Roasted Butternut Squash with Poblano Pepper

Roasted Butternut Squash with Poblano Pepper

Mains & Sides Recipe

This dish is vibrant and warming. I’ve paired with a protein for meals but it could be used as a main dish accompanied with other veggies or grains since the squash is hearty. I use a chimichurri spice blend that has 3 different dried Mexican chiles. Chili powder would make a great substitute as noted below.

The recipe will fill two large baking sheets. If you only have one baking sheet, wrap up one half of the butternut squash and put it in the refrigerator for another day. You can also half spice, chili and sauce amount.

  • 1 butternut squash (2 lbs)
  • 1 poblano pepper, deseeded and ribs removed, chopped
  • 2 tsp chimichurri spice (or 2 tsp chili powder plus ½ tsp dried oregano)
  • 1 tsp paprika (omit if using chili powder)
  • 4 Tbs olive oil
  • Salt
  • Lime wedges (optional)

Sauce

  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 3 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • pinch of salt
  • Preheat oven at 400°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

    Peel the squash and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds. Slice each half, from top to bottom, into 1/3-inch thick slices. Lay the slices on baking sheets. Combine the oil and spices in a small bowl and brush the oil mixture onto the squash slices. Sprinkle the poblano then a little salt over the slices and roast in oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until squash is tender. Set aside to cool.

    In meantime, whisk together the sauce ingredient. Once the butternut squash slices have cooled, plate them and drizzle with the sauce. Add fresh lime juice to desired taste.

    Balkan Polenta with Rapini

    Balkan Polenta with Rapini

    Mains & Sides Recipe

    To me, this is comfort food. The warm, sweet flavor of the polenta combined with bitter rapini and salty, tangy feta and makes my mouth water. Balkan polenta is made with coarse cornmeal, which gives it a more defined texture. And while I love Greek feta, I like a softer and stronger Bulgarian feta for this and other baked dishes. I also only buy feta swimming in brine. The brine keeps the cheese moist and gives it has a longer shelf life. When first made the polenta will have a softer consistency like porridge. As it sits it will firm and cut nicely into squares. It’s also great as leftovers. One next-day idea shown in the photo below: cut it into squares; brush the squares with olive oil; and bake at 350 deg F until golden.

    Polenta
    • 1 ½ cups coarse yellow cornmeal
    • 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
    • ½ cup olive oil
    • 1 ¾ cups feta, freshly crumbled
    • 1 cup yogurt
    • ½ lb rapini, washed and coarsely chopped
    • Salt and Pepper to taste

    Topping
    • ¼ cup olive oil
    • 4 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
    • 1 tsp Allepo or Urfa Biber pepper (alternatively one pinch of crushed pepper flakes)
    • ½ cup white wine or scant ½ cup vegetable or chicken stock
    • 1 Tsp fresh thyme, chopped
    • Juice of lemon to taste (optional)
    • Salt (optional)

    Mix the cornmeal with 1 ½ cups cold water in a bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes.

    In meantime, bring stock to boil. Add rapini and cornmeal, stirring frequently for 10 to 12 minutes. Add olive oil and cook for additional 5 minutes, or until mixture thickens. Remove mixture from heat and fold in the feta and yogurt. Salt and pepper to taste.

    For the topping, heat the olive oil in a small skillet. Sauté the garlic for 30 seconds or until fragrant, and then add the pepper. Add the wine or stock and when sauce starts to bubble, simmer on low for 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat, taste and add salt and lemon juice to taste. Drizzle the sauce over the polenta. (If sensitive to salt or lemon, I suggest adding after sauce is added to polenta.)

    Baked Balkan Polenta Squares Option
    Dried Orange Peel

    Dried Orange Peel

    Mise en place Wellness

    Dried Orange Peel: Before you peel or cut your organic oranges, remove the thin strips with a peeler. Place the strips separately on a towel/paper towel in an open dish. Leave them out to dry for 3-4 days. Once they are completely dry, put them airtight jar.  Dried orange peels have a deep flavor which are a great ingredient for savory or sweet recipes. You can zest or grind the peels or add them whole into sauces or stews.

