Archive for the ‘Pumpkins and Squash’ Category

Apple-Pumpkin Scones

Friday, November 12th, 2010

 
I know I’ve been a bit fixated on warm breakfast foods lately—probably because of the chill in the air.
 
These scones are so seasonal that I had to keep up the breakfast trend for one more post!
 
I have seldom met a scone I didn’t like, but even to my sconophilic taste these are special. You can taste and feel everything in them—the apples, the pumpkin, the spices, and of course the butter.
 
The Scones
 
Ingredients:
 
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups flour
2-1/2 teaspoons baking power
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold sweet butter
2 small apples, cut up
1/2 cup (generous) pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons sweet cider
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
additional sugar as needed
 
Instructions:
 
Combine the sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, and spices. Cut in the butter, but be careful not to overmix. Stir the apple pieces into this mixture.
 
In a separate bowl, thoroughly combine the pumpkin, cider, egg, and vanilla. Add this mixture to the dry mixture and blend just to moisten the dry ingreidents. They won’t ACTUALLY get completely moist at first.
 
Transfer the ragged dough to a board, and knead it a few times to make the ingredients start to hold together. Shape it into 1 or 2 slightly flattened rounds (1 for large scones; 2 for small). Using a serrated knife, cut each round into 6 or 8 pieces.
 
Place the wedges of dough (your future scones) on a cookie sheet covered with a silicone baking mat. Allow the sheet to cool in the freezer for 1/2 hour.
 
While it is cooling preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
 
Remove the scones from the freezer, sprinkle sugar generously over them, and bake them for 15 to 18 minutes, until they are a nice golden brown on the bottom. 

Makes 6 to 16 scones, depending on size.


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Laurel’s Squash Risotto

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

 
This recipe was inspired by Laurel Ritmiller Lucrezia of Boston. I “met” Laurel on Facebook when she informed Mass Farmers Markets (and therefore all of that organization’s friends!) that she was getting ready to make some butternut squash risotto. I was taken by the idea and asked her for her recipe.
 
Of course, being me and having the ingredients I had in the house, I changed the recipe! (Laurel said I should feel free to do so.) 

I had just used up my butternut squash so I tried a delicata instead. The butternut would probably provide squashier flavor and require more chicken stock since it’s larger. The delicata was lovely, however. Its flavor was subtle, and it lent a gorgeous seasonal color to the risotto.

 
The Risotto
 
Ingredients:
 
1 medium delicata squash
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) sweet butter plus another 1/4 cup later if desired
2/3 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1-1/4 cups Arborio rice or long-grain rice
1 cup white wine
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup finely diced carrots (optional)
4 teaspoons chopped parsley
several sage leaves, finely chopped
I small fresh tomato, diced
grated parmesan cheese to taste (start with 1/2 cup)
1 6-1/2 ounce roll of chèvre cheese (optional but what a great idea)
 
Instructions:
 
Peel the squash. Cut off the ends and scoop out the seeds and the goop in the middle.
 
Cut 3/4 of the squash into small cubes. Cut the remaining quarter into tiny julienne strips and set them aside.
 
Pour the chicken stock into a saucepan and pop in the cubes of squash. Cover and cook until the squash softens, about 20 minutes. Let the squash and liquid cool for a couple of minutes and then puree them. I used a potato masher for this, but you could also employ a food processor or blender.
 
Put the squash stock into the saucepan and keep it on low heat as you make the risotto.
 
In a heavy saucepan over moderate heat melt 1/4 cup butter and add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the rice. Cook for 1 minute.
 
Add 3/4 cup of the wine plus the bell pepper and carrots (if you’re using them), and stir. Add 1 cup of squash stock and keep stirring.
 
As the mixture cooks and the rice dries up, add the remaining squash stock a bit at a time. Cooking will take quite a while–somewhere between half an hour and 45 minutes. (In my experience, the only sure-fire way to know whether risotto is done is to taste it and decide whether the rice has cooked.) If you run out of squash stock, add a small amount of water.
 
About 20 minutes into cooking your risotto, add the small pieces of squash.
 
Just before serving, add the tomatoes, the herbs, the remaining wine, the last bit of butter (if you want an extra rich risotto), and the parmesan.
 
