Spaghetti Squash Casserole

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I first tried this dish at True Food Kitchen and fell in love with the light textures and fresh flavors of this dish. After recently switching to a plant based diet, I was thrilled when the restaurant allowed me to substitute their house made dairy free almond ricotta instead of a traditional mozzarella topped version . I will admit, I rarely eat spaghetti squash, and had never even cooked it before. I will be cooking spaghetti squash a lot more now that I have been inspired with this fabulous, light tasting casserole which is so filling and just bursting full of texture and flavor.

One of the things I love about this recipe is the make ahead factor. The sauce is not even cooked until final assembly.  All of the components, like the roasted spaghetti squash, spiralized/julienned zucchini, caramelized onions, sauce, and even the almond ricotta (for a non dairy version-almonds must be soaked a day ahead-recipe link below), may be made and prepped ahead and stored separately until final assembly.  The assembly of the dish takes just minutes to warm in a skillet and then the casserole may be popped in the oven just to melt or warm the cheese.

Spaghetti Squash Casserole Recipe:

Time: about 1 1/2 hours total not including the overnight soak for almond ricotta

Serves 6 generous portions – as pictured above this is a half a recipe baked in an 8 inch by 10.5 inch by 2 inch deep dish, I saved the remaining half of the cooked or prepped ingredients to make another smaller casserole a few nights later. If making the full casserole recipe all at once, use a 9×13 casserole dish when ready to bake.

Ingredients

For the Sauce:

  • 1 28 oz. can Blanco or other brand of Organic Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1-2 cloves of Garlic, peeled with brown root end cut off of the clove
  • 1/2 tsp. Dried Oregano or 1 tsp. Fresh Oregano
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1-Tbls. Olive Oil (omit if oil-free version is desired-will still taste great)

For the Squash:

  • 1 Spaghetti Squash around 4-5 pounds, split in half lengthwise and seeded (roast the seeds separately with olive oil and salt for a nice snack)
  • 2 Zucchini Julienned or spiralized (I used a Kitchen Aid spiralizer-thin blade)
  • 2-3 Tbls. of Fresh Parsley, or Basil, or Thyme for garnish (or use a combination of and or all, dried or fresh)
  • 1 Onion Caramelized (Dice one medium to large sized yellow onion and sauté in a pan with 1-2 Tbls. of oil, or water for oil-free version, on medium-low heat for 30 minutes or until brown and soft-can add a few teaspoons to taste of honey, maple syrup or brown sugar to speed up the process). I ran out of olive oil so I used the liquid that remained on my sheet pan after roasting the spaghetti squash.
  • 2 Tbls of Olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and fibers attached to the seeds. Save the seeds to roast for a delicious snack.  If using oil, rub a small amount of olive oil just to lightly coat the inside of the spaghetti squash halves and sprinkle salt and pepper on the inside as well. For an oil free version omit the oil, it will be fine.  Lay the two halves cut side facing down on a sheet pan lined with parchment for easy clean up.  Roast until al dente-approximately 40 minutes. You do not want to overcook. Use a spoon or fork to scoop out the spaghetti squash strands once slightly cooled. The squash may be roasted and cooked a day ahead and refrigerated until needed.
  2. While the spaghetti sauce is roasting, caramelize the chopped onions in a skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil or for an oil free version water or vegetable broth so the onions do not stick. If you have liquid left over from the roasting of the spaghetti squash, you can use that as well. Add sweetener of choice to help with the browning and to add some sweetness.  This should take about 30 minutes or so on medium low heat. This can be made a day ahead.
  3. Blend all sauce ingredients in blender until almost pureed with some slight texture to the tomato. This can be refrigerated and made a day ahead if necessary. Keep the sauce uncooked, it will be cooked further later.
  4. Spiralize or Julienne the Zucchini
  5. Heat a large sauté pan with 2 Tablespoons of oil or water. You can even use any liquid that was on the sheet pan after roasting the squash.  Add the cooked and separated spaghetti squash strands which were scooped out of the skin, julienned zucchini, tomato sauce and caramelized onions till combined and just heated through.  Place mixture in a casserole dish and top with mozzarella cheese or almond ricotta if desired.  Please see my blog or the link below for the almond ricotta recipe:   https://wordpress.com/posts/dawnielovestocook.wordpress.com
  6. Place casserole dish uncovered in a 400 F degrees oven until mozzarella cheese is melted and has a slight color or almond ricotta is heated and just warmed through. Once the cheese is melted and browned (mozzarella) or warned through ( almond ricotta), finish the dish with some chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, basil , thyme or a combination of one or all three. If you do not have fresh herbs used dried.

