October – Spicy Delicata Squash Pasta with Arugula

October – Spicy Delicata Squash Pasta with Arugula

Spicy Delicata Squash Pasta with Arugula

Spicy Delicata Squash Pasta with Arugula

Delicata squash is my favorite of the winter squashes. Because the skin is soft and thin, you don’t need to peel it. It’s lovely sliced into half moons and roasted. For this recipe it is first tossed with the warming spices of ground cumin and red pepper flakes, then roasted until brown on the edges and soft, tossed with pasta and finished with a dusting of grated Parmesan and a few handfuls of arugula.

Here’s the beauty of this recipe…

  • Use any kind of winter squash you happen to have on hand. For butternut, peel it and cut into 1 inch chunks.
  • No arugula? Use baby spinach instead.
  • I used gluten free chickpea pasta, but any kind of of dried pasta will work.
  • Turn it into a baked dish by finishing with grated mozzarella and cooking for 15 minutes in the oven.
  • Want to some extra protein? Add some quickly sautéed chicken (or tofu) cut into 1 inch pieces at the end or roast it with the squash.
  • Looking for more options…what about adding a drained can of chickpeas to roast with the squash? A sprinkle of toasted pumpkin seeds or a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil would be nice as well.
Gluten Free Chickpea Pasta

Gluten Free Chickpea Pasta

I found this pasta at our local market and was intrigued. It was delicious and I recommend it if you are looking for a gluten free option. It would be fun to serve with some chickpeas in the sauce as suggested above.

Spicy Delicata Squash Pasta with Arugula

Spicy Delicata Squash Pasta with Arugula

Spicy Delicata Squash Pasta with Arugula (serves 3 -4)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 delicata squash or equivalent in other varieties, about 6 cups. Seeds removed and sliced into 1/2 inch half moons.
  • 1 tablespoon of ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 2 teaspoons of cornstarch
  • Dried pasta, I used the entire package of 8.8 oz. It gave a high ratio of ‘filling’ to pasta. You could easily go with a full 16 oz package if you want more servings. The 8.8 oz package gave us 2 very generous servings (with seconds and leftovers for lunch)
  • 3/4 cup of grated Parmesan
  • 3 packed cups of arugula
  • 1 cup of grated mozzarella (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (218 C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the olive oil, cumin, red pepper flakes and garlic in a large bowl. Add the squash and toss with your hands to coat. Sprinkle with the cornstarch and mix to coat the squash lightly. Make sure that the squash doesn’t have any white cornstarch. See Note below. Reserve the bowl.
  3. Place on the baking sheet, trying to separate them as much as possible and bake for 30 minutes or until browned and soft. About half way through, turn to brown the other side.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente. Reserve about 1 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta.
  5. If the pasta is done before the squash, add a tablespoon of olive oil to the colander to prevent the pasta from sticking together.
  6. Using the same large bowl from step 2, combine the pasta, squash, arugula and parmesan. Add the additional saved pasta cooking water if things seem dry. Toss and serve.
  7. Optional: Put the mix into a serving bowl, sprinkle the mozzarella on top and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes to melt the cheese. I recommend adding some of the pasta water in this case.

Note: The cornstarch will crisp the edges of the squash. I use the same technique with cubes of sweet potato. Try it.

Spicy Delicata Squash Pasta with Arugula

Spicy Delicata Squash Pasta with Arugula

Spicy Delicata Squash Pasta with Arugula

Spicy Delicata Squash Pasta with Arugula

I think the folks over at Fiesta Friday will like the seasonal dish. This week is Fiesta Friday #402 hosted by Angie. Come on over to sample delicious recipes, decorating and craft ideas.

In My Garden – October 2021

In My Garden – October 2021

The garden is finally winding down for the season. The days are shorter, nights cooler and the sunlight is somehow special. I found this description from the NY Times archive:

Spring sunshine is the awakener, rousing buds, opening leaves and flowers to clothe the earth again and bring life to the winter‐dormant world. Summer sunlight is the ripener, the hot accompaniment of growth and maturity, of fertile egg and seed, the insurance life in summers to come. Winter sunlight is a token rest, of the long sleep, the short day; it is proof that blizzards blow themselves out, that ice eventually melts, that no winter lasts forever.

But autumn sunlight is simply perfection of the day, glory of the season, the year’s high achievement, somehow. It summons one to the outdoors, where even the autumn leaves partake of it. The maples shimmer, the birches glow, and when they drop their leaves their splendor is sunlight at their feet. Roadside grasses ripen with sunlit heads of seed. The sky is clean, clear and the sun itself is benevolent, the autumn sun making an autumn day a special moment in time.

