Picking Favorites: Recipes for Summer

Γεια σας! That means “hello” in Greek, and is pronounced “yassas.” I also learned how to say “cheers,” “good morning/evening,” “yes/no,” a couple of dog commands (random, I know), and other nifty things to get around Greece. It was a funny thing, traveling around a country where the alphabet is fundamentally different from English. Anne quickly became good at deciphering words letter by letter to find our way around. We felt like detectives!

It’s hard to believe that our long-awaited trip to Greece has come to an end–but what a trip it was! I’m not even sure I know where to begin, and my thoughts on the whole thing aren’t fully formed yet. I’ll say this: It was incredible. Beautiful beyond belief, really, and the people we met were so hospitable and kind. Life in Greece has a different pace to it than in the U.S., and we quickly fell into its slower rhythm. The food is healthy and locally grown, and the hot sun and salt water–oh, the salt water!–were nourishment for the soul.

Now back in Philly, I am trying to hold on tightly to some of these ways of life. I write my to-do lists on smaller pieces of paper; I buy fruits and veggies from the local market; I take a break in the afternoons. These things, for now, are keeping me relaxed and mindful. Next week, I’d like to share a few photos and stories from our trip with you, as well as some travel tips that I jotted down along the way–helpful hints that I didn’t know going into our trip.

Two things on the forefront: 1) I’m featuring a fun giveaway at the end of next month. Stay tuned for how you can enter! 2) Anne and I are in the process of looking for a new apartment in Philly. We’ve been talking about finding a new home for a few months now, and we’ll be making the move in about a month! Fingers crossed we find just the right spot for us to continue growing.

As I catch up on Martha Stewart Living and Bon Appetit, I’ve been inspired by all kinds of summer recipes. I’m a little behind the eight ball from being away (i.e. I’m just now reading about “Ten fun ideas for the Fourth!”), but now I can dive into seasonal dishes. Below are some that I’d like to give a try. Enjoy!

Recipes for Summer

Corn and Fregula with Halloumi (Greek!) Cheese from Bon Appetit (click here for the recipe)

Grilled Chicken with Lemon and Thyme from Food & Wine (click here for the recipe)

Tomato Cucumber Avocado Salad from Green Valley Kitchen (click here for the recipe)

Grilled Beet Baba Ghanoush from Bon Appetit (click here for the recipe)

Herbed Summer Squash Pasta Bake from Smitten Kitchen (click here for the recipe)

Iron Skillet Peach Crisp from Bon Appetit (click here for the recipe)

Grapefruit-Jalepeno Margarita from Camille Styles (click here for the recipe)

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How to Cook, Roast, and Enjoy Winter’s Favorite Fruit (From Health Perch)

Happy New Year, readers! I hope that you all had a safe and enjoyable time celebrating the end of 2014 and beginning of 2015.  I, for one, am very excited to be continuing my Scissors & Sage journey into the new year.  As I think and write about my own personal resolutions, I am eager and inspired to further cultivate this blog.

With that said, a representative from Ghergich PR contacted me a few weeks ago about promoting an article from Health Perch, a digital health magazine.  When I read through the content and saw the beautiful graphics that go along with it, I thought that it was definitely worth sharing.  There is a lot of very helpful information (plus many delicious-looking recipes!) about how to best prepare, cook, and enjoy the endless health benefits of squash.

I hope that you love this article as much as I did!  -Victoria


How to Cook, Roast, and Enjoy Winter’s Favorite Fruit

Here’s everything you need to know (tasty recipes included).

Bisque, risotto, lasagna, sauté, soup—there’s no getting around it: Winter squash is the fruit to cook with during the cold-weather season. Beyond just carving them for decoration, roasted pumpkin, squash, and gourds (all members of the curcubita genus) make for the perfect addition to a warm and comforting dish. Amidst reports this winter will be equally as frigid as the last, we’ll take all the healthy, warming meals we can get.

