Pasta with Mizithra, brown butter, and Cinnamon Roasted Butternut Squash

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How do you jazz up squash? Brown butter, cheese, and pasta of course! Roasted butternut squash is a delicious and tasty way to get your veggies but definitely not a full meal by any means. So I decided to pair it up with delicious egg capellini (I found some amazing Italian import dried pasta, the better the pasta the better the dish will be), browned butter, and mizithra and pecorino cheese. The secret ingredient to the famous restaurant version of this is the Pecorino romano, mizithra alone isn’t salty enough for the job so they bring in the “silent” partner and low and behold we give all the credit to what is marketed…in this case mizithra….as with most good things in life there is always someone or something that isn’t credited publically for the overall success of something. I guess this is my way of saying don’t believe the hype, there is always a “Silent” partner who should be credited….but who doesn’t need the acclaim, maybe that is the end of the road on a journey to enlightenment? To be satisfied with the success of another that you may have played a role in……or perhaps this is just a really good winter pasta dish? I’ll let you chose your own adventure on that one. Shall we begin?
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You will need:

For Squash:
• 1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 pounds or 8 cups, cubed)
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• Dash smoked paprika
Toss squash with oil and seasoning, in a pre-heated 425 degree oven, roast squash for 40 minutes, until golden brown.
For Pasta:
• 1/2 package dried capellini pasta or pasta of choice, cooked al dente.

• 2 ½ Tablespoons brown butter, (brown butter by cooking over medium heat until it changes to light brown in color and has a nutty aroma)
• 2 Tablespoons mizithra cheese, grated
• 2 Tablespoons Percorino, Romano, grated
• Salt and pepper to taste
• Fresh, flat leaf Italian Parsley
Toss pasta with butter, cheeses, s&p, and parsley. Divvy up pasta into four portions top with butternut squash and eat!!!

Dandelion Greens….Tis the season.

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So I’ve been wanting to do some gardening this year….yesterday I went to assess my garden spot; there in the composted, weediness, sat green and lush the most appetizing looking dandelion greens I’ve ever laid eyes upon.  So there I went a foraging and found one of my favorite things, for free, in my backyard.  My Mom used to take us in the Spring to find all the tasty dandelion greens while they are edible…once they flower…no bueno.  This tradition is one Mom stumbled onto from my Dad who grew up very Greek, “horta” are greens, served warm or cold with olive oil and lemon.  Horta are a super food and can contribute to a longer life and many other benefits….if you are in this for the health reasons…its worth a google.  Personally, I just like em’, some would say it’s an acquired taste….not for me I’ve always just loved greens.  I must say Oregon has some amazing weeds….I have never seen such lush and emerald dandelions in my whole life!!!  This is one of those times when I wish I could beam down to UT and show my Dad my bounty.  When harvesting, make sure you cut right at the root, and rinse, rinse, rinse!SAMSUNG

I rinsed mine three times…..first in hot water, then cool water, then repeat till there is no more dirt or worms…that can ruin a meal.  Next in a large pot, boil  salted water….add greens, cook 20 minutes or till tender (remember these take longer to cook, then chard or spinach).  Drain water, add olive oil, juice of one lemon (I lucked out and found some “in season” meyer lemons) salt and pepper….you can add a teaspoon of granulated garlic while boiling if you like.  Serve today or tomorrow with bread!  Seriously one of my favorite foods, so instead of covering dandelions in pesticides…try eating them!

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Dolmathes

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Dolmathes, or stuffed grape leaves are one of my favorite things to make, maybe its because my mom used me as child labor starting from age 8 or so to help with labor at our restaurant.  During my formative years, about age 3 to age 14 my parents ran a restaurant/bar, perhaps this explains much of my oddness in general.  If you’ve worked in the “industry” it attracts a special group of folks, an awesomely bi-polar group of misfits, especially in Utah in the 80’s and 90’s, the food biz didn’t make you a rock star like “chefs” are in the now times.  Cooking was a job for the troubled soul, the criminal, the outcast, and this is perhaps why I am so fond of those types in general.  Myself and my sisters would sit at the bar or later in the back by the walk in at our place on 33rd and Washington, and roll dolmathes or stab souvlaki for hours, honestly I hated it at the time…now I would go back in a heart beat just to sit and listen to “Rollin’s Band”, talk with our staff, and argue with my sisters while I flipped marinade at them.  Good ole’ days.  Anyhoo, I am sharing this recipe…its honestly a little hard for me to do, as I am attached to it and never given it out.  Shall we begin the potion of amore?  Yes I think so:

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Ground meat of choice: about two pounds or so, I used Ground beef 85/15

1 cup long grain rice, you can use quinoa or another fast cooking grain if you wish….make it yours.

1 jar grape leaves in brine, if you live on a wine vineyard in Napa or something feel free to use fresh leaves, just salt and blanch beforehand.

a tsp each: Salt, pepper, granulated garlic, dried oregano (I used dried herbs d’ provence), dried mint.

2T fresh parsley

1 tomato

1 large shallot diced

Grab a bowl and combine above ingredients, get in there and show that meat who’s the boss, kinda like Tony Danza…..once mixed it’s time to let the good times roll.  One does this by taking a grape leaf and putting a “fat fingers” worth of filling in and rolling it “burrito style”.

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Once your lil’ buddies are all rolled put them in a heavy bottomed pan, use a plate placed over them to weigh them down, then add 3 cups beef stock, cover, bring to a boil then turn down to medium low for about 30 minutes.  When finished cooking, squeeze juice from one lemon over dolmathes, whip 3 eggs till light, temper in 1 cup of the cooking  liquid and heat on low till lightly thickened……pour over dolmathes and serve!  They are dangerously addictive and can make a hermit become a people person.  Use wisely and well.