For extra deliciousness, top each serving with a wedge of chèvre. I didn’t have any in the house so I omitted this, but I’m trying it next time! 

Serves 6.


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How to Milk a Carnation: The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

 
TV premiere week has come and gone. Veni, video, vici, as they used to say at MTV.
 
I am not unhappy with this season’s televised offerings. Nevertheless, I would trade any (perhaps all) of the shows currently on the air for a few episodes of Burns and Allen.
 
The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show celebrates its diamond anniversary today. It debuted on CBS on October 12, 1950.
 
George Burns and Gracie Allen were hardly strangers to entertainment when their television program went on the air.
 
The two had worked together for almost 30 years in vaudeville, in films, and on the radio—and each went through years of show-business experience separately before their meeting in 1922 (or 1923; accounts vary).
 
In some ways, the basics of their act had barely changed over the years. As always, Gracie played a “dumb Dora” character whose reworking of facts and words amused audiences. As her straight man George cued audiences on how to interpret her zaniness.
 
Nevertheless, the pair incorporated a few changes into their television show, which was written by George Burns himself along with an experienced stable of writers.
 
First, George’s character steps out of the action of the show to address the audience and comment on the plot. He is part stage manager, part actor, part Greek chorus, part narrator, and part master of ceremonies.
 
Second, the pair played “themselves,” celebrity performers George Burns and Gracie Allen, living in Beverly Hills, California, not just characters named George and Gracie.
 
Eventually, their son Ronnie joined the cast as himself. Their announcer (first Bill Goodwin and later Harry Von Zell) played their announcer, who extols the virtues of the sponsors’ products, most notably Carnation Evaporated Milk. 

Gracie is always fascinated by the idea of getting milk from carnations.

 
Early on in the series, George’s narrator observes that the show has “more plot than a variety show and not as much as a wrestling match.” In fact, the plot is generally set off by one of Gracie’s misunderstandings—or, as I like to call them, reinterpretations–of a situation.
 
The plot is resolved when it is time to end the episode, often in a rather cursory manner. For example, George once settles a court battle by informing the judge that he will never work on The Burns and Allen Show again if he doesn’t wind up the case in a hurry.
 
A fairly typical plot comes in an episode titled “We’re Not Married” in which Gracie and her loyal friend Blanche Morton (played by Bea Benaderet) have just seen the Ginger Rogers film of that title. It revolves around the discovery by a number of couples that the judge who married them several years earlier forgot to renew his license.
 
Gracie observes that the judge in the movie (played by Victor Moore) looks like the judge who married her to George—and promptly jumps to the conclusion that she and George have never really been married.
 
When George informs her that Victor Moore didn’t marry them, she only responds, “Why didn’t you tell me then? I could have spent our honeymoon looking for a husband.”
 
George tries a number of tricks to get Gracie to believe that they are legitimately married, eventually importing his best man, Jack Benny, to argue his case.
 
A bare plot synopsis doesn’t capture the magic of Burns and Allen. I could give you many reasons for watching it and, I hope, loving it. Here are three.
 
First, despite—or perhaps because of—the decades Burns and Allen spent working with similar material, the couple’s performances are amazingly fresh. George Burns is obviously having the time of his life. And Gracie Allen is such a strong actress that her character’s “illogical logic” comes across as authentic and rather sweet.
 
Second, the program presents a delightfully egalitarian view of marriage. George’s character never talks down to Gracie—or if he does, he regrets it. Their marriage, like their ongoing vaudeville routine, is one long conversation between people who may not always understand each other but clearly always love, respect, and enjoy each other.
 
Finally, I love the way Burns and Allen explores the push-pull between narration and language, between linear thinking and intuition.
 
George’s straight man/narrator should be in control of the plot; he has many more lines than Gracie and knows far more about what is going on in each episode than she does. He works hard to entertain viewers.
 
Nevertheless, Gracie’s character derails every single plot (and delights every viewer) with absolutely no visible work, simply by being herself and challenging the meaning of a few words. George’s reassertion of the logic of narrative at the end of each episode never has the power of Gracie’s disruptions of the plot and their life. And linearity never quite rules. 

