Maple Roasted Acorn Squash with Persimmons, Pomegranates, Feta, and Squash Seeds

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Last night the wind kept us up and the horses were eating and active right outside our bedroom. The wind makes our ranch lively, the animals seem a little anxious, and we keep waiting for the rain to come, but it just keeps blowing and blowing, a relentless wind in our open, golden valley. This threat of real weather reminds me that my favorite holiday is coming up. Thanksgiving is such a simple holiday, celebrating my favorite things- food & family- without the business of presents and expectations. This dish is such a treat; a sampling of the rich flavors that come with cooler weather. It would also be a lovely addition to any Thanksgiving feast. We tend to just eat our acorn squash skins, it’s too much work to take them off, and they are sweet and salty and oven crisped. This is quick dish that can easily be doubled or tripled, you can substitute different squashes and cheeses as well. The key element turned out to be the squash seeds caramelized in bacon fat and maple syrup, with flaky sea salt added to balance out the flavors. I’ve never tasted a better squash seed.

Maple Roasted Acorn Squash with Persimmons, Pomegranates, Feta, Squash Seeds & Rosemary

Prep: 15 min Cook: 45-55 min Serves: 2-4

1 acorn squash, halved, then sliced thinly: save the seeds!
1 tbsp butter-melted
Olive oil
Sea salt & pepper
1 tsp red chili flakes
2 tsp/drizzle maple syrup
1 large sprig fresh rosemary, stem removed
1 persimmon, halved and sliced thinly
Pomegranate-use about 1/2 the seeds or less
Fresh feta cheese
Flaky sea salt-Maldon

1. Preheat the oven to 420.
2. Place the acorn squash on a baking sheet. Drizzle the melted butter and some olive oil on the squash and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, then flip. On the flipped side, season with more salt & pepper, red chili flakes and maple syrup. Roast for another 20 minutes, then sprinkle the squash with the rosemary and bake until the herbs and squash are crisped-about ten minutes.
3. During the last 20 minutes, prepare the acorn squash seeds. You can use butter, but bacon fat is best. Place the squash in a skillet with about a tablespoon of bacon fat or butter. Season the seeds with salt & pepper and a drizzle of maple syrup. During the last few minutes of cooking, add some fresh rosemary. Check the seeds often, they are super easy to burn. They are done when they are crisped, slightly browned and the maple syrup has caramelized.
4. To serve, place the squash on a serving plate and top with the seeds, persimmon, pomegranate, feta, a grind of fresh cracked pepper, a sprinkle of Maldon, and the rest of the crispy bits from the baking pan and skillet.

 

Smoked Chicken Salad with Maple-Cranberry Sauce

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Our friends visited from Berkeley this past weekend and helped us harvest some roosters on the ranch. We were a bit overrun after so many hatched this spring, and they tend to relentlessly harass our hens. So our hens are happier, and we put three roosters right into our new smoker for about eight hours or so seasoned with salt and pepper. They came out tender and rich so we put them in sandwiches and ate them at the top of the Sierra Buttes, followed by a dip in the Sierra Valley hot springs. It was a perfect weekend.
I made this rooster salad with more of the smoked meat, and a rooster soup is currently in process in the kitchen. The salad is loaded with fresh parsley from the garden and is very light and fresh tasting, which balances out the rich smokiness of the rooster. I love fresh cranberries this time of year, and prefer cranberry sauce over dried cranberries anytime, and this sauce is quick and easy to make.

Smoked Chicken Salad with Maple-Cranberry Sauce
Meat from about 1/2 of a whole smoked chicken
4 celery sticks, halved long ways and diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 small apple, diced
1/4 cup sliced almonds
2 tbsp organic mayo or vegenaise
2 tbsp whole milk yogurt
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup parsley, chopped, plus extra for garnish
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 meyer lemon, juice + zest

Mix the chicken, celery, bell pepper, apple and almonds together in a large bowl.  Zest the entire meyer lemon, saving half for the maple-cranberry sauce, and add the other half to the salad mix. Add half of the meyer lemon juice to the mix as well.
Add the mayo/vegenaise (make sure organic/non-gmo or make your own), yogurt and olive oil. Stir, then add the parsley, salt, pepper and turmeric.
Season with sea salt and pepper to taste, then serve with extra parsley on top, an extra sprinkle of turmeric, and drizzle of olive oil.

Maple-Cranberry Sauce
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 meyer lemon juice + zest
4 tbsp maple syrup

Add the cranberries, lemon juice + zest, and maple syrup to a saucepan over medium-high heat. Heat until the cranberries split, about 5-8 minutes, then turn the heat down to low. Cover and allow to cook, stirring every so often, for about 15 minutes. Taste for sweetness, adding more maple syrup depending on your preference.

Serving:
Serve the smoked chicken salad with the maple-cranberry sauce and toasted sprouted wheat bread drizzled in olive oil and sea salt.

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Pear Custard

 

20141004_111516My usual quick dessert is usually some kind of crumble. I can get it together in about five minutes, and have a delicious hot dessert done when dinner is over. This dessert is just as fast, if not faster, and its such a simple and pretty way to serve pears, which are just about perfect right now. In the future I’ll play with infusions and different fruits, but for now just the straight forward and simple custard. I brought this dish to one of my best friends art shows and it was gone almost immediately, so cheers to a quick, tasty dessert that looks pretty and everyone loves.

Pear Custard
(Inspired by Martha Stewart’s recipe)
3 pears, ripe, but firm, cored and cut into thin slices- Barlett
1/4 cup melted butter
1/3 cup coconut palm sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
1/3 cup white whole wheat flour
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp salt

Oven 350.
Place the sliced pears in a buttered tart dish or pie tin so that they overlap.
Blend the rest of the ingredients to a smooth consistency. Pour this blend over the pears. Bake for 35-40 minutes.
To serve, allow the custard to cool slightly, or to room temperature, then dust powdered sugar on top.
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