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David Lebovitz’s Crumble de Butternut + Roasted Green Cabbage

7 Feb


Are we sick of winter squash yet? Too bad, because thick-skinned roots, tubers and squash are here for the long haul.


Apparently I am fond of butternut squash bakes and crumbles, as evidenced by the Figs in My Belly archives. To that I say, never enough! Continue reading


Butternut Squash Bake + Kale Chips

11 Feb

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Last night, I had a spontaneous dinner with my new housemate and his girlfriend. We were cooking two separate dinners, and just decided to combine them and dine altogether at our little table.

I contributed this butternut squash bake and some kale chips and nice salami, and they contributed a hearty spinach salad, some cheese and bread, and cheap “wine” from our nearby corner store. They are from France and Switzerland, and had never eaten butternut squash or kale chips before, so it was fun to introduce them to some of my favorite vegetables.

I love that we don’t have wine glasses and that our cutlery and plates don’t all match. I’m all about not matching.

I’ll admit that most nights, I cook dinner and watch a television show while I eat. It was a nice change to sit at a table and schmooze with the people I share an apartment with.

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This is the kind of recipe where all I want to do is pick off the crispy cheesy topping. I was dining with company, though, so I had to restrain myself!

This squash bake was super simple, and you could use any variety of winter squash. The natural sweetness of the butternut squash and onion with a light cheesy mix keeps the dish healthy but still full of decadent flavors. You will need to reserve about an hour of time to complete the recipe, but most of it is hands-off as the squash bakes. I also made this earlier in the day and just reheated it when time came to eat dinner, so it is a good make-ahead.

Serve the squash bake with some sautéed greens or kale chips for a nice color contrast!

Butternut Squash Bake

adapted from Jackie Newgent’s 1,000 Low Calorie Recipes

makes 4-6 servings

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I had a very large squash so I had to use a bigger baking dish)

1 onion, cut in half and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2/3 cup milk (I used 1% lowfat milk, you can also use soy or almond milk)

2 teaspoons cornstarch (or arrowroot)

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

pinch of cayenne or old bay

1/3 cup grated fontina or white cheddar

1/3 cup breadcrumbs (I made my own with some old sourdough; bake in the oven until toasted and blend to fine crumbs)

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese or Asiago

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Combine the cut squash and onion in a baking dish (Newgent recommends a 2-qt dish, but I used a 3-qt pyrex because I ended up with a lot of squash). Drizzle and toss with the olive oil. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until the squash is tender all the way through.

Meanwhile, whisk together the milk and cornstarch. Whisk in the egg, salt, pepper, and spice. Set aside.

Stir the squash-onion mixture. Sprinkle with the fontina/cheddar cheese and evenly pour in the milk mixture. Sprinkle the top with the breadcrumbs, Parmesan/Asiago cheese, and an extra pinch of cayenne/old bay. Roast until the squash is tender the cheese coating is crisp and golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Let stand for 10 minutes to complete the cooking process, and serve.

Approximate nutrition facts per 1 cup serving: 240 calories, 12g total fat, 4.5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 65mg cholesterol, 530mg sodium, 27g total carbohydrate, 6g dietary fiber, 8g sugars, 9g protein

Kale Chips

1 bunch of kale, stemmed and torn into pieces (or enough to fit a baking sheet)

1-2 tsp. olive oil


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Lay the kale on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for about 10-15 minutes, until it is crisped but still greenish. Be careful not to overdo it or you will get burnt pieces.

Smitten Kitchen’s Cranberry Crumb Bars

21 Dec


Well tickle me pink, these crumb bars are beauts. They taste like pie, but in cookie form. Perfectly balanced tart berry and buttery crumb. I don’t know why I didn’t eat these bars with vanilla ice cream heaping over the top. I did, however, manage to eat every last crumb that happened to “fall off” the top of the cookies. Good heavens!


I finally found an excuse to do something with the half-full quart container of cranberries that I had been keeping in my freezer for a year. The cranberries held up in perfect condition throughout their year in stasis, and now they’ve had the chance to shine (I tend to put things in my freezer and forget about them until a year later…not the smartest thing to do…but these cookie bars were just a sweet treat to eat at home so the only harm done would be done to me…and I gladly took the risk for these buttery babies!).


To get a nice, clean cut, it is best to refrigerate the cookie bars for an hour or a few hours and cut them when they are cold. I got too greedy and went right in for the bars when they were still slightly warm and at my disposal. Sigh…I think I need some company to keep my self-control in check.

In other news, I’m totally Smitten with the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. I feel like almost half of the recipes on my blog are “adapted from” Deb Perelman’s beautiful blog, and now I get to cook my way through her beautiful book. Three cheers for Deb!


Smitten Kitchen’s Cranberry Crumb Bars

adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

makes an 8×8 inch pan of bars


1 stick of butter, cubed and chilled

1 1/2 cups (188 grams) all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon cloves

1 egg


1/2 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest

1 tablespoon orange juice

2 cups fresh cranberries

1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line the bottom of an 8×8 inch baking pan with parchment paper, and butter the sides and the parchment. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and spices. Work the chilled butter and egg into the flour mixture until it resembles a course meal. You can use your hands (my preferred method), a fork, or a pastry blender. Pat half of the crumb base into the bottom of your prepared pan. It will be thin.

