Butternut Squash Polenta with Sausage and Onion

Butternut Squash Polenta

When I saw this recipe in the New York Times last week, I though, why have I never thought of adding grated winter squash to polenta? It seems like such a natural paring and after trying this dish I can tell you it is a delicious natural paring and one I’ll be using from now on.

Grated squashThe recipe is quick and easy taking a little over 30 minutes to complete. Grated winter squash is simmered with polenta and bay leaf until they are tender, then you add a little butter and black pepper and the polenta is done. While the polenta cooks, you brown the sausage and caramelize the onions.  What could be easier? Add a nice green salad and dinner is served.

Butternut Squash Polenta 2

Polenta simmering with grated winter squash and bay leaf.

I used andouille sausage since I had some in the freezer and loved the contrast between the spicy sausage and the sweet taste of the squash and onions. I think you could use just about any kind of sausage and have a satisfying result. I did use rosemary but not the fennel seeds, mostly because I didn’t have them on hand. Using sage instead of rosemary could also be a nice variation.

Thanks to Melissa Clark at the New York Times for this keeper. You can find the recipe, a “how to” video and more information about polenta here.

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Another Idea For Shredded Brussels Sprouts

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While reading some articles this morning I came upon another idea using shredded brussels sprouts. This one, found on the blog Food52, is from Danny Meyer & Michael Romano‘s classic Union Square Café Cookbook. The description: “a brussels sprout recipe that will bring a bright new pattern to your life: the hash. Hashing combines the best of our favorite techniques — the loft of a raw shredded salad with the warmth and toasted edges of high-heat roasting or frying. It takes little time or planning to pull off and, just in time for January, gives you a light — but not too light — new favorite.”

OK I’m sold. Will be trying this soon. Hope you will too.

Union Square Café’s Hashed Brussels Sprouts with Poppy Seeds and Lemon

New Year’s Eve Leftovers for Lunch

Well 2013 shot by like a rocket. My great aunt once told me the older you get the faster time goes. As I near 70 I can testify she was spot on with that observation.

I thought I’d try again at keeping Anniespickns going. One would think that a retired person would have tons of time to write and take pictures but I haven’t found that to be true. It’s more like I have found sooooooo many things that peak my interest and take my time that Anniespickns has suffered.  Sometimes the interest has been there but it gets replaced with something even more interesting. So, it’s a new year, a time, they say, for new beginnings.

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New Years Eve I cooked a rack of lamb, garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach for myself. The rack had about eight bones so I naturally had leftovers. After a beautiful bike ride along the river, in sunny upper sixty degree weather today, I came home hungry and ready to eat some leftovers.  I knew I had a few brussels sprouts in the fridge so I decided to saute some in olive with a few shitake mushrooms, sweet Maui onions, and a clove roasted garlic as an accompaniment to the leftover lamb. I also treated myself to a glass of Pinot Nior, also a leftover. Hard to drink a whole bottle of wine by one’s self even on New Year’s Eve.DSCN6544I really love brussels sprouts prepared this way they are quick and delicious. Just cut off the end stem, remove the outside leaves, cut them in half and slice thinly. Don’t overcook them, just saute them lightly. Sometimes I thinly slice bacon, saute it until almost crisp, then saute some onion in the bacon fat, add the slivered brussels sprouts and quickly saute them. In my book there isn’t much that doesn’t taste good with a little bacon.

Other ideas for brussels sprouts can be found at:

How I Learned to Love Brussels Sprouts

Monday’s Two-fer

Monday’s Two-fer

Ok, so it’s been forever since I’ve posted. I could sit here and give you a hundred reasons why I haven’t but I’m not going to. I’m only going to say that this winter has been very mild, in fact it is Spring here in California’s Central Valley and has been for over a month. I have Spring fever so bad that I can hardly get anything done that doesn’t have to do with fiddling around outside and since blogging and cooking are indoor activities they are both down the list of fun things to do, at least to my thinking lately. But as sometimes happens, guilt shows up and I start to rethink my priorities. A very nice email from a blogging friend in Texas, Jack Mathews of Sage to Meadow, recently arrived. It was Jack’s choices for his 2011 Prairie Sagebrush Awards for blogging. The award recognizes bloggers Jack follows for their excellence in writing, photography and art on the blog. He included Anniespickns. That heated up the guilt. An award for blogging should be given to those who blog and that hasn’t been me lately.  It was also a nice reminder to myself that I do miss the writing, the research and discovery and I miss interacting with you, my readers.

So as I started to think about dinner tonight a post was born.

