Roasted Delicata Squash With Pumpkin Seeds

I’m a big fan of delicata squash. The flesh is creamy and mildly sweet, it caramelizes beautifully when roasted, the skin is edible, and it’s easier to cut than most larger squash. This is a quick and easy way to make a beautiful and delicious squash side dish.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 delicata squash, depending on side
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin (or sunflower) seeds
  • a generous pour of olive oil
  • sea salt
  • cayenne pepper

As promised, this recipe is super easy. Preheat the oven to 375°F. After rinsing off any dirt from the field, cut each delicata squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and stringy bits. Cut the squash into thick half-moon-shaped slices (as pictured). Put all of the pieces into a large baking dish. You’ll want to have as many of the pieces touching the glass or metal baking pan as possible because those are the spots where they’ll caramelize.

After you’ve cut them all and placed them in the baking dish, coat the pieces of squash with a generous pour of olive oil. Season with sea salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Toss them with your hands to coat everything evenly. Lastly sprinkle the pumpkin or sunflower seeds on top before baking in the oven for approximately 45 minutes or until the pieces are completely soft and the underneath side has caramelized without burning. I like using a glass baking dish so that I can lift the baking dish and peak underneath to check when it’s ready.

I like serving delicata squash with just about everything and have been known to make a dinner out of it alone too. For a nice fall dinner, I might bake some chicken with garlic and serve it with this squash and some cabbage (braised, raw as a salad, or pickled as kraut or kimchi are all good cabbage options here). If you’re not a cabbage fan, a green salad or wilted greens pair nicely too.

Ribollita

It looks like the last few posts have all been filled with warm bowls of comforting food. It’s the time of year for hot soups and stews. So, here’s another favorite. Ribollita is a Tuscan soup made of seasonal beans and vegetables. It gets some of that delicious umami flavor from the cooked down parmigiano reggiano rinds and pancetta, not to mention the homemade chicken broth (see the post on liquid gold). Though, of course, it can also be made vegetarian or vegan by substituting vegetable broth for the chicken broth and omitting the pancetta and cheese.

Ribollita ingredients

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of dried cannellini beans (if you can get fresh ones, even better!), cooked
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 fennel bulb, diced
  • 3-4 carrots, chopped
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 4oz of pancetta tesa, cut into small pieces
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3-4 pieces of leftover rinds from parmigiano reggiano cheese
  • 2-3 cups of diced tomatoes (from a jar works just as well, if tomatoes aren’t in season)
  • 3-4 cups of homemade chicken broth
  • 1-2 sweet peppers (these are corno di toro), cleaned and chopped
  • a few handfuls of romano beans (you can use any type of green bean), cleaned and roughly chopped
  • 1 large bunch of kale, chopped
  • a few handfuls of baby chard (or a small bunch of regular chard)
  • small bunch of parsley, chopped
  • sea salt
  • cayenne pepper
  • white pepper
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • grated parmigiano reggiano cheese (optional)
  • dry or toasted bread (optional)

You’ll want to plan ahead when making ribollita, especially if you’re using dried beans. Sort your dried beans to make sure there aren’t any rocks or unappealing beans in the bag you’re using. Rinse them thoroughly and soak them overnight or at least 8-10 hours in cold water. If you’re keeping them much longer than 12 hours before cooking, you’ll want to refrigerate them. When you return to the pot after letting them soak, you’ll notice that they will have soaked up a fair amount of water and have grown in volume.

Drain the beans and put them in a large pot with a couple inches of water cover. Bring the pot to a boil. When you notice the foamy substance rise to the surface, drain and rinse the beans and rinse the pot. Replace the beans in the pot and cover again with fresh water, a couple inches above the level of the beans. Bring the pot back up to a simmer and cook for at least an hour.

While the beans cook, prep your vegetables and other ingredients. Keep them separate so that you can add them in order of slowest cooking to quickest cooking. Begin by adding a little olive oil to a large soup pot and sweat the onions until just translucent. One by one, add the garlic, carrots, celery, fennel, and pancetta. After these start to cook a bit, add the peppers. Around this time, the beans should be almost ready to add to the pot too. Add them with their cooking liquid. Also add the parmigiano reggiano rinds, bay leaves, diced tomatoes, and chicken broth. Let this simmer for at least another 20 minutes before adding the kale, chard, romano (or other green) beans, and parsley. Season with sea salt, cayenne pepper, and white pepper. Cook for another 20-30 minutes.

