Stuffed Acorn Squash

27 09 2009

I don’t write or develop recipes, but I am a good improviser when it comes to cooking. Joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group really makes you practice those skills, as well. Last night, I was working with acorn squash, bok choy, tomatoes, (all from the CSA) and ground beef. I made up this dish, but the acorn squash could easily be substituted with butternut squash or kabocha (pumpkin), and the bok choy could be substituted for any leafy, hearty green. You could also add in some of your own favorites–onion and carrots come to mind. It’s a very versatile and easy dinner.

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Set your oven at 375. Prepare the squash by cutting them in half and scooping out the seeds. I put my four halves into a glass baking dish and drizzled them with olive oil. Salt and pepper them as much as you like (I like mine salty).

Put the squash in the oven and set the timer for 30 minutes. This should give you enough time to chop up the vegetables that you are using into smallish pieces. After the timer goes off, set it for another 30 minutes, and start making the filling. Heat a larger skillet and leave it at medium while you brown the ground beef (about 1 lb.). After it is just browned, add the chopped vegetables and season them with salt, pepper, curry powder, and a touch a cinnamon. Once everything has cooked, about 5-10 minutes, add about a half cup of vegetable broth and simmer until the liquid is gone. **

Check to see if your squash is tender and if it is, take it out of the oven to spoon some of your ground beef filling into each one. There will probably be leftover filling. Put the squash back into the oven for 10-15 minutes until the filling gets a little crusty. Take out the squash and let it sit for a couple of minutes before you eat it.

**If you have kids who are picky eaters or can’t eat the stuffed squash in this format, you could scoop out the meat of the squash and serve it separately with the filling. It’s a little bit easier to eat that way.

Some visuals:

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I am pretty excited to try this again and I’ll probably use kabocha next time, just because Matt and I like the flavor better. But overall, it was a tasty fall experiment. Please let me know if you try it any differently.

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Breakfast Sandwich: The Winner

22 09 2009

Drum roll, please. I tried the final breakfast sandwich this morning: The Winner! The Bagel Shop with 89 points! I had to make sure that this sandwich was deserving of such a prestigious title, and it still is.  Maybe even more deserving considering the line of people that now stretch across 13th street between classes waiting to place their order at the Bagel Shop.

Just look at this masterpiece:

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It should have its own runway show. Or its own fashion line, at least. Has “Breakfast Sandwich” been a challenge on Top Chef? (This one doesn’t count.) I don’t think so. Bring it on, Colicchio! The Bagel Shop in North Philadelphia will kick all of your Top Chef asses!





No Name Breakfast Sandwich

21 09 2009

After a long hiatus, I tried the penultimate and 12th breakfast sandwich from a Truck with No Name on Montgomery Ave. between Broad and 13th streets. The Winner will be announced tomorrow after I try the last and 13th sandwich.  I am on pins & needles!





The sandwich looked great except for the not-toasted-enough bread. It was cut in half, with the egg all nicely tucked and I couldn’t wait to dig in. The sandwich was very sturdy despite the white-bread-that-was-hardly toast. Maybe it was the massive amount of bacon in there! With the lack of sogginess, loads of bacon, and excellent egg tuckage, I really really wanted to fall in love this sandwich but I just couldn’t.  It’s like I loved this sandwich, but I wasn’t in love with the sandwich.

The egg was cooked well, there was lots of it (and bacon–did I mention the bacon?), and the cheese was nice and melty, but the taste just wasn’t doing it for me. I tasted ketchup, I tasted bacon (a bit too greasy), and I tasted egg, but the flavors seemed distant–like they all wanted to be in different sandwiches. They weren’t working together as a team. Maybe it’s because the ingredients really were just put on the sandwich as separate entities: first the cheese, then the egg, then the bacon. There was no mingling. Maybe this all ties in together with the truck itself having no name as I really couldn’t distinguish a name among all of the signage.  Maybe the truck, and in connection, the poor breakfast sandwich, are having an identity crisis.

But enough of my breakfast sandwich philosophies, which, on second read sound as random and displaced as the sandwich.  On to the scoring:

Overall appearance: 9
Meat: 8
Egg (quality, quantity, and tuckage): 8
Greasiness: 6
Cheese (quality and quantity): 7
Condiments (quality and quantity.): 7
Carbohydrate Delivery System (credit: Matt Palmer): 4
Price: 7 ($2.50 for lots of stuff)
Accuracy of order: 10
Overall taste: 7
Total score: 73





Color Blind at pod

18 09 2009

Do not adjust the colors on your screen. Do not go get your eyes checked. This is how food looks when you sit in a pod at pod restaurant in University City, Philadelphia. At first it was a funny game we all played by hitting the different buttons on the white padded walls of our cell, but when our food started to arrive, we became disoriented and a bit touchy (maybe it was the bright red light that altered our mood). It did make for interesting picture-taking. If I had read the manual on my point and shoot I may have known how to make adjustments for this kind of lighting, but it was too much fun not to.

