Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Butternut Squash-Apple Soup & My Thanksgiving Menu

Ah butternut squash, how I love you. And acorn squash, spaghetti squash and just about every other kind of squash. This is the season for every kind of squash creation that you can imagine. One of my favorite ways to eat a half acorn squash directly, with brown sugar and butter. But, I also love it in soup. I made plenty of pumpkin soups recently, so it was totally time for some squash soup. I love apples combined with other fruits and vegetables in soup, as long as you use the right kind of apples to make sure its not overly sweet.

Sasha's Butternut Squash-Apple Soup
2 1/2 lbs of butternut squash
2 Cortland Apples
Olive oil
1 quart of low sodium chicken stock
1/3 cup heavy cream
cinnamon to taste
cayenne pepper to taste (not enough to add heat, but enough to make sure the dish is not bland)
pepper to taste
pinch of nutmeg
dollop of creme fraiche (for serving)

First heat the oven to 400. Broil the squash for about an hour and a half until it is cooked. Then scrape out the squash (or use pre-cut butternut squash) and mash with a fork (or puree in a blender). Meanwhile, saute the apples (peeled and chopped) in the olive oil and add to the squash puree. Blend with the chicken stock in a blender. Place in a pot and over medium heat add in the heavy cream (just a small amount and you can add less if you prefer, or even leave it out if you want to avoid the extra fat from the cream). Season with cayenne, cinnamon, pepper and nutmeg to taste.  Serve with a small dollop of creme fraiche.

This tasted great, was surprisingly simple, and made for a perfect classic fall dish!

Did I mention that I am making Thanksgiving Dinner this year for our family? Here's what I plan to have on my menu, and I will share the results with you after Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin-Cashew Soup
Turkey with an Orange-Maple Glaze
My cranberry, apple, pecan, turkey sausage stuffing
Green beans with pecans and shallots
Personal acorn squash with brown sugar
My Sweet potato chipotle pancakes with lingonberries (I plan to repost this from last year with better photos)
Chocolate pudding bars (from my new baking cookbook, Baked)
An amazing recipe I found online for gingerbread ice cream made with Belgian trappist beer
My Pumpkin Creme Brulee (because you don't get to use a mini blow torch for pumpkin pie)
My pumpkin gingerbread panna cotta
Wagner Vineyards Riesling
Non-Alcoholic Frozen Harry Potter Butterbeer (adapted by me from the original recipe)


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Spiced Pumpkin Ice Cream

I never ate much ice cream before I lived in Brooklyn. I live very close to Brooklyn's famous Blue Marble Ice Cream, which is probably the best ice cream I have ever had. They have different flavors each day, both traditional and offbeat, as well as seasonal flavors, and even some sorbets. All of the ice cream is organic - made with local New York State dairy products. The pumpkin ice cream, their newest fall flavor, is amazing - simply put. So What on earth would possess this inspired, but busy chef to make her own pumpkin ice cream when Blue Marble is right around the corner? I guess I have that urge to create and making ice cream is fun (and simple). Plus, I wanted to see if mine could be good - although I knew it wouldn't be as good or better. But it's worth trying.

I got a new Deni ice cream maker as part of a promotion from CSN Stores, so I was eager to try it out. This first recipe is seasonal and delicious, but fairly simple. My next flavor, which will be a dessert at our house for the family Thanksgiving Dinner that Brad and I are hosting is going to be a recipe I found for gingerbread ice cream made with Trappist Ale and various spices. Yum! I was impressed with the ice cream maker - it worked well, though I did have some difficulty attaching the top, which may something that I can figure out with a bit more effort. It was certainly an improvement over my 20-year old manual Doniver ice cream maker.  This one churns automatically, which is a nice upgrade.

Sasha's Spiced Pumpkin Ice Cream
1 1/4 cups organic pumpkin puree
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups of heavy cream
5 egg yolks
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp salt
pinch of nutmeg

Combine the pumpkin and the vanilla in a bowl. In a saucepan, heat the brown sugar and 1 cup of the cream and 1/2 cup of the brown sugar over medium heat for about five minutes until it bubbles a bit on the sides. In a mixing bowl, combine the remaining heavy cream, egg yolks, spices and pumpkin mixture. Add this mix to the saucepan and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes until it forms a custard. Chill for at least 5 hours. Then prepare the ice cream following the manufacturer's instructions for your ice cream maker.