Monday’s Two-fer

Sometimes its just time to gather the leftover this-n-thats from the fridge and either toss em or get creative. Tonight was one of those times. Luckily the this-n-thats were worth saving so I got creative. I sliced the handful of Brussels sprouts, about the same amount of crimini mushrooms; some pieces of fried bacon along with half an onion then added a few cloves from some baked garlic.  First I fried the mushrooms, next the onion, then the sliced Brussels sprouts. Chop the bacon and garlic and toss with the other ingredients and there you have it. I had a little brown rice that I warmed up and served with this. That’s what you call a two-fer, clean fridge and full tummy.

There was even enough natural light coming in the kitchen window to shoot a quick photo.

How I learned to Love Brussels Sprouts – Anniespickns

Oregon Spuds and Eagles

Lower Klamath Refuge

I had been watching the weather for the past couple of weeks hoping that this dry spell that the West is going through would last through the long Martin Luther King holiday weekend. If it did I would head up to Klamath Falls, Oregon to do a little bird watching, specifically to view the large number of

Bald eagle in willow tree

raptors including bald eagles that can be found at Tule Lake and Lower Klamath Refuges  just below the California/Oregon border. We have raptors here where I live but not the quantity and variety that can be found at these refuges during the winter months. (We saw thirty-eight bald eagles in two days and as many as 8 standing on the frozen lake awaiting an opportunity at a goose carcass.) Dry weather would be the key since I don’t have 4×4.

My luck held and so I packed various layers of warm clothes, my boots and heavy coat and left Friday morning just after dawn for Nevada where I would meet up with Sis #2 for a road trip. From Minden, NV we headed north on 395 past the sprawl of Reno, through the more sparsely habitated areas of California’s high desert to Alturas, then on to Klamath Falls, a five hour journey if you don’t stop, meaning it took us much longer. What’s a good road trip without some interesting stops?

I have many fond memories of the Klamath area, having visited it off and on over the past twenty-some-odd years. One of the things that has become tradition after spending several chilly early morning hours watching birds in this literally frozen environment is to head back across the California state line to Merrill, OR for a hearty breakfast at Pappy Gander & Company. It had been at least 8 years since we had been to Merrill and we had high hopes that our traditional breakfast spot would still be open. We were in luck. It was.

Oregon grown Russet potatoes

Merrill is a small rural community with a population of less than 1000. It’s claim to fame; it’s home to an annual potato festival, a celebration held in October at the end of harvest. Not surprising since Merrill is located in Klamath County one of Oregon’s premier potato growing regions.

I can’t think of anything better with morning eggs than some crispy country fried potatoes and Merrill serves up some of the best. This particular morning a Chicken Fried Steak covered with delicious country gravy accompanied the eggs and potatoes. I think the duck hunters at the table across from ours were surprised that a couple of gals could match them in appetite. It was the perfect breakfast; it warmed us up and took us well into the afternoon. It was late in the afternoon, when we decided to head back into Klamath Falls for a bite to eat.  We stopped in at a little Thai restaurant in downtown and I had their Yellow Thai Curry, chocked full of chunks of beautiful potatoes. It was a potato kind of day.

That night as we were looking through some photos that we had downloaded on our laptops I got to thinking about the potatoes grown around Merrill. I knew potatoes grew in Idaho. Who hasn’t heard of Idaho potatoes but I didn’t really know much about potatoes grown in Oregon. I switched from photo browsing to a little information-surfing. Not only are potatoes grown in Oregon, it has one of the highest yields per acre of potatoes in the world at 53,000 pounds per acre and they farm over 36,500 acres. In the area around Merrill they grow various varieties of Russet, Yukon Gold, Purple and some certified organic, well as potatoes specifically grown for potato chips and seed. Historically the first potatoes were planted in Oregon by the crew of the ship “Ruby” on an island in the Columbia River, near Cape Disappointment in 1795. Twelve potatoes were planted and they produced 190 potatoes the first season. And by 1835  1,300 bushels of potatoes were produced at Fort Vancouver.

I found the Oregon Potato Commission site to be really informative and fun. Their Potato Trivia page has lots of interesting facts; the potato did not become popular in America until Benjamin Franklin tasted the potato served 20 different ways when he was ambassador to France and came back to America singing its praises, French Fries were introduced to Americans when President Thomas Jefferson served them at the White House and that potato chips were invented by mistake in 1853. One of the facts I found particularly interesting since I love California history was; during the California gold rush surplus potatoes from Oregon were packed by mule train, and later by wagon train to the miners. In 1849, four bushels of Oregon potatoes were selling for $500 in San Francisco.  Sounds like the Oregon potato farmers were doing better than some of the hard working miners.

