Tag Archives: squash

Roasted Butternut Squash with Pecans, and Blue Cheese

Roasted Butternut Squash with Pecans and Blue Cheese
Roasted Butternut Squash with Pecans and Blue Cheese

My mom and I disagree on how to prepare squash.

Over the years, every time I’d tell her I had made a curried squash soup, or a stuffed pumpkin, or anything involving spices, she would tell me I was crazy. Obviously (to her), the best preparation for squash is to bake until soft, and then mash with butter, salt and pepper. Simple and delicious!

We obviously have different motives, in addition to different tastes. So what happens when we need a dish that will satisfy us both?

Butternut Squash
Butternut Squash - and a tool of violence.

I chose a recipe that retains the spirit of the ‘natural squash’ by not overwhelming it with spices. A simple addition of some Herbes de Provence (a favourite of Mom’s AND mine), along with the s&p, are all it needs… because, for those who need a punch, there is Danish blue cheese!

I’m obsessed with Danish blue cheese this year. I’m not sure how it took me so long… I’ve liked Gorgonzola for a long time, and enjoy the odd nip of Stilton, but never went out of my way to buy a chunk of Danish blue. I ate some at Thanksgiving and realized I’d been missing out… and have had some in my fridge at all times since.

Chopped and Seasoned Squash
Ready for the oven!

Back to the recipe… the squash is roasted in one-inch chunks. I was excited to play with the Mezzaluna my Mom has that cuts in a ridged pattern (see pic two above for a glimpse of the tool itself). Yeah, I like to snoop through other peoples’ kitchen stuff.

The pecans give the dish a fun crunch, and they get nice and toasty in the oven. The cheese gives it a crazy kick. The squash is creamy and mild, mellowing out the whole dish and bringing all of the different flavours and textures together.

Of course, I topped the whole thing with slices of green onion, like I usually do.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Pecans and Blue Cheese
Alone in the snow...

I’ve tried this kind of dish before – I’ve winged it, I’ve followed some recipes. I seem to have found a combination of ingredients and steps that do what I need. As you’ll see in the recipe recap, my variation on the dish follows the variations of a number of others. No doubt the original dish was a variation. This is a fairly classic combination of ingredients, done in a way that everyone can enjoy!

Recipe after the jump!

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Indian-Spiced Squash Soup

Indian-Spiced Squash Soup

Where were you when the weather bomb hit? I was waiting for the crazy to arrive, but it seems to have changed its flight plans.

I didn’t even know ‘weather bomb’ was a real term until I looked it up. What does one eat during an impending (but never arriving) weather bomb? Squash soup, of course!

Over the years, I’ve made a few different squash soups, with varying degrees of success. Some turned out bland, while others were waaay too spicy. Most of the time, I go for something curried – I started with Thai spices, and ventured into Indian.

Making Indian-Spiced Squash Soup

Along the way, I think I’ve developed a pretty good base for the soup – mostly squash, with some carrot to round out the flavour. Whether this is needed really depends on the squash you use… I add carrot all the time now, just because I like it. I also add Granny Smith apple to the blend, to give a hit of sweet and sour. Some of the recipes I found over the years called for sugar — by adding an apple or two, you can avoid that.

This time, I pulled some spices from my masala dabba and seared some paneer to give us something to chew on.

This is a nice toasty, warming soup that’s great on a cold and/or blustery day! Or Tuesday.

Recipe after the jump!

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What do I do with this? Karela

Desi Karela / Bitter Gourd

This post should be subtitled, “Are you trying to poison me? My lips are going numb!”

I picked the strangest looking vegetable from BJ Supermarket, in the Gerrard India Bazaar. Its bumpy, bright green flesh was intriguing. The sign said ‘Desi Karela’ – I had never heard of it before, so I wrote it down.

A quick Google resulted in many pictures of half-naked girls. Oh wait, I mistakenly typed ‘Desi Kerala’ (Kerala being a state in India).

A quick correction brought me to the vegetable I was looking for… and it turned out to be Bitter Gourd. I had read about bitter gourd before – sometimes in recipes with no mention of the fact that this gourd is, in fact, evil. Other times, the author would curse the evil within, with comments such as “Why would anyone ever want to eat this?!”. Although frightened, I refused to give up and I found a recipe that sounded like the perfect way to introduce myself to Desi Karela.

Curried Bitter Gourd

I chose this recipe from Foodskaypes, because the mix of bitter gourd with coconut and tamarind sounded really tasty and different from the dishes I usually make. In case you are planning to click that link and read the recipe – no, I didn’t buy a fresh coconut and grate it for my dish. We aren’t used to fresh coconut here, so I bought the packaged (unsweetened) stuff. No doubt it isn’t as good as fresh, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

The dish smelled amazing as it was cooking. It was a fun assortment of spices (yay!), and I crossed my fingers that the karela wasn’t too bitter. Then I tasted the sauce. It was so bitter that my heart immediately sank, and I scolded myself for not making a backup dish. I knew J would NOT like this.

We sat down to eat, and I took my first bite. Yowza, that gourd is bitter! Bite two wasn’t so bad, and by bite three I noticed a flavour beyond the bitter that intrigued me, something I’m sure I haven’t tasted anywhere else. I looked up at J, who had also taken about three bites. “That’s about all I can do. My lips are going numb.” That was that. I finished his plate, and gave myself a little bit more, and he went to the fridge for some pitas and veggies.

I should mention that the recipe itself was great, and I’ll be trying it again with some other, less evil vegetable.

I don’t think I’ll be buying desi karela again, but I’m really happy I tried it once. The leftovers are still in my fridge, waiting for me to finish them. I’m kind of afraid of what it will taste like – you know how evil is when given time to collude.

Sorry, J. I swear I didn’t try to poison you!

Daring Risotto

Risotto Ingredients

Some of the main ingredients: Butter, powdered sage and Arborio rice.

The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and Jess of Jessthebaker. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.

The thing about challenges… oh wait, I’ve already done that one. Heh. This is my first Daring Cooks challenge, and its poking me right where it hurts. After seeing the previous challenges, and even trying one as a test, I was really hoping to try making some new crazy cuisine. Instead, I’ve been put face to face with my nemesis: risotto.

I’m not hating on risotto, but I really haven’t had much success making it. Honestly, I sometimes think it’s O.K. the day I make it, and then HATE it for leftovers and never want to see it again. I’ve tried it a few times, and have hated it every time.

This is the perfect thing for me to start with.

I’m supposed to be challenged, right? It’s supposed to be at least a little bit hard, and sometimes frustrating. It’s supposed to be a learning experience. So I have jumped into it wholeheartedly. What did I learn? That my old risotto recipe sucks (yup), but that I am still not excited to make risotto (fair enough). My attempt came out pretty good, and I chose some accompaniments that nicely brought out the flavour and accented the texture of the dish. Not bad! That said, I wasn’t brimming with the same pride I had after trying the salmon en croute, or the indian or ethiopian feasts.

A great learning experience, indeed, and definitely a successful meal.


Squash risotto topped with garlic mushrooms, sage butter and arugula.

Part of the challenge was to make the stock from scratch, and while the recommended stock was made with a whole chicken, that would not be the route I would take. Not being a real meat person, I opted to make a mushroom stock, which turned out really tasty! It added a nice woody flavour to the dish. I got inspiration from this recipe, but ended up choosing my own adventure for most of it.

So there is the result of my first challenge. It was a good learning experience, which is what I am looking for with the challenges, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what we do next month!

Recipe for the base risotto after the jump…

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