"pulled" barbecue spaghetti squash tartines

Pulled BBQ squash tartines

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend. We had a fantastic time that involved a lot of food and chatter. We had a day of snow and some brisk cold weather at the farm but overall it was a blast!  I shared some of my photographs of the farm both here and on Facebook and Instagram. Instagram has slowly become one of my favorite photography social networks and it is so much fun to use, it's also where you can get sneak peek of what recipes are to come in the upcoming weeks. I have to admit that I am glad to be back home because now I can look forward to Christmas and our winter vacation to California. This year, since the holidays tend to get a bit rich and heavy, I will add a few lighter posts and share some of my favorite recipes that are my go-to-detox meals during this carb heavy period of the year. 

Spaghetti squash

This is one of my favorite squash recipes because it's tasty and super easy to make. "Pulled" barbecue spaghetti squash infused with the sweet, sour and hot flavors of a light barbecue sauce make this a delicious dish with a lot of versatility. At a more formal occasion, I will serve this in the form of tartines for an appetizer but if I've also served this by itself for lunch as a sandwich. The flavors are simple yet bold. When you take a bite, you will immediately taste the melted cheese followed by the sweet, sour and hot notes of the squash, it's a wonderful sensory experience that's lighter and guilt-free. 

Whole-wheat baguette

I've gone with a North Carolina Piedmont barbecue sauce here that is vinegar based but made a couple of changes. The balsamic vinegar gives the sauce a woody yet sweet touch which balances out the heat of the chili flakes. You can serve the finished tartines with a little more leftover sauce on the side. A good beer or dark ale go really well with these tartines. 

Pulled BBQ spaghetti squash tartines

"pulled" barbecue spaghetti squash tartines

yields: 8-10 servings (approximately 2-3 tartines per person)

ingredients 

1 large spaghetti squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup white vine vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 large whole-wheat baguette
extra virgin olive oil for brushing 
3/4 cup grated swiss cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Slice the squash in half, remove and discard the seeds and strings using a spoon. Place the cut, exposed surface of the squash on a baking sheet tray lined with parchment paper. Rub the olive oil lightly over the surface of each halved squash. Bake in the oven on the middle rack for 45min-1hour. The squash is cooked when you are able to prick the flesh of the squash easily with a fork. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Scoop out the flesh of the squash into a large mixing bowl and keep aside. The squash will automatically shred out into strings. Discard the outer skin.
2. While the squash is baking, mix the rest of the ingredients in a thick bottomed saucepan. Stir on a medium high flame and bring to a boil. Remove the sauce from the stove and keep aside.
3. Add half of the sauce to the squash in the mixing bowl. Toss the squash, taste and adjust the amount of sauce if desired. You can also adjust the salt and pepper levels as needed. (You can stop here and refrigerate the squash until ready to prepare the tartines or continue to step 4)
4. Once again, preheat the oven to 350F. Slice the baguette into 1/2" thick slices. Lay them out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush each slice lightly with the olive oil. Top each slice with a generous amount of the squash and sprinkle a little cheese on top. 
5. Place the tray in the oven and bake them until the cheese begins to melt. Around 5-7 minutes. Remove and serve warm.

Note: If you prefer more sauce, I recommend serving the sauce on the side. This prevents the bread from getting too soggy and the tartines will hold their structure.

squash yogurt soup with panko crusted chicken


How did I end up celebrating my extra Monday holiday, courtesy Columbus Day? Well, I popped onto the subway at the green line and then switched to the red line on the metro to visit the Smithsonian National Zoo in the Adam's Morgan neighborhood. I think our zoo is one of the best treasures at the Capitol more so than the monuments. The joy and satisfaction that these animals give people and kids every time I walk through there brings a smile to my face. However, as much as I love that our city gets tourists from all over the country and the world, it is kind of nice to have a slow day without having to traverse and find my way through a crowded place such as the zoo and enjoy watching the animals relaxing and doze off in the sun. Oddly enough, I also realized that it is normally quite a walk through the zoo (for me) but this time it turned out to be a nice and evenly spaced stroll and I didn't have to stand up on my toes or sift my way through people to get a glimpse of the animals. Yes, it is true that I am at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to height.