This was really good! But it wasn't as good as Blue Marble. Other than not being an ice cream professional, I think the difference is the heavy cream that I used, Farmland, which has 1 gram of sugar. I have decided to use organic Ronnybrook whole milk and organic Ronnybrook heavy cream in my next ice cream making experiment for Thanksgiving (the gingerbread ice cream with the beer) and see if I get just a little bit closer to Blue Marble perfection. It was still really good though and quite beautiful to look at with a great orange color and wonderful spiced pumpkin flavor. Check out the video of the ice cream maker doing its thing, below.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Jenn's Kitchen in NJ: Gram's Lasagna Recipe

This is my recipe for lasagna, a great meal for when the weather is cold or you need some comfort food. It is based on my grandmother Edna's recipe which, like her sticky buns, people rave about once they have tried it! The surprise ingredient is cottage cheese. I'm not really sure why Gram includes it but I do think it help prevent the lasagna from becoming too dry. One modification that I made was switching from the "old-fashioned" lasagna noodles - which have to be boiled and cooled before layering - to no-boil lasagna noodles which you can simply layer uncooked and they'll cook in the oven! It saves a lot of time and effort. The prep time is about 30 minutes (plus 1 hour in the oven) and a disposable aluminum pan saves on clean-up. If you have the room, it's not too much additional effort to make 2 pans and freeze one. While fresh-from-the-oven lasagna tastes the best, leftovers or from the freezer taste almost as wonderful :) I usually serve with garlic bread and a salad, though this time Eric made broccolini and it went very well together.

Ingredients (per 1 deep pan - which serves about 12):
~1.3 pounds hamburger
One 9 oz. box Barilla no-boil lasagna noodles
24 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese (3 bags)
1 large container (~1 lb.) cottage cheese (small curd)
1 large container (~2 lb.) ricotta cheese
2-3 jars (48 oz.) spaghetti sauce (better to have an extra one on hand - you don't want your lasagna to dry out and the noodles not cook enough while in the oven)
Generous amounts of seasonings: onion, garlic, oregano, basil, black pepper, etc.

1. Brown hamburger with onion, garlic, seasonings
2. Add this to spaghetti sauce in large pot on stove, add more seasonings to taste
3. After sauce is heated, use half of it to cover the bottom of the baking pan
4. Layer half of the noodles on top of the sauce
5. Spread cottage cheese on top of the noodles
6. Spread ricotta on top of the cottage cheese
7. Add 1 bag of mozzarella on top of the other cheeses
8. Layer the rest of the noodles on top of the cheeses
9. Add rest of the sauce on top of the noodles
10. Spread rest of the mozzarella on the very top
(If you have extra ingredients - usually cheese - you can keep layering)

Can now either freeze or bake (350 F for 1 hour for entire pan)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Wasabi-Crusted Tuna with Orange-Ginger Sauce

I have been meaning to try encrusting fish with wasabi powder for some time, since I have tried some delicious wasabi crusted fish at restaurants. I was originally considering using salmon, but I realized that the asian flair would work better with tuna (in my opinion anyhow). I decided to encrust the fish with a mixture of wasabi and Japanese style panko bread crumbs, which are the best kind of bread crumbs to use for just about anything. I paired the tuna with a carrot-ginger sauce, to which i also added a pinch of wasabi powder for a bit more intense flavor. This was a really rewarding meal - not that difficult to make, but a really spectacular culinary result that makes it sound much more involved than it actually was. I love the way the various Asian and American influences jive with the tuna in this dish. It was a great combination of flavors!

Sasha's Wasabi Crusted Tuna with Orange Ginger Sauce & Paprika Potatoes

For the Tuna:
2 medium-sized tuna steaks (I used blue fin tuna)
1 T rice vinegar1 T wasabi powder
Panko breadcrumbs
1/4 tsp soy sauce
1 T water
1/2 T diced garlic

For the Sauce:
3 minced shallots
1 T minced ginger
2 T orange zest
1 cup dry white wine (cooking wine is fine)
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
pinch of wasabi powder

For the Potatoes
New potatoes
sugar snap peas
2 T of paprika
1/4 cup orange juice

To prepare this dish, combine all of the ingredients for the fish marinade except for the panko and mix well. Coat the tuna steaks with this mixture, before dredging them on all sides so they are covered with the panko. Cook on a grill pan with some canola oil on both sides until they are cooked the way you like it (personally, I prefer mine to be medium), which depends on the thickness of the tuna steaks.

To make the sauce, combine the shallots, ginger and orange zest with a bit of olive or canola oil and cook until the shallots are soft over medium heat for a few minutes. Add the white wine and cook for about 5 minutes, allowing the wine to reduce (the alcohol will burn away). Add the orange juice and heavy cream and cook on low to medium heat, simmering, until the sauce is reduced and has thickened a bit (this isn't an incredibly thick sauce, as I did not want to use butter or cornstarch). When the sauce is done, add the sesame oil, soy sauce and wasabi to taste. The sesame oil is key - it adds another wonderful Asian flavor to this dish.

To make the potatoes, cut up some new potatoes and add to a pot with the sugar snap peas. Cook in some canola oil with plenty of paprika and a bit of orange juice until the potatoes are done - which could take about 25 minutes.
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