Tag Archives: comfort food

Zucchini Parmigiana

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Let me tell you, it feels good to be sitting at a computer and NOT working!  That hasn’t happened much in the last month, as evidenced by my lack of blogging.  (And my lack of reading blogs – I have a lot of catching up to do!)

I have been cooking, I promise!  But nothing terribly exciting – lots of grilling, lots of stir-frying.

But I’m changing all that!  I want to make exciting food!  Food that is beautiful, comforting, delicious…food that feeds the body and the soul.  Okay, that was both cheesy and overdramatic, but I’m okay with it.

My Basket of Life Farm CSA has been absolutely amazing this year.  They’ve started an “add-on” program, where in addition to the standard CSA box, you can go online and purchase additional items each week.  So far, I’ve gotten some awesome cherry jam and yummy peaches.  I’m looking forward to the coffee, granola and other goodies!

I am still working through a large amount of zucchini, however.  And I’ve been craving comfort food lately – pasta, bread, soups…fall foods!  Even though it’s August, in Northeast Ohio it’s definitely been feeling like autumn.  So tonight I indulged in some comfort food – a cheesy, wonderful Zucchini Parmigiana.

I based it on Alex Guarnaschelli’s Eggplant Parmesan recipe, but used baked breaded zucchini instead of fried eggplant.  I love the tomato sauce in this recipe, and it has a ton of cheese.  Fantastic!

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For the tomato sauce, I took three candy onions (from my CSA) and thinly sliced them.  I minced 7-8 cloves of garlic and sautéed the garlic and onions together in some olive oil.  I added salt and crushed red pepper and cooked them over medium heat until the onions were soft and translucent.

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I added three 28 ounce cans of whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes and a little sugar and cooked the whole thing for about 20-25 minutes.  As it cooked, I smushed the tomatoes and just mixed it all together.  I turned off the sauce and let it cool down a bit while I made the breaded zucchini.

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I basically followed this recipe for the zucchini, except I used panko bread crumbs (it’s what I had on hand).  I used three medium zucchinis, but it would also be good with yellow or patty pan squash – or of course, eggplants!

I layered the sauce, zucchini, fresh basil, mozzarella, provolone, and parmesan cheeses until I ran out of zucchini and room in the casserole dish – ending, of course, with cheese!

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Now I only have one problem.  I ate a huge piece of it, and you can’t even tell!  I hope I can talk my sister into taking some leftovers, or I’ll be eating it for a week.  That’s not bad, don’t get me wrong!  But I still have zucchini, squash, tomatoes, apples, peppers and lettuce from my newest CSA box to use!

FYI - I got this bowl for $.50 at the flea market!

FYI – I got this bowl for $.50 at the flea market!

Now, off to catch up on my blog reading.  So happy it’s the weekend!

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Pasta with Spinach and Butternut Squash

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I’m having a bit of a seasonal identity crisis right now.  The calendar says that it’s the first day of Spring, but there have been snow flurries blowing all day today, and I’m still cooking wintery dishes!  We’ve had a couple of random warm, sunny days this month, but it just feels like Mother Nature is having a laugh at our expense.  So is it Winter?  Or Spring?  Do we go by the official calendar designation, or the weather?

I’m hopeful that soon Ohio will settle on a season – as much as it ever does, that is! But until the weather outside starts to feel like spring, I decided to go for a new, bright background.  I thought the green lettuce was pretty, and with the name of the blog, it made sense.  Let me know what you think of the new look!

Early March in Ohio - garlic shoots poking up through the snow!

Early March in Ohio – garlic shoots poking up through the snow!

So since the weather still doesn’t feel very Springy, I’m in the mood for comfort food.  And after my Fall CSA, one of my go-to comfort foods is squash.  Who knew?  Before I started my CSA, I would never have guessed how much I loved squash.  Now it’s a bit of an obsession.  Bear with me, folks – I know that I’ve posted a lot of butternut squash recipes on this blog in the past year, but of all of them, this may just be my favorite.

Or it’s possible that my favorite recipe is always the one I just made (or just ate).

Crispy prosciutto - so pretty!