We don’t have much in the way of colorful autumn leaves here but the first windy gale of the season brought the old redwood needles onto the driveway.

windy day needle drop

windy day needle drop

As in the kitchen, we are laughing at the antics of puppy Shanna. Her ‘Harry Potter Broomstick’ otherwise known as ‘old mop’ finally broke apart and was relegated to the trash heap. That did not deter her as she immediately found a substitute, a long branch that fell out of a tree during the windstorm. It’s even longer than the ‘old mop’. Here she is swinging it around and whacking everything in sight, including poor Casey.

 

Quinn

Quinn “leave me out of it”

The broccoli and cauliflower are finished, I harvested the last two heads of cauliflower this afternoon. They are starting to bolt, much to my initial disappointment. But I found, that when roasted, the more open structure results in many more crispy bits…my favorite. It’s an unexpected benefit.

Cauliflower

Cauliflower

Our grass (probably more weeds than actual grass) is greening up with the cooler weather, dewy mornings and early rain. We’ve had over an inch of very welcome rain this month.

I moved a bench closer to the pollinator garden as well as a couple of half wine barrels that I will plant. I’m looking forward to having my tea or coffee and watching the bees come spring.

Pollinator Garden – October

There is not much growing here right now as California natives go dormant in the summer. There is (supposedly if the weatherperson is correct) a big rain storm coming next week. I have some more wildflower seeds to plant before the rain.

Here is how it looked in the spring of 2019.

Wild Flower Meadow, Fort Bragg CA

Wild Flower and Pollinator Garden June 2019

This is the newly planted area, I have high hopes once we get to spring. I’ve put in a variety of colorful perennials that should have a long bloom period.

New plantings October 2021

The pineapple sage is a welcome nectar source for the hummingbirds. We have had swarms of them all spring and summer but now only the native year-round Annas remain.

Pineapple sage

There is still a little color in the garden.

The native bumblebees were late to show up, and seem to have abandoned us early this year.

Native Bumblebee on Scabiosa

I have seen and heard a dozen or more flocks of Canadian geese flying south. It makes me wonder if we are in for a cold and wet winter. Fingers crossed.

Shanna, Casey and Quinn wish you adieu.

Shanna, Casey and Quinn

Shanna, Casey and Quinn

My constant companions in the garden.

 

In My Kitchen – October 2021

In My Kitchen – October 2021

In my kitchen there is much laughter. Laughter at the antics of puppy Shanna who is now four months old. Watching her encounter new things is almost as much fun as watching a two year old’s first sight of a giraffe. She likes carrots, and pears, and red pepper. Cauliflower, not so much. A small piece of raw cauliflower fell on the kitchen floor when I was making a sheet pan dinner of cauliflower, broccoli and potatoes. Of course she immediately pounced on it as a prize, only to spit it out and stare at it. She tried it again, same result. After three tries she proceeded to attack it, growling as if it were alive. I couldn’t stop laughing.

Shanna

Shanna – I can’t believe you expected me to eat that thing

The cauliflower, potatoes and broccoli came from the garden. I am having trouble eating them before they bolt as everything was ready at the same time. I wish you could buy variety pack starts. Maybe each with 2 broccoli, 2 cauliflower and 2 kale.

Sheet Pan Cauliflower, Potatoes and Broccoli - ready for the oven

Sheet Pan Cauliflower, Potatoes and Broccoli – ready for the oven

They were delicious though, roasted until slightly charred with crispy bits.

Sheet Pan Cauliflower, Potatoes and Broccoli

Sheet Pan Cauliflower, Potatoes and Broccoli

I served it with a dollop of whole milk ricotta on the side.

I am not a big fan of the pumpkin spice craze but I do love the scent of cinnamon, especially with our current chilly fall evenings. This braised chicken dinner with cumin and cinnamon was a big hit. The house smelled amazing while it was cooking. It was simply served with a side of steamed rice and an arugula salad.

Braised Chicken with Tomatoes, Cinnamon, and Cumin

Braised Chicken with Tomatoes, Cinnamon, and Cumin

In my kitchen bookcase I have a variety of new cookbooks. Melissa Clark is one of my favorite writers and I couldn’t resist her books featuring the electric pressure cooker or the Instant Pot. I don’t use that appliance much during the spring or summer. But once the cooler and wetter weather of autumn comes around, I find it an invaluable resource for quick meals or soups or braised dishes.

