This could go either way…

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Jamie Oliver, once known in his infancy as the Naked Chef, continues to contribute to the culinary scene both in the US and the UK where his home base is. I love to watch him in his garden kitchen, hard by his wood burning oven. It’s a perfect setting in that you can sweep scraps on the floor and not worry about making a mess.

Anyway, he had this recipe on YouTube that I watched a while ago and thought it would be a good meal for this past weekend when the temps on Saturday night were ridiculously low and the wind was howling.

Start by chunking up a butternut squash and (gasp) leave the peel on the squash. One inch chunks will do. Roughly chop a red onion and a long chili pepper of your choice. Put in a dry roasting pan on medium heat and move stuff around adding about 2 tsp of smoked paprika. Once the ingredients are hot, add 2 cloves of sliced garlic and about 2 tbsp of oil. Keep stirring….Then place in a 350° oven for about 45 minutes, until the squash is pretty soft. Leave the oven on.

Add one can each of cannelloni beans and garbanzo beans and 28 oz can of tomatoes. IF you are vegetarian you can stop here. Just stir everything up and put back in oven for about 45 minutes. Season to taste. Serve over sautéed greens like kale, mustard greens etc. Something hearty. Full Stop. BUT….

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But, if you are a carnivore, get your self some really good sausage with two different flavor profiles ( I used fresh kielbasa, and hot Italian turkey sausage). Form them into a rack by curling or laying them next to each other and then skewering them with wooden skewers soaked in water. You can also use long spears of rosemary with the leaves stripped as Jamie suggests.

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Sprinkle the top with some fresh nutmeg and tuck in some sage, rosemary and any other herbs you like and place on a bacon/baking rack that fits over your roasting pan. Don’t cover the pan, place the rack instead. Put back in the 350 ° oven. What will happen is that as the sausage cooks, the drippings will flavor the ragu in the pan. Forty five minutes should be plenty of time. The sausage will get nice and roasty looking.

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Meanwhile, back at the stove top, you can chop, rinse and saute some hearty greens like kale or swiss chard ( shown) as a base for the ragu.

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And yes, that was a lot of sausage for 2 peeps, but once cooked it can be frozen and used in a variety of ways. A perfect dinner for a cold winter nite! In retrospect, the Hubs is not a fan of Swiss chard, so next time it will be spinach, and the squash not being peeled ensures that the squash will hold together, but it adds nothing to the taste of the dish. Your fiber requirement for the day however will be fine…

Hot Soup, Cold Night

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By the end of this week, the nighttime temps here in the higher elevations will be down in the 20’s and I’ll be happy to be making this soup again. Butternut squash and apple soup, topped with a little creme fraiche is an easy and satisfying winter supper when paired with some toasted bread like cranberry walnut and a little green salad, simply dressed.

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Roast off some cubed butternut squash and a little yellow onion or shallot ( milder in taste). Peel and cut 2 small apples and add to the squash after roasting. Put it all in a saucepan with some bay, some fresh thyme, cinnamon and nutmeg, salt and pepper. Cover the veggies and apples with veggie or chicken broth ( richer tasting) and boil till very soft.

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Use a stick blender or regular blender to smooth it out. You can add a little cream if you want. Remember if using a regular bar blender , add the hot liquid in very small amounts to blend. Maybe about 12 oz at most, then repeat as necessary. The risk of burns is high!

Garnish and serve!

What’s a Congee?

Well, despite following instructions and recipe, a congee is NOT what I made…but I tried..


According to Wikipedia a congee (British English: /ˈkɒndʒi/; or conjee) is a type of rice porridge or gruel popular in many Asian countries. When eaten as plain rice congee, it is most often served with side dishes. When additional ingredients, such as meat, fish, and flavorings, are added while preparing the congee, it is most often served as a meal on its own, especially for the ill. Names for congee are as varied as the style of its preparation. Despite its many variations, it is usually a thick porridge of rice largely disintegrated after prolonged cooking in water. 


Well, disintegration is what I got! The recipe called for soaking the rice, then processing it to make it even smaller. Additionally, the squash has to be shredded. Then add to vegetable stock and cook, then cook some more…


The aforementioned gruel like consistency never materialized so I capitalized on the soupiness and made…soup! How original of me. The secret to its success was the addition of coconut milk, not the cocktail ingredient, but the dairy substitute.


The original recipe was in Cooking Light.

Making Roux…

  
I failed roux on more than one occasion when I was in training…a miserable lead cook would taunt my failures and send me to the cold pantry to make salads and other things I could manage.. But I’m happy to say that in the ensuing 30 years I have gotten much better at it..definitely good enough that I can make bechamel, a mother sauce, that in turn develops into a beautiful cheese sauce for my new creation…Short Rib Canneloni!

  
It all started because of the Canneloni that the Hubs and I had in Barcelona at The Attic restaurant on Las Ramblas. They were cheesy and yummy and I knew with right ingredients, I could recreate them.

   
 
I had some leftover short ribs and roasted butternut squash, so I shredded both in the food processor and mixed with some shredded Gruyere that I won at a recent Yankee Swap with my colleagues. (Yep, I got a hunk o’ cheese…foodies!)

   
 
Then I piped the mixture into some cooked shells and laid them in a pan with the cheese sauce underneath.

  
I topped the with mire sauce and the end of the raclette cheese and stuck in a 375 degree oven until bubbly and a little brown on top! Before serving, I ladled a little of the leftover short rib on top.

  

Pizza Supper…

The annual yoga pants Christmas vacation is in full swing and I tell you it’s mayhem….staying up late, sleeping late, going out to breakfast with the Hubs, getting a holiday mani, and you still have energy to do a little experimentation with dinner! I always consider a meal a success if I manage to eliminate one or more products from the fridge or freezer that only have one serving left and I hit a trifecta with this meal..

  

I started with mini naan breads, thawed from the freezer..

  
Then I spread it with the end of the jar of fig spread…

   
 
Then I added fresh roasted butternut squash…

   
 
Then a caramelized onion…

  
Then the end of the container of mozzarella…

  
Then some bacon…and into a 475 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is a little melty..

   
 
Top with arugula that has been tossed with evoo and balsamic…

Presto, pizza!