Of course, the squash didn’t start out as the diet darling we know today. More than 4,000 years ago, squash and gourds, which are actually harvested in the fall, were hollowed out and used as dishware. Researchers from the University of Missouri studied the residues in these “dishes” and found traces of starch grains, including potato and arrowroot (an interesting peek into the eating habits of early settlers).

Today, these fruits aren’t just welcome additions to our meals, but also rich sources of healthy nutrients. One study found women who maintain diets high in lutein and zeaxanthin—both found in pumpkin and butternut squash—reduce risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in older Americans. Previous studies have shown these compounds work to reduce risk of AMD by absorbing “free radicals from damaging eye cells and by strengthening eye cell membranes.”

Probably the most recognizable healthy compounds associated with winter squash are carotenoids. A type of phytonutrient, carotenoids give squash their trademark yellow, orange, green, and sometimes red colors. Yellow and orange squash source their hue from alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin, all of which are high in vitamin A and can be converted into retinol for eye health. Green squash sources its hue from lutein and zeaxanthin, while red squash sources its color from lycopene.

As if that weren’t reason enough to load up on carotenoids, a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found increased consumption of the antioxidant is associated with reduced risk of death. Yellow-orange vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, or winter squash, and dark-green vegetables, such as broccoli, green beans, green peas, spinach, turnips greens, collards, and leaf lettuce, are rich in alpha-carotene, which was strongly associated with a decreased risk of lung cancer compared to other types of vegetables.

It’s clear the health benefits of squash are just about as abundant as the squash themselves. Before you get roasting, read on for squash-specific tips, from selecting them at the grocery store to foolproof prep.

The Skinny on Squash

Let’s start with the basics. The Old Farmer’s Almanac advises perfect-looking, “sunned” squash keep longest. In this case, sunned simply means squash stored in a sunny spot for a couple of weeks. Usually, the farmer has already taken care of this. You’ll know you picked the perfect squash if it’s blemish- and bruise-free, and the stem is intact.

Every squash is different. Some are ideal for stuffing and baking, others just for baking. A majority of squash, however, taste best when roasted. For a quick, easy way to roast, toss cubed squash with oil, spread on a baking sheet, and cook until desired consistency, usually fork-tender. Or, if you have more time, carefully wash, peel, and cut squash into same-size pieces before evenly coating with olive oil. Season with kosher salt and pepper, then spread on a baking sheet to roast.

Why roast? Sending squash to the oven sweetens the flavor profile. This makes fruits and vegetables look great (that nice golden brown color) and more palatable to the people who aren’t the biggest fan of veggies. Ultimately, the characteristic of each individual squash will determine the best method of cooking.

Acorn Squash

AKA: Pepper or Des Moines Squash

No surprises here: This squash’s name derives from its acorn-like shape. Its color varies, from yellow to tan, but the most common type is dark green with a touch of orange on the top. It’s best for stuffing (with rice and meat), but can be roasted and sautéed. Some even toast the seeds for a snack that’s rich in protein, zinc, iron, and vitamin E.

Acorn squash isn’t as rich in beta-carotene as other varieties, but one cup contains 145 percent of the daily recommended serving of vitamin A (2,300 IU for women, 3,000 IU for men), in addition to high levels of vitamin C, potassium, manganese, folate, heart-healthy omega-3s, and fiber (a key factor to feeling fuller, longer).

TRY IT: Stuffed Acorn Squash With Apples, Walnuts, and Cherries

Butternut Squash

AKA: Butternut Pumpkin (Australia and New Zealand)

Talk about the bell of the ball: This long, bell-shape squash is sweet and creamy, and arguably the most popular of the bunch (or patch?). Its skin is yellow while the pulpy flesh is orange and deepens as it ripens. It’s also the one fruit prepared most as a vegetable: roasted, toasted, pureed, mashed, and so on. It’s often served as a side or sauce rather than stuffed for a main meal or baked into dessert.

Vitamin A is abundant in butternut squash, and it is rich in vitamins, like brain-boosting folate, iron, zinc, copper, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus.