This week's soup was inspired by Marc Matsumoto of [No Recipes]. Not only are his recipes easy to prepare and delicious but his skills with the camera make his blog an alluring treat. His most recent post on the Katsudon gave me a bit of inspiration on creating a Far-East fusion recipe for a chicken and squash yogurt soup. By using Panko crumbs, I was able to create a perfect crispy layer to my chicken that went along great with my creamy (without any added cream) yogurt based squash soup. Since our C.S.A sends us a mix of different squashes every Wednesday, soups tend to be one of the fastest ways for me to get "rid" of them. This week's soup used 2 delicata squashes, 1 acorn squash and 1 carnival squash. I followed Chef Matsumoto's recipe for his Tonkatsu pork chops but made a couple of changes for the chicken used in my recipe. Sambal olek, a type of chili paste that can be found at almost any store these days gives the soup a bit of heat.


squash yogurt soup with panko crusted chicken

servings: 4 individuals

ingredients

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced 
4 cups of peeled and chopped mixed squash (butternut, pumpkin)
2 cups of peeled and chopped granny smith apples 
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock, low -sodium
3 cups water
2 cups fat free greek yogurt
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon sambal olek 
salt and pepper for seasoning the soup
4 lean chicken breasts
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup plain flour
1 cup Panko crumbs
1 /2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
vegetable oil for frying
chopped scallions for garnishing

1. In a large stockpot, heat up the olive oil on a high flame. Add the garlic and cook for about 40 seconds before adding in the chopped squash and apples. Saute for about 10 minutes on a medium flame. Now, pour in the stock and bring the entire contents of the pot to boil. Reduce the flame to a simmer and let the squash cook till tender. Let the contents cool and then blend to a smooth consistency either in a food processor or blender. You can add some water in to the mixture during blending to get a smoother texture. 
2. Add the processed squash back to the stockpot and stir in the yogurt. Now add the remaining water, soy sauce, and the sambal olek. Season with salt and pepper (You can add as much water as you want to adjust the consistency of the soup, I prefer this soup to be a bit creamier so I added less water).
3. Set up a dredging station. Put the flour in a tray that will be easy to dredge the chicken in. Place the beaten egg in another bowl and the Panko crumbs in another tray. Place the chicken breasts between two strips of cling film. Using a meat tenderizer, pound the chicken till it spreads out evenly into a thin layer just like a cutlet. Remove the chicken and absorb any excess liquid with paper towels. Season each side of the breast with cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. 
4. Heat the oil up in a shallow frying pan. The level of oil in the pan should be about 0.5" or less. The chicken will cook fast since it has been pounded into an even thin layer. When the oil heats up, start to prepare the chicken. Dredge the seasoned chicken in the flour and dust of any excess and then dip it into the beaten egg. Then coat the chicken with Panko crumbs and press it gently to seal the crumbs on the chicken in an even layer. 
5. Fry the chicken in the oil, till golden brown on both sides. This should take about 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of your chicken breast. Drain the excess oil from the fried chicken on paper towels. Pour some soup into a shallow soup bowl and put the sliced chicken on top. Serve immediately garnished with chopped scallions.


cabbage and acorn squash stew with coconut


I had no luck finding an authentic Moroccan tagine in N.Y.C, mostly because I tried to fit too much in a short span of time. However, I did get few tips on where to look online (which is what I will be resorting to). My week back in D.C. has been filled with rain and school. Exhilaration combined with a huge sigh of relief has been the theme of my week, as my thesis topic was finally accepted and I can now begin to crank out the potentially to-be extremely long literature review component.


To make life easy this week, I decided to go back and work on a recipe that has been stuck in my mind for a while. A Harissa based coconut stew with a little bit of an Indian kick to it. Luck was on my side, when I found a huge cabbage and an acorn squash nested in our C.S.A box this evening. The recipe is simple and quick and tasty. Not only can you play around with the Harissa depending on how much heat you want but you can also substitute the acorn squash with any other kind of squash that can hold is texture. Perhaps, some pumpkin or carnival squash ? Serve this on a bed of a hot rice or with hot naans.



cabbage and acorn squash stew with coconut

yield: 6 servings

ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 cups coarsley chopped green cabbage
2 cups chopped acorn squash
1 cup freshly ground coconut
1 tablespoon Harissa (Recipe is linked in here)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon dry mango powder
1 teaspoon dry ginger powder
salt and pepper to season
1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1. In a large dutch oven or stockpot (which is what I used), heat up one tablespoon of the olive oil on a high flame and add the cabbage, squash and coconut. Stir constantly and gently for about 5 minutes and reduce to medium flame. 
2. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the mustard seeds) and mix and let them cook for about 20 minutes or till the squash and cabbage are soft and tender. Season with salt and pepper. 
3. In a separate pan, heat the rest of the olive oil till it smokes (which will happen very quickly) and add the mustard seeds. Let the seeds cook for a few seconds till they begin to sputter. Pour the mustard seeds and olive oil on top of the stew.