Gracie Allen’s health and a desire to live a quiet life after years of nonstop work led her to retire in 1958. Her heart gave out in 1964. It took George Burns years to regain a foothold in the entertainment world without her. He finally made it as a solo artist in 1975, when he won an Academy Award for playing an elderly vaudeville veteran in The Sunshine Boys.

 
Anecdotes about his late wife and the daffy character she played continued to pepper his stand-up work and the books he wrote until he died in 1996, having just fulfilled his ambition to turn 100.
 
It’s hard to determine the accuracy of any of those anecdotes. In the foreword to George Burns’s book I Love Her, That’s Why, his pal Jack Benny wrote:
 
Some of the episodes [related by George] I’m sure are true. Some of them will have a basis of truth and then will develop into the damndest lies you have ever read…. Sometimes at a party when [George] is telling a long story about me, he is so convincing that I have to take him into the other room and say, “Did that really happen to me?” He says, “Of course not. It was Harpo Marx, but Harpo isn’t here and you are. 

In the case of George Burns and Gracie Allen, the only truth one can discern with certainty is that the pair loved each other, on and off the television screen. And that’s probably the only truth that matters.

 
Inspired by Gracie Allen Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese
 
Although Gracie Allen’s TV character doesn’t spend a lot of time cooking, she does enter the kitchen from time to time, with predictably confusing results.
 
My friend Jack recently reminded me that one of Gracie’s signature dishes is roast beef. She preheats the oven and puts in one large roast and one small roast. When the little one burns, the big one is done.
 
Naturally, the character spends a lot of time cooking with evaporated milk, even if she never does figure out how to milk a carnation. Announcer Bill Goodwin is fond of pumpkin pie made with evaporated milk. (For a variation on this recipe, see last year’s “Pumpkin Pie Plus” recipe.)
 
I decided to make my own evaporated-milk dish. I was inspired by my friend Kelly Morrissey, who told me she had made roasted butternut squash into a lovely pasta sauce with the addition of spices and a little cream.
 
If you want to use cream instead of evaporated milk in this recipe, please do; I love cream! The evaporated milk was actually quite tasty, however.
 
The squash gives the dish a lovely color, a delicate flavor, and a remarkably smooth consistency.
 
Ingredients:
 
1 small to medium butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, minced
several sprigs of sage, cut into small pieces
olive oil, salt, and pepper as needed
3/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 cup evaporated milk, plus up to 3/4 cup more as needed (if you’re making the dish with cream, use plain milk for the additional moisture)
a generous dash of cayenne pepper
1 pound pasta, cooked according to package directions (I used wagon wheels because I find them entertaining and not too big to handle)
3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (or to taste)
several sprinkles of paprika
 
Instructions:
 
In a Dutch oven at moderate temperature (350 degrees), roast the squash pieces uncovered, garlic, and sage in the olive oil, adding salt and pepper generously.
 
When the squash begins to soften, pour the water into the dish and stir. Cover and continue to cook until the squash softens completely. The cooking time should take somewhere between 30 minutes and 1 hour, depending on the age and density of your squash.
 
Remove the pot from the oven and allow it to cool for a few minutes. (Leave the oven on.) Carefully ladle the solids and liquids into a food processor or electric mixer, and mix until smooth. Mix in the nutmeg, 3/4 cup evaporated milk, and cayenne.
 
Grease a 2- to 3-quart casserole dish, and combine the cooked pasta and most of the cheese in it. Stir in the squash mixture. Your dish should be moist but not swimming in liquid. If it is not moist enough, add more milk. Top with the remaining cheese and the paprika.

Bake for half an hour. Serves 8 to 12.


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Pumpkin Pie Plus

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

pumpkin pie plus web

 
As a child I was the only member of my family who didn’t gravitate toward pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. The custard filling was just … so … smooth.
 
As a grown up I am more enthusiastic, although the consistency still tends to flummox me. The recipe below solves the consistency issue by addiing other textures to the custard’s custardiness.
 
The flavors it adds don’t hurt, either!
 
