Happy Halloween!!

This month has been going pretty well foodwise, I have a lot to show for my Halloween cooking frenzy! I almost made it to the end of the month, but just as sometimes I get on hot streaks, sometimes everything just comes out so so. I have a bunch of recipes this month that came out just meh – totally edible, but not delicious and exciting and something I’d want to share with the world. However, all of them are recipes I want to have in my Halloween repertoire, so I’m going to stick a pin in these until I have a chance to revisit:

pumpkin-chocolate-chip

Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. These were good in theory, but they came out pretty bland. However, I love the idea, so I’ll be playing with these next time I feel ready to risk it. I mean, they got eaten, but I had let the dough sit 3 days because I was so excited about the chocolate chip cookie method, so that was 3 days of disappointment.

soul-cake

Soul cakes. These were actually pretty nice, just a spiced short bread, but I foolishly set the timer and didn’t check until the end and they got a little done (this was the least singed of the bunch). Wicked, vengeful oven. However, I am pretty happy about this pic, aren’t little kid hands holding Halloween stuff creepy? I need to slap a bluish filter on it to make it full scary movie.

shrimp-fra-diavolo

Shrimp fra diavolo. Devil’s shrimp! This was ok, but I added rosemary to make it more autumny, which sounded like a good idea but quickly became overpowering. Also I used red wine instead of white wine because that’s mostly all we ever drink, and it tasted fine but came out a weird purple color.

diablo-shrimp

So since my shrimp fra diavolo only came out ok, I thought I’d take it to Mexico for some Shrimp a la Diabla. This was actually decent, except for the sauce was atomic – I only added about a quarter of what I had made (was supposed to add the whole thing and thicken it). I mean, I get that’s the point for it to be super spicy – and we can handle spice! – but any more would have been over the edge.

spicy-pumpkin

Kaddhu ki sabzi (spicy pumpkin). So of course I’ve got to get some Pakistani food up in here. And again, this was ok, but not quite there, going to play with it a little more…and finally…

squid-ink

Kraken pasta! Squid ink pasta with braised and seared octopus. This was almost a success – I am feeling super smug about having cooked octopus for the first time and having it come out banging. The pasta was fine too (Zoeya certainly liked it, as you can see. And yes she wears her cricket uniform for pajamas sometimes). It just…didn’t feel cohesive. I just made a simple olive oil and garlic sauce, but I think I’ll have to make it again and throw in some more seafood and maybe a veggie.

I guess it’s kind of anticlimactic going out on a list of “failures”, but overall am pretty happy about what I accomplished this month. These are on THE LIST OF TO-MAKES. This week though I need to get out of the kitchen (I’ve got costumes to make, parties to plan, Twin Peaks to watch) so I’m going to do that before any more innocent pumpkins have to die. I wish you a ghastly and ghoulish holiday – Happy Halloween!

Pumpkin Quesadillas

pumpkin-quesadillas

pumpkin-quesadillas

For the last several years, it’s been a tradition to make pumpkin quesadillas on Halloween – they’re easy, the kids love them, and they go great with Beetroot Chili (or any chili for that matter).

Pumpkin Quesadillas

  • 4 oz cheddar cheese, or a mix of cheddar and jack, grated
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala (or a mix of cumin and cinnamon)
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • good pinch cayenne
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • small corn tortillas

Heat a pan or griddle over medium high heat – I use my tawa :)

Combine cheese, pumpkin, and spices and mix well. Spread a smallish amount over a tortilla and top with another, cook on both sides, flipping, until toasty and brown. Allow to cool slightly then slice in quadrants, serve with salsa/sour cream/chili.

Mash o’ Nine Sorts

mash-of-nine-sorts

mash-of-nine-sorts

This month I’ve made a couple of traditional recipes associated with Samhain (namely Irish Boxty and Barm Brack), so here’s an English one for the mix. It has nine ingredients – hence the name – and is also played as a fortunetelling game, with a ring (symbol of marital happiness) hidden inside to be served to a lucky guest.

For the record, I got the ring, but Zoeya got upset so I re-hid it and she totally by chance got it and was really excited about it. Which is to say, usually in these situations I just tell her to get over it, but I think it’s ok to spoil your kids a little once in awhile to see them smile.

Mash o’ Nine Sorts

Slightly adapted from Food.com

  • 2 lbs potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 small turnip, peeled and diced
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled and diced
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 leeks, cleaned and chopped into thin slices, including some of the green tops
  • 6 ounces farmhouse cheddar cheese, grated
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 tablespoons cream (or half & half, which I always have around)

Heat oven to 350°.