    For my autumn-winter smoothies, which during the cooler temperatures I consume close to room temperature, I toss in half an orange strip, a generous amount of cinnamon and at least a 1/2-inch slice of ginger. Orange peel helps improve digestion and sluggishness in the gut, and ginger and cinnamon are both warming spices that make the smoothie more digestible during the season.

    Stuffed Eggplant

    Stuffed Eggplant

    Mains & Sides Recipe

    There are many variations of this dish of Turkish origin. This stuffed eggplant, or Imam Bayildi, is a variation of a recipe from Aglaia Kremezi. What I love about it is the hearty flavor of adding walnuts and pecorino to the stuffing. And, making your own favorite tomato sauce (I make mine with olive oil, onions, garlic and desired spices) will make this even better. Typically the eggplant stems are left on, but the eggplants I had on were too big and round to fit in my baking dish.

    • ­­­­2 eggplants
    • Salt
    • 1/8 cup olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
    • 2 small onions, thinly sliced
    • 2 red bell peppers, halved, seeded and cut into ¼-inch strips
    • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
    • ½ tsp ground cumin
    • 1 tsp Aleppo pepper
    • ½ cup raw walnuts, chopped or coarsely ground
    • ½ cup freshly grated pecorino
    • 1 large tomato, ripe heirloom if available or beefsteak, cut into 6 to 8 slices
    • ¾ cup homemade tomato sauce
    • parsley for garnish

    Slice eggplants in half lengthwise, preferably keeping part of the stem. Diagonally score flesh in both directions with a knife. Salt eggplants generously and let drain in a colander for 1 hour. Rinse eggplants under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and place eggplants on the sheet with cut side up. Brush eggplants with olive oil on both sides. Bake eggplants for 20 to 25 minutes or until they are golden. Put eggplants aside to cool, but keep the oven warm.

    In a deep skillet, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add onions and 1 tsp salt and sauté until soft, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the bell peppers and sauté until soft. Next, add garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute, then remove skillet from heat. Add the cumin, Aleppo pepper, walnuts and cheese. Mix the filling and adjust seasoning as needed.

    Line a deep baking dish with parchment paper and brush the paper with olive oil. Line the paper with the sliced tomato and place the eggplants on the tomatoes. The eggplants should fit snugly in the dish. Using a spoon, press into the softened eggplant flesh to create indentations for the stuffing. Fill each eggplant with the stuffing and top each with 3 Tbs of tomato sauce. Pour the remaining sauce around the eggplants. Drizzle the eggplants with 1 to 2 Tbs olive oil. Bake eggplants for 40 to 45 minutes, until bubbling and slightly browned on top. Let cool for about 20 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve.

    This is a hearty meal and if using larger eggplants, one eggplant half may be more than enough. It works great for leftovers and tastes even better the next day.

     

    Vibrant Quinoa Salad

    Vibrant Quinoa Salad

    Appetizers & Salads Mains & Sides Recipe

    I posted this recipe over a year ago, but it wasn’t under a typical recipe heading. So, I’m reposting it. I created this as a tasty Summer/Spring salad, but it’s great for during any warm weather spell.

    Combine the following chopped herbs in food processor with 1/3 cup or more olive oil. Add lemon or vinegar if desired,

    • 1 bunch cilantro
, packed
    • 1/2 cup parsley
, loose
    • 1/4 cup each dill, mint & tarragon

    Mix with the following:

    • 2 cups (more/less as desired) cooked quinoa
    • small sautéed onion, thinly sliced
    • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
    • 1/2 to 1 serrano pepper, deseeded and chopped
    • 3-4 green onions, sliced
    • generous handful of arugula, chopped
    • salt & pepper to taste; I also added cumin
    • feta, optional

    If you don’t like the taste of tarragon, you could skip it or experiment with another herb…basil, sorrel, lemon thyme.

    Enjoy!

     

    Brussel Sprouts with Pecorino and Walnuts

    Brussel Sprouts with Pecorino and Walnuts

    Appetizers & Salads Recipe

    As the Fall season arrives, I am ready for sautéed or roasted brussel sprouts. However, early Fall in San Francisco feels like summer and I’m still wanting to make salads. This salad is well rounded with taste: brussel spouts – bitter; walnuts – astringent; pecorino romano – salty and sour. The same can be said for the dressing. If you want more brightness, you could add more lemon or reduce the mustard in the dressing. You could also add a fresh herb. This dish is also great the next day, and the brussel sprouts stay crisp.

