Monday, July 19, 2010

Pattypan Squash! Part Deux

Worth a shot!

I don't take well to failure, so when I noticed one of those pattypan squashes had been left over I had to take a second shot at making it into something edible.

Since discovering my local market sells large Israeli couscous, I've been on a bit of a couscous kick. I enjoy most couscous, but the texture of the larger pearls makes them more satisfying than the small couscous sold in the ethnic aisles of large-chain grocery stores. After a bit of careful consideration (I was hungry and didn't want to wait for my chicken to thaw) I decided that the couscous and the squash would work well together. I threw in dried cranberries for tartness and texture, and crossed my fingers.

The resulting pattypan couscous was surprisingly good, containing a bit of dairy and very little fat. It was a light dish that worked well in the summer heat, but I think adding pumpkin or another winter squash to the mix would make it perfect for fall or winter, also.

Don't get me wrong - I still don't condone the use of pattypan squash on humans or primates ... as this is what the pattypan squash looks like when it's oozing whatever ooze it oozes (below).

Do not eat.

Still, with the right couscous base it's not totally unappetizing.

If you think I'm kidding about the "not-fit-for-humans" line and want to try a pattypan couscous for yourself, you'll need:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 cup of Israeli couscous
  • black pepper
  • dried rosemary
  • parsley
  • garlic salt
  • touch of cumin
  • touch of cayenne pepper
  • 3 tbsp of dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup of patty pan squash (Y'all are substituting zucchini)
  • 2 cups of boiling chicken stock
  • slivers of Parmesan cheese

1. sauté the onion in the olive oil at medium heat until it turns golden
2. add the couscous and toast in the pot
3. add spices, sauté for 1 minute
4. add sliced patty pan squash and cranberries
5. pour the boiling chicken stock over the couscous
6. cover and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes
7. fluff and serve with slivered Parmesan cheese and cranberries
8. salt to taste

Let me know how it goes, kids! Enjoy!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Summer | Pattypan Squash Sauté Fail

Only the magic of post-processing makes this look like food.

A few weeks ago, I picked up a few random summer vegetables from the farm down the road. Among these was something calledpattypan squash, which looked like little yellow UFOs (how darling!) and were rumored to taste just like zucchini.

I visited my online recipe guru on a hunt for zucchini recipes, the closest thing I've encountered to the pattypan squash, finding some instructions for her quick zucchini sauté that seemed simple and fool-proof, requiring only oil, almonds, and julienned zucchini.

I dutifully sliced the pattypan squash, sauteed the almonds in olive oil until they turned golden-brown, and then paused to take in the scene.

It was not a happy scene: an unidentifiable gel was oozing from the squash, resembling the goo that comes off okra or aloe.

The recipe states, "The only two things that matter are that the almonds get brown and toasty in the pan, and that you only cook the zucchini for one minute." ONE MINUTE?! Nuh-uh, sister! Not with that weird goo stuff! I cooked it for at least ten minutes (10:00).

Now, I realize that my "1000% more fire" approach went against the recipe's main tenet, but recipes are meant to be tweaked - especially in in the face of mucky food oozings.

The original recipe also suggested that I could add a sprinkle of parmesan cheese to the dish. Faced with the prospect of this dripping yellow disaster, my version NEEDED cheese. Lots of cheese.

Maybe it was the extreme over-cooking. Maybe it was the pattypan squash. Maybe it was me. Whatever the cause, the dish was not pleasant.

Final verdict: don't eat pattypan squash.


Saturday, July 3, 2010

Drink This | Rosa Regale

Looks promising!

I have a confession to make, and I fear that will uncover one of my little prejudices: I cannot respect women who drink overly sweet wine.

Yes, it is mostly women who order these sickly sweet wines in all of these restaurants I've worked in. Both of my readers know the type - she smiles coyly when asked what she'll be drinking and coos, "Oh, I don't like anything too dry. Do you have anything sweet? Riesling? Or a nice white Zin?"

These women have never tasted a full-bodied, sexy wine, and they don't care to.

Current snobbish wino enthusiast wisdom holds that it's OK to drink sweet wine. Indeed, people should drink whatever wines they enjoy and not worry about traditional pairings or any kind of "objective" standards.

I'm not a believer in most kinds of relativism, but wine relativism can be defended, I think, and I'm willing to make exceptions to even my own food and wine rules - which is how I, despite typically recoiling from sweeter wines, agreed to take a sip of Banfi's garnet-colored Rosa Regale at a wine tasting a few weeks ago.

Take a look at the photograph of Banfi's Rosa Regale with a little light shining through the bottle ...

... there was no time to photograph the wine in the glass.

My host at the wine tasting presented the Rosa Regale as the grand finale to a lovely procession of wines - a sparkling dessert wine, light but lively with bubbles and a sweet, rich aroma of berries. It is made from the Brachetto grape, which may be significant or informative to someone other than me.

