I love it when the weather starts to turn, and the evening fare starts to shift to heartier more savory meals. One of our favorites are stuffed winter squashes. In our neck of the woods, acorn and butternut squash are plentiful and inexpensive. Talking to friends, I was kind of surprised to learn that these squashes are a little daunting to a lot of folks, so I thought I’d share my approach to what is realistically a 40-minute meal, start-to-finish. You can alter the ingredients based on what you have on-hand, and/or make in advance and refrigerate or freeze for a quick, easy meal later.
I didn’t think to photograph this meal step-by step, but it’s straightforward to describe, and pretty easy to reverse-engineer just by looking at the finished product. My version is vegetarian and gluten-free (omit cheese and butter for vegan version). But you can alter all the inputs – I used millet as stuffing base, but it could have just as easily been rice, or wheat berries, or other grain of your choosing. Tonight I put pears in my stuffing, but you could omit, or use apples, or dried fruits (raisins, cranberries, etc). Likewise, I had kale in the house, but any green would be equally good. Read my recipe and feel free to modify or substitute liberally. If you want meat, add some cooked crumbled sausage to the stuffing mix prior to baking.
Acorn and Butternut Squash, Stuffed with Sage-infused Millet, kale and pear
1 Acorn squash, halved, seeds scooped out
1 Butternut squash, halved, seeds scooped out (cut off area above hollowed out bowl and use in other dishes)
1 cup millet (uncooked)
1 Medium onion, chopped
2 cups chopped kale
2 pears, chopped
1 tbsp dried sage, or several fresh sages leaves, minced
1-2 tbsp butter (omit for vegan)
1-2 tbsp oil (olive oil, canola, etc)
1/2 cup grated semi-hard or hard cheese (omit for vegan)
salt and pepper to taste
Arrange the squash cut side down on a large plate with enough of a lip to add a bit of water (submerge squashes a couple millimeters). Cover plate and squashes tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave them for 5 minutes to steam them. Alternatively, you could steam the squashes in the traditional way, which would take about 15-20 minutes.
Cook the millet, covered, in 3 cups water with sage and salt to taste. At a low simmer, millet takes about 25 minutes. All the water should be absorbed, but if not, drain excess.
Saute the onion in a bit of oil and/or butter. When nearly translucent, add the kale and pear, stir till wilted, about 2 minutes.
Mix the cooked millet with kale mixture. Add a TBSP butter and stir till melted. Salt and pepper to taste.
Stuff the grain mixture into the squashes, and top with cheese. bake in a 375F convection oven or under broiler until cheese is lightly browned. Serve hot, or save for later. these will keep for a week in the fridge, or months in the freezer.
Squashes were $1 each at farmers’ market. Millet about $0.25. Onion and kale $0.25. Pear $0.50. Cheese $0.75. Butter $0.25. Sage $0.10. EVOO $0.15. Total $4.25. Made (4) servings = $1.07 per serving.
WARNING: THIS POST IS NOT SUITABLE FOR THE SQUEAMISH
After 12 years of living in the southeastern United States, I consider myself a southerner. But every once in a while, my Pennsylvania Yankee roots show themselves, usually in connection with my food preferences. And one of my guilty food pleasures is a food that is loved by some and loathed by others: scrapple. Also known by the slightly more appetizing Dutch name of Pon Haus, or “ponhaws”, or the more descriptive name “pork mush”, scrapple is a unique Pennsylvania delicacy that does vary somewhat region to region. The common threads, however, are that it’s a food made from pork scraps, spices and cornmeal. Variations include the specific scraps of meat used (more specifically, whether the recipes include organs), the specific spice melange employed, and whether grains other than or in addition to corn are used.
I might not have ever been possessed to make scrapple myself, but for “the Ossabaw Project” I embarked on with a friend a couple years ago, and which is still ongoing. To make a long story short, we bought a couple Ossabaw gilts, which my friend raised on his Orange County, NC farm. Ossabaws are a heritage breed swine from Ossabaw Island, GA, and they are reknowned for their spectacular flavor and texture. We bred our gilts with a Duroc boar, another breed with wonderful eating characteristics. The resulting piglets have been some of the best pork I have ever tasted. In keeping with my desire to minimize waste and respect the animal, scrapple is a perfect food to make from scratch. It also happens to be exactly the kind of food that should be the focus of this blog: something that utilize “unusual” ingredients that people generally don’t know how to handle any longer. Including me, as it turned out.
Because even though I’ve eaten my share of scrapple, I really had very little idea how to make it. So I started where I usually start when I’m stumped: with a Google search. It turns out there are as many scrapple recipes as their are scrapple recipe authors. What I usually do in that situation is read as many as I can stand, and start to mentally construct my own recipes and techniques from the best of what I read.
