Thursday, October 25, 2012

Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese & Butternut Squash Pizza

Armed with a complete set of gourmet pizza-making tools—a baking stone, pizza paddle, and rolling pizza cutter —my friend Ali and I set out to find the perfect recipe for our new gadgets last Friday. In the mood for something slightly gourmet that would pair well with a full-bodied red wine, we compiled our favorite toppings and stumbled across this delightful Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese & Butternut Squash Pizza from Natural Noshing.

Homemade pizza-making is a great opportunity to get creative with toppings! I encourage you to leave the mozzarella & tomato sauce pies to the experts (if you're in New York at least) and use this an excuse to think outside the box, at least a little bit.

Most people don't picture pizza as the dish to feature autumn produce, but its actually quite an ideal medium—squash and root vegetables achieve their maximum flavor when roasted in a light coating of olive oil, salt & pepper; and balance perfectly alongside the rich, creamy chevre and peppery arugula. Caramelized onions add a sweet balsamic essence that acts like a dressing to the "salad" of squash.  The key to this recipe though is the sage, which brings out the autumn flavors of the respective toppings, tying everything together. 
Waiting for everything to cook is the hardest part!
Luckily we had a gorgeous spread of Anthropologie
Home kitchenware to admire in the meantime...
We made our pizza on fresh whole-wheat dough, which upon baking emitted a nutty, fragrant aroma. The flavorful toppings rest delicately atop the thin, doughy crust. Made this way—whole grain thin crust, minimal cheese, and veggies in abundance—this pizza is refreshingly light. Plus, it won't leave you with that carb-baby feeling we all dread after eating one too many slices. The finished product is a mosaic of rich colors with the deep purple onions and auburn squash. For a second, it is too pretty to eat.

Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese & Butternut Squash Pizza (from Natural Noshing. Nora includes a homemade grain-free crust recipe as well which I've substituted for fresh store-bought pizza dough.)
Yield: 1 large pizza pie
1 16 ounce bag whole wheat pizza dough (available at Whole Foods and Trader Joe's)
2 1/2 cups peeled butternut squash, cut into 1/2 cubes
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
sea salt and black pepper
2 1/2 to 3 cups arugula, roughly chopped
5 – 6 ounces crumbled goat cheese (if you don’t like goat cheese, feta or your favorite cheese could be used)
1 Tbsp fresh sage, roughly chopped
1. Preheat oven to 400F. In a large baking pan, toss the squash with 1 Tbsp of the olive oil and season with black pepper and sea salt. Bake the squash until slightly browned and tender, about 30 minutes, tossing once halfway through to ensure even cooking. Remove from oven and set aside.
2. While the squash is baking, in a large skillet, add sliced onions and 1 tbsp of olive oil over a medium heat. Saute until onions begin to color, stirring frequently.  Add the balsamic vinegar and a dash of salt and stir or toss to combine.  Cover, reduce the heat to low-medium, and let cook for about 25 minutes, or until the onions have cooked down and caramelized. Set aside.
3. While vegetables are cooking, roll out pizza dough on a floured surface, and knead according to package directions on pizza stone or lightly oiled baking pan. Once all of your toppings are ready, brush remaining olive oil over the crust and top with cooked squash, onion, chopped arugula, crumbled goat cheese and sage.
4. Bake until the crust is crispy, lightly browned and toppings are heated through and cheese starts to brown slightly on top, about 15-18 minutes.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Spaghetti Squash with Ricotta, Hazelnuts & Parsley

The weekend Greenmarkets are teaming with different varieties of winter squash. Yellow, orange and green hues paint a hodgepodge of shapes and sizes, from little and squat to big and round. Displayed like this, the squash can seem almost daunting: what epicurean means are hiding inside this rotund, seemingly impermeable vegetable?

For spaghetti squash, the result is surprising — but delightfully so. The oblong, heavy object purchased at the market (I bought mine at Stannard Farms at Tompkins Square on Sunday) transforms itself delicate, tender ribbons of flesh in the kitchen, replicating the exact width and consistency of spaghetti.

