December 2010 Archives

Cooking basics: How to Bake Acorn Squash

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blond acorn 2.jpg Baking squash might seem too ridiculous to an experienced cook to explain but considering how many people I've met who've never baked their own pumpkin for pie, I think it's important to cover the basics.  I like to think that if I died before teaching my son how to cook, he could come to my homesteading blog to learn how to do the basic things that mothers tend to teach their children in the kitchen before they ever set eyes on their first cookbook.

I would like to say, then, that there is no life instruction too ridiculous to teach a person who doesn't already know it. 

cut lengthwise 2.jpgAcorn squash are usually a dark green on the exterior (the ones in these pictures are mutants from a local farmer!) and medium to light yellow on the interior.  Their flesh is somewhat stringy and a little on the watery side compared to sugar pumpkins or other large squash. 

1.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

2.  Cut your acorn squash lengthwise.  Try to cut it into two even halves.  You can see that I didn't completely succeed with one of mine!

stringy 2.jpg3.  Using a strong metal spoon scrape the seeds and the most fibrous part of the squash cavity out. 

facing down 2.jpg4.  Place face down on a sturdy baking sheet.  Preferably not a non-stick.

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5.  Bake until tender.  How long this takes will vary depending on the size of the squash and the thickness of the flesh but it should take somewhere around 45 minutes.  To test done-ness: you will be able to stick a knife into the skin with no resistance when it is done.

Things to consider:

Some people like to brush the undersides of the squash with olive oil.  You may do this if you like but it is unnecessary.

Many people like to cover their squash with aluminum foil.  This is also not necessary and I would recommend you don't do this to prevent waste in the kitchen.  I've heard some people say that it helps cook the squash faster by holding heat in but at least with regards to acorn squash you get the same effect by cooking them face down in halves. 

You can cook the squash at 350 degrees and just expect it to take a little longer.  I cook all my squash at 375 degrees which I think lessens the over-all cooking time without overcooking it too fast which a higher temperature might do.

What now?

Stuff them:
  They're perfect for stuffing because a half a squash is a good single serving size.  If you fill it with grains and beans you will have a complete protein and with some salad on the side you will have a very nutritious meal.

Dress them:  While still hot add a tablespoon of butter, a sprinkling of salt (about five shakes from a shaker) and some grinds of fresh pepper (also about five), then eat it.  Simple good food.  You can do this right in the skin or if you prefer you can scoop the squash out of the skin and then add the butter, salt, and pepper.




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Polenta with Spinach, Onion, and Garlic

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hot sauce spiral 2.jpgWhat's the difference between polenta and cornmeal?  Nothing.  Polenta is boiled cornmeal.  You can make polenta using a fine, medium, or course grind of cornmeal which will determine how long it takes to cook.  The coarsely ground polenta will take at least 45 minutes to cook, sometimes longer.  I personally prefer a medium to fine grind because it's silkier but a lot of my friends and family prefer the coarser grinds for the grainier texture.

This is a versatile dish.  It goes well with almost anything.  I make my polenta different almost every time using what I have on hand as my inspiration.  When it's first cooked it's soft and porridge-like, perfect for spooning into a bowl with a heap of sauteed greens and garlic, but when it cools it firms up so I always pour it out onto a baking sheet, smooth it, and when it's cooled I cut it into squares or use a biscuit cutter to cut it into circles and store it in the fridge for frying up later.

This particular batch made one dinner and several breakfasts.


best breakfast 2.jpg
Polenta with Spinach, Onion, and Garlic

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups polenta
6 cups of water
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp salt
30 grinds fresh pepper

1 lb spinach, washed and chopped
1 onion, diced
2 tbsp olive oil

To prepare leftovers for breakfast:
2 pieces of cut polenta
2 eggs
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
Sriracha hot sauce

Optional:
two slices of jack cheese



Method:

In a large sauce pan bring the water to a boil.  As soon as it boils turn it down to low heat and whisk the polenta into it, this is important because the whisking keeps the polenta from making lumps in the water.  Whisk really well to incorporate.  Press the garlic into the polenta, stir well, and then put the lid on the pot and let it cook.

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan on med-high heat.  Add the onion and saute until translucent, then add the spinach and toss until well wilted, turn the heat down a little and put the lid on the pan to encourage steaming and stir every couple of minutes until the spinach is tender.

Stir the onion and spinach into the polenta, add the salt and pepper and stir well.  It is ready to spoon into bowls now unless you are using the coarse grind of cornmeal.

For the coarse grind you will need to let it continue to cook.  Total cooking time for coarse grind should be a minimum of 45 minutes, though some people swear it takes no less than an hour and a half (Italians do, anyway).  To check for done-ness taste a small cooled spoonful, if it's done it will not be gritty.


To prepare leftovers for breakfast:


Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan.  When hot, place two slices of polenta (pictured above are rounds I cut with a biscuit cutter) into the pan and crack two eggs next to (not on) the polenta.  The polenta is done when it is heated through and slightly browned.  The eggs are done when you say they are done.  Sprinkle the eggs with some salt and pepper.

If you like cheese you can stack a piece of polenta and and egg with a slice of cheese between them.

I highly recommend eating this with Sriracha hot sauce.






Recipe notes:  To make the breakfast vegan you can eat the sauteed polenta with beans (seasoned black beans would be very good) or with seasoned sauteed tofu.  This is a great and balanced breakfast- grains, greens, and protein.  I ate it for a week and it was the best thing about my day.  Yeah, hard week.


This recipe is vegan (if not using the egg or cheese for the breakfast leftovers)
This recipe is gluten-free.

Recent Comments

  • angelina: We ate it up very fast! read more
  • Tarrant: oh my-this sounds appealling read more
  • Aimee: Oh, YUM. read more
  • angelina: For crying out loud, Angela, get on the vegan version read more
  • little big: I totally have that book! And the part II that read more
  • Angela (Cottage Magpie): Oh, that sounds gooooood! My favorite soup in all the read more
  • meigan1cameron: "White Bean And Basil Salad Recipe" is my one the read more
  • Karmyn R: I would not have thought to put squash with black read more
  • angelina: Allison- greet and compliment the snowdrops for me, will you? read more
  • Laura: Hi! This looks great, I always love your recipes! I read more