In a big pot of salted water, bring the potatoes, carrots, turnip and parsnip together to a boil, and cook until soft. Mash them thoroughly (I think it’s supposed to be more uniform but I left it a little lumpy) and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Heat the butter and saute the leeks for a few minutes until soft. Add to the potato mixture along with the cream and mix. Stir in the grated cheese – and the ring! – and spread in a baking dish. Bake until golden brown, about 30 to 45 minutes.

We ate this on Friday movie night while watching Frankenweenie.

Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

pumpkin-cake

pumpkin-cake

Or more accurately for my purposes, Cream Cheese Frosting with some Pumpkin Cake. I hate to say this, but even I, professed pumpkin fanatic, am getting some pumpkin fatigue. I am however still interested in the tangy sugar bomb of cream cheese frosting, but as it’s unacceptable to just eat cream cheese frosting out of a bowl for some reason, I thought I’d make some cake to go with it. I saw a photo of this cake in my Instagram feed and it looked just lovely, and was said to be more light and cakey than quickbread-like (although I like those too). I made it for a another October staple, the block party, with friends last this weekend.

The original recipe calls for caramelized pumpkin seeds on top, which I will definitely try at some point, but I had it in my head to top something with chopped pistachios, so that’s what we’ve got.

Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

From Sarah Jampel on Food52, original recipe from Tartine

For the cake

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (9 ounces) pumpkin purée
  • 1 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Heat oven to 325° and prepare a 9 inch round cake pan.

Whisk together pumpkin, oil, sugar, and salt. Whisk in egg yolks. In another bowl, Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. With a spatula, stir into wet ingredients until just combined.

In another bowl, whisk egg whites until they are white and frothy, and fold into the batter. Pour into the pan and bake 40-45 minutes. Cool and invert onto a plate.

For the frosting/garnish

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temp
  • 8 tbsp butter, room temp
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 2 – 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cups or so chopped pistachios

Beat together cream cheese, butter and cinnamon, then add sugar a little at a time, beating until combined. (I used 2 cups).

Spread over cake (you may have some leftover) and sprinkled with pistachios.

Dulce de Leche Apple Muffins

caramel-apple-muffins

caramel-apple-muffins

A couple weeks ago, my friends made caramel apples (salted caramel apples to be exact). Melty caramels + tart Granny Smiths = me almost losing a bracket but it was worth it! #bracelife

Ever since I’ve been dreaming of them, so these are caramel apples in muffin form. I used the apple muffin recipe for King Arthur Flour with a dollop of dulce de leche in the middle – and another one on top. I put a little sprinkle of sea salt too just for good measure.

Side note, if you are wont to Google things like “dulce de leche vs. caramel,” these is a nice succinct (and yet questionable? Carmel?) answer by “therealchiffonade” on this Serious Eats thread:

Dulce De Leche = milk + sugar cooked till lightly brown.
Caramel = Water + Sugar cooked to a specific stage.
Carmel = Cream + the water and sugar you cooked to reach the caramel stage, above.

So there you go. (Edit: Woah, cajeta is made from goat’s milk!)

Dulce de Leche Apple Muffins

Adapted from King Arthur Flour

For the dulce de leche

  • 1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk

I used to make this in the oven, but now use the ingenious method of cooking this in your crockpot for 8-10 hours – which doesn’t seem like it should work but it does. (I know this is not news to anyone, but I am still fascinated). I did it on high for an hour, then on low 8 hours or so overnight, then 1 more hour on high in the morning.

For the muffins

  • 8 tbsp (1 stick) butter, room temp
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and smallish diced

Heat oven to 375° and prepare a muffin tin. I used liners because I had some cute one but usually would just do this in the pan.

Beat butter, sugar and brown sugar until fluffy. Mix in egg, then gently mix in yogurt.

Whisk together whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, then stir into the wet ingredients until just combined. Fold in apples.

Spoon into the muffin cups until half full, then spoon about a tablespoon of dulce de leche into each one, then spoon more batter until they are full. Bake 25 minutes, then add a spoon of dulce de leche on top of each one then bake two minutes more. Finish with a sprinkle of sea salt. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove to a rack to cool the rest of the way.

Roasted Grape and Sweet Potato Salad

roasted-grape-sweet-potato-salad

After the Renaissance Festival (shamelessly love it, go every year), my friend Gloria invited us back to her house for pumpking carving, also our yearly tradition, and fed us a delicious dinner including a salad with roasted grapes. I was fascinated by these grapes, as I often am with food I’ve eaten since childhood treated a different way, and wanted to try them myself (I roast everything else in the world, might as well try this). So here’s my version of Gloria’s yummy salad, which has a decidedly fall feel.

Roasted Grape and Sweet Potato Salad

For the vinaigrette
The “Original” red wine vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp dry English mustard
  • 1 small clove garlic, grated
  • 1 cup olive oil

Shake everything together in a Mason jar.

