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.

 

Sea Salted Apple Cider Caramels

IMG_2352 IMG_2348 IMG_2350It seems that these caramels make it officially fall. They are so good, but good in a way where you can just have one and feel satisfied. They are sweet and savory and deeply apple-y. The color is darker amber because I used coconut palm sugar. The pairing of rich and caramel flavored coconut sugar with the apple and sea salt just brought a better flavor and complexity, and somehow made these treats taste a bit more grown up.

Sea Salted Apple Cider Caramels
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
4 cups apple cider
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp sea salt flakes
8 tbsp/1 stick unsalted butter-I use Straus, chopped into pieces
1 cup coconut palm sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream (I used raw heavy cream)
Avocado oil

Line a small baking pan with parchment paper.
Pour the apple cider into a saucepan over high heat and boil for about 45 minutes, or until the apple cider is greatly reduced in volume to about 1/2 cup of thick, syrupy liquid. Stir occasionally as it heats.

Once the cider has reduced, remove from the heat and add the butter, sugars, and cream. Stir to combine, then place back on medium-high heat. If you have a candy thermometer, bring the temperature up to 252*, if not (and I didn’t have mine where I made these) you’ll do the cold water trick. So as you heat the caramel, the texture becomes more bubbly, every so often you drop a bit of caramel into a very cold glass of water. The caramel is done when the drops become firm and chewy. This step happens pretty fast, and the caramel is ready in about 5-8 minutes. Keep and eye on the caramel, but more importantly your nose, make sure you don’t smell any burning.

Remove the caramel from the heat, stir in the cinnamon and sea salt, then pour the mix onto parchment paper in the pan. Try for about 1 inch thick, but you can also choose what size/shape you want, so this is up to you.

Allow the caramels to cool for about 1-2 hours in the fridge. To cut them into shape, coat a sharp knife with avocado oil and recoat after each cut. Store the caramels in wax paper of on layers of parchment paper in a tupperware in the fridge or on the countertop.

Grilled Top Sirloin with with Roasted Greens, Shishito Peppers, Fingerling Potatoes + Chimichurri

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For the last few weeks I’ve been primarily cooking over an outdoor fire in Maine. There’s no fire danger there so we grilled whole lobsters, fish, summer squash, oysters, mussels, greens, etc. Cooking over fire is my favorite kind of cooking, it is kind of an extreme event, intense, damn hot, a bit dangerous and the results are so smoky, charred and delicious. Anyway, I came home to my garden just taking off. Everything was quadrupled in size, the sunflowers ten feet tall, lemon balm bushy and bright green, potatoes, kale and parsley all lush and ready to harvest. So, in an effort to recreate cooking over a fire (we can’t have open fire here) I cooked the whole meal on the grill. I’m not sure why I haven’t done this all summer, but it keeps the house cooler and delivers far tastier food. This meal was a pop of green, spicy and fresh and melt in your mouth good.

Grilled Top Sirloin with with Roasted Greens, Shishito Peppers, Fingerling Potatoes + Chimichurri

Chimichurri
2 cups or 1 big bunch fresh parsley
1/2 cup fresh oregano
2 tbsp lemon juice
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp red pepper flakes-or more for extra spice
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground red pepper

Combine ingredients and blend until almost smooth, or food process, or you can chop everything very finely and mix. Squeeze a bit of extra lemon juice on top of the finished chimichurri.

Top Sirloin + Veggies
2 lb grass-fed beef top sirloin seasoned with salt+pepper, olive oil, a drizzle of balsamic–at room temperature
10 or so fingerling potatoes, halved
Big bunch of kale, roughly chopped
1 bunch fresh sage
1 lb shishito peppers
2 heads romaine lettuce
salt + pepper
Lemon juice
Olive oil + butter

Heat your grill to high. Place the potatoes in a small skillet, sprinkle with oil, salt+pepper, place the kale in another skillet, sprinkling with lemon juice, oil, salt+pepper. Put the skillets on the grill, close the top and cook for a few minutes, opening occasionally to stir. Turn the heat down a bit and continue to cook with the grill lid down. After about 5-8 minutes add the fresh sage to the potato skillet.
When the potatoes + kale have started to crisp, place the kale in the same skillet with the potatoes and add a tablespoon of butter to the now empty skillet. Throw the shishito peppers in, season with lemon, salt+pepper.
Let everything cook down until nicely browned + blackened.
Place the romaine directly on the grill and cook for a few minutes on each side, until just softened and charred.
Make room for the steak and place it on the grill at high heat, cooking for about 3-5 minutes on each side depending how thick the cut is. Make sure to grill the fatty part of the sirloin as well.
Finally, serve everything together, spooning chimichurri on each component, and sprinkling with fresh parsley + oregano.

Braised Lamb Riblets, Grilled Summer Squash, Apricots + Chard

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We found riblets at the farmer’s market. Only a tiny package was left, with these tiny riblets.  We ate them slowly, carefully, little delicacies in our fingers. The sweetness from the peach, crispiness from the braised, then blackened fat, and bitterness from the greens. It’s also a nice thing to grind your own spices in a mortar & pestle. You can switch up the ingredients in this recipe all you want, adding, replacing, changing the spices. The dish is super versatile, but the best part is when the braised ribs get caramelized in a skillet.

