My favorite new veggie du stagione (that’s season in Italian, of course) is winter squash.  We’re talking much more than pumpkin.

I guess, like many others – I have a love affair with pumpkin through the fall season.  Yes, I know it is popular to trash pumpkin because it has become so darn ubiquitous (you know it’s a problem when Starbucks makes a latte out of it).

But, as a squash: pumpkin and its much more succulent cousins: delicata, Hubbard, kabocha, Blue Hubbard, butternut — it is a ubiquitous cold weather treat.

Easy as hell to prepare: half it (or, if really large: section it) and pop it in the oven to roast.  Lots of techniques on the sectioning part — because attacking any of these tough-skinned vegetables can be perilous.  Guy on the farmers market told me, hold it in your hands – at about waist height – and take it down to the ground/floor.  It cracks into cookable pieces.  I have found best to wrap it in a towel — the splunk can send seeds and stringy goo all over your kitchen.

My brilliant friend Victoria Granof, food style and cook extraordinaire, follows the advice of some television cook whose name I forget, who says put the whole squash in the over for 15 minutes at some degrees — probably 400-ish.  It doesn’t cook, but becomes super easy to cut.

What can you do:

eat it roasted as is, puree it and make recipes requiring pumpkin:

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal: 1/2 c. pumpkin puree, 3/4 c almond milk, 1/c oatmeal, cinnamon/pumpkin pie spice/dash salt/vanilla. I use a couple drops of the real-deal stevia and 2 t. brown sugar.  Cook for 10 minutes at 375 degrees, top with 1 T sliced almonds & 1 t. brown sugar – and cook another 10 minutes.  One serving.  And for those who are counting 7 WeightWatchers® points.

Squash soup.  Veggie boullion cube, 2 cups water, shallots & onions, some roasted kabocha (2 cups maybe?), a 1/2 c unsweetened applesauce – cook it up a bit – and have at it with a cook’s best friend: the immersion blender.  Zero WW® points.

And, the list goes on – use your imagination.

Oh by the way, the beautiful lady with the delicata is Signora Maria, straight from Bagnacavallo near Bologna — created by Italian artist Anna Tazzari – a beautiful woman in every way – and extraordinarily talented.

S Maria and Squash

 

 

This little apple faces extinction in Bagnacavallo – the small Italian town not far from Bologna. It is called a Florina. It tastes like the essence of appleness: crisp when bitten, juicy but not slurpy, the perfect combination of sweet/tart. Like an apple, only better. 

I met Florina while visiting the home of Anna Tazzari – the creator of Signora Maria. Her husband Massimo explained to me that you could not buy this apple in a store – you could only pick it off a tree or buy it at a farm stand. 

Sad, this little Florina – I hope she makes it in the world of Honeycrisps. 

October, 2015: my annual voyage to Italy.

I visited my cugini in Bologna. I really love to spend time with cugina (Italo-Americano) Paul, his beautiful Italian wife Laura, and one of their daughters: the adorable Michelle. The other daughter, Alessandra, is in California right now – attending high school in the Bay Area.

Bologna is, as I mentioned in a prior post, in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Pretty much when you think of Italian food, you are really thinking of food from this region: prosciutto, lasagna, tortellini, ragu, etc.

Food in Italy — as in many countries, even the USA — is regional. On this trip, I discovered many foods that, for the most part, haven’t “travelled” to American tables. Like:

Tigella – you can read about these little discs of breadliness in my post – Tigella Paradiso

Garganelli – a quill-shaped egg pasta served in brodo or with ragu. Maybe I have seen this pasta shape before, but I don’t remember. It is the pasta being held in the left hand of my new “friend” from Bagnocavallo:  Signora Maria.

You can read all about my adventures with Sig. Maria on my sister blog, rulingwoman.com. In short, I learned to make this pasta and fully intend to do so when I return to America. 

Giuggiole (JEW-joh-lay) is this fruit that grows on trees around Bologna.  

It looks like a nut. When you bite into it, it has a crunch and taste like an apple, with a pit.  Beautiful. I’d like a sweater in the colors of the giuggiole.  And, finally

Passatelli in brodo. Very VERY regional. My cugini and I went to a restaurant on my last night in Bologna. When the waitress spieled off the dishes for the night, she mentioned Passatelli. My cugina, Laura, was delighted when she heard that, and immediately ordered it. “What is it,” I entreated.  It is a “pasta” made out of Parmesan, breadcrumbs, eggs, lemon and nutmeg that is pushed through a press with holes (extruded almost like spaetzle though not quite). Passare –  passed through. Dropped into a rich, steaming-hot broth. The waitress ladled this brothy, cheesy, doughy bit of wonderfulness into our bowls. Yep, I slurped it right up, I’m sure of it! Luckily, I didn’t have my phone with me, so nothing could stop me from diving right into this sensuous repast. 