TRY IT: Crock Pot Beef And Butternut Squash Stew

Pumpkin

AKA: Sugar Pie Pumpkin

Butternut squash may be a fan favorite, but pumpkin is the season’s staple fruit. There are jack-o’-lanterns for carving, and sugar pie pumpkins for baking, roasting, and puréeing. Technically, you could eat the carving pumpkins, but they’re too wet and bland.

A cup of cooked pumpkin packs another serious punch of vitamin A—more than 200 percent of the recommended amount—as well as fiber and a hearty dose of tasty, healthy seeds. Pumpkin seeds contain a plant-based chemical called phsyosterols, which have been shown to lower LDL, or bad, cholesterol.

TRY IT: Traditional Pumpkin Pie With Fluted Crust

Kabocha Squash

AKA: Japanese Pumpkin

Kabocha squash is similar to butternut squash because its bright, orange flesh is a good source of beta-carotene, vitamin A, iron, vitamin C, and some B vitamins. It’s also loaded with fiber.

Compared to the tough skin of other squashes, kabocha’s is soft and edible so it can be cooked before peeling. Consider using kabocha to thicken soups and stews. Otherwise, roasting is a safe, delicious bet.

TRY IT: Kabocha Squash Fries With Spicy Greek Yogurt Sriracha

Spaghetti Squash

AKA: Orangetti, Pasta Squash

Chances are you’ve seen the oval, yellow squash pitted as a substitute for starchy noodles and rice. That’s partly due to its stringy flesh, which easily separates into spaghetti-like strands once cooked. Unfortunately, a squash is still a squash, and its pasta-like texture isn’t an exact texture and flavor substitute for the real thing.

Spaghetti squash contains only 37 calories per single, four-ounce serving (though you may want to double or triple that portion for a main meal). And since it can be boiled and microwaved, spaghetti squash is a great staple for busy work nights. To jazz it up, cut the squash in half, rub it in oil, season with a little salt and paprika, then pop it in the oven in a casserole dish or on a baking sheet. Just because this healthier pasta imposter isn’t the real deal doesn’t mean you can’t top it with traditional sauces, such as Alfredo, marinara, or a roasted-veggie-loaded version.

TRY IT: Spaghetti Squash Primavera

Delicata Squash

AKA: Sweet Potato Squash

With its creamy flavor and texture, delicata squash resembles a discolored cucumber. Its pale, yellow skin is patterned with dark green stripes. Its flesh is easy to prepare and eat, like kabocha squash, and it tastes like sweet potatoes.

To some food bloggers, delicata squash is considered squash for lazy people. Its skin is super thin and the squash itself takes no time to chop and roast. It contains high levels of beta-carotene, and half-cup serving is chock-full of vitamins A, and C, plus it has just 20 calories. Super quick to cook and nutritious? Sign us up.

TRY IT: Roasted Vegetable Orzo

Hubbard Squash

AKA: Baby, Blue, Chicago, Golden, Green, and Warted Hubbard

It may not seem like it, but hubbard squash is actually one of the largest winter varieties and it works well in both savory and sweet dishes. But this squash has a super tough skin. The flesh, however, has high levels of sugar, along with a texture that’s best pureed or mashed—think pie filling.

Due to its size, hubbard is usually sold in pre-cut, seeded chunks, so it’s easy to handle in the kitchen. If you do purchase the squash as is, the extra tough skin means it can be stored for months at a time.

TRY IT: Hubbard Squash Squares With Shortbread Crust

Buttercup Squash

AKA: True Winter Squash

Fill me up, buttercup (squash) baby: This orange and creamy-fleshed squash is sweeter than most, but it works equally for savory recipes. If you do choose the sweet route, bake or steam the squash to really bring out those sugary notes.

This squash provides a whole lot of beta-carotene, iron, vitamin C, and potassium, as well as calcium, folic acid, and B-vitamins. Its tough skin may make it more difficult to prepare.

TRY IT: Roasted Cauliflower, Buttercup Squash, & Kale Spaghetti with Pancetta

As the temperatures continue to drop, there’s no denying squash is an incredible source of flavor, vitamins, and healthy nutrients—regardless of type and prep process. Squash can star as a weeknight meal and double as a moderately indulgent dessert. You really can’t go wrong.

