Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Butternut squash and carmelized onion galette from Smitten Kitchen

I have a friend from Michigan coming to visit me this weekend. I tried this recipe out last night and oh my was it good. It is again from Smitten Kitchen, and as usual I have tweeked it a bit for my purposes. Here is the origional recipe. I have said it before and I will say it again Smitten Kitchen has some mighty fine and super good recipes, go check her out!

Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette
For the pastry:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut intopieces *To make the crust flakier I freeze the butter then at the last minute use a large hole cheese grater to cut up the frozen butter.*
1/4 cup sour cream, *I didn't have sour cream and used plain yogurt and it turned out fine.
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice *No fresh lemons so I just used the squeeze kind to no ill effect.
1/4 cup ice water
For the filling:
1 small butternut squash (about one pound)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons butter (if you have only non-stick, the smaller amount will do)
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced in half-moons * It turns out much better if you make the slices very, very thin. I made sure my knife was Kill Bill sharp and it worked well.
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste *I used 1/2 t because I like it hot
3/4 cup fontina cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces), grated or cut into small bits *No fontina cheese at my grocer so I used gouda, and it turned out well
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage leaves *No fresh sage leaves, but the ground ones work fine, I used 1/2 t of dried. The rule of thumb for converting fresh to dried is 1 teaspoon of dried = 1 tablespoon of fresh.
1. Make pastry:
In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Place the butter in another bowl. Place both bowls in the freezer for 1 hour. Remove the bowls from the freezer and make a well in the center of the flour. Add the butter to the well and, using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Make another well in the center. In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add half of this mixture to the well. With your fingertips, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Remove the large lumps and repeat with the remaining liquid and flour-butter mixture. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
2. Prepare squash:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Peel squash, then halve and scoop out seeds. Cut into a 1/2-inch dice. Toss pieces with olive oil and a half-teaspoon of the salt and roast on foil lined (for neatness sake) sheet for 30 minutes or until pieces are tender, turning it midway if your oven bakes unevenly. Set aside to cool slightly.
3. Caramelize onions:
While squash is roasting, melt butter in a heavy skillet and cook onion over low heat with the remaining half-teaspoon of salt and pinch of sugar, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly golden brown, about 20 minutes. Stir in cayenne.
4. Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees.
Mix squash, caramelized onions, cheese and herbs together in a bowl
5. Assemble galette:
On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet. Spread squash, onions, cheese and herb mixture over the dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Fold the border over the squash, onion and cheese mixture, pleating the edge to make it fit. The center will be open.
6. Bake until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, let stand for 5 minutes, then slide the galette onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm or at room temperature. Serves 6.


