Squash Agrodolce: Delicata done different

Delicata Squash Agrodolce

Delicata squash in agrodolce sauce, pepitas, pearl onions and sultanas.

Being married to a chef has its ups and downs. The upside is pretty obvious — he makes amazing, creative and delicious food. But considering I rarely see him (this would be the downside), I’m certainly not dining on homemade, perfectly plated 10-course meals all week long.

In fact, most nights I do all of the cooking, leaving him a plate of food for when he gets home around midnight. Even on the days when he’s off work — in the industry this is almost always Sundays and Mondays for chefs — he is often too exhausted to cook (yet another reason I’m endlessly grateful for the kick ass taco cart right by our house).

However, over the past few weeks he has been wooing me with fantastic Monday night meals. One of my recent favorites included a plate full of tender delicata squash in agrodolce sauce (an Italian version of sweet and sour made with sugar and vinegar), beets with pickled peppers and ricotta salata and hand torn pasta in a Parmesan brodo. Yeah. It’s serious.

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The original dish — I subbed pearl onions for his cipollino. These are certainly more of a “statement” onion…

A simple dinner for two...

A simple dinner for two…

While everything was incredible, my favorite dish of the evening was the delicata. The tang from the agrodolce wonderfully balanced the sweetness of the squash, and the sultanas and pepitas added a bit of autumn swagger. It was also a pleasant change to the overly sweet squash recipes that are ubiquitous this time of year.

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Zucchini pancakes with fried corn & sungolds, for when summer continues to linger…

Zucchini Pancake with Roasted Corn, Sungolds

A rainbow of happy vegetables!

I was getting ready to post about a fantastic braised shortrib pie that I made on a recent rainy day when suddenly the weather here in Portland did a swift about-face. While braising beef sounded good a week ago when it was blustery and cold, the sun is now blazing and we’re enjoying 80 degree weather with only more blue skies on the horizon.

So I decided instead to revisit a recipe that I made a month or so ago, when I was too swamped with summer’s craziness to edit the pictures, let alone write a post about it. And since I’ve still seen plenty of pretty produce in the markets, there’s time left to fit this in before the cold is upon us!

This dish came about because my friends at Gourmandistan posted their zucchini pancake recipe (accompanied by their recipe for a fried corn relish) and it all sounded too good to pass up. My parents had just handed off several zucchini and summer squash from their garden and I’m a sucker for anything with fresh corn so Michelle and Steve’s post was a basically a double whammy of perfectly timed temptation.

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Salted Caramel Apple Hand Pies: Devilishly delicious!

Salted Caramel Apple Hand Pie

Salted Caramel Apple Hand Pie

I can say a few things about these pies with utmost certainly — they are delicious, they are adorable and they are a total pain in the ass.

But let’s back up, shall we? I have been dreaming about these apple hand pies for a very long time. They seemed too cute (i.e. labor-intensive) to waste on every day life, so I was saving them for a special occasion. When my co-workers decided to have a party after work for Halloween, I knew the time had come. After all what goes better with camel burgers and gator sausage than apple pies with salted caramel?

My downfall was not thinking the project through. The night before the party I was scheduled to work late and I knew I’d have to bake at least 30 hand pies to have enough to go around. This is why I should have baked cookies instead!

And yet at 9:30 pm I found myself starting a double batch of these tiny little pies. Around 11 pm I started to hate myself a little bit. No matter how cute they looked.

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Ultimate Autumn Breakfast: Apple Oven (Pan)Cake

Apple Oven Cake

Apple Oven Cake w. Powdered Sugar

I was leafing through Sunset magazine a week or so ago when a recipe for an Apple Oven Cake jumped out at me. Given my fixation on apple cider and butter, it’s a no-brainer that something involving apples and cake would be at the top of my fall baking list. However, my plans for it were a little off base.

Somehow I missed that this cake is more of a puffed pancake (a la Dutch baby) than a cake-cake. Good thing I read the reviews before I started baking because this isn’t the sort of cake that gets better as it sits! Oh no, it’s best eaten right out of the oven, spoonful after spoonful, while it deflates like a fallen souffle.

So while I had planned to ply my co-workers with apple-filled goodness, I baked this warm, caramel-y treat for my husband instead. It was a lazy Sunday morning and we had a long hard day of wine tasting ahead of us. I thought this apple cake would make the perfect (and filling!) fall brunch.

And this time around, I was right on track.

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Cider brined pork roast, yet another reason to love autumn

Cider Brined Pork with Roasted Onions and Potatoes

Cider Brined Pork with Roasted Onions and Potatoes

Every fall I buy a bottle of Applejack as my way of welcoming in the season. Last weekend I not only bought the requisite bottle of booze, somehow I also ended up buying three half-gallon containers of different apple ciders. I just couldn’t help myself. Every store I went to seemed to have cider for sale and I am (clearly) incapable of refusing it. Even though I knew I had a full gallon waiting at home, I still bought a final jug as a reward for surviving the Haunted Corn Maze on Saturday night.

Side note: If you want to know what type of person you are deep inside, go through a Haunted Corn Maze in the dark. I discovered I am the type of person who will sacrifice their friends in order to get away from the guy with a chain saw. I’m not proud of that, but it’s the truth.

At any rate, a fridge full of cider is never a bad thing. In fact it allowed me to make this beautiful dish which was a delicious way to fully embrace autumn’s arrival. Since cider is unavoidable this time of year, it only seems right to also use it in a brine.

This particular recipe is the October cover recipe for Bon Appetite and I’ve been staring at it for a few weeks waiting for a good night to make it. Maybe all that cider was getting to me — I just couldn’t hold out any longer.

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Feasting in the Forest

Nothing like a delicious meal in the most beautiful of settings!

View from Skamania Lodge

View from Skamania Lodge

Back in June my husband was asked to partake in a dinner series at Skamania Lodge, a luxurious hotel in the Columbia Gorge about an hour outside of Portland. When we heard that a room was included for the evening, he we accepted immediately. I am not in the habit of turning down a complimentary night away from home!

The event, called Feast in the Forest, brought two chefs out from Portland each month, from June to September, to do a sit-down, multi-coursed dinner. After the four dinners had taken place, a final dinner was planned where each guest chef would return to the lodge to cook a dish for the Grand Feast.

My husband’s first dinner was in July and he prepared this dish as his contribution:

Wild Boar Trio: homemade sausage, braised belly and rack

Wild boar sausage, braised boar belly and rack, with whipped cornbread and pickled cherries.

It was a wonderful meal and the view only got better as the night progressed:

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