Though delicious right off the stove, the ribollita is even better the next day. The name ribollita actually means reboiled and this soup benefits from bringing it up to a boil again when you reheat it. I also suggest letting it cool so it’s just warmer than warm (not hot) when you eat it. Many people enjoy putting some pieces of day old bread or toasted bread in the soup when serving. I like it both ways (pictured without bread). If you like, also sprinkle some freshly grated parmigiano reggiano on top.

ribollita on table

Black-Eyed Pea and Lamb Stew

The leaves are changing color and it’s starting to feel more like fall outside. So, I feel more like cooking warm and soothing meals like this black-eyed pea and lamb stew. Luckily, here in the Bay Area, it’s still fresh bean season and so there’s no need to soak dried beans overnight!

shelling black eyed peas

The first two steps (the beans and the meat) can be prepared the day before and kept in the fridge separately until you’re ready to cook the stew.

Ingredients (these are approximations, feel free to change to your taste and local ingredients)

  • 2lbs of fresh black-eyed peas
  • 1.5lb lamb roast
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • white pepper (ground)
  • turmeric (ground)
  • cayenne pepper (ground)
  • 10 cloves of garlic (5 for the meat and 5 for the stew)
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 small sweet peppers (I used yellow corno di toro peppers)
  • 6-8 carrots
  • 2-3 stalks of celery
  • 3-4 heirloom tomatoes
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • bunch of parsley, chopped
  • 2-3 bay leaves

done shelling

These black-eyed peas were definitely more time and labor-intensive to shell than the cannellini or cranberry beans. They made a delicious stew but feel free to substitute a different type of bean that’s available in your area and/or use dried beans (just remember to soak dried beans overnight).

start to boil

After rinsing the shelled beans, cover with water and bring them to a boil.

change water

If you see this kind of slimy film and big bubbles form while boiling, drain the beans into a colander and rinse them again.

bring to boil again

Rinse the pot, return the beans, cover with fresh water, and bring it up to a boil again.

beans done

Cook the beans for around 35-45 minutes, or until they are soft enough to smoosh with the back of the spoon. Remove them from the stove and let them cool before refrigerating to use the next day or to use to make the stew in the same day.

lamb roast

The meat can also be roasted a day ahead. Stab the roast several times with a small sharp knife and insert a piece of garlic (either a small clove or a thick sliver) into each hole. Drizzle olive oil all over the roast and season liberally with salt, cayenne, and white pepper. Bake at 400°F for about an hour. After the roast cools, you can either refrigerate it or use it immediately to make the stew.

cut lamb

I refrigerated both the beans and meat overnight. Before making the stew, I sliced the meat and then chopped it to make small uniform bites to be added later to the stew.

drippings

I also saved the drippings from the bottom of the pan that solidified in the fridge overnight. These add some extra flavor and richness to the stew.

veggies

Time to prep and chop all of the fresh veggies.

cooking veggies

Saute the chopped vegetables in a generous pour of olive oil. I like to add them one by one to the cooking pot as I prep the next vegetable. Since some vegetables take longer to cook than others, chop in the order you’d like them to cook in, for example: onions, celery, carrots, peppers, and tomatoes. Season this mixture with lemon juice, sea salt, cayenne pepper, white pepper, and a generous amount of turmeric. Remember to add more salt than you’d normally use because you did not season the beans when you cooked them earlier.

now add meat and beans

After the vegetables start to cook, add the bay leaves and most of the chopped parsley (reserving a few sprigs for presentation).

add meat and beans

Once the vegetables have cooked down and the carrots are softening, add the black-eyed peas (and their cooking liquid), cut pieces of lamb, and reserved pan drippings.

and boil some more

Boil for another 20-30 minutes.

remove bay leaves

When it’s ready, remember to remove the bay leaves. They give great flavor but are tough and not edible.

it's ready

Serve a couple ladles of stew with a few sprigs of fresh parsley on top and, if you wish, some fresh country bread on the side. This stew, like most stews, is even better the second (and third) day because the flavors combine and penetrate all the ingredients while in the fridge overnight. So, you can prepare this stew in advance and/or enjoy leftovers for a couple days. Either way, if your family is anything like mine, they’ll be asking for seconds.

bowl of stew

Romanian Eggplant Salad

I guess you could say that I come from a long line of eggplant-loving women. My mother and grandmother both made delicious eggplant salad. They served it a little bit differently. You can decide for yourself if you prefer the tomatoes and onions mixed in, like Grandma used to make (I do!). Traditionally, I think they are generally served separately, the way my mother plated it at home. Either way, you can’t go wrong.

