans to the spinach filling.
- 8 cloves garlic whole, peeled
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 pounds parsnips 5 cups chopped
- 1 cup non-dairy milk or milk
- 1 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- 12 ounces spinach washed
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large onions chopped
- 2 large carrots chopped
- 3 tablespoons unbleached flour or white rice flour for GF
- 3 tablespoons fresh sage chopped
- 1 cups non-dairy milk or milk
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 2 teaspoons tamari
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces seitan, or a can of drained white beans optional
Pre-heat the oven to 400 F. Place the garlic cloves and olive oil in a small metal bowl and cover with foil, and roast for 20 minutes. The garlic should be very soft and browned. Take out to cool.
In a large pot, place the parsnips and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium low and simmer until the parsnips are very soft. Test by piercing with a paring knife. Drain well.
Transfer the garlic and oil to a blender or food processor, and add the parsnips and salt. In a food processor, puree completely before adding the milk. In a blender, add the milk and puree. When smooth, transfer to a large piping bag with a large star tip, or just reserve to spread on the pie.
Prepare a 9x13 inch pan or other medium casserole.
For filling: Boil a large pot of water and drop the spinach in, cook for about 2 minutes, then drain. Rinse with cold water, squeeze out, then spread on a thick kitchen towel, roll up, and squeeze until very dry.
In a large pot, heat the olive oil and saute the onions and carrots until golden and tender, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the onions in the pan and stir to coat the vegetables with flour and eliminate any lumps. Gradually stir in the milk and stock, and cook over medium heat until thick. Add salt, tamari and pepper and stir. Take off the heat and stir the spinach (and seitan or beans, if using) into the sauce, then spread in the 9x13 inch casserole.
Pipe the parsnips on top of the spinach filling as shown, or place dollops on top and spread them with a spatula. Spritz with a little olive oil, then bake at 400 for 35 minutes. I cranked up the broiler and watched carefully for a few minutes to get my parsnip topping nicely browned.
Get Mindful with Hot Chai
Are you busy? Do you feel a little stressed? You’re never too busy to find a moment to be mindful.
We’re all busy. Any time I ask someone how she is, invariably, she’s a little overwhelmed, a little stretched, and just plain busy. Of course, I’m really talking about myself, and the fact that I routinely sum up my existence with that oversimplified, uninformative word, “busy.” So, I’m trying to carve out moments for mindful focus, and let that busy “stuff” go.
You’re so much more than busy
So where exactly do we find time to break away from our cycling thoughts and worries, and take a moment of mindfulness? Perhaps place ourselves in the larger scheme of things, rather than in the minutiae of daily tasks? Of course, it would be great if we all meditated every day.
I even took a mindfulness course this Spring, and meditated almost every day for the whole eight weeks of study. Everyone in the class felt so much better when we took that half hour every day. Despite out best intentions, I’m sure I’m not the only one who hasn’t kept up the habit.
But my meditation teacher said it best: “You always have time to take a breath.”
Just a breath, if you do it right, can separate you from the monkey mind that chatters in your head all day. Just breathe.
Let it all go for a moment
I’ve come up with my own little practice, if you’ll indulge me. All it takes is a cup of hot tea. You can make the chai recipe I’ve provided, and that will add a warm, exotic scent to your mindfulness exercise. But you can just grab a cup of joe from the office pot, or pour hot water over a slice of lemon, if that’s your thing.
As long as it’s hot.
So here’s how I step away from my busy mind for just a few minutes, when I really need to let it go.
Pour yourself a mugful of hot chai. Sit down, grasping the hot mug with both hands to feel the warmth, and press the warm mug to your solar plexus. Breathe.
Focus on your breathing for a minute or so, just breathe in the scent of the tea , breathe out. If thoughts arise, focus back on your breath and let the thoughts pass away, you can even imagine they are floating away with the steam drifting up from your cup. As you focus on your breath, focus on the warmth of the cup, and the surfaces of your palms and chest that are warmed by it.
