Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hard winter tomatoes

Even though it's still 90 degrees every day here in Tucson, the signs of the rapidly receding fall are everywhere. The days are getting shorter, the nights colder and we've started to get more greens and squash from the CSA. Another sign is the diminishing quality of the tomatoes we're getting. A few months ago, the tomatoes were so awesome, I could hardly wait to get them home, toast some whole-wheat bread, slather it with butter, fat slices of tomato, salt and pepper.

Now the tomatoes are smaller, hard, and very green when we get them, and they don't ripen to much, so I've been looking for a way to use up the pile I've accumulated in the past several weeks. When I picked up some dried apricots at the store this weekend, I remembered this wonderful chutney adapted from my much beloved (and by now raggy) Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant cookbook. It's great for those yucky hard yellow-orange tomatoes that are available at this time of year. Use it on rice, beans, curries, and tofu.

Tomato-Apricot Chutney
1 T. garlic, minced
2 tsp. ground dry ginger
3/4 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. gram marsala
1 T. butter or ghee

In a heavy saucepan, saute the garlic and spices in the butter for 1 minute.

3 c. chopped, firm red or green tomatoes
1/2 c. chopped, dried apricots
1/2 c. raisins
1 T honey or agave syrup
2 T. apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt

Cook for 30 minutes until the fruit is soft and the chutney is thick. You may need to add a little more sweetener or vinegar depending on your taste. Will last for several weeks in a covered jar in the refrigerator.

Monday, November 9, 2009

More than just marinara - the spaghetti squash dilemma

Someone asked my this week about what to do with spaghetti squash, specifically what to do other than put spaghetti sauce on it. Hmmmm.... good question! It's winter squash season and we got our first spaghetti squash of the year at the CSA last week. I was checking out their website and found this great recipe for spaghetti squash salad flavored with orange juice and parsley. Sounds pretty good. I might substitute cilantro for the parsley seeing as I love cilantro.
You can also toss the cooked squash with half a cup of orange juice, the same amount of chopped parsley and a little salt or pepper for a warm salad or side dish. Any leftovers can be eaten cold the next day or reheated in the microwave. (Listed on the Spaghetti Squash Ideas page)
 So the other recipe on the CSA webpage is a spaghetti squash lasagna which got me to thinking about the Greek "lasagna" dish pastistio. I first had this dish while married to my first ex-husband. His mother (Ya-ya) made an excellent, if meaty, pastistio. For years, I've substituted veggie burgers for the traditional ground lamb or beef with pretty tasty results, but this weekend I set out to find whether I could recreate this dish using spaghetti squash instead of noodles. It worked! In fact, I think I prefer it with the tiny strands of squash instead of macaroni.

This recipe does take some work, but it's well worth it. We had enough for leftovers and it was even better re-heated! Here's the recipe:


The "noodle" part:
1 medium sized spaghetti squash, halved, seeded, cooked and cooled. Set aside.

The "hambuger" part:
2 cups of ground veggie meat (I used a mixture of Lightlife Gimme Lean sausage and Morningstar Farms Grillers) OR 2 cups cooked lentils OR 1/2 lb. ground meat (traditional is lamb or beef)
1 onion, chopped
2 T. olive oil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (yes, cinnamon - you'd better put that in!)
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp white pepper
2 cloves garlic, chopped
salt to taste
3 T tomato paste
3 T water

Saute the onion and "meaty stuff" in the olive oil. when it's almost finished, add the oregano, garlic and spices. Cook for 1-2 minutes  more until the spices become aromatic. Then add the tomato paste and water. Mix well. Put aside.

The white sauce part:

1 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 T white flour
3 cups milk
1-1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese

Melt the butter and oil together in a heavy sauce pan. Add the flour and stir until the mixture becomes somewhat lighter in color. Add the milk all at once and stir with a wire whisk until it's creamy and hot. Add 1-1/4 c. of the Parmesan cheese and stir until it's once again creamy. Set aside.

To build it:
Pull the strands out of half the squash and put it i the bottom of a greased 9 x 9 casserole dish. press it down a little so it's flat against the bottom of the dish.

Add the meat mixture over the squash. Spread it evenly.

Pull out the strands from the second half of the squash and put those on top of the "meat" part. gently press everything down a bit with the back of a spoon.

Pour half the white sauce on top. use a table knife to make sure the sauce gets down into the dish. You should be able to add the rest of the white to the top. Sprinkle the top with the remaining Parmesan cheese, a little ground cinnamon, and some ground oregano.

Bake at 400 degrees for 35-45 minutes or utl the top is bubbly and browned. Cool after a half an hour before digging in!