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squash

Bracing...

Bracing...

It is old news now that Juno is here. But in New York we are not exactly hunkering down. The transit lines, or the blood lines of the city have been severed or blocked but the adults and children have decided it to game it on foot or skis! I always find it amusing that the cross country skis come out when we have any decent dump! I don't know whether that is adorable or silly or just simply urbanites wishfulness for the country.. :)

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, things have been moving. I have been experimenting the last couple of weeks with using tripods in my photo shoots. I am usually the minimal equipment kinda gal. So, my god-given-hands have been my tripod for the 6 years that I have been in this world.

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Stuffed Courgettes in Meat Sauce

Courgettes

The general assumption is that the Tropics, across the board, have more variety of vegetables than regions of four seasons. This I have found to be largely true and lamented several times since moving to the US. Coming from India and then Japan (where I found fruits and vegetables I had never seen before) I felt like I had suddenly landed in a desert of sorts. While, once upon a time, I could have greens for every meal for a week and not have to repeat any or eat salad, I found myself wanting for inspiration of using the same 4 varietals in different ways and thus succumbing to the easier choice of using meat!

There, I'll say it. Being a vegetarian requires far more creativity especially in the 'Western' world than cooking with meat. It is not often that a single vegetable plays star, even in Indian cuisine. It is more a set supporting characters that come together as greater than the sum of parts.

Stuffed Courgettes in Meat Sauce

But, yet, there is one variety of vegetable that the West completely trumps the Tropics on. Squash - Summer and Winter varieties. Let's stack them up.

Growing up in India we had a fair few for sure - 2 varieties of pumpkins (yellow and white flesh) and about 4 to 5 varieties of gourds, which, are like summer squash. And, well, you get all of them sort of year around given the climate. However, the thing is, they are get cooked pretty much the same few ways - in a curry or stir fried with some coconut and chana dal. I am not considering fusion cuisines. Also, ovens are not very common in India, even today. I definitely grew up with only a stove on top of a counter, not a range but just the burners!

Here, however, they are a bounty. They are also a riot of colors! oh my! The hues! The textures! Stripes, solids, speckled! Zucchini, yellow squash, patty pan squash, courgettes, funky ballon shaped squash that I don't know the name of. This is just Summer. Then Fall comes along and we are over run by another vibrant color palette from pumpkins to kuru squash, butter nut squash, spaghetti squash, acorn squash to name only a few. I read there are at least 15 Fall/Winter varietals!!! Wow!

I love

Squash

! Seriously! You can do so much with it. Cook it in

curry

or stir fry of course. But also,

stuff it

,

pickle it

, eat it raw, roast it,

risotto it

,

soup it

,

pie it

and other things I haven't even explored yet! Really, you can make it the star of the plate.

Stuffed Courgettes

These days, I buy my vegetables as they come into the season, conveniently from the Sunday market in front of my apartment. I find vegetables there that I have never seen in a store or super market. It brings such joy to me. I go bouncing around with a huge smile and usually the vendor/farmer has this amused look on his face when I come to the till, arms overloaded and a beatific look on my face. haha. Recently, I found gorgeous patty pan squash that I stuffed with its own flesh sautéed lightly with some fennel and peas, seasoned simply with salt and pepper and topped with melty cheese. It was divine! So much so, that I didn't take any photos. Simply devoured!

This Sunday, I picked up gorgeous courgettes. They are also called globe or round zucchini. Although, I have seen them around on the web, I had never ever before set y eyes on them in reality. So, you can well imagine how thrilled I was to see the lovely produce looking so well and in its prime.

The thing about these squash aside from their aesthetic beauty is their versatility and ability to take the stage with aplomb. They are so well proportioned for a meal and give in nicely to pretty much any stuffing you fancy. Yet, they will still be the lead actor on the plate. Such a delight to work with really!

Stuffed Courgettes + Meat

I stuffed them with their flesh (always use their flesh to stuff back. It adds a lot of moisture into the dish), ground pastured beef with a little bacon, onion, garlic and a little pesto I had on hand. I cooked in leftover stuffing with some diced tomato for a heartier sauce. It was awesome! Clean flavors that enliven every ingredient.

To make this vegetarian, go for a bean or grain stuffing or one with sweet potatoes. Unlike the patty pan squash, courgette are bigger and have higher water content. You will typically need something else other than its own cooked flesh to fill the cavity. You don't need to cook them in a gravy but doing so, makes a whole one pot meal! So, I would choose that.

Besides, this dish cooks in under 40 minutes! So, that is a easy and healthy weekday dinner any day! Woot!

Stuffed Courgettes in Meat Sauce

Stuffed Courgettes

4 courgettes or globe zucchini

1/2 lb ground beef

1 onion, diced fine

3 cloves of garlic, minced

2 medium tomatoes, diced

1/3 cup chopped cilantro or parsley

1 tsp sriracha

3/4 cup stock or water

salt and pepper and oil as needed

Heat a heavy bottomed pan, large enough to hold all the courgettes with oil and sauté onions and garlic until soft on low.

