Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Italian with an Autumn Twist

Have I ever mentioned that Autumn is my favorite time of year? It is one of the main reasons Daniel and I wed at this time of year, plus, the leaves are changing, the weather is cooling. And the food? Warm, spicy, earthy. I think I love the food of Autumn best.

I have been wanting to make a Butternut Squash Lasagna for ages, but lasagna making is not in my repertoire, plus Daniel never seems too excited at the mention of it. Before we left on vacation, I had bought a nice butternut squash but hadn't found a time to eat it yet. It sat on the counter during our vacation (our food has a way of doing that :) and when we got back it sat for a week more. Finally I said to Daniel it had to be eaten, no matter what we were going to have it with. It was still fine, of course, but I abhor spoiled food, and I abhor even more food that isn't quite spoiled enough to eat, but enough to notice it is on it's way out when you eat it! We thought and thought. He wanted pasta. I figured I could find a way to make it work with pasta. He threw out the idea of Squash Parmesan. I scoffed, "Its Eggplant Parmigiana, dear..."
He laughed, "Oh, yea..." and we kept our brains turning for something else. Hey, what ABOUT Butternut Squash Parmesean? We could make it with a bechamel sauce! And so, the idea formulated into a recipe.
While Daniel was hard at work making money for us, I was at home, trying to figure out how I'd pull this off. I knew Parmesan was good on butternut squash, surprisingly, (probably because it is so salty and it contrasts very well with the sweet winter squash).

Daniel and I usually only eat a half of a butternut squash at one time, so I cut off the round bottom (the part with the seed cavity) and only used the top. I sliced it into 1/4 inch slices and cut off the rind. If you wanted to use the bottom as well, I would suggest cutting the top (skinny) part off and slicing it the way I have, then, slice the round bottom part the opposite direction, so that you have thin rings.
I beat an egg with a few teaspoons of milk in a bowl. I had my regular homemade breadcrumbs, plus a few leftover Panko crumbs I had stashed in the freezer (I so hate wasted food!), so I threw those in for crunch. And of course, I mixed in just a little grated Parmesan cheese, as well as salt, pepper, and my standard squash herbs - thyme and sage. I coated the squash slices with the egg solution then covered them in breadcrumbs. I repeated the process one more time, and placed them on a baking sheet. I placed the slices in the oven at 350 F for about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, I cleaned up, then began the pasta, as well as a bechamel that would be turned into a mornay of sorts. I started with a roux of white flour and about 4 tablespoons of butter (yes butter!) over medium heat. Once the butter was melted and mixed in well with the flour, I added enough milk until I had the consistency I wanted. (Be careful here or you will scorch the milk!) I added some thyme and then whisked in some parmesan cheese, about 1/2 a cup. At this point it was too thick so I added some more milk to get it back to the consistency I wanted, all in all I'd say it was about 1-2 cups total.

After about 40 minutes in the oven, the squash was golden-brown and ready to take out. I arranged some pasta on a plate, topped with a few crunchy squash slices, then drizzled with the parmesan 'mornay.' Rewarding myself with a bite after photgraphing it really WAS a reward! (Sometimes our experiments don't turn out so great of course, but this one was wonderful) The salty parmesan cheese and crunchy coating on the squash contrasted wonderfully with the sweet flesh of the squash. The cream sauce also added a nice touch.

I'm submitting this to Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Ruth this week. Thinking outside the box doesn't have to be hard, and this goes to show it can be delicious too!Stumble Upon Toolbar

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Monday, November 24, 2008

We're Back!

We're back!
Lets face it. Cartoons make fun of them, comedians make cheap jokes about them. Cruises. A boat full of old people and all-you-can-eat-buffet-goers scarfing down platefuls of mass-produced "gourmet" food.
Sheesh. People are harsh! Daniel and I have just celebrated our First Year Anniversay. When we got married, we went on a cruise to the Mexican Riviera for our honeymoon. He loved it so much we booked another on that very cruise, for a year later, to celebrate our One Year mark.
I don't know why I can't find much on cruise food. I'm not a snob, but I certainly know good food when I see it (and taste it!) I guess the problem lies with the fact that there is this HUGE kitchen where chefs and cooks churn out mass-produced versions of otherwise gourmet dishes. The dishes are fresh, presented beautifully, and delicious! It is the best time to try new things.