Enjoy!  Makes great leftovers as well!

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Black Olive Aioli

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This is such an unattractive in looks but outstanding in taste aioli from “Malibu Farm Cookbook” by, Helene Henderson, the recipe is found on pg. 210.  The aioli is pungent and flavorful and made with ingredients such as Mayo, Kalamata olives, parsley, garlic, and shallots. I added about half of the mayonnaise than the recipe calls for but it was still incredibly good. What a great recommended pairing for the Halibut sandwich found on pg. 174. I also love Helene’s suggestion to mix the aioli with with chopped cooked chicken breast to make a chicken salad.

Another winner of a recipe from my all-time favorite cookbook!

https://dawnielovestocook.wordpress.com/2016/04/20/malibu-farm-cookbook-by-helene-henderson/

Gochujang-Braised Chicken and Crispy Rice

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I found this recipe in the March 2016 issue of Bon Appetit Magazine and I’ve prepared it at least three times since.  The sauce, oh the sauce is so unctuous and silky with bursts of flavor…I would definitely put this in the category of the ultimate comfort food.

The recipe is pretty straightforward but I did make a few adjustments, here are my tips:

  • I omit the butter and only used the olive oil, the chicken already has enough fat
  • I use only half of the stock required to maintain the depth of flavor
  • crisp up the delicious rice cakes with a bit of oil-coconut oil imparts a lovely flavor to the dish.
  • I use bone broth for the stock, 16 oz total, I love the richness it adds to this dish.  Bone Broth can be home made or purchased.  I used an Organic Chicken Bone Broth with low sodium made by Pacific Foods which I purchased at Whole Foods Market.
  • I also peel and cut some whole carrots in large meaty sized chunks and add them to the braising liquid for the last 10 minutes of cooking time.  I love the way the carrots taste in this dish their inherent sweetness plays nicely with the slightly spicy and savory sauce. I imagine potatoes in this dish would also be nice.  The recipe comes from Oiji, a Korean Restaurant in New York, they serve carrots and other winter vegetables with this particular dish.

The ingredients were not hard to find.  I purchased the Gochujang paste at Whole Foods Market.

Here is a link to the original recipe or copied and pasted below ***adapted with my comments:  http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/gochujang-braised-chicken-and-crispy-rice

 

Ingredients

Servings: 4

  • 1small onion, finely chopped
  • 8garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 12-inch piece ginger, peeled, finely grated
  • ¼cupgochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)
  • ¼cupsoy sauce
  • 2tablespoonssugar
  • 1tablespoonmirin
  • 1tablespoontoasted sesame oil
  • 1teaspoonfreshly ground black pepper, plus more
  • 3cupscooked short-grain rice-can be made 1 day ahead-do not use long grain rice it will not stick together in the same way
  • 1teaspoonground cumin
  • ½teaspoongarlic powder
  • ½teaspoonmustard powder
  • 8chicken drumsticks, patted dry
  • Kosher salt
  • 4tablespoonsunsalted butter (***I OMIT)
  • 2tablespoonsvegetable oil
  • 4cupslow-sodium chicken broth (***I only use 2 cups, you can use more if you like a lot of broth)
  • 6scallions, white and pale-green parts only, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • ***MY addition: 4 large carrots and 4-5 small waxy potatoes cut into small chunks to add in last 10-20 minutes of cooking

Preparation

  • Mix onion, garlic, ginger, gochujang, soy sauce, sugar, mirin, sesame oil, and 1 tsp. pepper in a medium bowl to combine; set sauce aside.
  • Toss rice, cumin, garlic powder, and mustard powder in a medium bowl to combine; spread out on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and chill until cold, about 1 hour.
  • Meanwhile, season chicken generously with salt. Heat butter and vegetable oil in a medium heavy pot over medium. As soon as foaming subsides, add chicken and cook, turning occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add reserved sauce and bring to a simmer; cook until sauce appears to thin out, about 3 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, partially cover pot, and simmer, turning occasionally, until chicken is very tender, 45–55 minutes.
  • Divide rice into 4 portions; form into ¾”-thick disks (moisten hands with water to prevent sticking). Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium. Working in 2 batches, cook rice cakes, turning halfway through, until crisp, puffed, and golden, about 10 minutes. Transfer to plates.
  • ***My addition, and potatoes, carrots or other winter vegetables cut into  2 inch about 10-20 minutes before the dish finished-at the 30-35 minute mark
  • Add scallions to chicken and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Top each cake with 2 chicken legs and a few scallions; spoon plenty of sauce over.
  • Recipe by Oiji, NYC