Ingredients, yields 4+ servings

  • 2 large eggplants
  • 3/4 cup of olive oil (I don’t measure, just pour until it looks and tastes right but I’d estimate at least half a cup in the mixture plus a little to coat the eggplants at the beginning and for the tomato/onion salad)
  • a few large pinches of salt (again, until it tastes right)
  • a sprinkle of cayenne pepper
  • 2 pints of juicy cherry tomatoes
  • 1 small onion

Start with some fresh eggplant. You want to look for eggplant that still has a vivid green stem and shiny black skin. The fresher you can get it, the sweeter and less bitter it will taste. We got some lovely Black Beauty variety eggplant from a local farm, through Good Eggs.

eggplants

After washing them, prick all over with a fork and coat with olive oil. Place them on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, for easier cleanup.

eggplant ready to bake

Roast at 400°F for about 45 minutes or until a knife slides easily into the soft flesh of the eggplant everywhere, including just under the stem area (usually the toughest part and slowest to cook through).

baked eggplant

After removing the eggplant from the oven, cut it open carefully and locate the seed pods. I like to use a fork and knife because the eggplant liquid irritates my skin. This part requires a little patience. You’ll want to take out just the flesh and discard all of the seed sections and skin. It’s okay if a few seeds wander in but you’ll want to get rid of most of them.

open eggplant

In order to drain away the bitter liquid from the cooked eggplant before preparing the salad, find a way to set up a slanted surface in your kitchen. I find that a baking pan, cutting board, and glass create just the right angle to let the juices slowly drip out of the eggplant and onto the absorbent paper towel at the bottom of the cutting board.

on board side

Lay the pieces of eggplant, from which you removed the seeds, in a thin layer across the slanted cutting board and let them drain for an hour or so.

on board front

Once you’re ready to get back to the drained eggplant, lightly blot the pieces with a paper towel to remove any moisture still left, and place them on a cutting board. Then chop and chop and chop some more. You’ll want to go in different directions. It’s fairly easy to do because the texture is so soft. The consistency comes out much better this way than with a food processor or blender. Plus, at the end, you’ll just have to wash the cutting board and knife.

ready to chopchop

 

and chop more

chopped

 

Once the eggplant starts getting a smooth texture add chopped garlic, oil, salt, and cayenne pepper. Chop and mix until thoroughly combined on the cutting board.

garlic

oil

 

After your eggplant salad is done, you can store it in a bowl until ready to use. It’s best eaten at room temperature. So, if you’re planning on refrigerating it, take it out a little while before serving.

eggplant salad, separate

My mother tended to serve it the traditional way, with fresh bread and  a salad of tomatoes, onions, olive oil, and salt. Its high oil content makes it a decadent vegetable dish. At my grandparents house I’d notice grandma relishing her mixing process. She’d lightly smash the tomatoes to get them to release extra juice into the eggplant salad. I remember grandma taking such pleasure in eating this salad and I think I enjoy it even more because of that memory.

eggplant salad, combined

Shiitake Mushroom, Chive, and Feta Frittata

Another favorite egg breakfast at our house is the veggie frittata. I don’t particularly like baked frittatas (though I do like making egg bakes – more on that another day). A pan and a spatula are really enough, especially if you’re not going for perfect appearance. I’m considering buying a frittata pan (or trying the plate method) to make flipping a little cleaner and easier. Until then, an 8″ or 10″ ceramic nonstick pan (we avoid teflon) works well enough and yields an equally delicious frittata.

Ingredients – serves 2

  • 4 eggs
  • 1-2 tbs crème fraîche (Bellwether Farms makes a great one)
  • enough shiitake mushroom caps to cover the bottom of your pan
  • handful of roughly chopped chives
  • 2 tbs crumbled sheep’s milk feta (our favorite is from Marin Cheese Company)
  • drizzle of olive oil to coat the pan
  • small pinch of sea salt (since the feta is also salty)
  • light sprinkle of cayenne pepper
  • generous sprinkle of turmeric
  • buttered toast of your choice (we like Acme’s Pain au Levain)
  • a few slices of heirloom tomato (optional)
  • a few sprigs of cilantro or parsley (optional)

frittata ingredients

After adding olive oil to your ceramic nonstick pan, place the mushroom caps all in the same direction in the pan (I like to start with their tops down). This helps you know which ones you’ve flipped later on. Cook on medium heat until they begin to soften. Flip all of the mushrooms and cook for a moment longer before adding the egg mixture.