But don’t think the veggie-for-grain swap out is an even substitution in terms of health.  Spaghetti squash might mimic spaghetti pasta in texture, but its wealth of nutrition’s makes the substitute’s value so much more.  An excellent source of dietary fiber and vitamin C, spaghetti squash also contains vitamin B6, potassium, and magnesium. Plus, it’s low-cal: one cup of spaghetti squash averages 42 calories, while one cup of spaghetti is about 220.

Upon roasting, spaghetti squash emits a lovely, flowery flavor; subtle but earthy. Because it is not as sweet as other winter squash varieties, sprinkling a generous spoonful of brown sugar atop the yellow strands is the best way to eat it “plain”. To retain the modest flavors, prepare with a light garnish, such as a mild cheese seasoned with herbs and nuts. This Spaghetti Squash with Ricotta, Hazelnuts & Parsley recipe uses hazelnuts and breadcrumbs to offer a crunchy contrast to the silky spaghetti ribbons.

Spaghetti Squash with Ricotta, Hazelnuts & Parsley (inspired from Whole Living)
Yield: Serves 4

1 spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise, seeds removed
½ tablespoon plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons whole-wheat breadcrumbs, toasted*
salt & pepper
½ cup low-fat ricotta cheese
½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
¼ cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped

*Breadcrumbs can be toasted in a lightly oil pan over medium heat, for about 2 minutes, or in the oven along with the squash for 2 minutes.

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush cut sides of squash with ½ tablespoon oil (or spritz with an olive oil mister), salt & and pepper. Place squash, cut sides down, on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Roast until tender, about 45 minutes. Let cool for 5-10 minutes.
2. With a fork, scrape the flesh of the squash to extract its long strands. Transfer to a large bowl. Add tablespoon of olive oil, ricotta, nutmeg, brown sugar, parsley, breadcrumbs, and hazelnuts, plus additional salt and pepper to taste. Toss all ingredients together and serve immediately, while squash is still warm.

"Squash, Winter, Spaghetti, Cooked, Boiled, Drained, or Baked, without Salt Read More Http://" SELF Nutrition Data. SELF Magazine, n.d. Web. <>.
Vynckt, Virginia V. "Spaghetti Squash Nutrition Value." N.p., 8 May 2011. Web. <>.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Shakshouka (Spicy Tomato Sauce Poached Eggs)

Brunch being a frequent occurrence on my Sunday afternoons, I’ve indulged at many spots all over NYC, only recently to discover that I consistently seek out one dish in particular: Shakshouka (Spicy Tomato Sauce Poached Eggs). There’s something about the soft yolk of the poached egg folding into the simmering, hearty tomato sauce- the leftovers sopped up with toasted slices of warm pita- that I just can’t get enough of. So as you can imagine, I was over-the-top thrilled to learn that these amazing eggs are super easy to make at home, while preserving every bit of deliciousness found in their restaurant-made counterpart.

Shakshouka is a traditional Mediterranean dish of eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce with chili peppers, onion, and cumin. It is also known as Tunisian Eggs, after the country it is believed to have originated from.
I know tomato sauce doesn’t usually join us for breakfast, but the combination of eggs and sauce is truly magical here. I almost don’t know how I can return to the standard eggs with ketchup! The onions, peppers, tomato, cumin, paprika and cayenne add serious heat and flavor plus a hearty serving of veggies. Eggy brunch is usually a cholesterol nightmare, but Shakshouka is actually totally healthy: No butter to be seen with the olive-oil tomato base, vegetables are in abundance, and whole-wheat pita contributes a nutrient-filled grain. You can easily substitute egg whites for your poached egg to totally eliminate bad fats here, but I recommend keeping at least one- mixing it into the savory sauce is not something to be missed!

Shakshouka (Spicy Tomato Sauce Poached Eggs)
Yield: 2 Servings

4 large eggs
1 cup favorite tomato sauce (I used Cucina Antica's spicy arriabbata sauce, try to find one that's low in sodium, added sugar, and uses only natural ingredients- no preservatives)
1 medium vidalia or yellow onion, diced
1 bell pepper (green or orange), diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 cup - 1/4 cup water, as needed
1/2 cup chopped parsley, tightly packed, for garnish
salt & pepper to taste
1 tbsp olive oil

