Tag Archives: squash

Magic

I recently purchased the most magical kitchen tool. Actually, to be fair, I purchased several magical kitchen tools, thanks to my parents, who generously gave me a gift certificate to Kitchen Outfitters, a wonderland located in Acton, MA, where all of your dreams come true, if your dreams involve extremely fancy knives and potholders made of silicone. (Full disclosure: said gift certificate was my birthday present two years ago. Sometimes it takes me a long time to get on with things.)

In any case, I bought many wonderful tools, but the one that’s captured my heart is my immersion blender. Also known as a stick blender, this nifty little machine lets you blend, chop, or whip liquids right in the container they’re already in. What’s the big deal about that, you might ask?

Well, it means that with no need to pour things from container to container, it’s considerably easier to make things like pureed soups without pouring boiling chicken stock down your legs. I’d consider that a win.

It’s particularly timely because this year I’ve gotten really into making squash soup. I’ve always liked it, but until recently had never found a recipe I really, really loved for home use. One, with apples, was a bit too sweet. Another, thickened with yogurt, was too tangy. They were all pretty good, but they weren’t that Platonic squash soup of my dreams.

And then I discovered this.

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Squash, en route to being soup.

It’s six ingredients, if you even count salt and pepper, which I barely do. It’s basically extra-mashed cooked squash. How could this be the ultimate squash soup?

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Golden and delicious.

I don’t know, but it manages. It might be the homemade chicken stock. It might be the freshly grated nutmeg. It might be that the squash we have right now is really, really excellent.

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So rich!

Whatever it is, this soup is GOOD. Rich and creamy, sweet and savory, it is everything a squash soup should be. I gussied it up with some bacon and homemade croutons, but it was starting with near perfection, so that was practically gilding the lily.

And I owe it all to my magical immersion blender, without which I’d never have gotten the right texture. So easy, and no mess – thanks mom, dad, and Kitchen Outfitters!

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So Fresh and So Clean

I think that most of you have been reading this blog long enough to know by now that, when possible, I like to use fresh, local ingredients in my cooking. You also probably know that I try hard to be up for anything, whether it’s eating bugs, taking on strange stink-fruit, or just traveling all the way to Quincy(!) for a meal. Recently both Mr. Menace and I were involved in meal that truly capitalized on both of these traits!

You see, Mr. Menace’s family have a boat, which they utilize off of Cape Cod throughout the summer. They are also very kind and generous and invite us to take part in the use of said boat. (Thank you, Sheila and Rich, for all that you share with us!) Do not misunderstand, however; this boat is not a party boat. It is not used to take leisurely sunset cruises around the harbor. This is a serious boat, a working boat, and the work that it does is fishing! Mr. Menace’s mum is perhaps the best fisherwoman I have ever heard of, and her prey is the striped bass.

Now, each summer we head down to join his family on the Cape, and to frolic in the sun, and each summer there is a trip out on the boat to try to catch some bass. Unfortunately, while I love time with family and being on the Cape, I’m not really a big fan of the fishing – I tend to get a bit queasy as the boat goes in and out of the harbor, and pale redhead that I am, sitting in the sun for several hours is a terrible idea. Yet I like the idea of being involved in this process in some way, of contributing to the hunt. So it was decided that this year, while I would not board the boat, if Mr. Menace caught anything, I would learn to clean it! This was something I was excited for – I always loved the dissection labs in school. (Yes, I was a weird kid.)

So off they went for a trip to see what could be caught, while I went for a ten-mile run (because I know how to have a good time on vacation!). By the time I’d gotten home, showered, and dozed off in the hammock, the gang had returned, bearing these:
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(The one on top is sad to be dead.)

Both were caught by Mr. Menace!

The gents showed me what to do on the smaller fish, and then I got the chance to have the big one to myself.
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(See what I mean about me and the sun? NO GOOD.)

I cut behind the head, and sliced up the belly, being careful not to puncture any organs.
Then down the back:
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Then gently sliding the knife through to get at the good stuff!
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Off with the skin:
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Finally a lovely fillet!
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Rather proud of my work and Mr. Menace’s fishing skills, we decided to have folks over for a proper fry-up with our fish. This is the Mister’s favorite way to eat bass – it’s quite simple, although you have to be ready to deal with large quantities of hot oil. This is best done in a FryDaddy, if you have one. If not, be very, very careful and use the deepest pan that you own. First, make sure your fish is super clean:
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Next, dredge your fish in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. We used panko because it gives you the lightest, crunchiest coating.
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Drop the pieces in the FryDaddy! Do this in batches lest the oil bubble up and coat your entire kitchen in terrifying molten grease.
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Don’t those look fantastic? And they were, crisp and light! I made up a quick batch of tartar sauce to eat them with, but they were pretty great as is, too. They’re sitting in that picture on top of squash that our friends The Goog and Elise brought from their garden, which I roasted along with my favorite brussels sprouts in order to temper the number of fried things we were eating. The squash continued the local theme nicely, and was very tasty.
While we had the fryer going, Mr. Menace whipped up some french fries and his patented onion rings:
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I can’t even really begin to tell you how he gets them so beautifully golden and crisp – it’s really just egg, flour, and possibly magic. They are best eaten ridiculously hot, straight out of the fryer.

All in all, it was a lovely meal, made all the more delicious for being the product of our own work! Do any of you hunt or fish? If so, what do you like to make from your efforts?

Vegetable Therapist – Let’s Talk About Squash

Winter squash, that is.  While both summer and winter squashes are members of genus Cucurbita, they differ in that summer squashes are harvested when they are tender, innocent babies, whilst winter squash are eaten as hardened adults. This lends the winter squash considerably more sweetness and flavor, but also makes cutting it up a challenge, and greatly increases cooking time. Thus, family members though they may be, I will discuss what the heck to do with a summer squash another time.

Technically, one can eat all of the above-ground parts of the squash (I’m guessing you could eat the roots as well, but there’s not much to them). Stems and leaves can be munched like any other green, and even the flowers are tasty, most famously when battered and stuffed with cheese. The fruit, however, is the bit we’re interested in today. Yes, I said fruit – the bit with the seeds in is always the fruit! Squash fruit is specifically a type of false berry known as a pepo, a fact that I personally find fascinating. The falsehood apparently has to do with the fact that most of the flesh is not the ovary – it’s extra meat to help protect the seeds.

I personally find that plant-meat incredibly delicious. Winter squash is a bit of work, but the reward is some of the sweetest, butteriest vegetable that a person can eat, even without adding any sugar or actual butter. While I do enjoy it boiled and mashed, in the Menace household we usually eat it roasted – simply chop it to bits, drizzle it in olive oil, salt, and pepper, and throw it in the oven at 375 or so until it turns brown and caramelized. You can peel it first if you like, but that’s an awful lot of work. If you’re making acorn squash (or any smaller, cup-shaped squash) you can add a little brown sugar and butter for an extra-tasty treat.

To really take it to the next level, however, invest in a little more work and make a stuffing for that baby. I made a recipe that I found on Chow last week and it was divine. Look at how beautiful it was:
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What’s great about this recipe is that it becomes the entire meal. There’s starch and protein from the rice, a bit more protein from the nuts (confession: I used walnuts rather than pecans because that’s what I had in the house. It was very tasty, though perhaps a bit less decadent) and of course, plenty of vegetables. Sweet, salty, and savory tastes all getting together in harmony – it’s a beautiful thing, and the presentation is great.

Does anyone else have a favorite squash recipe? While I enjoy squash soup, particularly the Red Kuri Squash Soup at Myers + Chang, I’ve never made it. If you’ve got a great recipe, put it in the comments!