Roasted and Stuffed Italian Acorn Squash


Roasted and Stuffed Italian Acorn Squash | Culinary Compost Recipes

The final product, after topping with shredded hard Parmesan cheese.

This is a recipe based on one from an Italian friend who uses halved zucchini. After receiving verbal instructions on the preparation, I winged it with an acorn squash I had on hand. Precook the squash in the oven before stuffing it with the sausage and vegetables to ensure it is fork-tender and mellow.  It takes time to set up, but you’ll be impressed by the result. This is an amazing mid-summer garden recipe your whole family will enjoy.

 

Ingredients:

1 large acorn squash – about 8-9″ in length and 6″ in diameter
2 tbs. XV olive oil
2 Johnsonville mild Italian sausage links, casings removed and crumbled
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium-sized green or red bell garden pepper, seeded and diced
1 medium-hot Hungarian wax garden pepper, seeded and diced
2 medium vine-ripe garden tomatoes, diced
2 large, fresh garden basil leaves, minced
Small handful fresh garden Italian oregano leaves, minced
1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup shredded hard Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. garlic granules
Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°-F. Cut and prep all ingredients so you have them on hand and ready to go.

Wash and pat dry the squash. Using a very sharp chef’s knife and a steady hand, carefully slice the squash in half around the middle, perpendicular to the stem. Use EXTREME CAUTION so you don’t slip and cut yourself. The flesh and outer rind are very tough. Remove the seeds and membrane with a soup spoon. Cut a narrow section off of the base of each half so they sit flat. Place in a medium-sized shallow baking dish with the cupped interior facing up. Brush with 2 tbs. olive oil and season lightly with Kosher salt and black pepper. Bake uncovered in the oven for 15 minutes.

While the squash halves are baking, fry up the Italian sausage over medium heat in a heavy cast-iron skillet, breaking it apart as it browns with a spatula. Drain off the fat. Add the chopped onion. Stir until just translucent, about 7 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Add 1 tsp. garlic granules. Add the cayenne pepper. Add the diced bell and Hungarian pepper. Continue stirring until slightly softened. Remove and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the diced tomatoes, basil, oregano and Mozzarella cheese. Fold in lightly to combine.

Reduce oven temperature to 375°-F.  Using thick oven mitts, carefully remove the baking tray from the oven. Spoon in the mixture, dividing between the two squash halves.

Place the baking dish back in the oven and bake uncovered for an additional 30 minutes at 375°-F.

Remove again and carefully top each half with the shredded Parmesan cheese. Bake again uncovered for ten minutes, until the cheese has melted.

Remove, let stand for ten minutes and serve.

Serves 2

NOTE: When perfectly done, the texture of the squash should not be mushy or soupy. It should easily peel away from the outer rind with a spoon, but still have some firmness.

Roasted and Stuffed Italian Acorn Squash | Culinary Compost Recipes

Roasted and Stuffed Italian Acorn Squash | Culinary Compost Recipes

Pre-baking the squash at 400°-F with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.

Roasted and Stuffed Italian Acorn Squash | Culinary Compost Recipes

Preparing the Italian sausage mixture in a mixing bowl.

Roasted and Stuffed Italian Acorn Squash | Culinary Compost Recipes

The sausage mixture after roasting in the squash for one-half hour at 375°-F.

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Pan-Seared Japanese Shishito Peppers


Pan-Seared Japanese Shishito Peppers | Culinary Compost Recipes

This is a classic Asian appetizer recipe, traditionally served in Japanese restaurants as an accompaniment to sushi. The peppers are impossible to find in local supermarkets here, but I’m told you can get them fresh at Trader Joe’s — my brother had the foresight to plant them in his garden this year and was nice enough to share. While the chilies are reputedly very mild, the rumor is that one-in-ten are mind-numbingly spicy — so proceed with caution if you’re planning on serving them to hapless guests.  The recipe also traditionally calls for the Japanese Yuzu fruit, instead of a lemon or lime. If you can find one, use it.


Ingredients:

10 fresh garden Japanese Shishito peppers
2 heaping tbs. Panko bread crumbs, toasted in a skillet over medium-low heat
1 fresh lime – cut into eighths
Kosher salt
1 tbs. Sesame oil

Dipping Sauce:
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp. hot chili sambal paste
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger root
Dash of fresh lime juice

 

Directions:

Rinse the peppers under cold water in colander. Pierce each with a toothpick and leave the stems on. Set aside. Preheat a cast-iron pan or wok over medium heat on a stovetop or outdoor charcoal grill.

Toast the Panko bread crumbs in a small cast-iron skillet over medium heat; about six to eight minutes, shaking often. Remove and transfer to a small serving bowl.

Prepare the dipping sauce ingredients and whisk together. Transfer to a small serving bowl.

When the skillet or wok is preheated, add the Shishito peppers and toss with about 1 tbs. sesame oil to coat. Spread them out and let them char slightly before turning. Turn and watch them so they don’t scorch. Total cooking time is roughly 10-12 minutes depending on the temperature of your grill or burner. Remove from the heat and add a dash of lime juice and Kosher salt. Stir and then sprinkle with the toasted Panko bread crumbs.

Serve with the soy dipping sauce.

Serves 4-6

Pan-Seared Japanese Shishito Peppers | Culinary Compost Recipes

Pickled Habañero Peppers, Escabeche


Pickled Habañero Peppers, Escabeche

Here’s a quick recipe for making the most out of late-harvest garden habañero peppers. Pickle in pint jars and then store them in your fridge for up to three months. Of course, as an alternative, you can always bag and freeze them.