1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, and saute for 2 minutes. Add bell pepper and cook for 5 more minutes, until vegetables are softened. Add cumin paprika, and cayenne; cook for 2 more minutes.
2. Turn heat to low, and add tomato sauce. Slowly pour in water until the sauce consistency resembles a thick sauce, juicy but semi-solid.
3. With a spoon, gently push aside the tomato sauce in 4 places, making a pocket for the eggs. Pour each egg over a pocket and cook with the cover on, for about 10 minutes, until egg is cooked to your liking. (For a runny egg, cook for about 5 minutes, or poach egg separately and add at the end.)
4. Remove each egg from the skillet (serve 2 eggs per person) with a generous amount of sauce. Sprinkle with parsley, salt, & pepper (add hot red pepper flakes too if you like heat.) Serve with toasted pita wedges to scoop up excess sauce.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Whole Wheat Pasta with Pumpkin-Seed and Spinach Pesto

This recipe features a part of the Cucurbita family (think pumpkin/squash) often forgotten: the seeds! Pumpkin-seeds, called pepitas in Spanish (derived from pepita de calabaza, meaning "little seed of squash") are as fun to cook with as the name sounds.  Commonly used in Mexican cooking or roasted, salted and eaten plain; pepitas are nutty, crunchy and sweet, and bring a whole new dimension to this Whole Wheat Pasta with Pumpkin-Seed and Spinach Pesto dish.

You can roast your own pumpkin seeds straight from the source, or purchase pepitas (pumpkin-seeds post shelling, roasting & salting) from the store. Pepitas are actually extremely nutritious: they contain heart-healthy monounsaturated oil and omega-3 fats, plus significant amounts of carotenoids, zinc, iron, magnesium, potassium, and protein. These nutrients contribute to pepitas' anti-inflammatory, liver-protecting and cholesterol-reducing properties. A few suggestions to add the nutrient-packed seed to your daily diet: toss into a salad, sprinkle in cereal, granola or trail mix, or grind a handful into veggie or meat burgers. Keep in mind though that similarly to nuts, pepitas are high in calories, so stick to a serving or two per use.
The pepitas maintain the function of pine nuts in a traditional pesto, but deliver an authentically diverse flavor that makes this recipe so much more than your average pesto sauce. Even though this recipe is uber-healthy - add spinach to the mix and your dealing with some serious superfood action here - the focus lies in the robust flavors which blend together just right in the pesto. The refreshing crunch of the pepita-parsley-spinach-chive combination, with a twinge of zesty lemon, is finished with a thick dollop of creamy ricotta that mixes oh so well into the thick sauce. 
Don't worry if you're not a big spinach fan, you can omit the fresh leaves and substitute another vegetable. Plus, it can barely be tasted in the pesto mixture; the other flavors overpower. I loved this pesto so much that I made a full batch to use in the future as a topping for chicken or fish too. 
I mostly stuck to the recipe here (make sure to reserve that extra pasta water, otherwise pesto will be too dry) but added in lemon juice for some acidity and used less olive oil to keep the calories down. I also made a batch for 6 servings but found in reality it yielded only 3: my edits are below.

Whole Wheat Pasta with Pumpkin-Seed and Spinach Pesto (from Whole Living)
Yield: 3 Servings

1 pound dried whole-wheat fusilli pasta
1 cup hulled pumpkin seeds or pepitas, toasted*
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh chives
1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil (can add more to taste)
1 garlic clove
1 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
juice from 1 lemon
2 1/2 ounces baby spinach, packed (2 1/2 cups)
Freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese, for serving
extra pumpkin seeds for garnish (optional)

*If already salted, skip adding salt to the pesto and just add salt to taste at the end.

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta, and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid.

2. Meanwhile, combine toasted pumpkin seeds, parsley, chives, oil, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, the lemon zest, lemon juice, and 1 cup baby spinach in a food processor. Season with pepper, and pulse until well combined.

3. Toss pasta with pesto mixture. Add reserved cooking liquid (a little bit at a time), and mix until pasta is well coated. Fold in remaining 1 1/2 cups baby spinach. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Divide among bowls. Top each with a dollop of ricotta, and season with pepper and a sprinkling of extra pumpkin seeds, if desired.

Minton, Barbara L. "Pepitas Are a Crunchy Munchy Snack Food Full of Nutritional Benefits." 14 Feb. 2009. Web. 1 Oct. 2012 <>.