Monday, November 30, 2009

Squash bread, a.k.a. "vegan challah"

The circumstances:

1. I wanted to take bread to a pot luck a couple of weeks back
2. I had a plethora of squash (that's the understatement of the year)
3. At least one vegan would be attending, and, as a sometime/semi vegetarian, I am highly sympathetic to the plight of "oh, crap, the only thing I can eat in this entire spread of food is the thing I brought myself!"

I decided braided loaves would be nice for presentation, but of course I didn't want to use eggs, butter or milk. Beard On Bread has a recipe for sweet potato bread that my sister and I have riffed on for years, often subbing in squash for the sweet potato. And for what it's worth: I don't think it matters at all what kind of winter squash (or pumpkin) you use.

Preparing the squash: I usually halve the squash, scoop out the seeds, oil the cut surfaces lightly, and then bake, face down, at 350 or 375 till soft. Lately, I've been putting a cup or so of water in the roasting pan as well. I think it cooks better when there's some moisture in there.

Next, I let the squash cool, then scoop out the flesh and run it through the food mill. I know people who skip this step and use the processor instead, but I wouldn't just mash it by hand. Strings or lumps will mar the quality of your bread!

If your squash is particularly watery, you may need to adjust the quantity of water in the bread. (For pies, I generally cook the puree down in a skillet; for bread, it doesn't much matter because you can just add less liquid.)

To make the breads (this recipe makes two loaves):

6 cups flour
1 1/3 cup squash
1 scant T yeast (I use instant)
1 T salt
1/3 cup oil
3 T maple syrup
1 1/3 cup water

Mix all ingredients till you have a nice, elastic dough. Knead then shape into a round; cover the bowl and let rise till doubled.

Divide the dough into six equal pieces (I use a scale but you could just eyeball it). Braid into two loaves and cover and let rise again, about half the time you let it rise the first time. Brush with water and sprinkle with poppy seeds, if you like.

Bake at 375 for 45 minutes to an hour.

(Note: the first time I made this I did an overnight [about 12 hours] rise on the counter and only used 1/4 tsp of yeast. Given how cold my kitchen is overnight in November, I probably should have used a touch more yeast, but it did okay.)

I liked this bread so much (and I still had the plethora of squash) that I used it for my Thanksgiving stuffing.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving prep, etc.

It goes without saying that I'm hopelessly behind on posts, but I wanted to say what's cooking TODAY (it's Tuesday, and Thanksgiving is just a couple of days away!)

Cranberry sauce (I used this recipe, but cut the sugar down to 1.5 cups and added two peeled, diced apples). I particularly like this because you add the bourbon after it cooks, making it nice and boozy.

Preserved lemons (I have my eye on this recipe, to help deal with my plethora of squash--I used his recipe for the lemons, too, which is linked somewhere in the recipe).

Pumpkins, baking for pie.

Toasted bread cubes, from a new recipe I made up for bread. I will post the recipe in a day or so--I've now made it twice and it got good reviews at a pot luck I took it to on Saturday. This is the recipe I use as a guide for stuffing amounts and proportions--but I don't think I'm including apples or walnuts this time. And I may just use Penzeys poultry seasoning for the herbs!

Last but not least: rice krispie treats.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Last chard? (for my own reference)

I just wanted to make a note that I just harvested what might be the last of my chard. It's clear and cold, and I'm thinking that's a recipe for a hard frost, so I just cut down nearly all of the plants. I still left the "hearts" of the plants out there, in case I'm wrong about the frost, so it can keep growing. I love that I'm still getting food from my yard on the 18th of November!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Chard with apples

I'm still here, and still cooking. I'm just having a two-pronged crisis. Prong A: In a nutshell, I'm having trouble downloading pictures and figuring out how to store and sort photos efficiently. Prong B: I can't figure out what to do about posting recipes copyrighted by other people, which covers a lot of my cooking.


That's not why I'm posting today. I'm posting today (without a picture, it's true) about a Brand New Recipe that I Dreamed Up All By Myself. You can probably figure out how to make it from the title, up there--it's that simple. But it is SO delicious, so much more than the sum of its parts. The apple adds a subtle, beautiful sweetness that's hard to identify in the finished dish.

I'm partial to ruby chard, myself: it's what I grew this year and I'm still harvesting, even now in the first week of November. Woot! Next year I'll grow more, even! These proportions work with a small bunch of chard.

Anyway: chop an onion and the chard stems nice and fine. Saute till mostly tender with a few pinches of salt. Add half a diced, peeled apple and the chopped chard leaves, as well as a tablespoon or two of water. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 more minutes.

This is delicious on its own as a side dish, or tossed with rice and topped with feta.

I did this because I love chard with dried fruit: raisins, apricots, even (especially?) dried cherries . . . but one day I had a ton of garden chard to cook and no dried fruit in the house. But I did have apples, and thought, oh, why not? Why not, indeed. Try it. You won't be sorry.