Escargot? Otherwise rarely found (especially in this wasteland of chain-restaurants we call Phoenix), and also quite pricey... when Daniel (the reformed-picky-eater) saw escargot on the menu he thought "why not?" Carpaccio of beef? Other than making it ourselves I've never had the chance to actually eat carpaccio, I've only even been able to drool over it on food blogs and gourmet/travel shows. Lobster? While not uncommon, it is very pricey and very rare that we might actually go out to get some. I've been on three cruises and each of them have had a lobster night where the waiters wait around to shove another plate of tails in front of you shoudl you ask.
It is a virgin-foodies dream... ask any foodie from an area such as ourselves and we will tell you, since we don't have the chance to try such wonderful things as escargot in our own backyard, its great to be able to try them on the cruise, when, basically, you've already paid and if you don't like it, they will bring you something else ten more times until you find something you DO want.
We were very bad at getting pictures of everything. The lighting in the dining rooms is not the best for food pics, but below, dear readers, are some of the things we were fortunate to try, pick at, or devour!

Carpaccio of Beef with a citrus-cream sauce and capers. Mmm!

Daniels favorite - Escargot! We missed the night they served this (we were in Hacienda Alemana) so we asked the Maître d' about it and he had the kitchen make one especially for us!
The melted garlic butter drew me away from the fact that I was eating a garden critter... it was heavenly.

Ceviche complete with various shellfish, and a raw mussel. It was an interesting experience for Daniel (I'm proud of you babe!)

Onto the main courses!
Rack of Lamb (no mint jelly please!)

Roasted game-hen. I believe that little cake is sweet potatoes. Sage-mushroom stuffing seems familiar, but this was Daniel's dish not mine :)

Pasta with Pesto - There was also paper-thin sliced of potato that had soaked up the pesto flavors, as well as french-sliced green beans. A green-lovers dream (delicious as well)!

Veal - chops? Not sure exactly, but Daniel remembers its being delcious! (We'll get it right soon enough dear readers, maybe next time we will take pictures of the menus as well!)

Pheasant with Pan-gravy. Mmm, this was cooked perfectly, not dried out. It had the most delcious caramelized onions on top. Now I can cross Pheasant off the to-try list!

Now for dessert! This was a Coconut confection... we just loved the designs on the plate :)

Double Chocolate Mousse - white chocolate and dark chocolate pair together to make a heavenly finish to your meal! You can see the Princess Cruise sea witch logo on the chocolate... pretty presentation

Chantilly Swans, my favorite! This was offered the same night the escargot was, so the Maître d'had the kitchen make this esepcially for me as well :) I just love the presentation and I cannot beleive they make these little swans out of pastry dough!

Do you want to cruise now? I know I do... Keep a lookout for upcoming entries on the various restaurants we ate at while in port like Hacienda Alemana, Langosta Feliz, Victors on Stone Island, and a review of Off The Vine, a wonderful wine shop we visited in San Pedro before we left!
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Monday, November 3, 2008

Going on Vacation

I can't believe so much time has gone by and we've got nothing to post!
We've had a German bierfest (nothing foodie-worthy there except lots of beer), made a few noteworthy dishes... taken some pretty pictures... but the truth of the matter is, we have been so busy we've often just done pasta or pizza or frozen meals! How dare us you say!? Well... it is all for good reason. We are looking into buying a house! It is also a busy time in school for me, and we are leaving for a week-long vacation in a few days... getting everything into order before we leave on this planned-one-year-in-advance vacation is tough stuff! It is Daniel and my One Year Anniversary... and I can't believe it's been a year already... This is just one incredible time for us right now. I guess we won't be able to call ourselves newlyweds anymore? We refuse to not act like it though - and don't you think for a minute that means we are settling into a boring routine of meals...
The good news is... at least for you, dear readers... that on this vacation we will be taking wonderful pictures of food. We are going to be visiting our favorite restaurant Hacienda Alemana, and immersing ourselves in gourmet, foodie heaven!
See ya when we get back!Stumble Upon Toolbar

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