Breathe in the scent, feel the mug, and really pay attention to it. Keep letting your thoughts fall away, and don’t worry about anything. Just focus on the warmth, and the tea.
Take a sip occasionally.
In this moment, just be present, not thinking about the past, or the future, just about this warm, fragrant cup resting against your center. It’s enough.
Right now, you are feeling the comfort and warmth of a hot drink. If you expand your thoughts outward, imagine that some of your neighbors are also enjoying a hot drink, and feeling just as you do. Expand to your whole neighborhood, and then your town, and on and on. Right now, you are sharing in a basic human sensation, with millions of people. Every one of us needs this comfort, right now.
It makes all your worries seem smaller, doesn’t it?
By the time the tea starts to cool, you may want to get back to doing something else. But you’ll feel better, after taking a moment to just be in the moment.
I hope that you’ll give yourself just a few minutes of stillness, and enjoy my recipe for chai. Mindfulness works.
Homemade Chai Masala and Mindful Chai
Make this spice mix yourself, so you can make a lightly spiced hot or cold chai at home. That way, you control the sweetness, and you can use coconut milk, almond milk, or dairy milk, for a custom drink.
- 4 teaspoons ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 teaspoons ground ginger
- 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 5 cups water
- 4 teaspoons masala above
- 2 tablespoons black tea leaves or your favorite
- 1 cup milk of choice
- 1/2 cup honey or other sweetener to taste
Make masala of ground spices and whole fennel seeds. Mix well and store tightly covered.
For tea, put masala and water in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, add the milk and vanilla if using, return to the boil, add tea and steep for 4 minutes off the heat. Strain the tea and stir in honey to taste.
Smoky Trumpet Mushroom Pizza Celebrates the Mushroom
Remember when wild mushrooms were, well, wild? Oysters, shiitakes, all the wild mushrooms had to be hunted and foraged, and only made brief appearances during mushroom season. Now, we have mushroom growing operations that have made great mushrooms a year-round thing. So Smoky Trumpet Mushroom Pizza can happen anytime of year, but right now, it feels so right.
Get To Know Your Mushrooms
In the great recycling scheme of the natural world, mushrooms occupy a fascinating niche. Existing invisibly as a fine network of fibers underground or symbiotically on a host, the organisms whose fruits we know as mushrooms live off the living and the dead. While that might sound creepy, these natural wonders produce some of the tastiest things in the produce aisle.
The mushrooms we buy are actually the fruiting bodies of much larger networks of microscopic fibers, called hyphae. Each specific mushroom grows this network next to the food it is capable of digesting. Some varieties are less picky, living on decomposing leaves or animal dung. The “mycorrhizal” symbionts, like truffles and chanterelles, live in happy balance with their host tree, synthesizing sugars from the environment and sharing them even as they borrow other nutrients. A few parasitic mushrooms eventually kill their host plants.
The “saphrophytic” mushrooms that eat decomposing matter have proven to be the easiest for humans to grow. Most of the mushrooms we buy are cultivated, using decaying matter as a growing medium. Yes, those black crumbs at the base of your button mushroom are manure, but it’s heat-sterilized manure, if that makes you feel better.
Cooking With Mushrooms
The unique biology of the mushroom makes it a joy to cook with. Mostly water, but with no fat, your mushroom will yield completely different textures depending on how you handle it. Raw, most mushrooms are soft and springy. Seared, they can develop a snappy crust that holds the concentrated juices inside. Chopped and cooked over lower heat, the mushroom pours out its liquids and becomes meltingly tender-but if you keep cooking, it will reduce down to an intensely flavorful essence and become firmer as you go.
For this pizza, I quartered meaty, fresh trumpet mushrooms and tossed them with olive oil, smoked paprika and smoked salt. I pre-heated a heavy baking sheet in a 425 F. oven, then scattered the mushrooms on the hot pan. The heat of the oven seared the outside of the mushroom quarters, creating firm edges and intensifying the flavor inside.