In the midst of a vacation filled with (albeit delicious) street and restaurant meals, it is a delight here in Italia to have a good ol’ home-cooked dinner. 

Dinner with the the cugini in Bologna. With typical Emilia-Romagna foods. 

At the bottom – un “panino” of prosciutto and mortadella on a handmade tigella. The tigella (seen in the basket) is yeasty dough placed in a tigelliera — a cooking vessel with two plates of six circles each.  You heat like a grill.  Put a circle of dough in each circle – and press together. Cook, then flip.  Then toss into a basket. Kind of pita meets crumpet. 

Split then fill. Funny, isn’t it, how every ethnic group has some kind of filled bread food. Pita. Taco. Dumpling. 

On the table: carciofi, prosciutto cotto, squacquerone, funghi rustici, salumi culatello, rucola. 

Squisito!

 

 
Before I regale you with my list of food I ate at the great Minnesota Get-Together — I just have to talk about this piglet I met  at the Swine Barn. They do not make a cute alert LARGE enough for this little three-day-old creature. I recommend you make a copy of this and every time you get sad or blue or angry or just plain bummed: look at this creature. I defy you not to smile. 

 So here’s what I ate — sometimes sharing with my State Fair “husband.”

Honey sunflower ice cream, honey tasting, corn on the cob, “Blue Cheese Corn Fritz” (corn fritters with blue cheese, corn kernels served with dipping sauce), half of a succulent sweet peach, Pronto Pup, Walleye-stuffed mushrooms, German Nic Nacs (double crunch peanuts), couple sips of beer – including maple bacon beer, draft root beer, shared turkey sandwich, tasting of cheese cubes, and a bite of a “rollover” (apple turnover). 

I read my list to a Minnesota friend and he said it sounded like a lot. To my State Fair “husband” it seemed like a hell of a lot less than years past–by a third from our peak. 

 

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I just love the farmers market during Summer.  This is not my fave season, although if you have friends with a beach house — as it turns out I do —  life is certainly greatly improved.  But, goodness, the market is lush with fruits and vegetables for the most healthful cooking.  And, living.

Of course, we are in the middle of peach season – yummy.  Eaten in the hand, or sliced into whole grain cereal and a dash of nutmeg, or macerated in cognac with a scrape of vanilla bean.  And, that’s if you aren’t going to cook cobblers, pies, crumbles.

Summer Wonders

Summer Wonders

This weekend, at the Union Square greenmarket in Manhattan, I happened upon the cutest little tomatoes.  Larger than cherries, smaller than standard.  With a deep orange/red color and topped with a dash of burgundy.  Wonderful.  I cut them up and added them to my sautéed fairytale eggplants, with some roast chicken.  And a crumble of James Brown blue cheese from the Cato Corner farm.

I would show you that dish, but gee, it seems to have disappeared.  But, here are some of my market goodies sitting on my NYC kitchen windowsill.

 

This is the time of the year when I cook up some of my grandmother’s garden vegetable dishes: with fresh green beans or zucchini. When I was growing up, you could not get me to eat them.  Now, they are not only redolent and evocative of my youth, they are simply delicious!

Grandma’s Green Beans

2 Tomatoes (Beefsteak are fine, no sense overpaying for heirlooms at this time of the year)

3 handfuls of Green beans (look for those flat Roma beans – but any type or color will work)

2 or 3 smallish Potatoes (I like the little Yukon Golds — starting to see the first picks of the season)

3-4 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Cut up the tomatoes, put them in a saucepan first — they create most of the liquid you will need for this dish.  Cut up the potatoes into biggish chunks then toss in the green beans. I remove the ends – cook’s choice.  Drizzle on the olive oil, pour in (maybe) a couple of tablespoons of water, salt and pepper.  Put on the lid and cook at a low, slow simmer.  20-30 minutes or so.  This is no al dente affair.  More like a vegetable stew.  I let the potatoes determine the length of the cook.  If you pick a potato that can stand up to the cook, you should be fine.

Buon appetito!

 

 

There are two products on the market that have been bugging me — so I gotta get this off my chest. 

A diet drink called “Diet Cane Sugar Soda” and an iced confection called “Greek Frozen Yogurt.”  Really?!

This’ll be brief. Cane sugar is, well, sugar!  Diet sodas use artificial sweeteners. Maybe the cane sugar is buried in the “natural flavors” though that doesn’t seem plausible for a drink that labels itself as cane sugar. And while we’re at it, what ARE natural flavors?

Now to Greek Frozen Yogurt. Greek yogurt is a texture — made by straining yogurt and removing the whey until you get that nice, creamy consistency. Hey, I’m not trashing greek yogurt – it is a staple in my diet. But, when you add it into the other ingredients and toss it into your industrial ice cream maker, isn’t it really just fro-yo in a pretty (that is: marketing) dress?

Just sayin’