Maple Syrup Glazed Acorn Squash

Maple Syrup Glazed Acorn Squash
There isn’t a variety of squash that I don’t like. From butternut to kabocha to spaghetti, my wish to go back to long summer days filled with a glut of produce fades away with the takeover of root vegetables. The one thing I find a pain about squash is peeling and cutting, so I do my best to find ways of cooking it that involve as little prep as possible. My peeler is sharp, but it’s no match for such thick skin.

With its bumpy ridges, acorn squash is always better not peeled. Roasting in the oven softens its protective outside. Instead of olive oil, I tossed the squash in a mixture of melted butter and maple syrup. Once the wedges were on the sheet pan, I sprinkled cayenne pepper in the remaining buttery syrup and added pecans. The spicy nuts perfectly offset the sweetness of the maple syrup glazed acorn squash.

Maple Syrup Glazed Acorn Squash
Maple-Glazed Acorn Squash

Serves 2-4

1 acorn squash (about 2 pounds)
2 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.

Cut off the top and bottom of the acorn squash and then halve it lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Slice into 1/2-inch-thick wedges.

In a large bowl, whisk together the butter and maple syrup. Toss the wedges in the mixture and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the squash in a single layer on the prepared sheet pan. Roast for 25-30 minutes until tender.

Add the cayenne pepper to the remaining butter-maple syrup mixture in the bottom of the bowl. Toss in the pecans and remove from the bowl with a slotted spoon.

Before serving, top the squash with the pecans.

Chocolate Chip Banana Walnut Cookies

Chocolate Chip Banana Walnut Cookies
There are infinite variations of chocolate chip cookies even though all of them start with the same basic ingredients—butter, flour, eggs and sugar. I went through an obsessive phase baking batch after batch tweaking and adjusting in an effort to make what I thought was the perfect cookie. Now I realize this was an impossible goal considering I can never decidethick and chewy or thin and crispy.

Chocolate chip cookies are very adaptable taking on all sorts of additions from nuts to bananas. This recipe first caught my eye years ago, and finally I gave it a try. These chocolate chip banana walnut cookies had a soft, almost cake-like texture punctuated by toasted nuts and chocolate chunks. Eaten warm from the oven, they were best described as banana bread in cookie form.

Chocolate Chip Banana Walnut Cookies
Chocolate Chip Banana Walnut Cookies
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living September 2006

Makes about 18 cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup mashed ripe banana
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped into 1/4-inch chunks
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped

In a medium bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, salt and baking soda.

In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract. Stir in the mashed banana and oats. Fold in the dry ingredients until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill the dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment.

Drop the dough by the scant 1/4-cup spacing 3 inches apart on the sheet pan. Bake for 12-15 minutes until the cookies are golden brown. Cool on the sheet pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container.

Grandma Pizza

Grandma Pizza
The first thing I do when I walk in the door of our building is check the mailbox. I always get excited when a food magazine sticks out between the junk and bills, but ever since W. was born, I haven’t been able to keep up with my subscriptions. No surprise that taking care of a baby leaves time for only select reading. I try not to think about all the unread articles and uncooked recipes in issues that have landed in the recycling bin.

The image of a blistered crust pizza baked in a sheet pan was far too irresistible to pass up, and I knew I had to cook the cover of October’s Bon Appetit. Known as grandma pizza, this Long Island classic screams old school pizza parlor complete with red and white checkered tablecloth. The simple sauce was just pureed canned tomatoes and garlic. The chewy crust was so tasty that I didn’t even mind having a center piece.

Grandma Pizza
Grandma Pizza

Adapted from Bon Appetit October 2014

For dough
1 envelope (2-1/4 teaspoons) dry active yeast
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for bowl
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 cups all-purpose flour plus more for work surface

For sauce
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
3 garlic cloves, peeled
6 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For pizza
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, grated
4 ounces Provolone, grated

In a large bowl, combine the yeast with 1-1/2 cups warm water. Let the mixture sit until the yeast is foamy, about 10 minutes. Whisk in 2 tablespoons olive oil and then the salt and half the flour. Stir in the remaining flour until a shaggy dough forms.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 10-12 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and elastic. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator to rise for 24 hours.

Coat an 18-inch x 13-inch rectangular sheet pan with the remaining olive oil. Gently stretch the dough to fit the entire sheet pan. If the dough springs back, let it rest for 10 minutes before trying again. Tightly cover the sheet pan with plastic wrap and let it rest in a warm spot (about 70 degrees) until the dough has puffed up, about 30-40 minutes.

For the sauce, combine the tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper in a blender and puree until smooth.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Spread the sauce in a thin layer on the dough and sprinkle both cheeses on top. Bake 20-30 minutes until the cheese has melted and the crust is golden brown.

Homemade Nutella

Homemade Nutella
Certain foods taste better eaten straight from the container. That does not include milk or anything else better poured into a glass. I am talking about spreadable delights meant to be scooped and smeared on something. Peanut butter is the most obvious example and my absolute favorite. I have no shame having a post-dinner spoonful of peanut butter for a simple snack.

Craving a sweeter, more decadent treat that could be slathered on graham crackers or eaten with fruit, I used my blender to whip up homemade nutella. The first step was to toast the hazelnuts in the oven to remove their skin and to bring out even more nutty flavor. After that it was a few minutes blending the ingredients and my from-scratch version was ready to be devoured.

Homemade Nutella
Homemade Nutella 

Makes about 1-1/2 cups 

2 cups raw hazelnuts
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the hazelnuts on a sheet pan. Toast for 6 – 8 minutes in the oven until golden brown. Rub the hazelnuts in a kitchen towel to remove the skins.

Transfer the hazelnuts to a blender or food processor and blend until they turn into a paste and release their oil. Add the sugar, cocoa powder, oil, salt and milk and blend until fully combined and smooth.

Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

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