The pie looks appropriately festive in my pumpkin-shaped pan from Wilton, but you may of course use a standard pie pan. Here’s the recipe………..
 
tcardweb
 
Ingredients:
 
1-1/2 cups pumpkin or winter squash puree
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ginger or allspice (or a bit of each)
1 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup water
2 eggs
2/3 cup caramels
3 tablespoons cream
1 handful toasted pecans
1 handful toasted coconut
1 9-inch pie shell
 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Whisk together the pumpkin, sugars, spices, milk, water, and eggs. Place the combination in the unbaked pie shell. Bake for 10 minutes; then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 30 to 40 minutes, or until firm. Allow the pie to cool for a few minutes.
 
In a small saucepan combine the caramels and cream. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until they melt together.
 
Drizzle the caramel mixture over the pie, and top with the pecans and coconut. (If you’d rather save some caramel to drizzle over the top, please do so!)
 
Serves 6 to 8.
 
newpumweb
 
I’ll have more recipes later in the week, but since many of my readers are shopping for Thanksgiving NOW (yes, I know, some of you have even finished; I of course have yet to start!), here are a couple of recipes from last fall to get you going:
 
 
 
Happy baking……..
 

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Teri’s Pumpkin Cake

Friday, October 30th, 2009

Teri's Pumpkin Cake web

 
Before I get to today’s recipe, I’d like to remind readers about my beloved Pudding Hollow Pudding Festival, scheduled for TOMORRROW—Halloween!
 
Anyone within shouting distance of western Massachusetts should definitely come (and perhaps enter the festival’s pudding contest). This event offers food, music, and lots of fun.
 
You may come as you are, of course, but there WILL be a prize for best costume for those who feel like dressing up.
 
AND I wanted to mention that we have a winner in the drawng for the book The Perfect Pumpkin. Congratulations to Madge Solomon of Falls Church, Virgnia! I hope to have another drawing soon.
 
Now, on to a perfect Halloween recipe. This cake is ideal for the season—moist, full of good things (a treat), and a little surprising (a treat).
 
I learned to make it from my graduate-school friend Teri Tynes. Teri is smart, vivacious, and just plain fun. Her award-winning blog, Walking Off the Big Apple, is the thinking woman’s (and yes, the thinking man’s) guide to New York.
 
Teri uses her vast knowledge of American culture and history to view the city through the prisms of art, literature, fashion, and photography.
 
I love to make her pumpkin cake at this time of year and think of her.
 
The Cake: 
 
Ingredients: 
 
1-1/2 cups canola oil
2 cups sugar
3-1/8 cups flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons allspice
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups mashed pumpkin
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup raisins
 
My friend Chas grew this lovely little pumpkin.

My friend Chas grew this lovely little pumpkin.

 
Instructions:
 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan (or spray it with Baker’s Joy). Mix the oil and sugar in a large bowl. Combine 3 cups of the flour and the other dry ingredients and add them to the oil and sugar along with the pumpkin. (Reserve the remaining flour.) Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
 
In a separate bowl, mix the remaining 1/8 cup flour with the nuts and raisins. Add them to the batter. Spoon into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Frost with raisin frosting. Serves 10 to 12.
 
Teri’s Secret Raisin Frosting
 
This icing is a bit tricky. It can almost burn if you don’t stir carefully. It looks a little strange and lumpy as it goes on the cake, but the texture of the final product is one of its joys. I love the fact that it’s SUPPOSED to look messy since most of my baked goods look that way anyway.
 
Ingredients:
 
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup sugar
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup raisins (plus a few more if you can’t resist; I usually just throw them in impulsively)
1 generous handful of flaked, sweetened coconut
 
Instructions:
 
Combine the first 5 ingredients in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 12 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in the coconut and raisins. Let the frosting stand for a minute (or maybe 2 or 3) to cool slightly. Spoon and spread it generously over your pumpkin cake.  
 
I was hoping to look exotic and gorgeous in these glasses, like Halle Berry in "Catwoman." Instead, I'm afraid I look more like Gloria Swanson in "Sunset Boulevard"--creepy and middle aged. In any case, I wish you a Happy Halloween!

I was hoping to look exotic and gorgeous in these glasses, like Halle Berry in "Catwoman." Instead, I'm afraid I look more like Gloria Swanson in "Sunset Boulevard"--creepy and middle aged. Oh, well ... Halle, Gloria, and Tinky all wish you a Happy Halloween!

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