squash sauce

With temps nearing 100 today, I’m keeping things in the kitchen simple, focusing all efforts on soaking up the last flush of summer.

This means my blender is seeing a lot of action: the family-sized green smoothie it makes every day, followed by a giant batch of butternut queso.

My garden didn’t yield any butternuts this year, but there were plenty at the farmers’ market. This sauce is easy to make with both fresh and frozen butternut squash, so I snatched several up to prep and freeze later this month.

squash sauce

 

Butternut queso

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This is one of those recipes that was born of not-in-the-mood-for-anything meals + staple ingredients. Items are grabbed from the pantry, tossed into the blender, and the rest of the meal figures itself out. If using a medium/large butternut, the neck portion will yield 2 to 2 1/2 cups cubed squash. The concentrated sweetness of dried tomatoes rounds out the flavor of this sauce and lends it a hint of color. We go easy on the garlic, but mine is a homegrown variety, more pungent than what’s found in most markets. This tastes good with a dash (or three) of smoked paprika; sadly, my family is too wimpy to handle such a thing. Sometimes, I sneak in a few dashes of ground chipotle – just as much flavor, but less discernible heat. You’ll notice I don’t add any oil or butter – this isn’t because I’m avoiding fat; the sauce is rich enough without it (especially after the flavors have melded in the fridge for a few hours). Some similar recipes on the web include Earth Balance, and I’m sure throwing in a knob would taste good to some palates, but we enjoy it without.

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2 cups 1/2-inch cubed butternut squash
1 medium yellow-fleshed potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, or more to taste
4 thumb-sized sundried tomato pieces (preferably not oil packed)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon tamari
1/2 cup raw cashews, either pre-soaked/drained or pulverized in a spice grinder
1 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, more to taste
a few grinds white pepper, more to taste

Combine the squash, potato, garlic and sundried tomatoes in a large, wide pot. Add just enough water to cover and bring to a low boil. Lower to a simmer and cook until the potato and squash are fork tender, about 10 minutes. Taking care not to burn yourself, transfer the contents of the pot to the blender. Add the lemon juice and tamari, and blend until smooth. Add the cashews, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper, and blend again until smooth. Add additional water if necessary to make the sauce thinner, if you prefer. The sauce will thicken slightly when cooled.

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 15 minutes | Yield: about 3 cups

Pre-garden tour // five minute miso cashew chèvre

I’ve been meaning to give a garden tour for ages, one of the entire grounds. It’s a lot – my gardens and beds are spread out over 15 acres, and every time I think about it I get overwhelmed. Until I finally realized that I don’t have to do it all at once, and then I got excited! Starting next week, with my kitchen garden, I’m going to give you mini tours of this wee little farm I love so much.

The recipe I’m sharing today pairs really well with a lot of things growing in my kitchen garden right now, both sweet and savory.

kitchen garden cross sectionThe corner of my kitchen garden, home to sprawling herbs, many pots of various sizes, and full of hidden frog and lizard burrows.
kitchen garden toad and frog Most of the pots offer temporary housing to seedlings or plants while I decide on their permanent places of residence. They are also home to many a burrowing toad; Nina made a temporary dwelling for a couple of toads we found in a pot while transferring plants. After everything was put back in order, we released them back into the garden.
kitchen garden VastraThis photo of Vastra was taken a few weeks ago – the bed of greens behind her is now completely overgrown, despite us cutting salad greens every day. I leave a ground cover of chickweed year-round, so that when the girls jump their fence and make a beeline for the garden, they’re distracted enough that we can catch them. Don’t feel sorry for Vastra! She and her flock has a very nice fenced in dwelling, which I’ll show you during an upcoming tour.
tangy cashew chevre w. radishesA dark rye tartine with homegrown radishes and chive blossoms.
tangy cashew chevre lunch prep
tangy cashew chevre lunch tartinesTartines for lunch, left to right: last night’s radish leaves and a pepper from the farmers’ market; radish leaves and chive blossoms; homegrown strawberries and mint.

 

Five minute miso cashew chèvre

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This reminds me of chèvre – delightfully tangy, with a hint of sweetness that is only detectable when you aren’t looking for it. It’s a soft cashew cheese, one that isn’t cultured that I like to make while I wait for my cultured cheeses to hurry up already. I make it in small batches in my mini Cuisinart, which has graced my many kitchens since 1995. I don’t bother soaking my cashews; it’s such a small amount that they turn to powder with just a few pulses of the blade. When Nina wants to get in on the action, I let her pulverize the cashews in a spice grinder – not necessary, but very gratifying. And truth be told, even faster than the food processor.

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1 cup raw cashew pieces
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon shiro miso
2 tablespoons water

Add your cashews to the food processor and blitz until powdered. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth. Add additional water if necessary – you want the texture to be similar to whipped cream cheese. Will keep in the refrigerator for a week or so.