    • ¾ cup walnuts, whole
    • 1 lb brussel sprouts
    • ¼ cup pecorino romano cheese, plus 2-3 Tbs reserved
    • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
    • 3 Tbs apple cider vinegar
    • 1 ½ Tbs Dijon mustard
    • 1/3 cup olive oil

    Lightly toast walnuts on low to medium heat stovetop, tossing often. Set aside to cool.

    Trim the bottom of the brussel sprouts and thinly slice them. I used a knife

    but a mandolin may slice them more evenly. Place thesprouts into a large bowl. For the dressing, whisk the last 3 ingredients with a pinch of salt and pepper in a bowl. Pour half of the dressing over the brussel sprouts and mix well. Cover and put brussel sprout mixture in refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours. Taste the sprouts and add more dressing if desired.

    Coarsely chop the walnuts and grate the cheese.

    Add ¾ of the walnuts and ¼ cup of the cheese to mixture and toss.

    Extra dressing can be added or stored for another use.

    Enjoy!

    Cucumber, Radish and Snap Pea Salad

    Cucumber, Radish and Snap Pea Salad

    Appetizers & Salads Mains & Sides Recipe

    This is a vibrant vegetable salad that’s full of texture and a great pairing with many proteins or cold noodle dishes. (Try with the Mint, Cilantro and Green Onion Soba Noodles.) It tastes great fresh or the next day. Keep in mind that the next-day vegetables will taste pickled with the dressing combined. I like this salad with a bigger sour and astringent taste of vinegar. If you’re sensitive to vinegar, try adding half of the quantity first and adjust to taste.

    • ­­­­1 medium cucumber
    • 1 bunch radishes
    • 1 1/3 lb snap peas
    • 1/8 cup sesame seeds
    • 2 Tbs rice wine vinegar*
    • ½ tsp salt
    • 3 tsp sugar
    • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
    • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

    Lightly toast sesame seeds on low to medium heat stovetop, tossing often, until golden. Set aside to cool.

    Trim peas as needed. In a medium saucepan, cook peas in boiling salted water for 30 to 60 seconds. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop peas from cooking.

    Peel and deseed cucumber. Halve cucumber and radishes and cut unto ¼-inch thick slices. Cut the larger peas in half.

    Combine vinegars, salt and sugar in small bowl. Stir until salt and sugar dissolve.

    Toss vegetables, vinegar mixture and sesame seeds in a bowl. Salt and pepper to taste.

    *If using seasoned vinegar, the additional salt and sugar may not be needed.

    xo,

    Julie

    Soba Noodles with Mint, Cilantro & Green Onions

    Soba Noodles with Mint, Cilantro & Green Onions

    Mains & Sides Recipe

    Soba Noodles with Mint, Cilantro & Green Onions

    With the recent heat wave we had, I looked for recipes that were easy with minimal cooking. I found a soba noodles recipe and modified it below to my liking. Mint and cilantro are two favorite herbs that add a stimulating and cooling, respectively, effect to meals. They worked perfectly with this cold dish.

    I paired this with the Cucumber, Radish and Snap Pea Salad (shown in photo.) If I were to pair the noodles with something less sour and astringent, I would add rice vinegar to the noodles. I’d start with a tablespoon and adjust from there.

    • ­­­­10 oz soba (buckwheat) noodles
    • 2 Tbs avocado oil
    • 2 Tbs soy sauce
    • 2 ½ tsp sugar
    • 1 ½ tsp salt
    • ½ cup fresh mint, chopped
    • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
    • 1 cup green onions, thinly sliced
    • freshly ground pepper to taste

    Cook noodles in boiling water until just tender, about 4 minutes. Drain immediately in colander under cold water to stop noodles from cooking. Drain well and place in refrigerator.

    For dressing, whisk together avocado oil, soy sauce, sugar and salt until sugar and salt are dissolved. Taste and adjust as needed.

