Butternut Squash Salad

Roasted squash, crunchy pepitas, salty feta, and tart pickled red onions.  This salad has it all, and can be served warm or cold.  Make a big batch it keeps so well.

Butternut Squash Salad

 

1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds)

5 to 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 cup cooked barley

Barley

1 cup chopped fresh kale, massaged well until it is bright green

Kale, massaged

Look how much brighter the massaged kale is, compared to the kale at the bottom of the photo.  Massaged kale is more tender and easy to digest also.

1/3 cup toasted salted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
3 ounces feta cheese
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

preheat oven to 375

Peel squash and cut into bite size pieces.  Toss with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and lots of freshly ground pepper, and roast until tender, about 30-40 minutes.

To cook barley put 1/2 cup dry barley into saucepan with 2 cups water (or chicken stock for extra flavour).  Boil for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and allow to sit for 1 hour.  Drain well.  You can easily do this a day ahead.

Dice red onion finely, and set aside in small bowl or jar.  Combine the sherry vinegar, water, salt and sugar and stir until well dissolved.  Pour over onions and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes.  You can also do this ahead of time, in fact I often have a jar of these in my fridge as they are amazing on salads, sandwiches and of course tacos!

Pickled red onion

Just love the bright colour pickled red onions get, with a gorgeous pink vinaigrette.  Yum.

The pumpkin seeds I have on hand all the time aren’t salted, so I toasted them in a little bit of olive oil, with a sprinkle of fresh sea salt.  They were so delicious I kept nibbling at them, good thing I ended up with enough for the salad.

When squash is ready, toss in a large bowl with all the other ingredients and about 3 tbsp  olive oil.

Butternut squash salad prep

Get everything ready ahead of time, and once the squash is roasted toss it all together.

Credit for this amazing salad goes to Smitten Kitchen, Deb used faro and I used barley but you can use any grain you like.  The kale was my idea too, had some in the fridge and thought it would add a nice pop of colour and texture, it did!

Angel Hair Pasta with Shrimp, Capers and Tomatoes

This pasta is quick, light and easy. Most of these ingredients are things I have on hand anyway, so as a last minute dinner it always works – add a fresh, crisp green salad and some garlic toast and your meal is perfect.

Plump juicy shrimp, fresh tomatoes and spring onions combine with capers for a quick easy dinner.

Plump juicy shrimp, fresh tomatoes and spring onions combine with capers for a quick easy dinner.

Put on a large pot of water to boil – salt only once it has come to rolling boil.

While waiting for the water to boil, heat a fry pan and stir in:

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup butter

Once melted, stir in
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
when lightly brown, stir in
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper, stir for 30 seconds and add:
3 pounds large shrimp – shelled and deveined
Stir occasionally and cook only until shrimp are cooked through – around 3-4 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper
Finish with 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice and a knob of butter.

Stir well and set aside.

By now your water has come to a boil and you are ready to cook your angel hair pasta – add a generous amount of salt to water, then pasta (enough for 4). Cook for time listed on your pasta container – being careful not to overcook. Drain – reserving 1 cup of the pasta liquid.

Return the pasta to the pot, toss in the shrimp mixture, including and juices, along with:
2 small tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp capers
green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Stir well, adding pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce up a bit and season to taste with salt and pepper.

If you don’t have any frozen shrimp on hand, this works really well with chicken too!

Butternut Squash Soup – with a Mediterranean twist

At this time of year the butternut squash is coming out of the gardens and so fresh that when you cut into it beads of moisture appear – yum yum! Butternut squash soup is a favorite of mine, but this time I felt like a little twist.

Butternut Squash Soup with a Mediterranean twist

Butternut Squash Soup with a Mediterranean twist

You will need:

roasted butternut squash
chicken stock
onions
garlic

Seasonings: Ras al Hanout, cinnamon stick, salt and pepper

Garnishes: Grated feta cheese, minced chives, crispy bacon pieces

In a soup pot cook bacon pieces (I like to cut my bacon slices in thin slivers). Remove bacon as soon as it gets crispy. Remove some bacon fat, but leave enough to sauté your cinnamon stick, onions and garlic until soft. Add chicken stock and roasted butternut squash. Remove cinnamon stick as soon as you get a hint of it in the broth, but not overwhelming. Cook until everything is steaming hot – puree with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender (if using a blender take care to leave an opening for the steam to escape – you do not want to end up wearing this hot soup). Season to taste with salt and pepper.

The portions on this will vary greatly on the size of your squash, and the amount of soup you want! For tonight there were only 2 of us so I used 1/2 a squash (about 2 cups) to 4 cups of chicken stock.