Prep time: 5 minutes | Yield: about 1 cup

My love affair with red torpedos // vodka sauce // raw not-vodka sauce

Today I’m feeling like a Talky McTalkerson and am dying to wax nostalgic about all of the things that make a vodka sauce so good, but I don’t have time (and you may not have the patience). So, I’m going to distill it down to just this:

alcohol + tomatoes + heat = a release of alcohol-soluble tomato goodness

It’s that simple! Any alcohol will do, preferably one that is as flavorless as possible (enter: vodka) so that as the tomatoes cook down, no trace of alcohol flavor remains. More often than not, I use a dry white wine.

red.torpedos.justpulledRed torpedos: they look like football-shaped shallots.

Have you ever grown the red Italian bunching onion called red torpedo? If not, grab a couple of seed packets, fill a pot with vegan compost-rich soil, and get on it! In my climate, I’m able to grow red torpedos year-round, and they proliferate equally well in pots and in the ground. They tolerate summer heat as long as they’re in partial shade, and they love a slight chill in the air. I have no idea where to buy them, but they grow so easily I’ve never bothered to look. Red torpedos can be used any time a recipe calls for red onion, and they can be paired with a bit of mild garlic to replace shallots. They are mild and sweet and taste great raw. They roast and caramelize well. Also, they’re pretty. In short, the perfect onion.

red.torpedosReady for the skillet (vodka sauce) or the blender (raw sauce).

If you have really amazing just-picked tomatoes with a flavor that knocks your socks off, then this recipe can easily be adapted into a (not vodka) raw tomato cream sauce. I make it both ways, mostly depending on how much time I have. If you’re good about mise en place, you can start either version of this sauce while you wait for your water to boil, and be done in time to dress your pasta.

crostini_pesto+vodka.saucePairs well with pesto.

Vodka sauce // raw tomato cream sauce

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If you don’t have any red torpedo onions, 1/4 a small red globe onion will do nicely.

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3 red torpedo onions, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 handfuls small/medium tomatoes or 3 large tomatoes, cored and chopped
1/4 Cup dry white wine
1/2 Cup raw cashew pieces
1/2 sweet bell pepper, optional
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a skillet or heavy pot over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to caramelize – about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and wine and bring the pot to a simmer, stirring and smashing the tomatoes around in the pot as they cook down. Simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from heat. Add everything to a blender or food processor – if you’re including the sweet pepper, add it now. Puree until smooth, adding water if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To make this recipe raw: omit the olive oil, and blend everything straightaway.

Yield: 1 1/2 – 2 Cups

Prep time: 5 minutes raw, 15 minutes cooked

It’s been a busy summer.

Hoosier_campsite

Cubs

We camped our way to the Upper Peninsula, stopping in Chicago to catch a Cubs game before spending nearly two weeks on lake Superior.

killdeer_nest

wave_jumper

There was a bear cub sighting, a killdeer nest, and ten straight days of sand and sun.

kitchengarden

moonandstars

pattypan

zucchiniWe returned home to find out it rained every single day we were out of town. My kitchen garden? Completely overrun with basil and shiso. My vine garden? Completely overrun with melons. Even my zucchini and patty pan plants survived, despite the annual squash bug plague.

pearsPears are in season. Tip of the iceberg. I suspect a few pear recipes may make an appearance once I get out from under these knobbly green pomes.

blueberry_oatshakeThe past five years we forgot to net our blueberry bushes, which made the local deer happy. This summer we finally got around to it, and have been picking berries every day for over a month. Most of them go straight into Nina’s mouth; any stragglers she leaves behind make it into the kitchen. She has recently declared herself a superhero-in-training*, and we came up with this shake to keep her healthy and strong.

Blueberry superhero oatshake

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This is more milkshake than smoothie, packed with all manner of things a growing superhero needs (…antioxidants, protein, fiber…). An equal amount of rolled or steel cut oats can be substituted for the groats, and 2 tablespoons cashew or peanut butter can be substituted for the raw cashews. If you don’t have a high-powered blender, there will be little flecks of oats and cashews in your shake. To avoid this, simply pre-grind the cashews and oats to a powder with a burr grinder before blending with the rest of the ingredients. I often combine everything in a large mason jar and pop it in the refrigerator before I go to bed, then blend it right in the jar with my immersion blender in the morning.

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1 large handful fresh blueberries
1 small handful baby spinach
1/2 Cup sprouted oat groats
1/4 Cup raw cashews
1/2 to 1 Cup almond milk
1 teaspoon blackstrap molasses

Blend until smooth, starting with 1/2 Cup milk and adding more if needed to reach desired consistency.

Yield: 1 superhero or 2 mortal servings

Prep time: 5 minutes

*Awesome Girl. Is anyone even a little bit surprised?