Friday, September 16, 2005

Pilaf and Squash

Wednesday night, Shawn was working late and I was busy as well. Neither of us had time to actually consider dinner during our days. As usual, I got home first and sent a message to Shawn about what she wanted for dinner. She threw out a bunch of quick ideas and then fessed up: she didn't know. To her credit, Shawn offered to stop off and pick something up on the way home, but with so much food in the house, I thought that was a waste of money. I didn't feel like cooking, but the garden has left us with plenty and we should respect that. So, this is what I through together.

The dinner could take longer to cook, but it needed to be easy. Oh, and Shawn stipulated that it needed to be a bit bland as her stomach was bothering her lately. A rice pilaf sounded like the ticket for the grains. Anyone can make this dish with their own equipment. We have a rice cooker and the directions for 1 cup of long grain rice were followed.

Apricot-Pine Nut-Browned Butter Pilaf

3 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup shallots or onion, chopped
1 cup long grain white rice
1 1/2 cups stock (or whatever your cooker calls for)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped

Take 1 tablespoon butter and melt it in a skillet over medium heat. Add to it the shallots and cook for 5 minutes or until softened. Add the rice and cook for about 5 minutes or until it turns opaque, but do not let it brown. Stir the pan often. When done, scrape the rice and shallots into your rice cooker along with the stock and set the cook cycle.

While the rice is cooking, melt the butter in a skillet (it's OK to use the same skillet if you wipe it clean first) over medium heat. Add the pine nuts. Cook, stirring, until the pine nuts are browned a bit and the butter has also browned a little, but hasn't turned deep brown or black. Keep in mind, the nuts will continue to cook when taken off of the heat, so best not to darken them too much. When the rice cooking cycle is over, add the nuts and butter along with the apricots. Stir the rice to mix it up and fluff it. Let this sit for 10 minutes. Serve.

We have a lot of zucchini, so I've been coming up with ways to use it. This is a perenial problem for the Northwest in general and our house in particular. One of my favorite easy ways is to stuff the zucchini.

I take a large patty pan squash. In the top of it, I cut along the edge, putting my knife in deeply, but not through the bottom. Then I make slices in one direction through the circle I just made. Turning the squash 90 degrees, I do a crosshatch cut. For the stem, I just cut around it as I'm going to discard it. What I'm doing is making small, rectangular pieces of squash which I dig out and saute. Pulling out the pieces, I put them in a bowl and discard any seeds that come out with them. I discard the portion with the stem. Then I smooth out the shell of the squash and remove any more seeds with a spoon. You don't want to make the shell too thin so as the walls will break when you're cooking.

Next, I take the squash bits I've cut out and cut them into approximately the same sized pieces. I melt a tablespoon of butter over medium heat, then add the squash. Cook, stirring for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, I add about 1/2 cup of corn kernals (fresh, frozen, canned), 1/2 teaspoon of thyme (though oregano, marjoram, or basil can also be used), 1/4 teaspoon salt and stir together and cook for another 5 minutes of so. You want to soften the zucchini pieces.

While the pieces are cooking, steam the shell over some water in a pan until it is softened. Preheat the over to 375 degrees. When the shell is done, pull it out of the pan and put it into a baking pan.

Take the sauteed squash bits and corn and put them back into the squash shell. Put about 1/4 cup of grated parmesan on the top of the squash. Place the pan into the over and cook until the cheese melts (5 - 10 minutes).

At this point you're done. You can adjust this recipe so many ways. Add garlic, for instance, or different herbs, or rice, or anything you fancy or have on hand.

Served with the rice pilaf, it made for a quick and tasty meal.

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