Guts and Glory

Last night I picked up the second share from our CSF, Community Supported Fishery. Jack and I decided to join the Cape Ann Fresh Catch CSF earlier this fall, and the shares just recently started. The fish are caught in the North Atlantic, and delivered to various sites in the Boston area the same day, giving customers the freshest fish available.

For economic purposes, we decided to purchase whole fish rather than filleted. I was under the impression that filleting a fish and deboning it would be tough work, but not gross. See, less than a year ago I could not even touch meat, and now I am preparing all types of meat dishes. Last night, when I picked up the fish, I discovered what a "treat" I was about to face.

My first sight of the bag of fresh fish was a tail hanging out of the bag. Immediately, I gagged. Then I peered into the bag and saw two headless fish, a little blood, and a lot of slime and bones. I honestly did not think I could even pull the fish out of the bag without running away. Alas, a meowing crazy cat was trying to jump on the counter, and caused me to do some quick work to keep the food away from Oscar the cat.

Descaling a fish is tough work. You need sharp knives, and I thought I had those, but I don't think mine were sharp enough. You also need a lot of courage, and a working knowledge of fish anatomy, which I believed I had learned from various YouTube videos of fish gutting. I learned through the 30 minute process that fish have bladders, there is a lot of slime, that skin is not so easy to pull off, and that when finished, you reek of fish (and your cat lovessss you!).

When all was sad and done though, I felt pretty proud of myself for tackling this task. However, I will admit, I left the bones for Jack to do when he can. I can safely say that I have overcome yet another fear of meat!


Brussel Sprouts au Great!

I know what you are going to say, brussel sprouts. EWWWWW!! I mean, I said that my whole life too. My mom, while typically a good cook, once tried to make the family eat brussel sprouts. When she cooked them, the end result was less than desired. They were burnt to a crisp, but we still had to eat them. I swore off the little cabbage looking veggie for years, until last week.

I was inspired by a lovely looking recipe from "Eating from the Ground Up" and the ever appearing brussel sprouts sales at my local Whole Foods. I decided to come out of my hiatus of eating them. Jack was not so happy with this choice. He hates brussel sprouts. Though before moving to Mass he also hated strawberries, peaches, apricots, and raspberries. I was determined to make him change his mind.

Thankfully, Brussel Sprouts au Gratin did the trick. This creamy concoction was easy, quick, and delicious. It definitely warrented seconds on my plate. I most certainly learned that adding cheese and cream to any semi bitter veggie really makes one want to eat lots of it!

Brussel Sprouts au Gratin
Adapted from "Eating from the Ground Up," which was adapted from Alice Waters

1 pound brussels sprouts, outer leaves removed and stems trimmed
1/3 cup breadcrumbs- I used a combination of Panko and Italian Crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan- I used Asiago
1/2 cup half and half- I used half heavy cream and half skim milk
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Cook the brussels sprouts in the water for 10 minutes, then drain. Chop them roughly, and transfer to a small casserole or gratin dish. Pour the cream over the brussels sprouts, then the parmesan, then the breadcrumbs, and then a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Dab the dish with pieces of butter, and bake for 20 minutes


Awesome Apple Pie

With the holidays approaching, I wanted to try to make a rendition of my Nana's Apple Pie. Her pie is certainly a family favorite, though is sometimes overshadowed by more chocolaty desserts. The crust is delectably light and flaky, and often rises up fairly high. She puts a sprinkle of sugar on the top of the crust to really enhance the sweetness and make it quite delicious and tasty.

While I did not have an exact recipe to follow as she does not use one, I did use a 1953 Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook that I found at the Salvation Army for $2! The cookbook is awesome and has all sorts of foods that I grew up with and came to love. You will not find many of the recipes in the more modern cookbooks, so this one will certainly be used whenever I crave comfort food.

Back to the pie. Let me preface with this- Jack will not eat foods that are not tooth achingly sweet, so in order for him to really love this pie, I had to come up with some sort of concoction involving loads of sugar. That said, I added a little more sugar to the apple filling than called for, and then put together a cinnamon whipped cream. That put the icing on the er, pie!

I have to admit that I struggled a pit with the crust as I do not think I added enough water, but all in all, it was delicious! I will definitely be making it again, or some sort of variation of it- maybe caramel apple!

Pie Pastry- for a double crusted pie
2 cups enriched flour (APF)
1 tsp salt
2/3 c. shortening, chilled
6-7 tbsp water

Sift together flour and salt. Cut the shortening with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles course meal. Sprinkle water, a tablespoon at a time over mixture, and mix together with a fork. Divide the dough in half. Form a ball and flatten slightly. Roll onto a well floured surface. Place this half into pie pan and pre bake in preheated oven (450) for 12 minutes. Roll out the second pie crust when ready to put on top of filled pie.