Paired with roasted squash and aged Asiago or your favorite vegan cheese, this is a fantastic pizza to celebrate the miracle of the mushroom.
Smoky Trumpet Mushroom and Squash Pizza
No need to fire up the grill, just use a hot oven and smoky salt and smoked paprika to give these meaty mushrooms a fire-kissed flavor.
- 2 8 ounce whole wheat pizza crusts https://robinasbell.com/2011/07/grilling-pizzas-at-the-mill-city-so-you-can-too/
- 1 cup peeled and cubed squash
- 8 ounces trumpet mushrooms
- extra virgin olive oil
- smoked salt
- smoked paprika
- 1 cup shredded Asiago or non-dairy cheese
- 1/4 cup fresh basil shredded
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Put your pizza crusts on pans for baking.
Toss the squash with olive oil and salt, roast for about 20 minutes, until just tender.
Quarter the trumpet mushrooms vertically. Put n a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with smoked salt and paprika. Place a heavy baking sheet in the oven to pre-heat for five minutes, then spread the mushrooms on the hot pan. Roast for 20 minutes, turning the pieces over on the pan halfway through. Depending on the size of the mushrooms, you may need more time to get them browned and slightly shrunken. Let cool.
Cover the pizza crusts with squash and mushrooms, drizzle with more olive oil, if desired. Sprinkle with your cheese of choice, and bake for about 15 minutes. Serve hot.
How often do you eat purple cabbage? Is it relegated to a supporting role in salads, where a few slivers give your greens a little pop of color? If you haven’t celebrated the awesome purple cabbage by giving it a starring part yet, it’s time to give it a solo.
Your dinner table needs a little drama, beyond the usual veggies on the side. These deep purple, wedge-shaped little sculptures add an architectural element to your “tablescape.” When your family tires of steamed broccoli, purple cabbage wedges will wake them up.
And don’t forget the steak knife. You get to carve these up like filets of cabbage.
Purple Cabbage is Just as Cool as Kale
Now that we have brought kale from its role as a salad bar garnish to a respected vegetable, it’s time that we did the same for purple cabbage. Kale got so much buzz for its antioxidant levels, but purple cabbage is no slouch in that department. There are 20 antioxidant flavonoids and 15 phenols in cabbage, and purple cabbage adds the health benefits of anthocyanins, the pigments that are so colorful and protective at the same time.
Those very pigments are the reason that I like to use purple cabbage solo. If you’ve ever thought it would be pretty to add some to a soup, you may have experienced the awesome power of anthocyanins. The potent purples will leak out and tint the whole dish. My batch of red lentil soup that turned murky brown in the refrigerator overnight was so visually unappealing that even I had a hard time eating it.
High Heat and Herbs
That’s why this dish is a perfect way to put purple cabbage on the table. Like all cabbages, it is both sturdy and wet, so so high heat roasting is a fantastic way to soften it, sweeten it, and get some tasty caramelized crispy bits around the edges. Savory herbs and olive oil accentuate the sweetness, and make it a great dish to pair with Mediterranean flavors.
The aioli couldn’t be easier, it’s a trick all the restaurants have been using for years. Just start with good mayo and gussy it up with some olive oil, lemon and garlic. It’s infinitely faster then making your own fresh aioli. It also gives you the choice of what kind of mayo you want to start with- there are so many options, you can go vegan, high fat, low fat, whatever pleases you.
Learn to Love Purple Cabbage
So buy yourself a purple cabbage. It will be a strikingly good bargain, one of the cheaper foods you will buy all week. Make wedges. If you save a raw wedge or two, in a zipper-top bag, you can sliver them into salads and over bowls. But go ahead and roast the rest.
Shake up your veggie routine with a platter of these purple cabbage wedges, and you’re sure to please.
Roasted Purple Cabbage Wedges with Lemony Aioli
Use that purple cabbage for more than salads, and make these dramatic, deep purple wedges. A hot oven and some olive oil and herbs makes the cabbage soft and sweet inside, and crispy around the edges.
