pie beta kappa

this blog is for the servantless but professional overachiever who is concerned with assignments, deadlines, and changing the world, and still wants to find the time to enjoy producing something wonderful to eat.

Category: vegetables

roast pumpkin with cheese fondue

OCTOBER IS FOR PUMPKINS. The beautiful, symmetrical, bright orange squash evokes images of red orange brown maple leaves swirling along dirt paths, big puffed-up tom turkeys strutting outside a fenced-in garden, and kitchen tables spread with newspaper for pumpkin-carving.

Would we enjoy our pumpkins so much if we had them for more than a month or two? Or does their scarcity a luxury make?

The longer you think about the question, the less time you have to make delicious recipes with pumpkins while they are here.

Roast Pumpkin with Cheese Fondue, from Gourmet

Because I follow the simple, delicious recipe to the letter without adapting it, I am linking to its original online iteration. The basic premise of the “fondue” is that you hollow out a pumpkin which acts both as baking container and vegetable concoction. Once the pumpkin is emptied of its stringy contents and the seeds cleaned, seasoned, and popped into the oven to bake for their own fun snack, you layer toasted baguette slices, shredded Gruyere and Emmental cheese, and a cream/nutmeg/salt/pepper/broth concoction inside of the pumpkin until it is full.

Then, you place the top of the pumpkin back on, brush the outside of the pumpkin with oil, and bake it until the pumpkin flesh is soft and the bread and cheese inside is puffy and delightfully gooey.

Go sit upon the lofty hill,
and turn your eyes around,
where waving woods and waters wild
do hymn an autumn sound…
“The Autumn,” Elizabeth Barrett Browning

farmer’s market pasta

JULY IS HERE, and all I want are delicious foods made from fresh fruits and vegetables.  And maybe a few grilled things smelling of smoky goodness.  And ice cream.  Homemade ice cream.  But, I digress.

I spent a year in Washington, DC, not so very long ago.  While I was there, I created some very strong food memories.  It was in DC that I had my first (amazing) Ethiopian food.  It was where I learned how to make a good red wine reduction.  It was where I ate chili cheese fries at Ben’s Chili Bowl while listening to “Man in the Mirror” right after Michael Jackson died.  And yet, the strongest food memory I took away from me in DC was its produce.

As a California girl, I expect supermarkets to be brimming with beautiful, firm, fresh fruits and vegetables.  In DC, particularly in the summertime, I would enter a Safeway to find limp green onions and sad-looking lettuce.  The one refuge from the effects of a humid city far from places that grow tropical things was Whole Foods.  I was the ghost that wandered the aisles, a girl on a budget who just wanted to be in the shiny, well-lit place with piles of perfect red, yellow, orange and green peppers that could have been a Crayola advertisement.  On a very rare day I would let myself shop for ingredients for one dish, a rare splurge.

So what does that have to do with anything?  It has to do with farmer’s market pasta.  It’s a dish that really blooms with fresh ingredients (hence, the title).  But, at the same time, the combinations of flavors (including the pesto and the bacon) means that it can rejuvenate some vegetables that might not have made it past the Whole Foods audition.  And so I exhort: if you can, get the freshest vegetables for this dish.  But if you can’t, it will still be pretty darn good.

FARMER’S MARKET PASTA, adapted from Zucchini, Corn, and Basil Fusilli in Gourmet, July 2008

1 pound fusilli
8 slices bacon
4 ears corn, kernels cut from the cob
1 1/2 pounds zucchini, coarsely chopped
10 ounces (1 package) grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
5-7 ounces pesto
freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
freshly-grated black pepper

Cook bacon until crispy.  When cooled, chop into small pieces and set aside.

Cook fusilli in a  pot of boiling salted water until al dente.  Reserve enough water to cover the bottom of your pot with 1/2″ of hot water.  Drain and rinse pasta with cold water to stop cooking.

Add zucchini and corn to pot and pour reserved hot water on top.  Cook on medium-high heat, stirring, for 2 minutes.  Drain.

Combine zucchini, corn, and pasta in large bowl.  Add pesto and mix until combined.  Add grape tomatoes and mix.

Dish up pasta, garnish with bacon, fresh pepper, and fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.  Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.


Use a very sharp knife when slicing the grape tomatoes, and halve or quarter depending on size.  The grape tomatoes add a nice zing that cherry tomatoes, in my opinion, do not.  Though, in full disclosure, I must admit that I’ve never been a huge fan of cherry tomatoes.  When my brother and I were young, we were given the chore of harvesting from our mother’s horrifyingly-plentiful cherry tomato plants.  We picked the tomatoes, and promptly had a cherry tomato war whose memory has outlived our mother’s wrath.

A thought on pesto: the easy thing to do is buy a container of pesto to mix into the pasta.  It’s a perfect easy-fix on a weekday night, and this dish is bound to create leftovers (though not for lack of trying).  Because it seemed like an adventure, and because Things Created For A Food Blog Should Be Homemade, I made my own with this recipe.  It wasn’t particularly flavorful, and seemed like it needed a lot more garlic.  Maybe next time I’ll try Ina’s buy-all-the-garlic-in-Gilroy pesto.