The common threads I kept coming back to were some of the spices. Many of the recipes leveraged one or more of three spices: salt,
coriander seed and sage. I knew my recipe would include those in some way. I became very enamored of one recipe in particular, from the Food Network, of all places (I’m a big enough man to admit when I admire a Food Network recipe), and even more surprisingly, from Bobby Flay (I say surprisingly only because scrapple seems so unlike Bobby Flay’s usual cuisine choices). The thing I liked about the Food Network recipe was that it specified the use of roasted cornmeal, which is exactly what we make at our coffee roastery. Score! I also knew that any recipe I made would have to include pork liver (because what else would I do with it), and pork head, because while many other variations are possible, using the head for this purpose is very traditional.
Here’s the recipe I ultimately concocted:
1 lbs pork jowls, trimmed of fat
1 lbs pork liver
1.5 qts water
2 bay leaves
10 whole peppercorns
1-1/2 TBSP smoked sea salt
1-1/2 TBSP sea salt
1/2 TBSP dried sage
1/2 TBSP coriander seed, toasted and crushed
1/2 TBSP ground black pepper
3-1/3 cups roasted cornmeal
Here’s the photo tutorial on how to do it:
In any case, if you make your own (and I highly recommend you do – like everything else of this type, making your own is infinitely superior to what you can buy), be sure to share the recipe here. And make sure you’re drinking some fine Muddy Dog coffee when you eat it.
I fell in love with funche during the time I spent in Puerto Rico, but every culture around the world has a dish that’s similar: grain cereal cooked in milk and/or water. Ours is kicked up a notch because we *roast* the corn before stone milling for a sweet, nutty complex corn flavor.
Puerto Rican funche is dead simple to make: Mix equal parts (by volume) cornmeal, milk and water. For a small family, a good starting point for proportions is 1.5 cups each cornmeal, milk, water. Simmer on a low burner, stirring occasionally, until it’s thickened, about 20 minutes or so. You can add anything you like, but it’s especially good with a few pats of butter (25 grams), a few tablespoons of brown sugar, and a 1/2 cup of raisins.
Want to buy the roasted cornmeal we used for this dish?
NOTE: Cross-posted from our coffee company blog. Readers here are probably less familiar with these products. Imagine traditional grits, and traditional cornmeal, only made from *roasted* corn. That’s what we’re talking about here. These products take it up about a thousand notches, with lots of sweet, nutty goodness you just don’t get in the traditional version.
They’re finally back – roasted corn products – roasted grits, and roasted cornmeal.
Many of you will remember that we offered these products last summer and through the spring. At that time, we produced them in collaboration with another party – we did the roasting, they did the milling. I’ll spare you the painful details, but this year it was necessary for us to become “vertically integrated”, as they taught me to say in business school. In other words, now we do it all except grow the corn, and I’m working on that, too. I mean if you’re gonna do it, you may as well do it all, right?
While it’s expensive, vertical integration is not without its benefits. We are now completely in control of the product, including its formulation, i.e., the types of corn we use, how they’re roasted, how they are blended, screen sizes of the sifters, etc etc. We now have a mill that is appropriately sized to our demand pattern, so it’s efficient to run and we’re not killing ourselves trying to sell more than the market will bear. We’ve re-engineered the traditional sifting system and come up with something that’s about 4x as fast in a quarter of the footprint (to be fair, the technical work on that was done by a couple of friends with only minimal input from me – shout-out to Alan and Dave!). I had a season to think about how to roast corn better, more efficiently, and came up with some process innovation that almost completely eliminated waste and fire danger while allowing me to achieve a darker, richer roast.
- Our 2011 Grain Dealer License. This process was enough to turn the biggest liberal into a Republican.
We also jumped through the extra hoops required to be a licensed grain dealer in North Carolina, and we think we’re just a few weeks away from harvesting the crop we contracted in Eastern Carolina. This is not just any corn – it’s an heirloom Peruvian purple corn, grown without chemical inputs (which is why we’re so nervous right now – because of the heirloom varitey, dry summer, and organic methods, we expect a low yield, how low remains to be seen). Less than 30% of North Carolina’s milling operations are also licensed grain dealers, so they are restricted to where they can purchase their corn. We’ll be able to buy directly from North Carolina growers, something that the majority of millers are not legally allowed to do.
Anyway, the first output of our months-long effort will be available tomorrow at Western Wake Farmer’s Market, or place your order online. We expect to have some fits and starts with respect to meeting demand the first week or two, but we should settle into a pattern shortly.
- Stone grinding mill in action
- Our custom designed turbo sifter in action. That’s roasted cornmeal coming out the bottom into the tub.
Need Roasted Grits?
Need Roasted Cornmeal?