- 1 medium red cabbage
- extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary and thyme
- coarse salt
- freshly cracked pepper
- 1 large lemon zested and juiced
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise your choice
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped
Preheat the oven to 425 F, and if you have convection, set it to 400 F.
Cut the bottom of the stem from the cabbage, and cut it in half vertically. Slice it in wedges, about 2 inches thick at the widest part, leaving the core intact.
Spread olive oil on a sheet pan, and place the cabbage wedges on the oil. Sprinkle with herbs, salt, pepper, and more oil.
Roast for about 20 minutes, then carefully turn the wedges and roast for 10 minutes longer. The leaves will be crisped around the edges. Let cool.
For aioli, stir a tablespoon or so of lemon juice and a glug of olive oil into the mayo, stir in parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed.
Serve wedges napped with aioli and sprinkled with lemon zest and more herbs.
Orange Appeal, Savory and Sweet
Oranges are one of the fruits we take for granted, aren’t they? Thanks to their keeping qualities and a steady supply on grocer’s shelves, we expect to be able to pack a navel in our lunches whenever it strikes us. But really, oranges deserve our full attention, with their balance of juicy sweetness and bracing tartness. There are culinary possibilities galore in the blazing orange pulp and zest. These fruits are way more than juice.
All Oranges, All The Time
Just in time for citrus season, we have a new gem of a cookbook, Orange Appeal; Savory and Sweet, by Jamie Schler, Photos by Ilva Beretta, published by Gibbs Smith.
I know Jamie Schler as the brilliant writer behind the Life’s a Feast blog, where she writes evocatively about her life, food, and France. She also collaborates with talented photographer Ilva Beretta on the Plated Stories blog, and Ms Beretta did the beautiful photos for this book, as well.
Jamie Schler grew up in Florida, with all the oranges she could eat, and never tires of the sweet, tart flavor and citrusy perfume of her favorite fruit. Schler spent her childhood smack in the middle of the most celebrated citrus growing region in the World. In her home, oranges, grapefruits, tangerines and other juicy citrus fruits were always on hand for meals and snacks.
But when she grew up, learned to cook, and delved into the foods of other cultures, she realized that she had been missing out. Eating fresh fruit had been enough, for all those early years, but her family had never really cooked or baked with the beloved orange.
Savory Orange, Onion, and Olive Focaccia
Makes 1 large 10 x 14-inch (25 x 35 cm) or larger rectangle
WHETHER BAKED UP THICK AND FLUFFY or rolled out thin and crispy, this focaccia highlights the delicious combination of onion, orange, and olives, making a fantastic, unusual bread for dinner, a snack, or as part of a light meal. The amount of topping you use will depend on the size of your focaccia as well as the size of your oranges and onions; just know that the flavors mellow and the onions shrink when baked. The focaccia is best eaten warm from the oven but is excellent eaten when cooled.
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons (1/4 ounce / 7 g) active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups (315 ml) warm water, divided
4 cups (19 ounces / 540 g) all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for kneading
2 teaspoons salt
3 oranges, finely zested, about 1 1/2 tablespoons
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 to 2 oranges
1 to 1 1/2 yellow or red onions
1 cup (100 g) cured black, green, or purple olives
Sea salt flakes, preferably smoked, coarse salt, or Orange Salt (page 22)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Fresh oregano or thyme leaves, optional
Place the sugar, yeast, and 1/4 cup (65 ml) of the water in a bowl, and let stand for 15 minutes until the yeast has dissolved and the mixture is foamy. Place 3 3/4 cups (500 g) of the flour, salt, and zest in a large mixing bowl and rub together with your fingers until blended and there are no clumps of zest; make a well in the center of the flour. Pour 2 tablespoons oil, the yeast mixture, and remaining water into the well and stir with a wooden spoon until a rough dough forms; if there are any pockets of flour that won’t blend in, add 1–2 tablespoons more warm water at a time, only as needed.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead in the remaining 1/4 cup (40 g) flour. Knead the dough for 6 minutes, dusting both the dough and the work surface lightly with more flour to keep the dough from sticking. The dough should be soft, smooth, and elastic.
