Showing posts with label squash. Show all posts
Showing posts with label squash. Show all posts

Friday, November 4, 2016

Spinach Soup in Carnival Squash


Even though our daughter is long gone from the house, my husband and I still carve pumpkins to invite in all the children from the neighborhood (and beyond) on Halloween, and we hand out plenty of candy. But we’re usually slow to select and carve our pumpkins—and this year we didn’t get to it until last weekend. Off we went to our local farm stand--and then I went crazy.

I couldn't help myself!

Choosing which pumpkins to carve was easy: we prefer the traditional shape but we’ve gone over to warty ones because they’re interesting. But then at the pumpkin stand I spied a batch of crazy gourds. I picked one up and said, “It’s a swan!” And I had this immediate image of a nest of wacky multi-colored swans sitting together, so I had to buy a basket for the nest and scavenge some straw for it.

But I didn’t stop there. I stumbled upon a selection of squashes. Confession: my mother used to make acorn squash, by cutting them in half and, after removing the seeds, filling the cavity with butter and brown sugar. But despite that I hated the things—I think it was the pasty stringy texture.

But! There were some lovely striped squashes called Carnival. I looked at them and didn’t see dinner—I saw a soup bowl with dark green soup in it. Maybe with some white accents—cheese? Sour cream? So I brought home two squashes.

Then I went looking for a green soup recipe. Spinach is the obvious choice (sorrel a close second, but I couldn’t find any), and fresh spinach is easy to come by, but after that I couldn’t find just the right combination of ingredients in any available recipe. So I improvised, borrowing from at least four different recipes, old and current.

Spinach Soup in a Carnival Squash


3 Tblsp butter
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 leek, sliced (white part only)
4 cups stock (vegetable or chicken) or, if you want a creamier soup, a combination of stock and milk or cream
1 lb fresh spinach (I know it looks like a lot, but it will cook down)
1/2 cup crème fraiche or sour cream (you can mix it in or add it at the end as garnish)
Salt and pepper to taste


In a large deep pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the green onions and the leek. Stir the vegetables in the butter, then cover and let them “sweat” for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally. (Do not let the vegetables brown.)

Pour in the liquid and simmer for a few minutes.

Buy baby spinach leaves if you can. Rinse them and dry them (a salad spinner is a good choice!). If they are large, remove the tough stems. Chop roughly.

Add the spinach to the liquid and cook over low heat until the leaves are wilted. Use a food processor or an immersion blender to puree the soup.

Stir in the crème fraiche or sour cream (or save it for garnish). Taste for seasoning. Heat through and serve (in those wonderful squashes, with the top sliced off and the seeds removed) with a tangy bread such as cheese biscuits.

Various sources suggested possible additions: a dash of cayenne, minced garlic, onion rather than green onion. If you want to make it heartier, cook a peeled potato along with the other vegetables until it is soft, and add chopped ham at the end. It’s a quick, simple basic recipe, so you can experiment!

Halloween may have come and gone, but the spirits are still with us! Here's the fifth book in the Relatively Dead series, Search for the Dead, which came out last week.

Find it at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Roasted Stuffed Squash

by Sheila Connolly

Halloween is behind us, and the Thanksgiving holiday looms. I live only a few miles from Plymouth, so I can’t escape it. Whatever piffle we were handed in elementary school about the happy Native Americans bringing bounteous dishes to the hungry Pilgrims has been toned down to a more realistic story; most likely the colonists and the Wampanoags (the local Indians, who are still around and trying to open casinos) shared whatever they had, and that probably included squash.

Of that first meal Yankee Magazine tells us: “…venison was a major ingredient, as well as fowl, but that likely included pheasants, geese, and duck. Turkeys are a possibility, but were not a common food in that time. Pilgrims grew onions and herbs. Cranberries and currants would have been growing wild in the area, and watercress may have still been available if the hard frosts had held off, but there’s no record of them having been served. In fact, the meal was probably quite meat-heavy. Likewise, walnuts, chestnuts, and beechnuts were abundant, as were sunchokes. Shellfish were common, so they probably played a part, as did beans, pumpkins, squashes, and corn (served in the form of bread or porridge), thanks to the Wampanoags.”

There’s that squash. The problem is, I really don’t like squash.