    Toss noodles with dressing, mint, cilantro and green onions. Add pepper to taste.

    xo,

    Julie

    Cretan Dakos

    Cretan Dakos

    Appetizers & Salads Recipe

    The first time I made this recipe I used a baguette. This time I got my hands on dakos (barley rusks.) It tasted like…more…

    A friend from Greece sent me the original recipe. It’s simple to make and will look familiar – the Italian’s variation is bruschetta.

    However, what makes this special is the flavor combination of the dako with flavorful tomatoes, along with grating the tomatoes. I wrote this recipe using Early Girl tomatoes, which are juicy and have the right touch of sweetness and don’t necessarily need added honey. If using other tomatoes, you many want the honey to balance the acidity along with the salt. You could add capers, olives or other herbs, and sometimes I’ll add green onion.

    • ­­­­6 small dakos (or 6 baguette slices)
    • 6 Early Girl tomatoes
    • ½ tsp apple cider vinegar
    • 1 tsp honey (optional)
    • pinch of salt
    • freshly ground pepper
    • fresh basil, finely chopped
    • fresh thyme, finely chopped
    • olive oil
    • ¼ fresh onion, finely chopped
    • soft cheese (optional)

    Place the dako pieces onto a plate.

    Cut 3 of the tomatoes in half and grate into a bowl. (If the skin doesn’t break down, pop those extra antioxidants in your mouth.) Dice the remaining 3 tomatoes and set aside.

    In the bowl, add the vinegar, honey (if using), salt, pepper, basil and thyme. Toss. Adjust seasoning and herbs to taste.

    Pour the mixture over the dako. Drizzle with olive oil. Top the dako pieces with the diced tomatoes along with the juices. Sprinkle with onion.

    I do recommend trying this with the barley rusks. However, if you can’t find them you can make them or use a day-old baguette instead.

    Enjoy!

    xo,

    Julie

    Shown with dako pieces
    Shown with baguette pieces
    Fresh Corn Polenta

    Fresh Corn Polenta

    Mains & Sides Recipe

    There’s something about exciting about corn season. It takes me to a happy place where I was born and lived until almost 6 years old. We lived by a Pennsylvania dairy farm surrounded by cornfields and rolling hills, where the scenery was lush and the smells in the air were plenty. It was long ago; however, the smell of fresh corn still sparks those childhood memories of walking through cornfields and swinging on a creekside tree swing.

    Inspired by farmer’s market corn freshly picked that morning and selecting the vendor’sfavorite, bi-color corn*, I searched for a recipe that was new and refreshing. I found a recipe for polenta from fresh corn from Yotam Ottolenghi. Polenta made from fresh corn seems obvious, but I’ve never thought to make it. It was different than polenta made from cornmeal, and I loved it.

    This is a slight variation of the recipe (proportions and my cooking time) and I would even try different or no cheeses in the dish, depending on with what I paired it. The photo shown here is with Ottelenghi’s eggplant tomato sauce he used with the polenta. I’m already planning on trying this again with the last of the corn harvest, making with a mushroom sauce.

    Serves 3-4

    • 4 ear of corn
    • 1 ½ cups water
    • 2 Tbs butter
    • 5 oz feta, crumbled
    • salt & pepper

    Remove the husk and silk from each ear and shave off the kernels.

    Put the kernels in a medium saucepan and cover them with the water. Bring to a boil then cook for 12 minutes on a low simmer. Using a slotted spoon, remove the kernels from the water into a food processor. Reserve the cooking liquid. Process the corn for several minutes to breakdown as much of the kernel case as possible. Add some of the cooking liquid if the mixture becomes to dry to process. (I didn’t have this problem.)

    Return the corn paste to the pan with the cooking liquid and cook, while stirring, on low heat for 15-20 minutes. As the mixture thickens toward a mashed potato consistency, stir more frequently. Fold in the butter, feta, salt and pepper and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add more seasoning as desired.

    Enjoy!

    xo,

    Julie

    *The farmer’s market vendor gave me a reminder of the differences of the corn: yellow is more buttery, white is sweeter and bi-color is the wonderful combination of buttery and sweet.