This weekend I busted out my mandolin (the slicer not the instrument) and made ratatouille, yes the like in the movie. I was a bit sceptical but it turned out great! The issue was that I am a bit of a perfectionist and it took me FOREVER to lay out the pieces of zucchini, eggplant, red pepper and yellow squash so they matched. If I forgo my OCD ways this dish would be super fast to make.
I made some substitutions from the original recipe found here at the Smitten Kitchen website. I LOVE her recipes, check her out, she has some FINE food and with clear easy to follow instructions. The Smitten Kitchen has a cookbook coming out soon and I will definitely buy it. Anyway back to my version of her recipe. . .
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
2 cans diced tomato with garlic and onion
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small eggplant*
1 smallish zucchini
1 smallish yellow squash
1 longish red bell pepper**
Few sprigs fresh thyme***
Salt and pepper
Few tablespoons sour cream****
I used a 11X13 cake pan but you can adjust the size of the pan to fit the amount of veggies.
Slice the veggies into 1/16 in slices (if you have a mandolin) or slice thinly with a knife if you don't. The ideal width is about as thick as a slice of pepperoni.
Drain the tomatoes and put in the bottom of the pan, mash slightly with a fork then stir in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, spread evenly over the pan's surface .
Scatter the chopped onions and sliced garlic evenly across the tomatoes and olive oil mixture
Salt and pepper generously
On top of the tomato mixture arrange the slices of zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant and red pepper moving concentrically toward the center. (See illustration at the top of this page for clarification)
Drizzle with olive oil
Sprinkle thyme, salt and pepper
Cover dish with a piece of parchment paper (I used waxed paper to no ill effect)
Bake for 45-55 min until the vegetables have released their liquid but their structure is still intact.
I am not a fan of the mushy veggie so I cooked mine for 45 min and it was perfect.
Dish onto plates and top with a blob of sour cream.
I served this with french bread sprinkled with parmasan cheese and toasted under the broiler.
General note: If I were in a hurry I suppose I could just chop up the veggies and toss them with the tomatoes, onions and garlic, bake it and call it dinner but I like the way this looks.
*Eggplant note:I understand that there is a small rather cylindrical eggplant called an "Italian Eggplant" I couldn't find one of these at my local grocery so I just got a small one and then sliced the slices in thirds using the outside edged ones and freezing the center part for some other dish later.
**Red Pepper note: I didn't have a red pepper so I used some chopped red, yellow and green pepper I had in the freezer, it turned out just fine and looked pretty.
***Thyme note: I only had dried and it worked out just fine
****Sour Cream note: Origional recipe calls for goat cheese which I am sure is FANTASTIC but it was not in the budget this week and sour cream turned out yummy.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Random thoughts

1. I think I am going to make ginger snaps this weekend. I have a good recipe that is originally from the early 1900s. It still formulates delicious ginger cookies 100ish years later. If I make them this weekend I will post about it and give the recipe.
2. Yesterday on the way home I burst into singing Christmas carols. I sang 7-8 of them, all the verses I know (which is quite a few). I felt a surge of Christmas spirit. Shocking as Christmas is my least favorite holiday and I am usually decidedly bah humbug. Perhaps this therapy of having the entire week off between Christmas and New Year is working to melt my Scrooge's heart.
3. I need a hair cut. I always struggle with my hair and now that I am doing presentations and some public speaking I really need to get it together. I am thinking about getting a cut like Kathy Bates in "Harry's Law". I think it would look cute and professional at the same time. She has a double chin, I have a double chin, she has a roundish face, I have a roundish face. I think it will work.
4. I need to buy some suits if I am going to be doing this pubic speaking stuff. I think I am going to use Kathy Bates again for that, (she is somewhat round and I am round). She wears simple dark suits with beautiful shirts or dark trousers and a dark shirt with beautiful jackets. Simple, attractive, professional. Best of all I can take just a few pieces of clothing and rearrange them so as to have several outfits.
5. I need more sleep.
6. I really want to go dancing. When I was in San Francisco a few weeks ago I almost got to go Contra dancing but it didn't work out. I want to go dancing, specifically folk dancing, like reels and schottisches, Irish, English, Swedish and what have you country dancing.
7. Things went just fine with my talk on Saturday. The participants seemed to really like it and I certainly enjoyed it. It was fantastic to watch them catch on to coding ICD-10 and see them succeed at it. I am looking forward to doing another one.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

NaBloPoMo Day 3, well sort of

Today I am not using the tickler because it feels lame to depend on it every day and I have other stuff to talk about...

Somehow by bonne chance I was invited to assist at a symposium for my professional organization on the subject of ICD-10. For those of you who do not live and breathe health care like I do, ICD-10 is a big change to the way we indicate that something is medically necessary and we communicate this to insurance companies so doctors and other health professionals can get paid for the work they do as well as keeping track of stuff like why people get sick and die. This is such a huge change I often compare it to the sky switching from blue to say purple.
Anywho, I am extensively trained in this new system and looking for opportunities to use it so I don't loose it. Which brings us to the symposium. When the opportunity was presented to me to help out it sounded like I would be facilitating discussion on this huge impending change and what it will mean to all of us in health care. Just making sure the conversation flows along nicely and we hit the talking points that the symposium organizer would like to cover. Easy peazy
Then Monday happens