 

 

 

 

 

Kale Caesar

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Oh my. I adore Caesar Salad and this version has all of the fabulous pungent flavors I love in a great Caesar and yet the dressing is very basic and easy to make and the Kale really adds a new dimension. Helene Henderson uses the same instincts I’ve used so many times when I want to make a quick Caesar dressing but don’t want to coddle an egg, etc., mayo really works as a perfect stand in.  I used baby Kale and massaging the leaves with olive oil prior to dressing the salad really makes all of the difference.  My teenager and his friends came over for some pizza and I made this salad and they all loved it!  A new favorite recipe and another winner from the Malibu Farm Cookbook pg.54.  I also found the link for the recipe on the Malibu Farm web site so I will include below.  My notes: I omitted the Romaine, Black Kale and fried sage due to lack of time for prep and I purchased triple washed baby Kale which ended up working out great.  The whole 5 oz tub of Baby Kale was the perfect amount for the dressing in the recipe. Once I start to grow my own sage I will try the frying…I love salted fried sage.

Here’s the recipe: http://www.malibu-farm.com/recipes/sage/kale-caesar/

A Home Made version of a Classically prepared Table Side style Caesar Salad

I love Caesar Salad.  The best Caesar Salad I’ve tasted was made tableside for me at a famous steakhouse called Dal Rae in Pico Rivera, CA.  There are not many restaurants which still classically prepare Caesar Salad, so it’s a real treat to dine at Dal Rae and watch the masters make a salad before your very eyes.  On my third visit to Dal Rae I kindly asked Richard, The General Manager who is French, if I may write the ingredients down as he prepared our salad.  He graciously agreed and even welcomed a future phone call to the restaurant with a report on how my home-made version turned out.  I did call him and I raved about the results.  The ingredient list is long but most of the ingredients may already be in your pantry or fridge.  Measurements are not exact, I did not write down measurements and Richard made everything by eye, he’s probably made this salad thousands of times.  This is a recipe you will refine as you experiment and you can adjust seasonings to preference.  Most Caesar Salads call for a raw egg yolk, although, if you prefer to play it safe you can coddle an egg like the Dal Rae uses in their preparation. Coddling will heat the egg up enough so it should be safer to consume than a raw egg.   I will share all of the tips below.

Caesar Salad Recipe:

Equipment:

Large Salad Bowl, wooden or whatever you have on hand, the larger bowl the better for ample room for tossing the salad

Tongs for tossing salad

Whisk-or you can use the tongs or fork if you do not have a whisk

Ingredients:

1 crushed garlic clove

juice of 1/2 a lemon

1 egg yolk raw or coddled NOTE: To coddle an egg place a whole raw egg with the egg-shell on, in a large mug, pour boiling water just to cover the egg, let stand one minute and no longer, crack the egg and separate the yolk, discard/ use the white for another preparation.  Egg Yolk Substitute: In a pinch when I do not want to use an egg yolk, I use a TBLS of mayonnaise as a binder.  The end result is fairly similar, shhh don’t tell Richard.

Dash of Tabasco pepper sauce

2 Tbls. Red Wine Vinegar

pinch of Dry Mustard Powder

1-2 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce

Freshly Cracked Black Pepper to taste

1/4 to 1/3 cup Good Quality Freshly grated Parmesan

6-8 TBLS. Olive Oil

3/4 to one full head of romaine chopped and washed thoroughly

Croutons if desired

1 anchovy or more depending on if you like them.  They are too strong for my liking so I usually add just a little but most of the time I leave this out because Worcestershire sauce already has some anchovy in it.

Method:

In a large empty salad bowl add crushed garlic, lemon juice, egg yolk and tabasco.  Whisk to combine.  Next add Red wine vinegar, dry mustard, Worcestershire, black pepper, anchovies.  Whisk all ingredients to combine.  Here comes the fun part.  Drizzle about 6-8 TBLS of olive oil while whisking at the same time to create an emulsion.  Once all ingredients are nicely combined add chopped romaine to the bowl and parmesan cheese to the top of the lettuce.  Use tongs to gently toss the salad so all the leaves are coated.  Add croutons if desired and serve promptly.  Make this salad just before you are ready to eat.  This salad should be eaten immediately or it will wilt.  For make ahead instructions, make your dressing and store in the refrigerator.  Toss salad leaves with dressing and parmesan just before serving.