Roasted Pumpkin Gratin
Having a late lunch at a local cafe, I was introduced to a glorious little side dish, very seasonal, and fairly easy to make. If one uses a puree of roasted pumpkin the taste is even more heavenly.
Needless to say since this was well after the lunch rush and before dinner service, I was able to chat up the server and later the chef to extract an approximate recipe.
This is a savory dish, NOT sweet. A wonderful replacement for sweet potatoes.
Pumpkins are very versatile in their uses for cooking. Most parts of the pumpkin are edible, including the fleshy shell, the seeds, the leaves, and even the flowers. In the United States, pumpkin is a very popular Halloween and Thanksgiving staple. Although most Americans use store-bought canned pumpkin, homemade pumpkin purée can serve the same purpose.
When ripe, the pumpkin can be boiled, baked, steamed, or roasted. In its native North America, it is a very important, traditional part of the autumn harvest, eaten mashed and making its way into soups and purees. Often, it is made into pie, various kinds of which are a traditional staple of the Canadian and American Thanksgiving holiday. In Mexico and the U.S., the seeds are often roasted and eaten as a snack.
Fish Friday – Stuffed Cherry Peppers
On my last night in the UK and old friend took me to Jamie Oliver’s new restaurant. The fare was Italian / Mediterranean, and as such was geared to pasta, fish and veggies. Of the appetizers, two caught my eye, Fried Ravioli, and Stuffed Cherry Peppers.
As to the Fried Ravioli, I am glad to see others with my twist of mind. In regards to the stuffed cherry peppers, they were quite, quite nice. After a bit research, I find these are all the rage in Italy as an quick snack, and maybe even a way to get me to eat more fish.
Now while the Cherry pepper is quite mild, one could apply this to other more piquant peppers as well. (Thinking of appetizers for an upcoming event)
A pimento or cherry pepper is a variety of large, red, heart-shaped chili pepper (Capsicum annuum) that measures 3 to 4 inches (7 to 10 cm) long and 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7 cm) wide (medium, elongate). The flesh of the pimento is sweet, succulent and more aromatic than that of the red bell pepper. Some varieties of the pimento type are hot, including the Floral Gem and Santa Fe Grande varieties. “Pimiento” is the Spanish word. “Pimento” or “pimentão” are Portuguese words for “bell pepper”, while “pimenta” refers both to chili peppers and to black peppercorns. It is typically used fresh, or pickled and jarred. The pimento has one of the lowest Scoville scale ratings of any chili pepper.
More Pub Grub – Bangers and Mash
Ok, I’ve in London again. After finishing at the office at a reasonable hour, and still able to hunt around and find good food, I’ve managed to find a whole array of new tastes. (Call it pub food, brit pub food.)
Wandering around Covent Garden, which is packed with restaurants, bars and fashionable boutiques and recognized as the capital’s premier entertainment and leisure destination. I came across a wonderful little pub on Bradfordbury street. There signature dish was wild boar sausages with mash. Now I am sure I can not get wild boar in the US, unless I shoot one of the TV chef’s, (whoops that’s a bore not a boar…;) )
Wild Card – Mini Jackets
One of the “starters” offered at a upscale restaurant on Piccadilly, and a very sumptuous one at that.
Of course, there are those who are asking the question, “Sumptuous, Potatoes?”, and my answer is, “Yes, Potatoes!”
Rich, creamy, with really crisp, crunchy skins and fluffy, floury insides with something lovely melted into them?
I am not talking about the usual microwaved messes, that are shriveled, dried out, and generally just not up to the task, but I am talking about the largest potato you can find, slow cooked, (say for an hour), then split open with a crisp crackle of the skin, fluffed with a fork, and drizzled with butter, kosher salt and pepper. This is the most simple form of comfort food I know of. Now here is my twist…
These are not HUGE potatoes, these are mini bite sized potatoes, and mixed variates, Yukon gold, red, russet, and purple. Baked, hulled, mixed and stuffed..
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Wednesday’s Antipasta – Pinzimonio
Summer and the world of fresh vibrant vegetables opens. Forget the dish of olive oil with your bread served at Italian restaurants here: it is not done in Italy. Pinzimonio is a wonderful, flavorful way to assess and appreciate the virtues of a special bottle of extra-virgin olive oil.
It’s basically a platter of raw vegetables — baby fennel, celery, red bell peppers, cauliflower, carrots, scallions, celery, olives, etc, cut into pieces and served with a small bowl of that deep-green-gold olive oil, the very best you can afford.
Olio nuovo, new oil, (green and with a hint of grass taste) is the ultimate. It’s usually accompanied by sea salt, and add a grinding of black peppercorns, too….
When those beautiful purple artichokes are in season, the ones you can eat raw.. You can add lightly blanched green beans, Belgian endive leaves or other vegetables in season, radishes, strips of zucchini, snap peas, cauliflower, whatever you’ve got.
Some say simplicity is the most important, but I have never let what people say get between me and what tastes good. So adding small dishes of balsamic vinegar, or djion mustard for those with a serious taste kick is more than legit.
One can go over the top and add langostino, scampi, shell fish, and other items as add ons for a true rogue chef kick.
Fat Tuesday – Black Bean Hummus
It’s getting warmer, not horrible, but warmer, and Madam Bad Wolf has asked for some lighter luncheon fare, I on the other hand am reveling in unfettered access to my grill and the manly art of burning meat over an open fire…
Then again IF I wish to sleep in the house, perhaps a lighter bit of tuck would be nice.
A simple compromise, (Please note US Congress, compromise is possible), say something Mid-Eastern / Mediterranean, quick, fast, savory, and with a strong umami….
Hummus is a dip or spread made from cooked, mashed chickpeas, blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic. It is a popular food in various local forms throughout the Middle Eastern world. While cuisine-related sources carry forward a folklore which describes hummus as one of the oldest known prepared foods, its historical origins are unknown with a long history in the Middle East which stretches back to antiquity. It is probable that is only dates back some 2000 years or so.
As an appetizer and dip hummus is scooped with flatbread (such as pita). Hummus is also served as part of a meze or as an accompaniment to falafel, grilled chicken, fish or Baba Ganoush. Garnishes include chopped tomato, cucumber, cilantro, parsley, sautéed mushrooms, whole chickpeas, olive oil, hard-boiled eggs, paprika, ful, olives and pickles. Outside the Middle East it is sometimes served with tortilla chips or crackers. In fact it is almost as ubiquitous as peppers in Thai cooking, and acts as a “velcro” to allow many disparate food items to blend together to form a pleasing meal.
It is written that some early Jewish settlers in modern Israel rejected everything that reeked of Diaspora and an eager, almost childish, embrace of the Levant. The infatuation with falafel and hummus, staples of Arabic cuisine, started there. The outcome, according to others, was that “Shawarma, falafel and hummus soon became “sabra” foods,” a part of everyday meals in Israel. Many restaurants in Israel are dedicated to hot hummus, which may be served as chick peas softened with baking soda along with garlic, olive oil, cumin and tahini. One of the more upscale hummus versions available is made with lemon-spiked tahini garnished with whole chick peas, a sprinkling of paprika and garnished with hot-peppers and drizzled with olive oil.