As the onions cook, cut the head off each courgette (at about 1/8 from the stalk), to create a cap. Reserve the cap. Cut as little as needed to scoop out the innards but not too much to waste the flesh on the cap side. You don't eat the cap in this recipe.

Scoop out the insides to form squash cups and reserve. Chop the insides finely.

When the onion and garlic is cooked, add the meat and brown all over. Add the insides of the squash and the sriracha sauce and cook for about 10 minutes, till the meat is cooked through.

Leave the pan on the stove and using a spoon, fill each prepared courgettes with the meat sauce up to the lip.

Add the tomatoes to the remaining sauce and place stuffed courgettes into the pan in one layer. Cover each courgette with its cap. Add the stock or water.

Close the pan with a lid and cook for about 15 minutes on medium heat. Open the lid and if the sauce is too thin, cooked on high without lid to reduce liquid.

Serve immediately as is or over cooked grain or pasta (optional).

The Oven Stays on This Winter

The best way to make your rising heating bills work for you is Two Timing!

Baked Acorn Squash with Mushroom Sauce

Okay, I know I got you all to sit up and take notice with that opener. Whoa! Two time? Not the Real Housewives kind or the intriguing kind in House of Cards. Okay, I just started watching the latter series and intrigue is only the starting point. I have just seen 3 episodes of Season 1, so DO NOT tell me what happens. I am hopping with excitement. I want to just do a marathon of all the episodes with popcorn and bottles of wine. But, well, today is Monday and work needs to get done {wan smile}. So, like a guilty pleasure I am doling out the episodes over the week with promises of longer romp next weekend IF I get ahead of the curve. :)

So, what does this have to do with today's post? Nothing, other than that due to this dish's abject simplicity, it took me 7 minutes flat to prep while the show carried on in the background. Into the oven and back I hopped onto the couch with a brimming glass to give the episode my full attention. Paused again to take it out and serve timing my finish plus a few truffles as dessert with the closing captions. That was 50 minutes of past paced political chess and being enamored by Mr. Spacey while I prepped, cooked, ate and felt sated, in so many ways!

Oh and the two timing? Well, having the oven on basically warms up your house so much that you can turn the actual heating down, way down. And, that lasts for a few hours until the oven cools down completely.

Bottom line, bake more in Winter. It is good for you, in so many ways...

Prep to Bake Acron Squash

So, let me tell you a bit about the dish itself. Acorn squashes are wonderful winter produce. They are of the pumpkin family, with more robustness both in body and ability to hold up to baking. They have a touch of sweetness in their flesh that accentuates as they ripen. Yes, they do ripen. They start a dense forest green on the skin and as they become more fruit, the skin turns a glorious orange just like Fall. It is a brilliant hue to witness in the middle of a grey, cloudy Winter, really. I personally prefer the more ripe squashes for two reasons. The flavor is a touch sweet and that sweetness caramelizes headily during the baking process. Besides, the squash is easier to work with at this stage. Raw squash can be pretty tough to cut through.

This late in the season, it is more often that I find perfect squashes for my preference. There are so many ways you can use them, from slicing and roasting them with a kiss of chili flakes for some heat or making purees to be used in risottos or the quintessential soup. Now, with the show running, I didn't have time to make multiple dishes or go through multiple steps as for soups. It simply had to be a oven to table meal, light but filling and hearty and not leaving me wanting a main.

I had made this before for an impromptu dinner as a first course. And, I figured I would try it out as a full blown mail. It works beautifully as either. As an appetizer, it can be shared between four to six, depending on the size of the squash. For a main, it works very well with some fresh crusty soda bread or sourdough to soak up the rich earthy sauce.

Baking the mushrooms in the cream, infuses the cream with a wonderful earthy note as the mushrooms cook down. I used cremini because they looked best at the market. This dish will be absolutely fantastic with shitake or chanterelle.

Baking Acorn Squash
Acorn Squash Baked with Mushroom Cream

Other Squash recipes I think you should try -

The rich intensity of caramel,

Molasses Glazed Acorn Squash

Simple and elegant,

Roasted squash wedges with grapefruit and pomegranate

I love meals in a bake,

Quinoa stuffed acorn squash

Because it is Winter,

Acorn Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

And, for another something different,

Butternut squash cake


Baked Acorn Squash with Mushroom Cream

 

1 medium semi-ripe acorn squash

6-7 medium sized cremini mushrooms or other, sliced thin (take a handful and go with how much you need to fill the cavity)

1/4 cup of non-homgenized, non-ultra-pasteurized cream

touch of sriracha sauce

wedges of lime

1 tsp chopped parsley

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375F (400F if using non-convection oven).

