Saturday, November 17, 2012

Roasted Delicata Squash

This is dead easy and all you have to remember if you want crispy edges is, "the magic number is three". The Delicata squash half-moons are cooked on one side, turned to cook on the other side and then turned to cook on the original side once more for crispy edges and creamy flesh.

There may be other ways to achieve this, but this is my method learned by trial, error and, finally, success. Sometimes, as I did this time, I add about 1 1/2 teaspoons of brown sugar per squash when I'm tossing them with a very small amount of olive oil, salt and pepper but you can omit that if you wish. Occasionally I sprinkle some balsamic vinegar on the slices instead of brown sugar before they go into the oven. I liberally sprinkled the half-moons with Ras el Hanout, but mostly what I was left with was a mild aromatic flavor and some of the heat from that spice mixture. 

Delicata squash is a more-or-less dirigible-shaped white or yellow squash with green or orange-gold longitudinal striations and a pale yellow-orange flesh. It's classified as a winter squash, but is very thin-skinned. When roasted, the skin is very easy to eat. You can roast it, stuff it and bake it, saute or steam it.. It's not as packed full of beta carotene as some of the other winter squashes, but has good fiber, potassium, and vitamins C and B.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Get Yer Groats On: Make Ahead Steel Cut (Irish) Oatmeal

Irish (steel cut) oatmeal with mix-ins: chopped, toasted almonds, un-sulphered, organic dried cranberries, a dash of cinnamon and a sprinkle of granola.
Once it gets chilly, I start thinking about adding oatmeal to my breakfast rotation. A bowl of oatmeal can be delicious, warming and nutritious. If you look at the types of oats available: hulled and whole (whole groats), steel cut (Irish), stone ground (Scottish), rolled, quick-cooking or instant, they are all whole grain and bring the benefits of that with them. The downside to the more highly processed oats is that the more a grain is processed, the easier it is digested which raises its glycemic level. To counteract this, eat your oatmeal with some protein, even adding milk can help.

Steel-cut a/k/a Irish Oats Steel-cut oat can come in several sizes (grades): pinhead (the largest), coarse, medium and fine. Which grade is pictured? I have zero clue, but I suspect pinhead. 

Quick-cooking and instant oats are like rolled oats (rolled and steamed) but rolled thinner and steamed longer. Also, if you buy prepackaged and flavored instant oats, check the ingredients. They often come with a bunch of sugar, fats, preservatives and even some mighty unnatural-sounding "natural" ingredients. I like steel-cut oats for their taste, texture and nuttiness.

I toasted these almonds in the toaster oven this morning, but you can do that ahead of time, or buy pre-roasted nuts.
Even if you stick with making your steel-cut oatmeal from scratch YOUR add-ins: milk, half-and-half or cream, fruit, sugar and butter - to name a few - while delicious, might counter-balance the nutritional pay-off. 

I like the taste of steel-cut (a/k/a Irish) oats but to prepare from scratch takes 30 to 40-ish minutes, including bringing the water to a boil. Soaking steel-cut or stone ground oats the night before cuts the preparation time to 10 minutes, but if you want to cut that down to 3 minutes for one or two servings at a time, this method works well.

I bring water to a boil, add the steel-cut oats and boil - not a furious boil, but more of an "angry simmer" - for 10 minutes, uncovered, stirring a couple of times. After 10 minutes, I turn off the heat, move the pan to a cool burner and put the lid on. Then I let it sit for a couple of hours without removing the lid. After that I pack the oatmeal in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator where it will easily store for 5-7 days.