October 2021 new cookbooks

October 2021 new cookbooks

The Milk Street Cookbooks were purchased on a whim but I find them more useful and interesting than I first imagined. The others were gifts for my birthday (as my mother used to say…”to me, from me, love me”). I have a weakness for cookbooks and quite a collection. There is nothing better than sitting by the fire with a cup of tea and a new cookbook to peruse, although seed catalogs are also excellent in that situation. They are both the stuff of dreams.

I will be posting from them. Stay tuned.

I’ve had the Sheet Pan Chicken cookbook for several weeks, the chicken roasted with baharat came from it.

Also the idea to add a crown of kale to the sheet pan for the last few minutes to crisp.

kale

crown of roasted kale

I love it when a cookbook results in new ideas.

I look forward to sharing my favorites with you.

Lastly in my kitchen I have a puppy who is always ready for a belly rub. Forget the cauliflower.

Shanna begging for a belly rub

Shanna begging for a belly rub – who could resist

I am contributing this kitchen catch-up to Sherrys Pickings: In My Kitchen, a monthly summary from kitchens around the world. Please join us and consider adding your own notes.

October – Puff Pastry Savory Tarts

October – Puff Pastry Savory Tarts

Having a package of puff pastry in the freezer is like money in the bank. It’s easy to create wonderfully impressive appetizers or even full dinners in almost the blink of an eye.

You are limited only by your imagination and the contents of your fridge, pantry and/or garden.

My preference is for tarts that highlight vegetables but no one is stopping you from adding a little tuna or sausage or prosciutto. Cheese is nice, but any kind works. I’ve used parmesan, goat cheese, cheddar, mozzarella, ricotta and fontina. All of them are delicious. But, if all you have is Monterey jack…go for it.

There are is vegan puff pastry out there, and delicious vegan cheeses. They have come a long way in the past few years. Don’t let that stop you.

You will find the recipes for the Puff Pastry Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Chives and Blue Cheese and Puff Pastry Pizza with Mozzarella, Cherry Tomatoes, Sliced Zucchini Flowers, Basil and Balsamic Drizzle here. That post is from May of last year.

 

I still have a glut of zucchini in the garden although I think it will soon come to an end. This year I discovered a way to prolong the harvest. Zucchini grows on vines, so trimming the older, ratty looking (or powdery mildewed) leaves encourages new growth and continued fruiting. I also fertilized the vines when I did the first pruning, something I didn’t do last year. Zucchini are considered heavy feeders.

As a complete aside, does anyone else think it is strange that the plural of leaf is leaves? Why not leafs? Leave has another meeting entirely. Just a random thought there.

Puff Pastry Zucchini Tart

Puff Pastry Zucchini and Ricotta Tart

 

Puff Pastry Tomato and Mozzarella Tart

Puff Pastry Tomato and Mozzarella Tart

 

Following are the ones for the two other tarts, Zucchini and Ricotta and Tomato and Mozzarella.

I modified the zucchini tart from a galette recipe on Smitten Kitchen who adapted the filling from a Cook’s Illustrated tart. It’s rare to find something entirely new in cooking, we all riff on each other.

Zucchini and Ricotta Tart

Ingredients:

  • I sheet of puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 large of 2 small zucchinis, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of olive oil
  • 1 medium clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup of ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup of grated parmesan
  • 1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella
  • 1 tablespoon of pesto (or a tablespoon of finely sliced basil leaves)
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 teaspoon of water

Method:

  1. Line a sheet pan with several layers of paper towels, spread out the zucchini slices out and sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt. Let them drain for about 30 minutes, then gently blot the tops of the zucchini dry with other paper towels.

    Draining zucchini

    Draining zucchini – they will release a lot of liquid

  2. In a small bowl whisk the olive oil and garlic together. In another bowl ix the ricotta, Parmesan, mozzarella, 1 teaspoon of the olive/garlic mixture, and the pesto together. Season with a bit of salt and pepper and set aside.
  3. Heat the oven to 410 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  4. Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface, roll into an 11 inch square and place in the center of the prepared parchment lined baking sheet. With a knife, make a shallow cut about 1 inch in from the edge. Be careful to not cut all the way through. Brush the edges with the egg wash.
  5. Spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the bottom of the pastry, leaving the border uncovered. Shingle the zucchini attractively on top of the filling. Drizzle with the remaining garlic and olive oil mixture.
  6. Bake until the filling is set and the edges are golden brown. This took about 25 minutes in the middle of my oven.
Zucchini and Ricotta Tart