This is what the main interior of pod looks like (notice the big round spacey pods down the side of the restaurant?):

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This is what it looks like in the pods:

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This is what our food looked like in the pod:

 
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Calamari salad: bleh. Not enough calamari. Too many greens. Too much fluorescence. Bland dressing. Next.

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Toro sushi roll: this was delicious but I have no idea what colors it was, which would have been nice.

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Duck 2 Ways (pan seared duck breast and duck confit with sun-dried cherry bao bun): This was so amazing. Why don’t I eat duck more often? I’ve never had a duck I didn’t like. The duck “pan” tasted exactly like what I used to grab for lunch in Tokyo–soft, tender, fluffy, meaty. The pan seared breast was caramelized nicely all around the outside and (I am pretty sure that) it was as rare as we wanted it. Tasty. Day-glo.

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Fluffer Nutter spring roles with peanut butter. NOM! What does nom mean anyway? So many people I know use this word and I am now jumping on the bandwagon because I can only assume that it means, “Utterly delicious and mouth-watering.”

The moral of the story here is: go to pod (once, maybe twice) and sit in a normal seat with normal light. For food’s sake. For the love of food. Or sit at the kaiten-zushi and pick exactly what you want from their fine sushi menu as it glides by.





Loteria!

17 09 2009

Los Angeles Mission: fresh and authentic Mexican food.
Problem: Too many other restaurants to try
Solution: visit Loteria Grill in the Farmers Market in West Hollywood for a quick lunch

The menu was extensive, the line was long, but we sidled up to the counter for some quick service.

I ordered the Carne deshebrada – Shredded Beef Served with Fresh Guacamole, Salsa Chipotle, and Finely Chopped Onion and Cilantro. Matt ordered the Cochinita Pibil– Pork, Slowly Roasted in Banana Leaf Served with Citrus-Pickled Red Onion and Chile Habanero.  Both were magically delicious. Tender meat, bright fresh accouterments, homemade corn tortillas. The one problem: the circumference of the tacos was about the size of my palm. And they were $3.50 each.

The Agua Frescas (watermelon and strawberry) were like a sweet sorbet dessert made from fresh fruit. Icy icy good. When we go back to L.A., I think I should insist on taking Loteria more seriously. As in, order a full meal on an empty stomach, and probably over-order just so I can try a bit of everything. The food was that good.

(P.S. Please tell me your opinion on this word: accoutrements or accouterments. I like the first spelling but WordPress likes the second spelling.)





Almost Meatless Frittatas

16 09 2009

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Ever since I got my own copy of Almost Meatless from Ten Speed Press written by Tara Mataraza Desmond and Joy Manning, I’ve been excited to try a recipe.  I finally sat down with it a few weeks ago and saw their Grecian Frittata recipe, except I didn’t have any of the ingredients except the eggs and spinach.  I decided to follow the basics of the recipe and improvise with mushrooms, tomatoes, Romano cheese, and candy onion. This is such an easy way to make a healthy breakfast. My version came out well, but I kept the frittata in the crocks to eat, which made them a bit watery. Next time I’ll be sure to plate them before eating.

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Fro Yo Faceoff

15 09 2009

I’ve decided to commemorate the end of summer with a new post about frozen yogurt. I was introduced to frozen yogurt many years ago as a kid and I never understood what the hype was about. I like lots of flavor and Fro Yo always seemed to have very limited flavor choices so I always went with the ice cream.

In Los Angeles this summer, we witnessed some very fierce Fro Yo competition so we jumped into the fray.

Pinkberry, in Little Tokyo, was the first contender. I had heard great things about Pinkberry so we went with high hopes and watering mouths. Pinkberry was OK.  The decor and ambience was funky and very clean.  The employees were a bit full of themselves and I was glad I hadn’t changed into my casual clothes after dinner to eat here.

The taste was absolutely fine. Fine, I tell you! But only three flavors? And we can’t put on our own toppings? Now where’s the fun in that? I had a flash back to the days of frozen yogurt only being available in a few flavors. I was not impressed back then and, to be honest, I wasn’t too impressed with Pinkberry.

Maybe we preferred Yogurtland because we were tourists. Maybe Philadelphians just want too many choices in their food (Whiz wit, wit-out, etc. etc.). We just loved everything about it. The huge cups that you can fill yourself with 5 different kinds of yogurt and 10 toppings. Or maybe you only want a small squeeze from the machine. You can do whatever you want in Yogurtland! And people behave themselves!!

I was on a fruity kick–I couldn’t get enough of the fresh fruit options, like mango and kiwi, and the natural yogurt just topped it all off. There’s this yogurt stand in Tokyo Disneyland, right when you get off of Space Mountain, that makes the most tangy, icy, semi-sweet flavors and this is the first time I’ve found anything that comes close. The natural flavor, mixed with some sweeter toppings, was so natsukashii!s

Matt experienced a little bit of that when he got sweet beans on his Fro Yo, and he was also a fan of the green tea with mochi topping. I passed.

We love you, Yogurtland! We love your overwhelming amounts of flavors and toppings! We love putting our dishes on the scale to be weighed! We love the energy in the shop! And we love your little green spoons. We are in love.