Serve once the soup has been pureed – garnish with the chives, bacon bits and grated feta.

For a vegetarian option, leave out the bacon and use vegetable stock.

Either way – a delicious soup!

Greek Salad

I’m always puzzled by anybody using a bottled jar of dressing …. it is so easy to make your own and nail the taste down just the way you like it! Greek salads are so amazing at this time of year … full of fresh vegetables out of the garden mixed with tangy, salty olives and feta cheese.

Greek Salad

SALAD

cubed cucumbers, tomatoes, colored sweet peppers and sliced red onion
crumbled feta and black olives
torn fresh basil and oregano leaves

DRESSING

I like to make my dressing right onto the salad … gives me an excuse to keep tasting the salad in the event I need to make adjustments …

Over salad squeeze:
juice of 1 lemon
1 crushed garlic clove
drizzle of your best olive oil
sprinkle of salt and pepper

Now taste it …. enough balance? If not, and you aren’t eating it all immediately while you taste, just keep adding bits at a time until it is perfect.

Grilled Pizza

P1110050

When the sun is shining, and the weather warm I can’t get enough of grilling.  One of our favorites is grilled pizza.  Once you get the hang of it you won’t be happy with doing it any other way.

I’m a bit of a nut – preferring to do everything from scratch – but you could easily purchase any part of these recipes ready made.  We have an Italian Deli right next to my work, and when I am pinched for time I buy ready made pizza dough from them when I pick up the cold cuts. 

If however, you like the process – then go ahead and give the whole thing a whirl. 

One thing I find really helpful is to pre-cook all the toppings.  For example, carmelized red onions taste way better than raw!  Thinly sliced, roasted potatoes make a great topping, as do roasted sweet peppers or sauted mushrooms.  Experiment with toppings you already love and try some new ones.

Pizza dough:

3 cups flour

1 packet instant (or Rapid Rise)  yeast

1 tsp kosher salt

2 tbsp good quality olive oil

1 cup warm water

Lightly sift together flour, salt and instant yeast.  Combine olive oil and warm water – slowly pour into flour blend.

If you have a stand mixer, allow it to do all the work for you – kneading for about 10 minutes.  If not, go ahead and dig in there – something therapeutic about kneading dough after spending the day at a desk.

Once the dough has reached a nice soft workable mass (adding either flour if it is too wet or water if it is too dry) allow it to rest for a bit before forming pizza.

SAUCE

I like my sauce simple – toss grape tomatoes (1 packet) with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper – allow to roast in a 350 oven just until the skin starts to burst.  Blend well with some olive oil, basil, oregano, salt and pepper.  Adding a bit of tomato paste gives it more body.

To grill pizza, get your grill nice and hot.  Either oil one side of the pizza dough, or your grate.  Cook pizza without touching for 1-2 minutes, then lift and rotate to get great grill marks.  Do not flip.  Once you have rotated, close the lid and don’t peek – let it cook for 2-3 minutes.  This will take some experimenting with your grill to know the temperatures – you want it crispy but not burnt.

Once the grilled side is nicely done, it is time to put it in a cookie sheet, cutting board, or plate to dress.  DRESS THE GRILLED SIDE.  Don’t worry, the uncooked side will not stick to the surface.  Once you have dressed the grilled side, return it to the grill and allow it to cook for another few minutes until the uncooked side is grilled perfectly and your toppings have warmed through. 

A few suggestions for toppings:

Spicy hot capicolla, red peppers, olives, mozzarella and feta cheese

ham, sauted mushrooms, carmelized red onion and applewood smoked cheddar cheese

thinly sliced roasted red potatoes, thinly sliced zucchini, fresh rosemary and mozzarella

(try the potato pizza without the traditional tomato sauce – roast a garlic bulb, add enough olive oil, chili flakes and fresh basil to get a smooth paste – smooth over pizza before adding the toppings

salami, fresh tomato, sun dried tomato and basil

Yummy Greek Burgers

Sorry, no photo yet – I was in such a hurry to eat these I didn’t take a picture first …. soon I promise as I will be making them again quickly!

 

1 pound lean ground beef

1 pound mild Italian sausage meat

½ a medium size onion, grated fine (about ½ cup)

2 tbsp Dijon mustard

2 tbsp freshly chopped basil (if it is out of season use dry)

½ cup crumbled feta cheese

¼ cup finely chopped sun dried tomatoes

1 tsp kosher salt

 

1 tsp freshly ground pepper

 

Gently mix together and allow to rest until firm.  Lightly oil and grill.

Serve with flatbread buns, tsatsiki aioli, grilled tomato slices and crunchy lettuce.