My mother used to serve acorn squash, using a very simple recipe: slice in half, scoop out seeds, fill the center with brown sugar and lots of butter, bake. In my mother’s defense, Paula Deen and Martha Stewart are still pushing the same recipe. I couldn’t stand it. I admit that makes no sense, because I love all things sweet—except vegetables and starches. But my blacklist includes: sweet potatoes, yams, beets, and baked beans. Most of them make me gag.

But I am a foodie! And most fresh vegetables are now being shipped from Guatemala or Mexico, so mainly it’s squash that is available locally. And the little ones are kinda cute (like kittens and puppies, right?). So I was determined to find a recipe for baby acorn squashes that didn’t involve brown sugar, that I might actually enjoy.

And I did, or actually I found two which I kind of combined (I vetoed the one with chopped dried cherries).

Roasted Acorn Squash with Black Rice

2 small acorn squashes
2 Tblsp vegetable oil
1 cup pecan pieces, chopped

1 1/2 cups black rice aka Forbidden Rice (you may substitute wild rice, brown rice, or even white rice)
2 Tblsp butter
2 shallots, chopped
2 Tblsp fresh thyme leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

Slice the acorn squashes lengthwise, and set one aside.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. 

Squash halves (by the way, they're a lot
easier to slice and clean than butternut squash)

Peel and dice one of the acorn squashes. In a bowl, toss the pieces with the vegetable oil, to coat. Spread them on a baking sheet (preferably one with a rim). Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, then turn and spread out again and roast for another 10 minutes. Two to three minutes before the squash is done, sprinkle the pecan pieces over the top so they can roast.

...and after (with pecans added)
Diced squash: before...

On a second cookie sheet, oil the sheet lightly and place the two remaining halves of acorn squash face down. Cover the sheet tightly with aluminum foil. Roast until tender. Note: acorn squashes vary in size from a large lemon to a small football, so adjust your cooking time as needed. The littlest ones take only half an hour at most, while the big (tougher) ones might take 40-45 minutes.

Lots of shallots!
In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter and sauté the chopped shallots for about 2 minutes. Add liquid according to the rice package instructions (the amount will vary depending on which type of rice you use; you may use water or stock). Add salt, and bring to a boil. 

Once boiling, lower the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer gently until the rice is cooked through (check the package for timing!). This may take anywhere from 15 to 25 minutes.

The mysterious Forbidden Rice
(is that a rainbow in the steam?)

When the rice and the chopped squash are both ready, toss them together with the thyme and the chopped pecans. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.

Place the roasted squash halves on individual flat bowls or plates, and season the inside with salt and pepper. Mound the stuffing into the halves. Serve warm.

I liked the recipe. The nuts add both a little crunch and flavor. I should add that this amount of stuffing will fill far more than two halves of a small squash, so if you want to serve more people, just roast more squashes. Or eat it on its own.

The latest Orchard Mystery, Picked to Die, which takes place during the apple harvest in Granford.

For some reason I'm humming the old song that starts "Come, ye thankful people, come" which celebrates the harvest. It's that time of year.

Friday, August 9, 2013

My New Old Treasure

by Sheila Connolly

Our town is home for an auction house, which holds auctions of miscellaneous junk at the Rotary Club hall every few months.  The types of item vary widely, both within and between auctions. For a while they had a lot of Nazi militaria (which seldom sold at all), and a few months ago there was a row of five or six nice mahogany chests of drawers.  You never know what you'll find.

Last week I went to the preview, and the first thing I encountered when I walked in was a table full of antique cooking utensils.  Like someone had entered a time warp and grabbed everything small from a Victorian kitchen:  choppers and egg-beaters and poachers and butter molds and a bunch of things I can't even identify.  It was all one lot, of 51 pieces.  And I wanted it.

I went to the auction; I bid; I won (even within the dollar limit I had set myself).  I am now the proud owner of a hodgepodge of antique (not vintage, nope—older than that) cooking items.  And I plan to try them all out.

Round one:  the choppers (note: there were no knifes in this collection).  An even dozen, all different.  Or maybe thirteen, if you could the strange bell-shaped one.  I think they're gorgeous—hand crafted, with lovely wooden handles.  So of course I had to find out how they worked.  Guess what:  they work just fine, and each one works a little differently.