On Monday I find out that I am actually going to be presenting formally at this occasion AND nothing too big just EVERYONE WHO IS ANYONE in Houston health care is going to be there, about 200 people worth. No pressure or anything. And of course I need a hair cut, I don't have business cards and WHAT AM I GOING TO WEAR!!!! I am confident about the content, I can talk about that all day. I am confident in my ability to teach the content, it is my pleasure to teach. The issue is the things that I find tricky like clothes and hair. Oh and I don't have business cards so I am going to have to find a way to make some up pretty much for free because I am broke.
This is a fantastic opportunity for me to show my chops to the health care community of Houston and to really make great contacts for myself and for my students. I just need to remember to breathe and it will be okay. This chance thrust itself into my hands without any prompting from me and I am grateful. I am also (mostly) secure in the knowledge that this would not have come my way if I was not ready for it. I think that once I start talking and interacting with the audience that my initial fear of how not looking professional enough will dissipate and I will forget myself and just let it flow.
In other news, my fence is getting repaired, oh joy, oh delight, oh playing with my dogs off leash in my back yard. Also my neighbor's dog won't come over and bark at me in my own yard.
My fence came down in Ike and I have missed it sorely, or rather I have missed being able to play with my dogs off leash outside. I love my landlord.
I am off to work on my presentation, give it a little polish. The symposium is this Saturday morning, send me good thoughts.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

NaBloPoMo day 2, so far so good

NaBloPoMo tickler 2. . .
"If you knew that whatever you ate next would be your last meal, what would you want it to be?"
One cooked with people I love for people I love. Cooking food then eating it is such a wonderful sensual pleasure to share. Some of the most fun I have had in my life involved too many people in the kitchen while chatting, cooking, and drinking wine. I love that laughing, close, jostile, bumping hips, touching each other, tasting, smelling ah lovely. Then of course there is the reward of sitting down at the laden table and eating together while talking about everything, preferably outdoors with wine flowing, kids playing, easy relaxation and all of us being ourselves. This would be a perfect last meal.
The meal we would be making, that is a hard choice. If it were my last then I will go with something classic. . .
Roasted garlic with goat cheese, tiny tomatoes, and basil leaves on crunchy toast rounds ,
Spinach salad with red onions, walnuts, and apple with chunky blue cheese dressing,
Grilled bloody, rare steak, baked potato, grilled asparagus and a nice Pinot Noir
Chocolate cheesecake with a shot of espresso with a lemon twist
and after all that a fine cigar and some really carmely mellow burbon.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaBlPoMo and away we go

Well here we are, November, time of Thanksgiving and good intentioned blog posting for NaBloPoMo aka National Blog Posting Month. I want prizes!
The tickler for today is "What is your favorite part about writing?"
I have not written fiction in a very long time, probably about 3 years. I write a lot of non fiction in the form of acedemic papers. I miss writing fiction. One of the things I am looking forward to if I ever finish school is writing for pleasure. My favorite part of writing for pleasure is creating characters. I enjoy inventing interesting people and breathing life into them. I also enjoy finding the perfect word, the word that conveys exactly what I want to say no more, no less.
I often have a hard time paring down my writing. I read an excellent book on concise writing called "Writing Down the Bones" By Natalie Goldberg and it has helped me make my writing more spare. My natural resting place, however, is verbose. I like the idea of making my writing be the minimum most clean it can be, practice however, eh.
I like writing metered poetry, I like the constraint and the creativity it encourages.
I will leave you with one of my favorite poems of all time, not mine but Pablo Neruda's
I love it not just for the beauty of the words but also the perfect way it speaks to a love I have experienced, simply elegently perfectly described:
Sonnet 17
I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be
loved,in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way
than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
The above is a salt rose