Crispy prosciutto – so pretty!

The addition of the spinach and salty prosciutto (leftover from pizza making) to this pasta dish really brightened the flavor of the butternut squash.  After I ate this, I was warm and happy, but not weighed down like pasta can do sometimes.  It was a light butternut squash pasta, which was a really nice surprise!

As I was writing this out, I realized that it looks like a complicated recipe.  I promise you that it isn’t!  It did take some time to cook the squash, but if you had frozen cooked squash from earlier in the year, you could easily use that and make this much faster.  It took me about 1 hour, 15 minutes from start to eat.

Pasta with Spinach and Butternut Squash

  • 2 lbs butternut squash, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 cups chicken stock, plus a splash for the spinach
  • about 1/4 cup heavy cream (optional – I had it on hand, so I added a splash or two.)
  • 2 double handfuls of baby spinach (Sorry I don’t have a more precise measurement!  Use as much or as little as you want.)
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • dried Sage (about 1/4 teaspoon)
  • 1 lb Penne pasta (or whatever shape you have on hand)
  • 2-3 slices prosciutto (optional – for garnish)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Cube the butternut squash and toss with a splash of olive oil, salt, pepper and sage.  Transfer the coated cubes to a baking sheet and bake until caramelized and soft, about 45 minutes.  Toss the squash several times while it’s cooking.

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If you’re using the prosciutto, lay the slices out on a Silpat on a baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes, until crispy.  Remove from oven, crumble or rough chop and set aside for a garnish.

While the squash cooks, start the water for the pasta.  Next, heat a flat sided sauté pan (I think that’s what it’s called) over medium heat.  Add a teaspoon or two of olive oil, the garlic and onion and cook until the onion is slightly translucent.  Add a splash of chicken stock and the spinach, and cover until the spinach wilts.

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By now, the squash should be done.  Reserve about a cup of roasted squash pieces to add to the sauce at the end (for texture, and because they’re pretty).  Put the rest of the squash cubes in a blender with 2 cups of chicken stock and the heavy cream, if you’re using it.  (If you like a thicker sauce, start with less stock and do what feels right.) Blend the squash until smooth.

I wanted to roast the squash to get that rich taste - so yummy!

I wanted to roast the squash to get that rich taste – so yummy!

Add the blended squash to the pan of cooked spinach and stir together.  Admire the swirls of green throughout the bright orange squash sauce.  Take a picture, if you like.

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At this point, your water should be boiling.  Cook the pasta according to package directions.  While the pasta cooks, add the Parmesan cheese to the spinach and squash sauce.  Stir.  Keep the sauce warm over low heat until the pasta is done.

Drain the pasta and add to the sauce.  Stir.  Remove from heat.

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Top the pasta with crumbled prosciutto and a little bit of cheese, if desired.  This made easily six servings, but it works great for leftovers (I made this last night, and ate it for lunch again today).  As you know, anything that I will willingly eat leftovers from is a good dish!

Yum!

Yum!

This post is linked to What’s in the Box? at In Her Chucks. 

What do you think of the new look?  What’s your go-to comfort food for cold weather? 

Pasta with Sausage and Spinach

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Tonight I had a hankering for sausage and greens. It just sounded warm and comforting and yummy, you know?

So I stopped at one of my favorite stores after work – Kreigers.  I picked up some ground pork, baby spinach and a new spice blend and threw together this pasta dish.

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I admit it – I really bought it because of the label.

I’m always happy when a no-recipe dish turns out well, and this was quite tasty. Pasta and The West Wing on DVD…nothin’ better on a Wednesday night!

I started by browning a pound of ground pork in a large skillet (at the same time, I started the water for the pasta). I added a few tablespoons of flour and some of the Rowdy Kitty Rub to the pork.

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Once the pork started to brown, I added a sliced red onion and three big cloves of garlic, sliced.  I added some salt, and keep on cooking.

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I thought this was a pretty picture.

After the onions and garlic started to get soft, I added about a cup of chicken broth and turned the heat up to high to reduce it.