Confession:  when I first looked at the lovely array of sharp-edged tools, my immediate thought was, "what great murder weapons!" I'll be testing them with that in mind.  They fit so nicely in my hand, and I just sharpened them…

Okay, back to the real world. I set myself the task of chopping the onion for today's dish:  stuffed squash.  What can I say?  They had cute, stripey locally-sourced pattypan squash at our market, and I had to take them home.  They make a pretty presentation, and the stuffing could be used in a wide variety of vegetables—peppers, or even onions.  Anything that starts out hollow or that you can hollow out without the vegetable collapsing.

Stuffed Squash 
(this filled four small squash, but you can multiply the recipe)

1 small onion, chopped

1 Tblsp butter
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 lb sausage
1/2 cup white bread crumbs, soaked in milk
Fresh thyme (or other herbs)
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Slice the smaller end off the squashes and hollow them out with a melon baller or small sharp spoon (try not to pierce the skin).  Place in a lightly oiled baking dish.

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Place in a large bowl and let cool.

When the onion mixture is cool, add the sausage, breadcrumbs (drain off the excess milk), herbs, salt, pepper and cheese.  Mix (hands work well for this!).

Fill each of the hollow vegetables with the mixture.  Stand them up in the baking dish and sprinkle a little more oil over the top.

Bake for 30-40 minutes (length of time will vary depending on how large your squash or vegetable are—you want to be sure the pork sausage is thoroughly cooked).

These can be served hot or warm (so can be made ahead).

Next time:  the six antique egg-beaters!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Squash with Sour Cream and Dill

by Sheila Connolly

It all started with a slab of salmon.  We were shopping at our local supermarket and stopped by the fish section and asked for a pound of salmon, but when the nice lady behind the counter (who we chat with every week) hefted a whole filet, I said "I want it." Yes, the whole thing, which weighed just over two pounds.

My plan was to grill it, or at least, cook it on the grill (we're still in the midst of Heat Wave #3). I usually have trouble prying fish off the grill itself without destroying the pieces and leaving half behind, so my solution has been to use a perforated tray that I place on top of the grill.  Then I put the cover on my trusty Weber and cook it slowly (adding applewood or hickory chips to your coals creates an interesting flavor).

So there I was with two pounds of cooked salmon, with a nice marinade/glaze I made up on the spot, with soy sauce, Chinese mustard, and whatever else was handy. We ate half, along with the first crop of local corn, and I set aside half of it for Salmon Cakes.  Now I needed something to complement the salmon, so I turned to a favorite recipe from The Nero Wolfe Cookbook.

Fresh dill
Ah, see the book (that I've had for decades) fall open to that very recipe.  But Rex Stout and his collaborators used zucchini, and included a chopped green pepper. Also, their use of herbs and spices was a tad conservative. I've always omitted the green pepper, and I happened to have a batch of adorable locally-grown pattypan squash, and a bunch of fresh dill, so I tinkered with the recipe.

Squash with Sour Cream and Dill

1 1/2 lbs fresh squash
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 Tblsp olive oil
Fresh dill (the original recipe called for 1 tsp, but that's far too stingy! I love dill!)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
1 Tblsp grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup sour cream

Wash but do not peel the squash.  Slice it 3/8 inch thick.

In a skillet over medium heat, saute the garlic and onion in the olive oil until soft (do not brown). Add the squash slices and cook uncovered no higher than medium for 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally (it should still be crisp, not limp).

In a bowl, mix the dill, salt, pepper, grated cheese and sour cream.  Stir into the squash mixture and heat through (do not boil). Serve immediately.

Behold! The first food cooked
on my new stove. (It's still clean!)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Writer's Lunch: Crustless Mini Pizzas and my Trigger Thumb by Cleo Coyle


Writing novels for a living appears to be a perfectly safe occupation. As my fellow authors know, however, the writing life comes with one major hazard. No, we don't dodge flying bullets or psychotic killers (though our characters may). What we combat every day is a more sinister villain: Excess Calorie Man. He lurks behind every extra handful of peanuts or just-one-more-silver of pie.

Even when our diet is relatively healthy, the hours of sitting in front of our computers take their toll as EC Man gets his jollies from as little as a sliced-up banana on a peanut butter sandwich or an extra hunk of cheese with your crackers.