Slice the tip end of the squash just enough so the squash will balance on a sheet. Cut the squash in half horizontally. Scoop out the seeds. Place the halves on a baking dish.

Dust the insides with a little salt and pepper. Stuff the insides with mushrooms. Pack it in; they shrink fair amount while cooking.

Drizzle the sriracha on top and then pour in the cream. You may need more if you squashes are leaner in flesh. Ideally you want enough cream to come to the lip of each half. If you run out of cream, its ok, use what you have.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 10 minutes until the flesh is really tender and a fork goes through like through butter.

Remove from oven and rest the squash for a couple of minutes. Sprinkle parsley and serve halves in bowls with lime wedges and bread to soak up the sauce.

If making for a larger crowd or serving as a smaller portion, skip the bread, slice each half into thirds or less and divide the sauce into each plate.

Farm to Table: Filipino Ginataan using Summer Squash

Ginataan Kalabaasa

July 22, 2010 Update: This post was featured on FoodBuzz Top 9 today

Welcome to another edition of the Farm to Table series. This week, I am drawing inspiration from Filipino cuisine to showcase my ingredient of choice -Summer Squashes. Althea and I chose Ginataan as the theme, this month, for the Kulinarya Cooking Club.

General background on the dish from Wiki - Ginataan, alternatively spelled guinataan, is a Filipino term which refers to food cooked with gata- the Filipino word for coconut milk. Literally translated, ginataan means "done with coconut milk". Due to the general nature of the term, it can refer to a number of different dishes, each called ginataan, but distinct from one another.

It was as if they were made to be. I could not decide what type of ginataan to make and kept putting off making it. Then, last week, I found squashes in my CSA basket; Gorgeous, summer yellow, lovely flower shaped squashes. I later found out that they were called Scallop Squashes or Patty Pan Squashes. They were just perfectly formed, with not a single blemish on their soothing yellow skin.

Summer Squash

They were perfect for making Ginataan Kalabaasa, a coconut curry dish made with squash and shrimps. I waited for another week to collect enough quantity of the squash to make the curry. The squashes stay fresh refrigerated for a week or so. So, when this week I got, if possible, even more gorgeous squash, I was just ready to cook them into this flavorful Filipino dish.

I cook the squash with the skin as the skin has a lot of nutritional value and I grew up eating squashes skin on. I also find that leaving the skin helps to not over-cook the vegetable and hence retain some texture (it is a soft veggie!). However, if you don't find the skin very appealing, well.. that's your choice!

As to serving it, you can puree the curry (without the shrimps) and serve as soup garnished with sauteed shrimps or leave it chunky, as I did, and serve with rice or noodles. Also, the shape of the scallop squash is nicely suited to make a serving bowl in itself. Smaller ones can be use to serve a chicken and squash salad, perhaps as an appetizer.

Ginataan Kalabaasa 2

Verdict:

The ginataan is a wonderful flavorful curry that is really easy to make. From what I read, it is also versatile and can be made with a variety of proteins. In my ginataan, I did use shrimps which did enhance the flavor but I must say the curry itself is so full of flavor that it would make a fantastic vegetarian version (just skip the prawns)!

Also, I would like to leave a reminder for theDoes My Blog Look Good In This (DMBLGIT) July 2010 contest that I am hosting. You have until midnight of the 20th of this month to send me your entries. Meanwhile, check out the awesome clicks of contestants in the online photo album.


Ginataan Kalabaasa

(adapted moderately from here)

2 lbs (1 kg) squash, cut into cubes

1/2 lb (1/4 kg) shrimp, shelled and deveined

2 ripe tomatoes, diced fine

2 medium onions, diced fine

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 inch chunk of ginger

2-3 dried red chili peppers

1-1/2 T red curry paste

3/4 cup thick cocunut milk

2 cups water

2 T plum sauce

1 small stalk of lemon grass

salt to taste and oil as needed

In a wok, heat the oil and roasted the chilli peppers.

Saute the onions, garlic and ginger until translucent.

Add the red curry paste and fry for a minute.

Add the tomatoes, squash, salt, coconut milk, lemon grass and water.

Bring to a boil and then simmer on a lower flame until the squash is just cooked. Add the plum sauce and stir.

Then add the shrimp and cook for a few more minutes until the shrimp is cooked.

Serve over rice or noodles garnished with scallions.

 


Kulinarya was started by a group of Filipino foodies living in Sydney, who are passionate about the Filipino culture and its colourful cuisine.

Each month we will showcase a new dish. By sharing these recipes, we hope you find the same passion and love for Filipino Food as we do.

If you’re interested in joining the Kulinarya Cooking Club, please leave a comment in this post. Also, check out the KCC Facebook page for news, updates and to browse through what everyone in the club created this month.


MADE A RECIPE FROM THE BLOG?

Share your creations tagging @ashafsk on Instagram and hashtag #MadeFromFSK