In the bowl of a food processor or a blender, briefly pulse the filling ingredients until the berries are coarsely chopped but not pureed. Spread the filling over the crumb base. Sprinkle the remaining crumbs evenly over the cranberry mixture.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until lightly brown on top. Cool completely before cutting into squares. It helps to refrigerate the bars once cool and then cut them when cold.


>Honey Vanilla Ice Cream + Summer Fruit Crisp

18 Aug


Amidst my camera breaking, my new apartment still coming together, no Internet at the new apartment, and my weekend getaway trips gallivanting around northern California, my blog posts have been/will be a bit delayed.

My new kitchen is filled with fun gadgets: my KitchenAid candy-apple-red mixer, my mortar and pestle, tons of baking pans, and my ICE CREAM MAKER. And what a better way to break-in the kitchen than to make some refreshing ice cream?! Honey vanilla ice cream!!!

Lately I have been eating tons of melon: cantaloupe, watermelon, orange honeydew melon, canary melon, muskat melon……..mmmmmm. This honey vanilla ice cream is the perfect accoutrement to any melon. For some more melon fun, check out this post by the KitchyKitchen.

The way that I pick a good melon is to give it a sniff at right at the end where that circular nub is (see above photo). It should smell like fragrant flowers. If there is no smell, you can still buy the melon but let it sit for a few days on the counter. You can also try to shake or knock the melon. If the seeds are loose, the melon is ripe.

The honey vanilla ice cream can be served with melon, served on its own, served with some peanut butter and sliced sauteed bananas (deconstructed Elvis Presley-style?), served with a summer fruit crisp, or any other way you can imagine.

A summer fruit crisp is an easy, comforting dessert that can be thrown together in a pinch. Use whatever fruit you like, sprinkle the crisp topping on, and bake. Gosh, you get your fruit and your oat-y crumbly crunch. And it is just divine with the ice cream.

To make the crisp: I sliced dapple dandy pluots, a nectarine, and sprinkled a few blueberries into an 8 in by 8 in square baking pan (feel free to make minis in little ramekins, too). I added a tablespoon and a half of all-purpose flour (you can also add a sprinkle of sugar and/or lemon depending on the sweetness of the fruit). Then I topped the fruit with some crisp topping (recipe below) and baked it all in a 375 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes. Serve warm with the ice cream on top…YUM!

Honey Vanilla Ice Cream
adapted from Chez Panisse Fruit

makes 1 quart

** BEWARE: This ice cream is really heavy on the honey flavor. If you just want a slight honey flavor, add only 1/2 a cup or less of honey. But if you are a major honey lover, add the whole 3/4 cup (that’s what I did)

6 egg yolks
1 cup half and half (I just used milk because that was all I had…it still came out great)
1 pinch salt
1 vanilla bean
2 cups heavy cream, chilled
1/2-3/4 cup honey, depending on how much of a honey lover you are

Set the heavy cream into a large bowl or bucket and set a fine mesh strainer or sieve over the top. Set the bowl into another larger bowl of ice water.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks just enough to break them up. Gently heat the milk and salt in a medium-size saucepan or pot. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape out the seeds with a paring knife, and put them into the milk mixture along with the bean pod. Stir slowly over low heat until the milk is steaming.

Drizzle the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly as you pour (this is called tempering the egg yolks).

Return the milk and egg yolk mixture to the saucepan or pot. Cook the mixture over low heat, stirring slowly and scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or heat-resistant rubber spatula until the mixture thickens enough to coat the spoon (this happens at a temperature of about 170 degrees F).

Immediately remove from the heat and strain through the fine-mesh strainer/sieve into the cold cream. Whisk in the 3/4 cup of honey.

Whisk together to cool the mixture over the ice bath. Once chilled, cover the ice cream base and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled (at least a half hour or over-night).

Freeze the mixture according to your ice cream machine’s instructions. Transfer the frozen ice cream to a clean dry container, cover, and store in the freezer for several hours before serving to firm up.


To make honey lavender ice cream: Add 1 tablespoon of dried lavender when you are heating the milk.

To make vanilla ice cream, use milk instead of half and half and add 2/3 cup of sugar when you heat the milk. Omit the honey.

Fruit Crisp Topping

adapted from Deborah Madison

3/4 cup light brown sugar
2/3 cup flour
1/2 cup rolled oats or finely chopped almonds
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon, optional
6 Tbsp. butter, cut into small chunks

Using your fingers or the paddle attachment of a mixer, combine the topping ingredients and work in the butter until the texture is coarse and crumbly.

**The topping can be made ahead and refrigerated for a week or so or frozen for several weeks.

French Home Cooking in the Suburbs of Paris

10 Jul

I feel lucky. I feel very lucky. I feel very lucky to have just spent the last week in the suburbs of Paris, France with a lovely French family. A lovely French family who gave me a bed to sleep in at night, a clean shower, and home-cooked meals. Let’s just say that I have eaten well this past week, eaten well with great company (and don’t forget about the wine!!).