I let the sausage mixture thicken up, then turned the heat to low, stirred in a handful of grated parmesean cheese and added two big handfuls of baby spinach. I covered the skillet and let the spinach wilt.

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By now, the pasta water was boiling, so I cooked some black pepper pasta while I waited for the sausage and spinach mixture to be done.

To counteract the dark, cloudy skies, I plated the pasta on a sunny yellow plate and topped it with some chopped fresh mozzerella (I love cheese). Good stuff! Plus, the leftover sausage/spinach seems like it might be good on a pizza…

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Yum!

Butternet Squash Risotto

So earlier in the summer, I was searching for eggplant recipes to use the plethora of eggplant I was getting each week in my CSA box. (I found a couple really good recipes I need to post – I’ll try to get caught up soon!)  Now that we’re edging into autumn, I’m swamped with squash!  And I’m searching for new and delicious squash recipes.

I’ve had the most luck so far with butternut.  A few days ago, I made some kick ass Butternut Squash Fries (the recipe is here).  And tonight, I made a fabulous and beautiful butternut Squash Risotto.  I don’t make risotto much, but I really should take the time to make it more often.   It’s warm and comforting…perfect for a chilly, gray day like today.  It’s funny – as soon as the weather gets cold and it starts to get dark earlier and earlier, all I want to cook/eat is comfort foods!  (Yesterday it was garlic mashed potatoes and roasted Brussel sprouts – maybe it’s not everybody’s comfort food, but it was definitely yummy!).

This recipe was really easy, but it took longer than I expected (like I said, I don’t make risotto very often, and I forget that it’s pretty time intensive – at least compared to the minute rice I usually make!).  I served the risotto with some Rainbow Shard sauted with garlic and a grilled strip steak with blue cheese.  Fantastic!

Here’s the recipe, but I’m really bad about measuring, so the amounts are approximate.  I think they’re pretty close, though!

Butternut Squash Risotto

  • 1/2 a butternut squash, diced small
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • about 3 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • butter
  • Parmesan cheese, grated

Saute the shallots in olive oil until soft.  Add the diced squash, salt and cook until tender. I added a pat of butter here as well, since there wasn’t much olive oil left in the pan.

Remove 1/2 the squash from the pan (I did this so I could add it back at the end and have some nice texture to the risotto). Add rice and saute for a couple minutes with the remaining veggies.  Add about a cup of chicken stock and cook over medium heat, stirring often.  When the liquid is almost all absorbed, add more about a 1/2 cup at a time. Continue until the rice is creamy and al dente.

(I think that shadow was my head. My kitchen isn’t really set up well for taking pictures!)

Add the remaining squash back to the pan.  Stir in a chunk of butter and some Parmesan cheese to finish.  Eat and enjoy!  I wasn’t paying enough attention to the clock, but I’m sure this took at least a half an hour.  Worth the time, though – I have leftovers for lunch tomorrow as well!

Now, if only I can figure out what to do with the acorn and carnival squashes I have waiting…

Anybody have a favorite squash recipe to share?  Any help would be appreciated!

Egg Salad on Toast

Nothing too special about egg salad on toast, but it is the kind of food that can be counted upon if it’s made well. My ingredients were local (and personal), so it tasted good and also felt good to make, which is what I actually, very much needed. And for those reasons, it might have been the best thing I’ve eaten all summer. I’m not sure anyone needs a recipe for egg salad, but this is what to do just in case:

Just barely hard boil four free-range eggs from Black Dog Acres, then peel and chop.

Mix with one rib of celery (diced), one small jalapeno pepper (seeded and diced) and one quarter of a small red onion (shaved). All from farmer Bernie.

Stir in one or two generous tablespoons of  mayonnaise (just make your own like this or this with more of the trustworthy eggs). Add dashes of kosher salt, black pepper, and good amazing paprika (but only if you are lucky enough to have a friend who will wait patiently while you smell every paprika twice before you find the perfect one).

Pile half of the salad on a thick slice of crunchy toast (save the other half for your better half). Add chopped herbs from my garden, a sliced tomato from my mother’s. Add a little more Spanish paprika (in honor of the Spaniard who baked the bread).