Flavors of Fall: Squash and Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Acorn squash and ricotta stuffed shells

Every September I can tell when autumn is on its way because my friend Jenna is on Pinterest constantly. After months of being pin-free she’ll suddenly show up in my feed, pinning anything and everything that has to do with Halloween crafts, autumn foods and yes, even Christmas cookies.

I’d give her a harder time about it, but I am a year-round Pinterest user. There is not a month that goes by that I am not pinning pumpkin-spice treats, summer BBQ ideas or yet another macaroni and cheese recipe. One such pin, from early this spring, was a dish that I have been determined to make the second the weather turned cold:  jumbo pasta shells, stuffed with ricotta cheese, spinach and roasted squash, topped with sage and brown butter.

From the cheesy baked pasta to the brown butter sauce, it’s practically impossible to come up with a more “autumn” dish. (Unless you’re the guy who wrote this — I’m sure he could come up with something.)

And let me tell you, with every bite I found myself missing the sunshine a little less and looking forward to Halloween, roasted chicken and cuddling on my couch with my kitties. The squash adds the right hint of the season without being too sweet, the lemon zest brings some brightness and the copious amounts of cheese are there just to make you feel loved.

So if you’re still having a hard time adjusting to the fact that it’s almost October, you should make this very soon. I promise it will help!

Continue reading

Challenge Accepted! Cooking for #covertocover13

Strozzapreti w/ Preserved Lemon and Spinach

Strozzapreti w/ Preserved Lemon and Spinach

The Bitten Word is a blog I love for many reasons, though two stand out the most. First the name — it’s so perfect that every time I read it, I get jealous that it isn’t the name of my blog. (I’m trying to get over that but it’s hard!) And next, because they clearly love food magazines just as much as I do.

I love comparing their opinions on recipes after I’ve made them and I also read their reviews if I’m hesitant about trying something. In fact, their hilarious and clever review of Food & Wine’s General Tso’s chicken was what encouraged me to make it in the first place.

So when I saw that the writers do a cover-to-cover challenge for Bon Appetit’s Restaurant Issue, I signed up immediately. Here’s the low down: submit the form and get an email with your assignment a few days later.

Continue reading

Rabbit with Spaetzle 2.0

Rabbit and spaetzle in a creme fraiche-mustard sauce topped with crispy shallots.

Rabbit and spaetzle in a creme fraiche-mustard sauce topped with crispy shallots.

Throughout the ten years we’ve been together, my husband has worked at many different restaurants. This means that I have quite happily eaten at least a meal or two at each one. Out of all of the places he’s been, it’s actually the same restaurant that was responsible for two of my favorite dishes. While he no longer works there, I often ask him to make them for me at home.

One dish, my favorite of the two, is a beautiful combination of roasted cauliflower, chili flakes, breadcrumbs and homemade chitarra pasta. I could eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner and be totally satisfied.

The other is a creamy compilation of braised rabbit, spaetzle, herbs and crispy shallots. It is the stuff dreams are made of.

Who could possibly resist this?

Who could possibly resist this?

Continue reading

Summer Pasta: Farmer’s Market with a side of Kitchen Sink

Summer pasta: a combination of all of the Farmers Market finds you forgot to eat!

Summer pasta: a combination of all of the Farmers Market finds you forgot to eat!

I feel like every season has an appropriate pasta sauce to go with it. I can’t imagine autumn without brown butter (and its ubiquitous partner, sage) or winter without a rich Bolognese. Spring seems to be the time for pesto — either traditional basil or a new riff like this parsley version.

Summer pasta sauces seem less structured and more, well, see the title of this post…

They stem from that moment when all of a sudden you realized you bought a bunch of beautiful produce but have been so busy hiking, camping, bbq-ing and river floating that you forgot all about it. And they usually consist of ripe tomatoes, squash, herbs, garlic, peppers and whatever odds and ends you come across while cleaning out your fridge.

I made this pile of pasta last week while I realized (in a slight panic) that I had things that needed to be eaten before they turned to the dark side. I took one look at everything I had pulled out of the fridge, and immediately started digging for some pasta. All types of veggies can find harmony when mixed with pasta. It’s a fact.

Continue reading

Parsley Pesto Perfection

DSC_0064

Growing up on an island in Alaska before the popularity of the Food Network meant my window in the culinary world was very limited. The most exotic foods that I remember eating as a kid were lumpia and “meat-on-a-stick” (likely a version on bulgogi) that some of the Filipino families would sell each summer at the annual Crab Festival.

I had certainly never heard of pesto and the first time I was confronted with it while visiting Italian relatives in Vancouver, BC, I was very suspicious. It didn’t seem right to coat pasta in anything besides the familiar red of marinara.

But once I tasted the garlicky herbaceous green sauce, I was sold. After that moment, one of my all-time favorite dinners as a teenager became linguine tossed with broccoli and pesto. I would get so excited when my mom would make it that I would hoard the leftovers to eat for lunch the next day. I still do this actually, old habits die hard.

As an adult, I’ve learned all the different variations one can do with pesto. I’ve made it with broccoli, watercress and arugula, and garlic scapes — all with equally delicious success. Besides the traditional pine nut, I’ve used everything from walnuts to sunflower seeds. So when I saw the June cover of Bon Appetit, featuring a gorgeous plate of pasta in pesto sauce, that was the first recipe I turned to. And there I found a twist I hadn’t yet made: parsley pesto with roasted almonds.

Ok, Bon Appetit, challenge accepted.

Continue reading

A Very Martha Memorial Day, Part 1: The Savory

Martha Stewart's Macaroni and Cheese

Martha Stewart’s Macaroni and Cheese

While in reality I may not strive to be totally like her, I can say with complete honesty that I really love Martha Stewart. I think it’s awesome that she came out of prison missing fresh lemons the most. And the fact that she can make a crumb cake with Ludacris and bake brownies with Snoop Dogg just endears me further. Martha seems to be able to bounce back — better than ever — no matter what happens to her and I admire that.

I also admire her seemingly always perfect recipes. There’s a reason the woman is an internationally famous domestic goddess. I haven’t ever had a recipe of hers turn out sub-par, which is why I chose several of them for our (pre*) Memorial Day party.

*My MO for Memorial Day (and Labor Day) is to host a BBQ on the Sunday prior. This is useful in case people have already made plans for Monday and it allows me to spend that day recouping and relaxing instead of entertaining. It’s a win/win strategy that I highly suggest.

Anyways, my husband wanted to do a traditional “Americana-style” BBQ. This means he was in charge of the grill — a task he took to happily, deciding to smoke a rather hefty (13 pound) beef brisket over apple wood. Here’s a sneak peek:

Applewood Smoked Beef Brisket

Applewood Smoked Beef Brisket

Oh yeah…it was serious!

I, on the other, took control of the side dishes. My husband had mentioned wanting mac and cheese so I used this recipe of Martha’s, which has a cult-like following online with commenters referring to it as “crackaroni” since it’s impossible to quit eating. Totally accurate name by the way, I actually had to pry myself away from the pan.

Continue reading