Meanwhile, combine the eggs, crème fraîche, chives, salt, cayenne pepper, and turmeric in a bowl. Beat with a fork or whisk until thoroughly combined and frothy. When the mushroom caps look just about ready, pour this mixture on top and quickly move back the mushroom caps to a relatively even distribution in the pan. At this point, scatter the crumbled feta evenly over the top of the frittata.

raw shiitake

flipped shiitakeadd egg mixtureadd feta

 

Now, the hardest part: wait and don’t touch! Let the frittata set and cook evenly on the bottom. When you see it puff up a little and the edges start to brown ever so slightly, you know it’s time to flip. If, like me, you haven’t yet perfected your egg flip, take the pan over the sink. A little piece of wasted egg is a lot better than having to clean up a mess on the stove. I lift up the entire frittata with a spatula, letting the little bit of extra liquid from the top drip off the sides back into the pan, and then quickly flip the solid part. Don’t worry about cracks or broken pieces, these will mostly close up as the other side cooks.

time to flipflipped

 

After the frittata is cooked and ready, use your spatula to divide it in half. Plate half on each plate with some hot buttered toast, a few slices of heirloom tomatoes, and some sprigs of cilantro (or parsley, if you are cilantro-averse). You can change up the vegetables for many delicious combinations. Shiitake mushrooms and feta cheese are two of our favorite ingredients but you can add other things to them. We like adding spinach, onions, or even squash blossoms when they’re in season. Enjoy!

shiitake mushroom, chive, feta frittata

Heritage Bacon and Veggie Scramble

Heritage Bacon and Veggie Scramble

At the James house, this is one of our most decadent breakfasts. We don’t eat bacon very often but, when we do, it’s like this.

Start by chopping and cooking a couple slices of heritage bacon, starting with a cold pan (I like using my “Green Pan” for this because of it’s non-stick surface). This bacon is meatier, thicker, and a little more chewy than conventional bacon because the heritage breed pigs are spending their time foraging in the forest instead of eating feed in cramped pens. It’s tougher but giving it some TLC by slowly cooking it on low heat softens it up and the flavor is unmatched.

While waiting, scramble some eggs with sea salt, cayenne pepper, and turmeric. After the bacon is just about ready, drop in some chopped red onion and shiitake mushroom caps, flipping them a few times while they cook. Once the mushrooms are soft, add a couple handfuls of raw spinach and stir until the spinach is completely wilted.

At this point, it’s time to pour the egg mixture over the veggies and bacon. Resist the urge to mix! Instead, let the bottom set and brown a little before folding it over. It’s completely fine for some of it to break apart but letting it set and brown makes a big difference for texture and flavor. After you’ve flipped the pieces and there isn’t any more egg liquid visible, take it off the stove and serve it with hot buttered toast.

Summertime Panzanella

Panzanella

This is our summertime go-to dinner. This time of year, the farmers’ market is teeming with fresh produce, the tomatoes are ripe and oh-so-juicy, and the weather is hot enough that you really don’t want to turn on the stove or oven. Even though we have these salads all the time, my husband basically begs for panzanella anytime he sees tomatoes on the counter. Tonight he said, “it looks really good and it tastes a lot better than it looks.”

Tonight’s panzanella featured heirloom tomatoes, avocado, red onion, cilantro, red radishes, crusty “country” bread from Tartine Bakery, a generous pour of olive oil, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt. After mixing these ingredients and letting the bread soak up the juices from the bottom of the bowl, I sprinkled some Point Reyes blue cheese on top.

One of my favorite things about panzanella salad is that you can make it with any combination of fresh produce that suits you. Other ingredients that often appear in my summertime panzanellas are: cucumbers, yellow peppers, raw fennel, scallions, basil, sheep’s milk feta cheese, hard boiled eggs, celery, green garlic, and anything else that appealed to me at the farmers’ market and made its way into my refrigerator or onto my counter.

What might you put in your summertime panzanella?