Creamy Garlic Linguine

If pasta is involved, sign me up.  It doesn’t matter the size, texture, or sauce  — I will probably love it (unless it involves mushrooms).  I could eat pasta a few times a week if you really twisted my arm about it.  It’s like a blank canvas, just screaming for culinary magic to happen on it.

I was so happy when I stumbled upon this recipe by Lil’ Luna for creamy garlic (penne) pasta.  I gave it a whirl soon after discovering it, and was not disappointed.  This recipe is a fantastic twist on a classic pasta dish.  It’s subtle, but means business.

Creamy Garlic Linguine (via Lil' Luna)

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb linguine pasta
  • 3 tbs butter
  • 2 tsp fresh minced garlic
  • 3 tbs flour
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tsp fresh minced parsley
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

To begin, cook linguine according to package instructions (or if you’ve got some Italian flare in you, don’t read the instructions and go by taste to determine done-ness).

While the pasta water is boiling and the pasta is being cooked, melt butter in a medium sauce pan (I used a wok).  Add garlic and cook for one minute.  Add flour and cook for 30 seconds, making sure to stir constantly with a whisk.  Don’t go grab that glass of wine!

Add milk and chicken broth, again stirring constantly.  Cook until sauce boils and thickens.  Add parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper.  Continue stirring until the parmesan has melted.  Have faith, it will work.

Once the linguine is cooked to al dente perfection and is strained, combine pasta and sauce in either the pasta pot or the wok (whichever one is larger).  Use a pasta scooper to blend the two together.

Serve linguine, with a garnish of fresh parsley, immediately and enjoy!

From Scissors & Sage

Tag your own culinary creations (especially if you try this one at home) with #scissorsandsage on Instagram or Twitter!

“Gnocch-gnocch.” “Who’s there?”

With graduate school over, and Anne off from teaching for the summer, it finally feels like we’ve got our feet back on the ground again.  It’s been a crazy few months to say the least, but we’ve taken the last two weeks to recuperate by spending time with our families and friends, going for bike rides through Philly, and cooking up one hell of a storm in our teeny weeny kitchen.  We challenged ourselves to make homemade pasta, and we decided on ricotta gnocchi.

We found a delicious and easy-to-understand recipe from Italian Food Forever.  Her recipe uses only four ingredients, and does not require any rest time or chill time.  All we added was the use of a wooden gnocchi board to make ridges in the dough.  The ridges help catch sauce and cheese — mmm!  Check out a video of our process on Instagram.

Ricotta Gnocchi (via Italian Food Forever)

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb full fat ricotta
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg

In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, parmesan, and egg with a fork until blended.  Add one cup of flour until blended.  Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface, and add any remaining flour until the dough is not too sticky.

Break off one fist-sized piece of dough at a time, and roll it into a one-inch-wide snake.  Be sure to coat your hands in flour as you work to avoid too much stickiness.  Then, with a sharp knife, cut the dough snake into 3/4-inch pieces.

If using a wooden gnocchi board, take one cut piece of dough and gently flatten it out over the board.  Then, roll the dough into a pinwheel.  (Note that this is an unconventional way to do this.  We boiled a few gnocchi as we rolled them to taste-test, and found that this method resulted in much lighter, fluffier gnocchi.)  Place the finished gnocchi on a floury cookie sheet.  Repeat this process until all of your dough is in gnocchi formation.

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.  It’s best to give gnocchi its space — don’t cram them all into a small pot.  When the water comes to a rolling boil, gently place the gnocchi into the water.  When they float to the top, they are cooked.  Use a slotted spoon to take them out of the water as they are finished in case they are different sizes and have differing cook times.

Top the gnocchi with a sauce of your choice.  Anne and I used a tomato sauce with lots of sautéed garlic and fresh basil.  Be sure to have a glass of wine in one hand and a gnocchi-filled fork in the other, and it will surely be a successful dinner!

From Scissors & Sage

Lead chef and hand model: Anne Kenealy