Here’s a nice way to use potatoes in a soup. This recipe is one I’ve used for many years. It’s the perfect recipe for a cold wintry day. This recipe makes a lot so I usually end up freezing some for later use.

ready to cook

Portugese Bean Soup

Tom Bombadil’s Restaurant, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
Bon Appetite 1980

2 ham hocks (I prefer shanks over hocks)

1 12oz Portugese sausage (linguica), diced

3 medium potatoes

2 medium onions, diced

3 celery stalks, including leaves, chopped

ready to eat

2 medium carrots (4 oz), diced

1 medium-sized bell pepper, seeded, divined and chopped

1medium bunch parsley leaves, chopped

2 15oz cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained (I use Cannellini beans)

1 15oz tomato sauce (I use 1 15oz can chopped tomatoes and 1 8 oz can tomato sauce)

1 t salt

1 t freshly ground pepper

1 t hot pepper sauce (if the linguica is pretty hot you may not need or want to add this)

1 bay leaf

Combine ham hocks, and sausage in heavy size saucepan over medium-high heat and sauté 4 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and enough water to cover. Bring to boil, skimming foam from surface. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer about 2 hours. Remove ham hocks from soup; discard bones. Cut meat into bite-sized pieces. Blend into soup. Enjoy!

Versatile Cauliflower

It’s raining this morning, which is a nice break from the dense fog we have had lately. It’s nice to be able to see across the street even if the rain will ultimately bring more foggy conditions, I’m enjoying it.

This morning at the Farmers’ Market I picked up a beautiful head of cauliflower. It’s what some would consider on the small size, but because I am the only eating it, it’s just the right size. I also bought rainbow chard, carrots, celery and some apples to make into sauce.

I really like doing a little research on what I find at the market. I love learning more about things that have been part of my life for decades and about new things that I have just discovered.

While I have eaten cauliflower my whole life I never once considered the visual similarity between it and broccoli until I read the sentence; “Cauliflower and broccoli are the same species and have very similar structures, though cauliflower replaces the green flower buds with white inflorescence meristem” (An inflorescence is a group of flowers arranged on a stem that is composed of a main branch or a complicated arrangement of branches). I think this was so startling because I consider myself a very visual person and yet I hadn’t noticed something so obvious.  It was only when I allowed my curiosity to enter the process that I really saw the similarity. Now, I wonder what else is right in front of me that I’m not seeing?

Other interesting facts I found on my cauliflower quest were: its name is from the Italian cavolfiore, from cavolo cabbage and fiore flower and that it was introduced to France from Genoa in the 16th century. In today’s world there are four major groups of cauliflower; Italian (this is the ancestral form from which the others were derived), Northwest European (developed in France in the 19th century), Northern European (developed in Germany in the 18th century), and Asian (developed in India during the 19th century).  It was also noted that it is available in various colors beside white, including; green, purple, brown and yellow. To be honest, I haven’t tried the other colors. I have seen them in pictures and at a few gourmet markets. I’ve only eaten the white variety since that is what’s has been available at my market. But, if they do become available I’d definitely give them a try, especially if I can buy a small head.

This wonderful winter vegetable is low in fat and  high in dietary fiber and like many winter fruits and vegetables it is  high in vitamin C.

Cauliflower can be roasted, boiled (I don’t boil any vegetable except potatoes, I prefer steaming), fried, steamed or eaten raw. I’ve also read that low carb dieters use cauliflower as a reasonable substitute for potatoes. Hum, guess you would have to cook it until pretty soft to get the texture right when it’s pureed so that might be when they boil it. I still think I prefer the steam method. As you can see I haven’t tried it as a substitute for mashed potatoes.

steamed cauliflower with cheese sauce

roasted cauliflower with Parmesan

One of my childhood favorites is cauliflower that has been steamed till it’s just done then served with a simple cheese sauce. I have also tried it sliced, tossed with a good olive oil, salt and pepper then roasted until just browned then sprinkled with a nice Parmesan cheese. Another favorite is to slice the florets and steam them then toss with a pat of butter, salt and pepper.

Here’s a interesting way to fix cauliflower as a snack,  cauliflower popcorn. It’s an idea from Earth Eats by Annie Corrigan. They have all kinds of interesting articles on their site.

Another site with a yummy vegetarian version is Pinch My Salt, it’s steamed cauliflower with a curry butter and almonds. The recipe was adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison.

Cauliflower matches well with foods such as almonds and walnuts, bacon and ham, cheese, curry and hollandaise sauces, breadcrumbs, butter, lemon, mushrooms, herbs like chervil, chives, parsley and spices like nutmeg.

As you can see cauliflower is extremely versatile. No wonder it is used in cuisines throughout the world. If you haven’t given this highly nutritious, delicious vegetable a try you should. You just might grow to love it as much as I do.