Tuesday, September 14, 2010

sMac-ked by Fall

Fall, people. Fall.

Sweaters. Football. The smell of the air. The comfort food. I always get excited when the seasons turn, but especially when fall arrives. To me, the telltale signs of the season include, but are not limited to: Minnesota air temp suddenly drops below 60 degrees seemingly overnight, green tomatoes abundant at the farmers market, fantasy football draft takes place, football begins, I lose my first fantasy game by one stinking point (one point!! Grrrrrrr.), the pugs shed less, the pugs pant less on walks, the Minnesota State Fair is over in a blink, and the urge to hibernate takes on sudden strength, making it nearly impossible to exit the warm bed.

Another sign of fall: pumpkins and squash roasting to tender yumminess.

I'd like to assert the opinion that if you've never roasted a whole pumpkin or butternut squash, you should just do it as soon as possible. Even if you have no intention of making my recipe below. Use it for homemade pumpkin pie or something. Anything. Just try it. First of all, just the act of successfully halving one of these behemoths makes you feel like a hero. Second, when you taste the end product, you'll never buy canned purée again.

Last year I made up this recipe based on a pizza I tried that had butternut squash and smoked mozzarella, and oh my. Yumazing, people. Yumazing. Something about the smoky and the sweet in harmony really did a little number on my usual flavor-pairing logic.

Notable disclosure on the subject: this is honestly one of my most favorite dishes I have ever made. So easy and good. My husband on the other hand, not so much. I think his exact word was, "eh." You be the tiebreaker.

Recipe for Mac & Cheese with Smoked Mozzarella and Butternut Squash Cream Sauce:

  • 2 cups of elbow pasta
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • Fresh smoked mozzarella (enough to fill a cup or so when diced)
  • Fresh chopped basil (about a tbsp)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

First, you'll need to roast the squash. Slice the squash in half length-wise and scoop out the seeds. Place the two halves skin-side down on a roasting pan. Roast at 425 for 30-40 minutes until soft. Remove from the oven and let cool until you can comfortably handle. Scoop the fleshy orange goop into a food processor and cover, leaving that small opening at the very top for steam to escape. Pulse a few times, then mix continuously while slowly adding the cream in a steady stream through the opening. Add only enough cream to get the roasted squash to a sauce-like consistency.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling salted water to al dente and drain. Add the pasta back to the pot and cover with the hot sauce. Then stir in as much or as little diced mozzarella as you like (I like a lot. Cheese is my weakness.) so the cheese melts just a little, but small chunks remain. Taste for salt and pepper, (it will probably need salt) and stir in the chopped basil. Is best served with a glass of red wine, a good movie, and a cozy blanket.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

In Defense of Turkey Burgers

The first time I ever tried a turkey burger was a little over 2 years ago, when I had first moved to NYC. I had never seen so many menus offering turkey burgers.

What is this all about? I thought.
I order. I bite. Oh.

I don't really consider myself a turkey burger kind of gal. I don't know what that actually means; I realize the implications of how that may come across. A turkey burger seems like something salad-eaters eat. And I'm not really a salad kind of gal. I have nothing against salad, just lettuce. I also have nothing against salad-eaters, unless you're on a lettuce diet, with which I might take issue. All I'm really saying is, when it comes to burgers, I usually go for whatever will clog my arteries the fastest.

But this turkey burger thing... it's good. I'm diggin it. You've got to add some stuff to it to give it a little flavor, otherwise it's way too lean and bland. Which is also how I feel about lettuce.

Recipe for easy Turkey Burgers topped with Guacamole and Roasted Red Pepper:
  • 1 lb ground turkey meat
  • 1/3 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp green Tabasco sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Make a batch of Guacamole
  • Fire up a Roasted Red Pepper
  • Burger buns of choice

Heat a cast iron or heavy skillet with a little olive oil on med-high. In a big bowl, mix the turkey, red onion, cheese, cilantro, Tabasco, salt and pepper with your hands. Shape into burger patties and cook on the grill until nice and crusty brown on both sides and firm enough to let you know it is cooked throughout. Top with guacamole (and don't forget the chips to snack on extra guac) and a roasted red pepper slab. Devour, and envision your cholesterol lowering. Or maybe not.