Apple Pie Filling
5-7 tart apples- I used 3 different varieties- Granny Smith, Jonagold, and Macintosh
3/4-1 cup of sugar
2 tbsp APF
Dash of Salt
1 tsp of cinnamon- I put in an additional 1/2 tsp
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tbsp butter

Pare apples and slice thin. Mix sugar, flour, salt, spices and add to apples. Fill the pre-baked pie crust with filling and dot with butter. Put on the top crust and back in 400 degree oven for 50 minutes. Check occasionally to see if crust is burning. If it starts to brown too quickly, place a sheet of tin foil on top.


Pumpkin Black Bean Curry Soup

My last post was about how to make your own pumpkin puree. This post is about a savory treat in which to use it. I may have mentioned before that Jack and I always make a soup on a Sunday to be used for lunches during the week. It is the easiest way for us to have something quick to grab to take for lunch at work, or also is a good standby on a night where we need a quick meal.

I love reminiscing how our soups have varied week to week by what fruits and vegetables are in season. We've done some kale soups, bean soups, tomato soups, eggplant soups, butternut squash soups, and most recently, a Pumpkin Black Bean Curry Soup. I was really searching for a while for the perfect soup to make that would incorporate these ingredients, but not any heavy creams or milks. I find that there are other ways to make soups hearty and delicious, while still being able to lay off the fatty creams. Now, don't get me wrong, I love a good creamy soup, but for a soup that will be eaten at least three times in a week, heavy cream is not the way to go.

Finally I found a recipe from one of my favorite blogs, Smitten Kitchen, that I heavily adapted based on what I had on hand, and what I wanted the end result soup to be. I have found that the ability to play around with the ingredients of a soup recipe, is what makes them so very versatile, and easy to manipulate to your current cravings. This one, this lovely little pumpkin-y, curry tasting, fiber filled soup, is most certainly a winner. Easy to make and easy to love!

Pumpkin Black Bean Curry Soup
Adapted heavily from Smitten Kitchen

Three 15 1/2 ounce cans black beans (about 4 1/2 cups), rinsed and drained
1 cup drained canned tomatoes, chopped
1 1/4 cups chopped onion
1/2 cup minced shallot- I used green onions
4 garlic cloves minced
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons ground cumin- I omitted cumin, and used Curry Powder instead
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
4 cups beef broth- I used chicken broth
a 16-ounce can pumpkin puree (about 1 1/2 cups)- Put my own homemade puree to use :)
1/2 cup dry Sherry
1/2 pound cooked ham, cut into 1/8-inch dice- omitted the ham
3 to 4 tablespoons Sherry vinegar- omitted the vinegar as the soup would only be reheated, and not served at once

Garnish: sour cream and coarsely chopped lightly toasted pumpkin seeds

In a food processor coarsely puree beans and tomatoes.

In a 6-quart heavy kettle cook onion, shallot, garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper in butter over moderate heat, stirring, until onion is softened and beginning to brown. Stir in bean puree. Stir in broth, pumpkin, and Sherry until combined and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 25 minutes, or until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.


How to Make Homemade Pumpkin Puree

Last year when I carved my Halloween pumpkin, it dawned on me that I might be able to make my own pumpkin puree from it. I mean, everyone knows that you can roast the seeds, but make pumpkin puree? Genius! I googled recipes on how to do it, and then realized that puree comes from specific types of pumpkins.

This year, I didn't want to miss out on the fun, so I stocked up on Pie Pumpkins and Sugar Pumpkins. At such low prices at farm stands, I could not justify not making my own puree. The recipe is super easy to follow and do, and involves only a pumpkin, a little cooking spray, and olive oil if you are only roasting the pumpkin instead of pureeing it.

The great thing about making your own puree is that the recipe yields 2 separate results. The first is a roasted pumpkin, which you can use in so many different recipes, especially risottos and curry dishes. If you want the puree though, you take the roasted pumpkin, peel the flesh from the rind, and mash it up nice and good. If you prefer, you can even put it through a food processor, which I find to be unnecessary, as long as the pumpkin becomes soft.

I love roasting and pureeing my own pumpkins mostly because I can freeze the results in specific measurements to use in recipes later, but also because I love pumpkin seeds! This year, along with making homemade puree, I also experimented with various pumpkin seed recipes that I made up in my little ol' head. I have to admit that my favorite is still a seed with a sprinkle of salt, but Jack loved my recipe involving pumpkin seeds with lots of cinnamon and sugar. Try it out sometime!

So, I learned my lesson from the year before, and will definitely continue to make homemade puree in the future! Simple and delicious.

Homemade Puree

1 pie or sugar pumpkin
cooking spray
Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray, and cut pumpkin in half. Clean pumpkin of seeds and stringy middle. Reserve the seeds for roasting. Lay the pumpkin skin side up. Put olive oil on flesh if so desired, though I find that it isn't always necessary. Bake in the preheated oven for 40-55 minutes, until skin easily pulls from flesh.

Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Seeds

Seeds from Pumpkin, cleaned and washed
3 tsp of cinnamon
1/4 cup of sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash and dry seeds. Spread seeds on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Combine the cinnamon and sugar together. Sprinkle on seeds evenly, and bake in a preheated oven for 15-25 minutes, until seeds are no longer wet. The sugar will caramelize on top of the seeds, and create a deliciously sweet treat for all to enjoy!