November 19, 2015

Butternut Carbonara

Squash is not a popular item on our table, unless it comes from the grill… So this time, I neglected to inform my taste-testers of this month’s Improv Cooking Challenge ingredients. I just knew that if I tossed in some bacon, chances of the dish being devoured would go way up!EJ-squasage6

For this recipe you will need:

    • butternut squash
    • drizzle of olive oil
    • 4 oz. salted butter
    • 12 fresh sage leaves (small to medium)
    • 3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
    • 2 oz. bacon crumbles
    • Parmesan cheese (freshly shred about 2 oz.)

I went to Sprouts and bought the largest butternut squash I could find -- which proved to be slightly problematic for my little Veggetti. Cut off the bulbous portion, seed it & roast separately for some other use. Cut off the stem end and peel the rest of the squash.  Use a spiralizing tool to make “noodles”.  Place the butternut noodles onto a silicone baking sheet in a pan and drizzle with a little olive oil.EJ-squasage1Bake at 400° for about 7 or 8 minutes. (We prefer most pastas al dente, so I didn’t want them too soft…)

While the squash is baking, brown the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.EJ-squasage3When it starts browning, add the sage leaves and minced garlic. It takes only a minute or so for them to cook.EJ-squasage4Gently toss in the butternut noodles from the oven.EJ-squasage2Add the bacon.EJ-squasage5After plating the finished noodles, sprinkle with a generous amount of Parmesan.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much the fellas enjoyed dinner! They had seconds and asked for more, but the skillet was empty…EJ-squasage6


Want some more squash & sage recipes? Click the links below to see what my fellow Improvers prepared for you today:

October 15, 2015

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Kalamata Olive “Pesto”

There was quite the dilemma at our table when I told the fellas their choices for the “Orange & Black Improv Cooking Challenge. They wished to try “all the above”, so we made two meals -- one over here, which was slightly Southwesty, & this one, was moderately Mediterranean. E.J. gnocchi (21)

We served the gnocchi with blackened salmon, for one more layer of orange & black…

    • 2 c. mashed sweet potato (bake sweet potatoes @ 400° for about an hour, let cool)
    • 1 c. ricotta cheese (let drain overnight until it’s about 6 oz.)
    • 1 t. kosher salt
    • 1 egg
    • 1 1/4 c. gluten-free flour, plus some for the work surface

I started out by draining the ricotta overnight so it would be nice & dry for the gnocchi. I also baked the sweet potatoes ahead of time.E.J. sweet potato gnocchi(This was my first time using Bob’s Red Mill® Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour. It worked, but tasted slightly “rice-y”, I thought…) You can see I tried to make the ridges with a fork, but that wasn’t working for me. I’ve since picked up a gnocchi board at the kitchen store to use on the next batch…

E.J. kalamata pestoAfter the gnocchi was sitting around drying a little before cooking; I started the tedious process of hand-chopping the pesto ingredients. (Using the food processor would’ve made this too pasty, I think.)

    • 1/4 c. olive oil
    • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
    • 6 oz. Kalamata black olives, pitted and chopped
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • 1.5 oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    • 1/2 c. fresh basil leaves (about 2 oz.) chopped

Time to brown the gnocchi in butterE.J. gnocchi (19)I may or may not have eaten half while waiting for everyone to show up from school/work.E.J. gnocchi (20)

The salmon was simple. It wasn’t truly blackened. E.J. gnocchi (18)I used a tablespoon each of dark brown sugar, espresso powder & Cajun seasoning. E.J. gnocchi (17)I stuck it in a 425° oven for 10-12 minutes. Came out perfect!

The fellas love the Kalamata condiment! This nacho plate happened more than once with the leftovers:E.J. gnocchi (6)Yes! That’s tortilla chips, salmon, pesto & a little Colby-Jack… to. die. for.

Here are the links to the other Orange & Black participants’ foods: