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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Spaghetti Squash


Spaghetti Squash: 

About:

Spaghetti squash (Cucurbita pepo) is a winter squash that received its name from its resemblance to cooked spaghetti (pasta).  Spaghetti squash is  also known as vegetable spaghetti, noodle squash, vegetable marrow, and squaghetti. 
Spaghetti squash is an oblong vegetable that measures from 8 - 14 inches in length and weighs 2 - 3 pounds,  Its flesh has a pale yellow color and it has a mild taste which is similar to pasta.  It is often used as a low carbohydrate substitute for pasta.

History:

Spaghetti squash originated in China.  In 1921 it was introduced to Japan by a Chinese agricultural research firm and was brought to the U.S. 15 years later.  It was commonly planted during WWII , but only gained popularity in the late 20th century.  

Uses: 

Spaghetti squash can be added to a number of dishes, such as soups and stews.  It can also be eaten raw.  When served like a pasta it can be topped with a wide variety of sauces.

Health Benefits:

Spaghetti squash is an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin C, which can help prevent free radical damage to cells.  Other antioxidants in this squash are beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which are linked to healthy vision and optimal eye health.   Spaghetti squash is also rich in B vitamins riboflavin, niacin, and thiamin, which promote optimal cellular function. Folate, which supports the formation and development of new cells is found in spaghetti squash, which makes it good for pregnant women.  This nutrient can help filter out homocystene from your blood, which will promote cardiovascular health.  Spaghetti squash contains potassium, which is helpful to people with high blood pressure.  It also contains manganese, a mineral that assists in bone and tissue health, metabolism, calcium absorption, and nerve function.  Spaghetti squash also contains omega-3 and omega-6 fats , which are associated with the prevention of inflammation which may cause heart disease, arthritis, and certain types of cancer.


Season: 

Winter squashes are available year round.  Peek season is September through March.


Selecting and Storing:

All squash should have a solid heavy feel.  Choose spaghetti squash with a deep yellow colored skin.  An unripe squash will be marred with green marks and is best avoided.  Spaghetti squash can be stored at room temperature for several weeks. 

So ..... Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how. 


Simple but Good:


Spaghetti Squash with Bacon, Hazelnuts, and Parsley

1 Spaghetti squash cut in half lengthwise with seeds and mush removed
4 slices bacon, chopped finely
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 c. hazelnuts, chopped
1 c. minced fresh parsley
Salt, olive oil, and sherry vinegar to taste.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Place squash cut side down on a baking sheet and cover with foil.  Roast in oven 30 - 40 minutes until the squash can be easily pierced with a knife.  
Add bacon to skillet and cook on low heat.  As fat renders increase heat to medium high and cook until crisp.  Add garlic and chopped hazelnuts and cook until fragrant, about 2 - 3 minutes.  Add parsley.  
Use a fork to shred squash into strands
into a large bowl. Add a pinch of salt and gently stir.  Put a portion on a plate and spoon bacon, hazelnuts, and parsley over top.  Drizzle with olive oil and sherry vinegar
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Friday, December 4, 2015

Rapini Revisited

Rapini Revisited:

About:

Rapini, also called "Broccoli Rabe" pronounced "broccoli rob", is a green cruciferous vegetable and member of the turnip family. Contrary to its name, it is not a member of  the broccoli family.  The leaves, buds, and stems are all edible.  The buds resemble broccoli, but do not form into a head.  Rapini is known for its slightly bitter taste and is associated with Italian, Galician, and Portugese cuisines.  Rapini's flavor is described as nutty, bitter, and pungent.
 Rapini is always sold fresh.  I have never seen it canned or frozen.  Rapini is known by many names throughout the world. The stangest name though is "taitcat".  I've never heard that name before and do not know anything about its origin. 

History:

Originating in the Mediterranean and also in China , it is actually a descendant from a wild herb.  It is one of the most popular vegetables among the Chinese.  It is probably the most popular vegetable in Hong Kong and is also widely used in the western world.  Today rapini is grown in California, Arizona, New Jersey, Quebec, and Ontario.  

My Story:

Growing up I had heard of "Broccoli rabe".  I never heard the name "Rapini" until later in the supermarket.  Broccoli rabe was not something was my mother cooked.  I guess my parents weren't fond of its bitterness.  When thinking about Broccoli rabe, I always think of my cousin, Bobby.  Actually, he was a butcher by trade,  but after many years with a butcher shop he expanded into produce as well.   He would prepare Broccoli rabe.  It was great. 

Health Benefits:

Broccoli rabe is nutrient dense and has many health benefits.  Here are some of the claims made for Broccoli rabe:  It slows aging, strengthens bones, decreases risk of hypertension, lessens inflammation, prevents cancer, Alzheimers, strokes, and birth defects. Rapini has cancer preventing properties due to bioactive compounds called sulforaphanes.  These phytonutrients may protect agains cancers of the stomach, lung, esophagus, colon, and breast.  It also contains lutein, a phytonutrient that protects the retina of the eye from oxidative damage and may slow the progression of macular degeneration and cataracts.

Season:

Rapini is grown throughout the world, and is available all year long, but its peak season in the Northern Hemisphere is fall to spring. 

Selecting and Storing:

Choose rapini with large dark green leaves that are crisp, upright, and not wilted.  Avoid ones with leaves that are wilted  yellowing, or have dark green patches of slime.  Refrigerate rapini  unwashed, loosely wrapped in a plastic bag for up to 3 days. 

Using:

The tough stem bottoms of rapini are easily removed before cooking.  Blanching for one minute will reduce bitterness.  Rapini can be steamed, saute'ed, stir fried, or braised.  It combines well with pasta and rice.  To prepare remove the tough bottoms of the stem, about a half inch, and rinse.  Cut crosswise into two inch pieces.  Drop into salted boiling water for one to two minutes.  Remove from water with a slotted spoon.  Saute the blanched rapini in olive oil and garlic for 3 to 5 minutes until tender.   It can be mixed with any number of things ( onions, tomatoes, sausage, etc)  and used as a side dish or as a topping for pasta.


So.... Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.

Simple but Good:

Rapini with Garlic and Red Pepper

Salt and black pepper to taste
1 bunch rapini
2 TBS olive oil
2 - 4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1/8 - 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Have a large bowl of ice watger ready.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.  Salt the water generously.  Add the rapini and cook for 2 minutes.  Using tongs transfer the rapini to the ice water and let it cool.  Drain well in a colander
In a large non-stick saute' pan over medium heat warm the olive oil.  Add the garlic and saute' until golden brown (45-60 seconds).  Add the red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant (20 seconds). Add rapini and cook until heated through ((1-2 minutes).  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Butternut Squash

Butternut Squash:

About:

Butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata) is a type of winter squash with a sweet nutty taste similar to a pumpkin.  It has yellow skin and orange fleshy pulp.  When it ripens it turns increasingly deep orange and becomes sweeter and richer.  Although a fruit butternut squash is used as a vegetable. 

History:

Modern day squash developed from the wild squash that originated in an area between Guatemala and Mexico.  While squash has been consumed for over 10,000 years it was originally cultivated for its seeds.  Christopher Columbus brought back squash to Europe from the New World.

My Story:

I remember having butternut squash as a kid.  My mother would have it every once in a while.  She would buy it frozen.  It came in a brick and you would defrost and cook it in a saucepan.  I don't remember any other winter squash coming frozen like that.  At any rate it was always a treat to have.  I still enjoy butternut squash  and buy it whenever it's at a good price. 

Uses:

Butternut squash can be roasted, toasted, pureed for soups or mashed and used in casseroles, bread, and muffins.  In Australia it is regarded as a pumpkin and is used interchangeable with other types of pumpkin.

Nutrition:

Butternut squash is a good source of fiber, Vitamin C, manganese, magnesium, and potassium.  It is also an excellent source of Vitamin A and Vitamin E.

Health Benefits:

Butternut squash, as a winter squash, has outstanding antioxidant benefits.  No other single food provides a greater percentage of certain carotenoids than winter squash.  The same properties that make cucurbitacins potentially toxic to some animals and microorganisms make it effective as an anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory when we consume them in winter squash.
Many studies suggest that increasing consumption of plant foods like butternut squash decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, and overall mortality while promoting a better complexion and increased energy and overall lower weight.

Season:

Butternut squash is available year round.  The peak season is September through March.

Selecting and Storing:

Select butternut squash that are firm, heavy for their size, and have dull, not glossy rinds.  Avoid soft rinds and any signs of decay.  Winter squash can be kept for a week up to 6 months.  It should be kept away from exposure to direct light and should not be subjected  to extreme heat or extreme cold.


Preparation:

 One of the most common ways to prepare butternut squash is to roast it.  Cut the squash in half lengthwise (You can put the whole squash in the microwave for one minute to soften it a little, so it will be easier to cut.  Remove the stem and scoop out the seeds and pulp.  Lightly brush the cut sides with oil and put cut side down on a baking sheet.   Bake for 45 minutes at 400 degrees F.   The seeds are edible either raw or cooked.  The skin is also edible and softer when roasted.   If you prefer to remove the skin it  can be done with a vegetable peeler or knife. 


So ..... Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll  show you how.

Simple but Good......

Roasted Butternut Squash

1 butternut squash - peeled, seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes
2 TBS olive oil
2 cloves garalic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Toss butternut squash with olive oil and garlic in a large bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.  Arrange coated squash on a baking sheet.
Roast in preheated oven until squash is tender and lightly browned, 25 to 30 minutes.


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