Health-conscious?  Use bacon anyway.  (Just a little!  It’s not like you’re using the drippings, too.)  Okay, okay.  If you’re set on not incorporating bacon, you can substitute prosciutto, or probably a number of meat alternatives, or forego the meat altogether.  That’s the beauty of this recipe.  It likes a lot of different ingredients.  But it loves bacon most.

And finally… I never knew that zucchini has an ugly side, but it does: zucchini come from the  Cucurbitacea family (say that three times fast), along with cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, melons, and gourds.  While this sounds like a downright pleasant (and delicious) family reunion, all of these family members produce chemicals known as cucurbitacins that can cause bitterness.  Most of the time, they exist in such low levels that we don’t taste them at all; however, on a rare occasion, they can ruin your dinner.  So how do you protect your favorite pasta dish?  Well, there’s an old wives’ way and the PBK way.  An old wives’ tale (or an old internet tale, though the two seem to be becoming awfully similar as time goes on) is that the smaller, not as deeply green zucchinis are less likely to be the rare bitter old codgers, but I have yet to find a scientific reason backing this up.  So I suggest the PBK method: for every zucchini you chop up, eat one piece of it just to be sure it’s a good one.  Maybe two pieces, if the chopping is slow.

hello, gazpacho

FIRST THINGS FIRST.  I have come to realize over the last few months as this idea and website sat, well, marinating (pardon the pun) that starting a blog is like starting a novel.  There is so much pressure on the beginning because it is the beginning that defines so much of anything.

This blog began, truly, in a small town in California.  It began with what seemed like an acre-sized garden with corn stalks and summer squash and carrots so delicious the gophers would take them in rows at a time.  It began with fresh eggs from chickens who roamed the pastures and even ventured onto the front porch on occasion, chickens with names and personalities and even one who danced in his own funny way.  Most of all, though, it began in a kitchen where my mother made absolutely delicious meals.  Growing up on a ranch instilled in me a love for fresh, wholesome, natural ingredients.  Growing up in my mother’s kitchen instilled in me a love for food: for perfectly-prepared dishes, for keen recipe selection, and for food, glorious food.

And so, on Mother’s Day, and on a beautiful, warm day in May, a simple warm-weather dish that showcases its ingredients seemed like the perfect way to begin.

I came to gazpacho relatively late in life.  I had it at a beautiful dinner at a hotel in Santa Barbara about two years ago.  “Chilled” is not a word I usually associate with soup, and its chunky texture, its temperature, and its fresh taste all endeared themselves to my taste buds.  In case you’re wondering, the history of gazpacho is apparently subject to debate, though most agree that its home is Andalusia, a southern province of Spain (not the fairy tale world in the movie “Enchanted“).  For a more extensive consideration of origins and varieties, take a gander at the 1989 New York Times article by Steven Raichlen, “Gazpacho: Theme and Variations.”

It is delicious.  So delicious that it was served in tiny glasses as an appetizer at M.’s and my wedding.  It is the type of dish that highlights the fresh vegetables in it, and when looking for a recipe that will do just that, my first stop is usually the Barefoot Contessa extraordinaire, Ina Garten.  There are many variations on gazpacho (or “gaspacho,” in Portugal’s version of it), but this is my current favorite for two reasons: first, it is a minimalist dish that highlights good ingredients and combines effortlessly to be far more than the sum of its parts, and second, it is refreshingly simple to make.  A delicious home-cooked (or home-chilled, at least) meal that highlights fresh ingredients and can be fit into a busy professional woman’s day?  That’s pretty much the trifecta, right there.

GAZPACHO, adapted slightly from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook


1 hothouse cucumber, halved and seeded but not peeled
2 red bell peppers, cored and seeded
4 plum tomatoes (also known as roma tomatoes)
1 red onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
23 ounces tomato juice (3 cups)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Roughly chop the cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onion into one-inch cubes.

Place each vegetable separately in a food processor with a steel blade and pulse until chopped.  Ina uses an exclamation point when she says, Do not overprocess!, but I like it a little more finely “chopped” for texture reasons.  Some people like their gazpacho chunkier.  This is a personal preference; do whatever you like.

After each vegetable is processed, place it in a large bowl with the others.  Add the garlic, the tomato juice, the white wine vinegar, the olive oil, the salt, and the pepper. Mix well, and chill.  Chill, chill, chill.  The longer it chills, the more the flavors intermingle.


Drag a spoon down the center of a halved cucumber to seed it efficiently.

The garlic can be pretty-much-minced in the food processor if you recently managed to break your garlic press in an unsalvageable way.

I double the recipe to have leftovers for at least one more night, and serve it with a fresh sliced baguette and cheese, with fruit for dessert for a lovely warm May dinner.