Please note that these are not sterilized by hot-canning in boiling water. You MUST refrigerate them or they will spoil. Let them sit a few days in the fridge before using for maximum flavor. This recipe will also work well with fresh jalapeños or other hot chilis. Enjoy!

 

Ingredients:

12-14 sliced habañero peppers with seeds, washed and stemmed.
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tbs. whole tri-color peppercorns
1 large bay leaf – crushed
2 tbs. table salt
2 tbs. white sugar
1 cup filtered water
1 cup apple cider vinegar

1 sterilized Mason pint jar with lid and screw-down ring

 

Directions:

Wash the Mason jar, lid and screw-down ring in hot, soapy water. Set aside. Wash, stem and slice the habañero peppers. Set aside.

In a medium heavy stock pot, bring the apple cider vinegar and water to a boil and add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat.

Layer the peppers and brine in the pint Mason jar, ensuring that all of the spices are added. (The brine will amount to a tad more than one pint.)  Pack tightly and fill with brine to 1/4″ from rim.  Seal with the canning lid and screw-down ring.  Wipe down with a damp rag and let sit on your counter to cool for one hour before refrigerating.  AGAIN – this recipe must be refrigerated to avoid spoiling.

Makes 1 pint.

Eula Mae’s Maque Choux (Stewed Corn and Tomatoes)


A classic, Acadian French-Indian inspired side dish from Louisiana.

Ingredients:

2 tbs. butter
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup seeded and chopped green bell pepper
4 cups kernel corn (canned, fresh or frozen, but thawed)
1 medium-sized tomato, peeled and chopped
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. Tabasco® hot pepper sauce

Directions:

Melt butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring often until soft – about five minutes.

Add the corn, tomato, salt and pepper sauce. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered, until the corn is tender, about 10-15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Note: the traditional method uses rendered bacon fat instead of butter.

Recipe courtesy Tabasco.com

Southwest Pork Chili Verde


Southwest Pork Chili Verde Recipe | Culinary Compost Recipes

Pork Chili Verde (carne de cerdo chili verde, green chili or green chili stew) is a legendary dish rarely found east of the Rio Grande. Known as “the other chili” by chiliheads, this recipe is as authentic as they come.

Pork Chili Verde evolved from a stew concocted by the native Hopi and Anasazi tribes of the desert southwest many hundred years ago. They incorporated yams, potatoes, javalina (an aggressive, pissed-off peccary that looks like a wild boar) and large green peppers that were indigenous to Mexico and traded north. Eventually, by AD 700, the cultivation of these chilies (poblanos, Hatch New Mexican green, Anaheim varieties) spread throughout the desert southwest as well, and heavily influenced the regional Spanish culture after AD 1600. The use of peppers, some form of meat and spice boiled in a crude stoneware pot over an open fire spans back many thousands of years to a time well before the Aztec, Maya and Olmec cultures of middle America.

The recipe is traditionally quite spicy. Sadly, it is almost unheard of in the Midwest.

Its popularity today is evident the minute you step into a southwest restaurant or cantina. There you’ll see it served over burritos, on tacos, huevos rancheros, or all by itself with a big mug of Corona beer and some tortillas on the side for dipping.

 

Ingredients:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, good quality (you can use part rendered bacon fat for a richer base)
2-1/2 to 3 lbs lean pork shoulder or cubes, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
2 large Spanish onions, coarse chopped
1 bulb fresh garlic, sections peeled and fine chopped
2 dry bay leaves
3 large carrots (yes, carrots), peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch chunks
6-8 jalapeños, diced, with seeds (gut ‘em if you want a milder batch)
(2) 27oz. cans Hatch* whole mild New Mexican green chilies, drained and cut into 1/4 inch strips, OR
8 large, fresh poblano peppers, cored, roasted and peeled
(*You will have to go to a Mexican market for these. They are impossible to find in most supermarkets in such large cans.)
(5) 8oz. cans chicken stock (Swanson is a good brand)
1-1/2 tbs. dried Mexican oregano leaf
2 tsp. ground chipotle powder, to taste
2 tbs. cumin seed, toasted over medium heat in a skillet, and ground in a mortar
2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1 potato, peeled and grated (about 1 cup)
2 tbs. masa harina (corn meal) used as thickener

Top with sour cream and fresh-chopped cilantro

 

Preparation:

In a five-quart dutch oven, (preferably cast iron) heat about two tbs. olive oil to medium-high heat and brown the pork until no longer pink. You will want to work in batches; possibly using another large frying pan as well. I like this method as it prevents crowding the meat, resulting in a more even sear.

Using a Chinese spider strainer, remove the meat from the fat and reserve in the dutch oven, covered on low heat.

Sauté the onions and jalapeños in a heavy, cast-iron fry pan until very tender, about 20 min. Transfer to the dutch oven. Carefully sauté the chopped garlic by reducing the heat, as it burns easily and will taste bitter if scorched.

Increase heat on dutch oven to medium. Add the chicken stock, spices and Hatch chilies or poblanos. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1-1/2 hours uncovered, stirring frequently. Add the carrot and shredded potato and cook an additional 1/2 hour until tender.

For best results, prepare the day before and then reheat and serve. Chili is one dish that really benefits from an overnight rest. You can add the cornmeal at this time to thicken it up to your liking, but generally Green Chili should have a stew-like consistency. You may also adjust the seasoning (salt/heat) at this time.

Freezes well… but you won’t have any leftovers.

Makes 4.5 quarts.

 

Roasting poblano peppers with a propane torch | Culinary Compost

Roasting poblano peppers with a propane torch. The tough outer skin is unpalatable and should be removed before baking.