Oil a large, clean mixing bowl with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Place the ball of dough in the bowl, turning to coat the surface of the dough with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise for 1 hour until double in size.
Prepare the toppings by peeling the oranges, cutting away all the white pith, and slicing across the core into 1/4-inch (1/2 cm) slices, about 6 slices per orange. If you prefer, slice each round into 4 triangles. Peel and trim the onion and slice as thinly as possible—cut the onion in half if easier—separating the slices into rings. (continued)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
Scrape the risen dough onto a lightly floured work surface and roll out into a 10 x 14-inch (25 x 35 cm) rectangle. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and roll and press back into shape. If you like, use wet fingertips to make indentations across the surface of the dough where a little oil can pool. Brush dough with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and arrange the oranges on the surface; pressing gently into the dough. Spread the onions evenly over the focaccia. Dot with the olives, pressing firmly into the dough, and dust with salt, pepper, and oregano. Bake for 30–40 minutes until risen and golden.
Here I am, cooking on TV with the lovely hosts of Twin Cities Live!
Oh yes, It’s full on squash season. I’m teaching squash cookery classes, gawking at the gorgeous displays of squash at the market, and of course, cooking with squash. Like you, though, I am pressed for time. That’s why I made this spiced squash butter. I just threw it in the slow cooker, ignored it while I did my other recipe testing, and pureed it. Then I cooked it some more to get spreadable and thick.
Forget pumpkin spice everything. You need some squash butter, with all the spices you love suspended in a thick, sweet spread of real, unadulterated squash, with a little apple thrown in for depth.
If you don’t know your kabocha from your sweet dumpling, it’s high time you learned. First off, canned pumpkin IS NOT PUMPKIN.
Mind blown? Be glad. Pumpkin is just another kind of squash, in my book. The next time you open a can of pumpkin, take a little taste. It’s not sweet, in fact, it’s a little bitter. It’s thick, from long cooking, and that has its advantages. But it’s not the tastiest of the edible gourds.
That’s why when I teach a squash class, I like to roast little slices of several varieties of winter squash, so that all the participants can compare them, like fine cheeses or sips of wine. One of the great joys of teaching is seeing the faces of people who are discovering a food they thought they knew, as if it were brand new.
Your most common winter squashes will be Butternut, Acorn, and Buttercup. Butternut and Acorn are mild, very moist squashes, really best suited to eating with brown sugar and butter, or soup. Buttercup is a little denser and meatier. Little squashes, like Sweet Dumpling and Delicata are also mild and moist, and make great stuffers. (Try my Nut Curry Stuffed Squash recipe here, or my Squash Hummus Stuffed Squash recipe here.)
But my personal faves are the dense, meaty, almost dry textured Kabocha, Red Kuri, and Hubbard. Peeled and cubed, they have body, heft, and flavor to use in a pasta (try this tasty Roasted Squash and Whole Wheat Pasta recipe here.) They keep it together in soups, curries, and other dishes, too.
But the best thing is that they are so thick and intense when you puree them. Remember that can of pumpkin? Try your recipe with pureed Kabocha or Red Kuri, and everyone will think you are a genius.
I don’t can, and because it’s low-acid, this is not a good candidate for pressure or water bath canning. This is more of a refrigerator spread. It won’t last long, so you don’t have to worry that it will go bad. If you spread it on toast, bagels, apple slices, and oatmeal for the next month, you might have to make more to get through Thanksgiving.
Try making this, and you’ll have the side benefit of making your house smell fantastic. It’s alike an edible pot pourri.
Who needs a pumpkin spice sugar bomb, when we have this luscious spread?