For the salad

  • 1 lb grapes
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 3 slices dark pumpernickel bread, cubed
  • olive oil
  • sea salt & pepper
  • 10 oz or so baby spinach
  • 5 oz queso fresco, crumbled
  • 1 shallot, sliced, and soaked in red wine vinegar, pinch of sugar and salt for 30 minutes
  • couple handful pumpkin seeds

Heat oven to 400°. On three separate baking dishes, toss grapes, sweet potatoes, and pumpernickel cubes with a little olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper, then spread in a single layer. Roast, turning occasionally. Bread croutons will only take 10 minutes or so until crispy, grapes and sweet potatoes will take 25-35 minutes. Remove and cool.

Toss together spinach, grapes, sweet potato, and pumpernickel croutons with just enough vinaigrette to coat, then sprinkle with cheese, pickled shallot and pumpkin seeds. Serve with optional extra vinaigrette on the side.

I’m trying to put some pictures of my stinky cute kids at the Ren Fest but will figure that out later…

Acorn Squash and Burrata Toasts

acorn-squash-burrata

acorn-squash-burrata

When looking for Halloween appetizers that were not revolting, I came across these Italian recipes (although I was not prepared for the zombie I scrolled down to, that was a little revolting – made me jump!).

I made my version of the pumpkin and mozzarella bruschetta using burrata instead (which I guess is a little trendy right now but I just tried it and turns out it’s awesome, I also used it for my Vampire Slayer Pizza) and adding a dollop of harissa which adds a pretty pop of color as well as a little spice! They are simple and elegant and so easy to make that I’ll probably make it again when we have people over on Halloween.

Acorn Squash and Burrata Toasts

  • One acorn squash, halved and seeded
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt & pepper
  • One whole wheat half baguette
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 4-6 oz burrata, sliced
  • few tablespoons harissa
  • Sliced green onions for garnish

Heat oven to 400°. Coat squash with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast until very fork tender but not falling apart (20-30 minutes or so? I timed about as well as I measured). Cool squash enough to handle, then slice and scoop out (they will be mushy slices but still keep a little shape).

Heat broiler. Slice baguette and place on a baking sheet. Rub with garlic and brush with olive oil. Broil until toasty. Put a slice of burrata and a slice of squash on top of each one, then return under broiler for just a minute or two until the cheese just starts to melt.

Remove, put a dollop of harissa on each one, and a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and green onions. Serve warmish but would be find room temp.

Maple Aleppo Corn on the Cob

maple-aleppo-corn-on-the-cob

maple-aleppo-corn-on-the-cob

We grill corn a lot in the summer, usually Pakistani style (plain, charred, then rubbed with lime and red chili), but I was looking for another way to fix the last corn of the season. I had seen a bunch of recipes for maple chipotle corn on the cob – which sounds awesome, I love chipotles in adobo – but I’ve had these aleppo pepper flakes sitting around and I’ve been looking for new ways to use them. This turned out fantastic, spicy salty sweet, even though I had to cut mine off the cob. Brace life.

Maple Aleppo Corn on the Cob

Adapted from Epicurious

  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 tbsp aleppo pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 ears corn, husked

In a small saucepan, simmer (low) maple syrup, butter, garlic and aleppo pepper until it makes a thick glaze (be careful not to burn, mine got a little too done).

Ideally you can grill these, but I roasted these in a 500° oven – lay on a wax-paper lined baking sheet and brush with glaze. Roast for 10 minutes, turn, brush again with glaze and roast 10 minutes more and brush with remaining glaze.

Sugared Grapes

sugared-grapes

sugared-grapes

Pan’s Labyrinth is another fantastic movie for this time of year – it’s not particularly Halloweeny, but it’s dark and whimsical and beautiful and surprisingly violent.

I saw it around the time it came out, and remembered liking it but not a lot of the details; I watched it again last weekend, and was not prepared for how much more it would affect me this time. I saw so much of my daughter in the main character, Ofelia (I read Guillermo del Toro’s wife cried when they screened the actress) – the way she’s lost in her fantasy world, how her eyes light up when she sees the fairy, how she fiercely protects her baby brother, how she doesn’t care if her dress gets dirty.

Sigh. I love it. Anyway, food stuff. One of the most memorable scenes is when Ofelia is sent to retrieve a dagger, and sees an opulent feast spread before the creepy Pale Man. These sugared grapes seem like they could have been sparkling there on the table.

Ofelia is warned not to eat a bite. But Ofelia (like my Zoeya) does what she wants.

Sugared Grapes

Adapted just slightly from Movies You Can Eat

  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 lb grapes (left in a bunch)

Dip grapes in egg white to coat. Shake off excess white and roll in sugar, sprinkling on top where it’s hard to roll it. Shake off excess sugar and put on wax paper for two hours to harden. Doesn’t save well so serve that day.