adobo seasoned mixed roasted squash soup


This is a really late, late night post. I need to pack and I haven't, it will have to wait till the morning in a rush just before I leave. I wish I were less of a procrastinator and a bit more organized, though this is honestly the first time that I will be packing a few hours before departure. I am ready for this vacation, I am ready to run away from the rain, I am ready to run away from the metro, I am ready for the Outer Banks!!! We are off to spend a week at the beach with several of our friends. Our friends Tyler and John, whom coincidentally we met more than two years ago at Rehoboth beach in Delaware (strange that we never ran into each other here in D.C. even though we all live here) have been organizing this trip for several months now. I will be posting less frequently this week and will probably end up with several of  "non-recipe" posts that will probably be more about the beach than about cooking.


How did I get so behind ? Well, my haircut at SalonBlu 14th Street NW, which ended up taking a little longer than I expected not due the haircut but rather due to the usual D.C. traffic congestion that accompanies a late Friday afternoon. Sometimes, I need to pinch myself when I see how fast neighborhoods in D.C. are changing. The neighborhood at  14th Street NW is now so very completely different from what it was four years ago, for that matter the neighborhood around the Convention Center now is undergoing massive changes with the new Marriott hotel that is currently being built. A fancy new dog park is in the works as well which will be so much fun for Snoopy. I will miss him tons while I am away at the beach, though he will be at his favorite doggie day care at City Dogs located at the cusp of Dupont and Adams Morgan, its a bit funny to watch his excitement manifest as he tugs his leash when we drop him off there. In one whiff and he is gone, not a moment to turn back and look at us, as he gets completely preoccupied with thoughts of playing, playing and more playing. Dogs do have wonderful lives, especially Snoopy, I envy it. Eat, play and sleep all in all a hard day's work for him.


Before I leave for my trip to Corolla, NC, I need to use up all of the four big squashes from the C.S.A sitting on my kitchen counter. One acorn, one carnival, one butternut and one delicata. Since I had no time to fuss around with cooking them, mainly due to procrastination and overloading up my entire evening, I finally settled on slicing and de-seeding the squashes and sticking them in the oven to roast while I finished my yoga class. The rest of it after that was quick and easy and the final soup made me happy. After seasoning the soup with Adobo seasoning and a bit of fish sauce (this perhaps is my contribution to the Latin-Asian Fusion food market, though I still feel the soup is more Latin American inspired than Asian), I used left over salsa from our Labor day weekend barbecue to garnish the soup. Ready-made Adobo seasoning is my go-to-savior when I want to give a simple but delicious South American flavor to some of my dishes. Roasting and concentrating down the liquids in the squash intensified the sweetness and at the same time made the soup preparation much faster.



adobo seasoned mixed roasted squash soup

yield: 6-8 servings
ingredients

6 cups of chopped squash (deseeded, of different varieties preferably)
OR
1 acorn squash, halved and deseeded 
1 delicatta squash,
1 butternut squash
1 carnival squash
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove of garlic finely minced
11/2 teaspoons of low-sodium Adobo seasoning
1 teaspoon hot sauce or cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon Chinese fish sauce
4 cups of water
salt and pepper to seaso
Salsa to garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Spread the squash on a baking sheet lined with oil. Drizzle the olive oil on the squash and let them roast in the oven for at least 60 mins. Check on them occasionally to make sure they are cooking uniformly. Once cooked, remove the squash from the oven and cover the entire sheet with foil and let it rest for 5 minutes. Then using a spoon or fork, tease the flesh off the skin and put it into a food processor. Puree the squash flesh till you get a smooth paste using the water. 
2. At the same time, in a stockpot heat up one tablespoon of olive oil and add the garlic and saute for 2 minutes on a medium flame. Add the pureed squash to this garlic and oil followed by the Adobo seasoning, fish sauce and hot sauce. 
3. Add the water to the soup and season with salt and pepper and let it simmer till it comes to a boil. You can adjust the consistency of the soup to your desire by playing around with the amount of water. Serve in individual soup dishes and garnish with salsa.