I took a few sips of the Rosa Regale with small bites of rich milk chocolate. The combination of the raspberry tones in the wine and the chocolate induced a foodie euphoria I haven't felt in a long time. Saying that "wine x" pairs perfectly with "food y" is an overused formula, sure, but it (in this case) is rings true. It just seems natural that these two should be consumed together - so much so that I feel confident saying that this is pretty much the only wine I'll be pairing with chocolate from here on out.

SO, if I'm still single come Valentine's Day 2011, I'll be cuddled up to a fistful of dark chocolate and my own bottle of Rosa Regale, with a "Do Not Disturb" sign hanging happily from the door handle of my hotel room!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Vermilion Farmers' Markets

Vermilion's blue skies

I moved into my little apartment in Oberlin last Monday. Three days have passed and I'm still surrounded by boxes and bags thanks to a lovely friend native to the area. She's been introducing me to Amherst and Vermilion's many family-owned farms along Baumhart Road.

Miss K knew I wanted to pick my own strawberries, so she took me to the Aufdenkamp Family Farm yesterday. I found out that strawberry season lasts exactly one month up here. I assumed that I had plenty of time to pick them because I was used to Florida strawberry season, which lasts roughly from December to April. Silly me. So much for carpe fragaria- I'll have to pick the damn things next year.

The absence of strawberries at this particular farm was remedied by these yummy red raspberries, which I devoured the same day:

They were way better than the black raspberries we found. I also bought sweet purple onions, but they didn't look as nice in the photos.

I don't like to function without a daily intake of strawberries, so we drove twenty feet down the road to Krieg's Strawberry Farm and Market in the hopes of finding a field for pickin'. No luck there either! I resorted to strawberries in a cute wooden basket to make myself feel better, and bought a week's worth of produce for $9.00, which is comparable to what I'd spend at Wal Mart. That's quite an accomplishment, by the way. Organic, locally-grown produce typically costs way more than good ol' corporate-grown veggies.

Bonus: I actually received instruction for boiling corn properly from Mrs. Krieg, which I will share with you: bring salted water to a boil, pop the husked corn in the boiling water for 4 to 5 minutes, and then take it out. Add salt and butter to taste, and devour.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

No Po' Boy for You

Donate at

I visited the Big Easy when I was 18 years old, a week after the end of Mardi Gras. All I experienced of that alcohol orgy was streets littered with muddy beads, crushed plastic cups, and toilet paper.

Missing the fun bits of Mardi Gras was fail number one. Fail number two was that I visited as a staunch vegetarian. I'm sure this is callous and too soon to say, but I'm very upset that I missed out on pre-Katrina, pre-Rita, and pre-BP-fiasco New Orleans as an omnivore.

I was a teenager, an idiot, and I didn't realize what I was doing to myself. I gave up vegetarianism one fateful day involving Peruvian rotisserie chicken a year later, but it was too late. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita had transformed New Orleans.

I was assured, however, that the cuisine survived New Orlean's disaster streak, so I put a trip off. Oh, how fragile the world is!

Skip forward a few years and BP's lack of effective action have contributed to the possible death of the local fishing economy and culture in New Orleans, killed people's livelihoods, and hope for me eating an authentic po' boy made with Gulf oysters for a long time.

The fishermen who man the oyster beds are being diverted to help with the oil spill, and the oyster beds have already taken a hit:

"Meanwhile, many of the oyster beds have been closed as a precaution against the arrival of the oil. Some of the beds, however, have become victims of caution. Shortly after the spill began, authorities opened some of the vent-like structures built by the Army Corps of Engineers in order to push freshwater out toward the Gulf and keep the oil from entering the river and surrounding marsh. That meant sharply decreasing salinity in some of the waters where oysters are harvested — killing the beds."-Time Magazine

Some of the only "help" the Gulf has received has been in the form of friendly fire, then. Even worse, the fishing areas surrounding the Exxon Valdez spill have taken almost two decades to recover, and not all of the species have recovered fully. How much hope can we have for the Gulf Coast spill, which is worse? At the very least, it takes two to four years for an oyster crop to grow, and that's not including the possibility that the oil will kill the rest of them.

At least a few restaurateurs are standing up for the fishermen in the Gulf.

Susan Spicer, a New Orleans chef, is suing BP as part of a class action suit, according Ron Ruggless' article on According to the lawyers, “Much of plaintiff's business is based on the unique quality of Louisiana seafood, as well as the chain of delivery of that resource from the initial harvester (be it fisherman, oyster grower or shrimper)... “Because this chain of delivery cannot be maintained, plaintiff's business has been, and continues to be, materially damaged.”

I wish good luck on the chefs and the fishermen and tourists who had their hearts set on Gulf oysters. Learn from my mistake, people, and don't become vegetarians until your high cholesterol forces you to.