Let us start from the beginning, shall we? I have a friend, her name is Alex (pictured below on the right). Alex is from France.

Alex and I worked/lived together last summer (2009). We worked together in Berkeley, California at a cooking camp for children.

This summer (2010) I went on a 3-week Euro-trip where I spend my last week with Alex and her family in Paris, France. Actually, they live right outside Paris in a town called Vincenne. Just before I arrived, Alex was at her family’s country home where she picked fruits and made jams with them: rhubarb, cassis (black currant), groseille (red currants), apricot, apple, raspberry…

Groseille (red currant) jam

Apparently Alex and her family have NEVER had to buy jam before. They always make it in abundance with the summer fruits from their country home. And every morning they eat their jam on a toasted baguette. What a life, eh?

Rhubarb jam 

Speaking of rhubarb, check out this piece of rhubarb:

It is huge! And green! Totally different than the rhubarb that I am familiar with back in the states. I have made rhubarb jam before, it was red. Their jam is green. “C’est la vie.”

Pictured below is Alex’s mom, Catherine. She is making rhubarb jam and she is literally the queen of her kitchen, my taste buds can attest to that:

Alex recently celebrated her 22nd birthday. Bon anniversaire! (that means “happy birthday” in French). Of course we had to celebrate with good food and good drinks. We had a multi-course meal with a bottle or two of wine for each course!

This multi-course meal, however, was as simple as can be. It all started with fresh scallops. During the winter months, Alex’s family buys fresh scallops, shucks them, and freezes them. Her mom defrosted these scallops over-night in milk so that they would not dry out or smell. A sprinkle of oil in a hot pan with a dash of fresh garlic, sauteed two minutes on each side and these babies are done! Accompanied with a fresh baby spinach salad, I found such joy in the hot/cold, soft/crunchy balance of foods. Mmm summer!

Next, we had a little somethin’ called “tarte tatin,” which is sort of like an upside-down tart. Typically, you see a tarte tatin for dessert, made with fruits such as apples. But Catherine prepared a savory tarte tatin with a confit of ratatouille-style vegetables, topped with slivers of fresh Parmesan cheese.

And with every great meal there is always fresh baguette…

Now lets talk dessert. I sat with Catherine as we picked through a big bucket of fresh red currants, separating stem from fruit.

We were adding these currants to a fresh fruit crumble. Rhubarb and red currant crumble. No sugar was added to the fruit. I couldn’t believe it. Seriously? Yes, why add sugar when you can just taste how good the fruits are as is?

Topped with a pastry crust: 200 grams each of flour, ground almonds, sugar, and butter.

Pat it down and Voilà! We added a little special touch to the crumble by making the number “22” out of the pastry.

And after it baked, the currants just exploded over the pastry top and all that was left was this special “22.” Yum-o! I love the tart fruit mixed with the sweet pastry crust. Really just so simple and not too much sugar.

Now, last year when Alex came to Berkeley, she made this cake that I have since dreamed about all year long. This cake is of the chocolate variety. It is called Fondant au Chocolat and is the best darn chocolate cake I have ever tasted. It only works if you use very good chocolate. There is only about 2 tablespoons of flour in the whole cake. So easy to whip up and so quick to bake. The key is timing and temperature of the oven. Oh how I adore this cake.

Alex’s mom probably could have prepared the cake with a blind-fold on and one hand tied behind her back. It was like a little dance watching her bake with such easy and joy.

Let us meet dad now, yes? Everyone, meet Emmanuel. The wine connoisseur, the grill master, the cheese aficionado, the jokester. This man knows everything and more about French wine. We even tasted a very special red wine that is supposed to be eaten ONLY with really good chocolate (yes, we drank this wine with our fondant au chocolat). Below, Emmanuel grills pork and lamb on the rooftop of their flat.

What a beautiful summer evening, the perfect night for another perfect meal…

Roasted potatoes, perfectly browned…

Special French salt called “fleur de sel.” It’s great for sprinkling as a final touch to any dish…

On my last night in France, Alex hosted a barbecue for friends. On the menu was a simple tabouleh salad: cucumbers, tomatoes, couscous, lemon juice, olive oil. There was also a salad with fresh sliced tomatoes, hericot vert (French green beans), and feta cheese.

Prepping the tabouleh
Tabouleh Salad
Hericot vert, tomato, and feta cheese salad

Alex made a lovely fruity rum cocktail with fresh orange slices and vanilla beans:

And then the meat…chicken and ribs. Dude.

Poulet (chicken)
Alex at the grill

Wow, what a week. I really admire Alex’s family for not having “snack” foods around. Not even cereal or oats or crackers. Everything was fresh. Lots of yogurts, fruits, cheeses, and everyday more baguettes appear. After every meal, I would “cleanse” my palate with strong French cheeses. I miss those cheeses already!

Until next time, Paris!