As you can imagine, it’s even worse for a culinary mystery writer. Testing recipes, especially delicious ones like that Blackout Cake (Yes, I’m still working on it! :)), give Excess Calorie Man free reign. Well, today I’m going to show you one way this writer reigns him in...with a lunch of Crustless Mini Pizzas

And below today's recipe I'll explain what a "Trigger Thumb" is, not to be confused with a "trigger-happy thumb," which would put us behind bars. 

Cleo Coyle's
Mini Pizzas

Mark Bittman became famous with his 101 foodie idea articles. I swear my mother and aunt could have written one on 101 things to do with Italian squash. As a kid, I took all my pop's homegrown veggies for granted. As an adult, I miss them dearly. This recipe makes good use of zucchini. It's a fun, quickie, kid-friendly lunch my mother and aunt used to make for me as a little girl. Of course, they used homemade red sauce. Today, I took a shortcut with jarred pizza sauce. The brand I picked up was quite tasty, and I can recommend it as a time saver.

To download a copy of this recipe in a PDF form that you can print, save, or share, click here.


Small to medium zucchini (courgette)

Pizza sauce (jarred or homemade)

Mozzarella, shredded (whole milk or part-skim)

Toppings (see note*)

*Note: Use your favorite pizza toppings from veggies to meat--just be sure any meat is already cooked. Topping suggestions: sauteed, chopped mushrooms; sliced olives; chopped peppers; regular, turkey, or meatless pepperoni or cooked and crumbled sausage, etc.

Directions: (1) Cut the zucchini into slices of 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick. You want the slices thin enough to cook fast under the broiler but thick enough to hold their shapes for handling after toppings are added. Place the slices on a sheet pan. Tip: for easy cleanup, line the pan with a sheet of aluminum foil and lightly coat with non-stick cooking spray. (2) Spoon pizza sauce onto each slice. To save time, use jarred. (If you need a recommendation, I like the Ragu Homemade Style Pizza Sauce, "100% Natural.") Sprinkle on your shredded mozzarella and toppings. As noted, because these pizzas are finished in a flash, make sure your meat toppings are already cooked. If using mushrooms or peppers, I would chop them finely and saute them in a bit of olive oil before adding. (3) Place the pan of mini pizzas under your broiler for 1 to 3 minutes--time will depend on the intensity of your oven's broiler. No matter what, keep a close eye on these because they cook very quickly and the cheese can burn fast. Remove with crustless joy!

F o o d i e 
P h o t o s

And now...

<< My trigger thumb, which is being sniffed by the curious Clover. 

The reason I'm mentioning it today is because it may help many of you in the future. For days, I wasn't sure what was wrong with my popping, snapping, painful thumb joint. At first, I feared arthritis was setting in. After a little research, however, I realized what I had was a form of tendonitis known as "trigger finger" or "trigger thumb." While researching this, I learned that this condition is common for musicians and lately for folks who do a lot of texting or thumb-typing on tablets. If you do the latter or known people who do, these links were a great help to me in treating a painful and perplexing condition, and they may be worth keeping in your own files...

* Link 1 from WebMd: click here
* Link 2 on non-surgical treatment: click here

I'm using the icing and splinting treatments now. From experience, I know that ice is very helpful for sports injuries, and it's helping with this, as well. Certainly, if you have any experience with this, feel free to share in the comments. In the meantime, may we all eat with joy--and good health!

A Brew to a Kill: A Coffeehouse Mystery
Now a national bestseller in hardcover

To see the recipes in my latest
culinary mystery, click here.

Yes, this is me - Cleo Coyle
Learn about my books here.

Friend me on Facebook here.
Follow me on Twitter here.
Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle, author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

To view the
Coffeehouse Mystery
book trailer, click here.

To get more of my recipes, enter to win
free coffee, or learn about my books, including
my bestselling 
Haunted Bookshop series, visit
my online coffeehouse:

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are national bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village 
coffeehouse, and each of the
12 titles includes the 
added bonus of recipes. 

The Ghost and
Mrs. McClure

Book #1 of 

The Haunted Bookshop
, which Cleo writes
under the name Alice Kimberly
To learn more, click here.