Zucchini and Ricotta Tart

Tomato Tart with Mozzarella

Ingredients:

  • 1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese
  • 2 plum or small tomatoes (or 1 large heirloom tomato), cored and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons of finely sliced basil leaves (I didn’t have any)

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Roll it out into an 11-inch square and place in the center of the prepared backing sheet. With a knife, make a shallow cut about 1 inch in from the edge. Be careful to not cut all the way through. Or form a crust by folding over the edges about 1/2-inch. Brush the edges with the egg.
  3. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese evenly over the dough, then poke the dough all over with a fork, make sure to go all the way through the dough. Note: I forgot this step and the entire center puffed up like a balloon when it was baked, sigh. It was ok though as I just poked it down and you couldn’t really tell after the filling was added. Don’t you forget it and poke after the parmesan is added. 
  4. Bake until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.
  5. Removed from the oven and cool.
  6. While the crust is baking and cooling, place the tomato slices on a triple layer of paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and let sit for 30 minutes. Place a second double layer of paper towels on top and press firmly to dry the tomatoes.
  7. In a small bowl, combine the garlic and olive oil, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  8. Once the crust is cool, sprinkle mozzarella evenly over the bottom and layer the tomato slices over the mozzarella. Drizzle with the olive oil/garlic mixture.
  9. Bake until the crust is deep golden brown and the cheese is melted, 10 to 15 minutes.
  10. Let cool on a wire rack before slicing. A pizza cutter make short work.

And you might want to know where I was going with these amazing tarts. Do you? We have been having ‘puppy play dates’ with a friend’s retriever and our own Shanna. They are both now 5 months old, Inyo is 2 days older than Shanna. While the puppies play, the adults have wine, wonderful conversation and gourmet snacks. It’s a lot like what we used to do when our children were young. We have been rotating who is responsible for the food and the snacks have become increasingly wonderful as we are challenged cookery wise. It’s a lot of fun after the months of isolation cooking for just our own family.

Here are Inyo and Shanna, exhausted by several hours of active play. They look very pleased with themselves, and happy.

Inyo and Shanna

Inyo and Shanna

Even though he is about twice her weight, she gives as good as she gets.

I am going to take this to Fiesta Friday #401 hosted by Angie. If you would like to join the party or take a look at the recipes, craft or decorating ideas…just click on the link to this virtual event.

 

In My Garden – September 2021

In My Garden – September 2021

It’s officially the fall season and I can feel the difference in the air. It’s crisper and mornings are cool, I smelled woodsmoke from fireplaces on the air the other day. Many folks still heat their homes with wood around here. And the first v’s of Canadian geese flew overhead this afternoon. And even better, it rained last Saturday! We got just over an inch. It was such joy hearing it on the roof. Fingers crossed that it’s a rainy winter, we sorely need the water.

The vegetable garden is prolific. I finally have tomatoes as well as zucchini, beans, cucumbers, lettuce, arugula, kale and chard. Even the broccoli and cauliflower are starting to head up.

Vegetable Garden

Vegetable Garden

The pollinator garden is looking the worse for no summer water. Hopefully it will come back in the spring once we have a little rain.

Pollinator Garden In September

Pollinator Garden In September

I cut back the perennials this month, and will do a little reseeding in late October.

In the flower beds, I’ve done a little replanting in two spots where it looked bare, plants were not thriving. The baskets are to deter digging by my favorite puppy. The new soft, enhanced and enriched soil was too attractive to her. I came out the morning after I planted the bed to find deep holes and plants tossed everywhere. Luckily they hadn’t been damaged too much, I had found the disaster early enough to replant without too many fatalities.

 

Shanna's handiwork

Shanna’s handiwork in another part of the garden, she’s digging gopher tunnels. This time, thankfully, in our mostly dead front lawn. A victim of no summer watering.

The rest of the garden is ‘getting by’ but looking a bit sad. This is not the best time of year for gardens in California.

More and more I am becoming a fan of succulents which don’t require much water or even attention.

Shanna 5 months

Shanna at 5 months finds boxes endlessly entertaining as Quinn looks on

Shanna at 5 months finds boxes endlessly entertaining as Quinn looks on

Shanna 5 months

Shanna – don’t let that angelic look fool you.

The dogs keep me company and entertained in the garden.

I will end with this picture of an amazing zucchini flower that looks like an alien.

zucchini flower

zucchini flower

Aren’t plants wonderful?!

Happy gardening everyone, I hope you are enjoying the change of seasons.