Squash and Apple Butter
The crock pot is the perfect tool for making this slow-simmered squash butter. You can savor all those pumpkin spice flavors in a concentrated, real food spread. Makes about 2 1/2 cups, depending on how thick it gets.
- 2.75 pounds red kuri squash peeled and cubed
- 2 large apples peeled and cored
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup apple juice
- 2 tablespons fresh ginger minced
- 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Put all the ingredients in the slow cooker and set it to high, and clamp the lid on tightly.
Cook for four hours, then transfer the mixture to the Vitamix and puree. Return to the crock and simmer on high, uncovered, for an hour or until the desired thickness is achieved. You can speed this up by putting the puree in a pot on the stove and boiling it to reduce to a thick paste.
Fall is Sweet Potato Time
Maybe it’s the falling leaves, or the chill creeping into the morning air, but for some reason, I’m craving sweetness. The Halloween candy displays have been up in stores for weeks, promising sugary oblivion. This is a good time to bake up a bunch of sweet potatoes. I want to fill my belly with warm, energizing foods, not junk. Sweet potatoes just do it for me.
Sweet Potatoes are Nature’s Candy
My Coop is sweet potato central, offering up this gorgeous pile of sweet potato varieties. Those purple ones in front are Stokes Purples, which I wrote about here, and made into a dramatic blue cookie.I used them in a tasty wrap sandwich here.
The white ones are my go-to when I am cooking for my gluten-free clients, and I use them to make noodles. Their pale color makes it easy to slip them in to thicken soups and bind savory cakes, when you can’t use grains.
But the classic burnished orange of the Garnet yam calls out to me in Fall. Maybe it’s the artist in me, looking for Autumn colors. That orange sure looks good on the plate.
Eat More Orange Foods
The sweet potato gets alot of love these days because of the fiber. Sweet as it is, even the low-carb people are on board. Sweet potatoes have unique storage proteins called “sporamins” that are being studied for their antioxidant activity. Of course, all that orange color comes from Carotenoids, which we know are excellent at protecting your cells, and which convert to much needed Vitamin A in the body. One cup of mashed sweet potato gives you over 100 % of your daily needs of Vitamin A, 52% of the Vitamin C, 50 % of the manganese, 36% of the copper, and good sprinkling of B-Vitamins and other minerals.
It Tastes Like Candy
For these tasty treats, I went to another plant-based source of sweetness, the onion. You may not think of the onion as a sweet food, but once you slowly saute them in olive oil, you will see them differently. Once the heat of the sulfur compounds in raw onions is dissipated, the pure sweetness underneath can come to the fore, and gentle heat caramelizes it for a natural sugar boost.
It was all so sweet that I needed to balance it out with some savory fresh thyme and some salt. That’s it. Simple. Walnuts add crunch and richness. Don’t even think about how good they are for you.These are creamy, if you want something more solid, add a cup of whole wheat bread crumbs.
Cheese lovers can always add a crumble of blue cheese or goat cheese, for a little tangy counterpoint.
This is comfort food, just a sweet, lush mouthful of orange candy.
Welcome Fall, with a stuffed sweet potato!
Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Caramelized Onions and Walnuts
For a vegan main course, or a side for everyone else, these savory, herby sweet potatoes are a show-stopper.
- 4 small sweet potatoes
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 pounds yellow onions chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme chopped
- 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Place the sweet potatoes on a sheet pan and cut a slit the length of the top of each one. Roast for about 30 minutes, until very tender all the way through, let cool.
Place the olive oil in a large saute pan and add the onions, stir over medium-high heat until the onions start to soften and sizzle. Lower to medium-low and stir every 10 minutes for about an hour, and lower to low if they start to stick. Take your time, they should be caramel colored when done. If they are soupy at the end, raise the heat and cook them until they are very thick.
Carefully cut an opening in each sweet potato and scoop out the flesh into a large bowl, leaving a bit behind to support the shell. Add the onions, salt, thyme and walnuts and mix well. Spoon into the potato shells. Bake for 30 minutes, let stand for 5 before serving.