Braised Lamb Riblets, Grilled Summer Squash, Apricots + Chard
1 lb pastured lamb riblets
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp red chili flakes
Sea salt
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch ginger, chopped
Handful of fresh thyme
2 cups water or beef broth
1 tbsp butter
5 summer squashes, cut lengthwise
Huge handful chard, chopped
3 sprigs rosemary
Lemon juice
5 apricots, halved & quartered
Handful of cilantro

Bring the riblets to room temperature.
Add the pepper, coriander, cumin, chili flakes and sea salt to a dry skillet over medium heat. Toast until fragrant, 2-3 minutes and then grind in a mortar & pestle. Rub the spices into the riblets, place in a covered bowl, and let sit in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.
Heat the oven to 325*.
Place the butter to a dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the onions to the skillet, cover and saute for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, but now browned. Add the ginger and garlic, saute for a few minutes, then add the thyme, broth or water, and the riblets.
Bring to a gentle simmer, then place the dutch oven, covered, in the oven and braise for about 2 hours, until the meat is tender.
About 15 minutes before serving, heat the grill, and cook the summer squash.
Remove the riblets from the braise, and cut them into individual ribs, reserving the braising liquid for roasting future vegetables.
Heat a skillet, add some olive oil or butter to the pan, and add the chard and rosemary. Season the greens with lemon juice & sea salt, and then throw the apricots in the with greens. Cover the skillet, turn the heat down and allow to cook for a few minutes until the greens and apricots are slightly wilted & cooked down.
In the meantime, heat another skillet, add a little oil or butter, and sear the ribs until the fat starts to caramelize on all sides.
Serve the riblets with the chard, squash, and apricots, sprinkle with cilantro and a grind of salt & pepper.
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Braised Beef Short Ribs with Japanese Sweet Potatoes, Rosemary, Sage and Pluots

IMG_2669This is one of my favorite meals. It takes 30 minutes to put together and then cooks for a few hours in the oven and becomes this perfect meal. We happen to still have quite a few ribs in the freezer from our cows, and each time we’ve had them this summer its been a memorable meal. It is important to use a good red wine for this dish, in fact I usually use the same wine that I end up drinking with the meal. If you can make your own beef stock that is the best bet, but I would recommend using water in place of stock if you don’t, I don’t particularly like using chicken stock in place of beef and have found that water works wonderfully.

Braised Beef Short Ribs with Japanese Sweet Potatoes, Rosemary, Sage and Pluots
5-8 short ribs, defrosted, at room temperature
1 medium red onion, diced
3 medium carrots, diced
1 tbsp sprouted flour
2 cups good red wine
2 cups beef broth
salt & pepper
1 1/2 tbsp butter
3 sprigs rosemary & sage
salt & pepper
Olive oil
Lemon juice
Pluots, diced

Oven 350. Coat the ribs in salt & pepper, and a thin layer of flour.
Heat 1 tbsp of butter in a deep, hot skillet. Brown the ribs on all sides for about a minute each side, then remove from the skillet. Add the chopped onion & carrot to the skillet, and turn the heat way down to low-medium.
Cover and stir occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, but not browned. Take your time with this step, at least 15 minutes, if not more. You get so much more flavor when you’re patient with your onions.

Add the red wine, bring to a gentle rolling boil, then add the beef broth.
Place the ribs in the braising liquid, add 2 sprigs of rosemary & sage (saving some of each) place the lid on the skillet (or use aluminum foil to cover) and leave in the oven for 2-2 1/2 hours.

At the same time place the potatoes in the oven. After about two hours, pull the potatoes out, place the remaining sage & rosemary on them, drizzle with oil, salt & pepper, and a little lemon juice and place back in the oven until the herbs are crisped.

Serve the braised ribs with potatoes and a handful of diced pluot and finish with a grind of salt if needed. Enjoy with the same wine you cooked with and a vibrant, farm fresh side salad.
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Coconut Palm Sugar Toffee with Dark Chocolate, Almonds + Sea Salt

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IMG_1830This toffee has a slightly different taste and texture than toffee made with white sugar. It is a little bit darker, very smooth and crunchy. I like the rich flavor and complexity of the coconut palm sugar balanced out with the dark chocolate, almonds and salt. To me this is a more interesting and delicious and unique toffee. The coconut palm sugar behaves differently than the white sugar though, you end up with some extra butter that does not get incorporated. Adding more sugar helps the situation, but you may need to still pour off a little butter. I poured out the toffee so that it is in a smooth, thin layer and I didn’t use a candy thermometer, I used the cold water test which works well. I try to avoid white sugar because it lacks flavor and complexity, so this is a great alternative, and much tastier.

Coconut Palm Sugar Toffee with Dark Chocolate, Almonds + Sea Salt
1 cup unsalted butter (Straus Sweet Cream)
1 1/2 cups coconut palm sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt + some for sprinkling
4-5 ounces good quality dark chocolate, chopped
1 big handful of almonds, chopped

Method:
In a heavy saucepan, heated to medium, add the butter, sugar and 1/4 tsp salt. Melt everything together, stirring, and bring to a boil. Continually stir with a wooden spoon. If you have a candy thermometer, heat until the temperature reads 300 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also use a cold water test, spoon a drop of the mix into cold water, it is done when it is crunchy, not chewy, and separates into brittle threads. This takes about 10-15 minutes and the color is slightly darker than other toffee because of the rich amber color of the coconut palm sugar.

Pour the mix onto an aluminum lined baking pan and sprinkle with the dark chocolate. Give the chocolate a minute to melt, and then spread it with a spoon. Add the chopped almonds and a few grinds of sea salt. Set the tray in the refrigerator until it cools completely, and then break into pieces.

Note: The coconut palm sugar absorbs the butter differently that normal white sugar. So, when you finish, you may need to pour off a bit of the butter, or add a little more sugar.