Winter squash yields some of my favorite vegetables, and there are so many varieties I can’t believe they all belong in the same family, from acorn to turban and butternut to pumpkin.
That’s right, pumpkin is a type of squash, and I include it here as an example of what you can do with winter squash — everyone knows you can bake with pumpkin, but you can use any type of orange winter squash and come up with the same results.
Squash, in botanical terms, is the fruit of a member of the gourd family. In culinary terms, we identify squash as a vegetable because that’s generally how we use it. In cooking, we tend to group the various types of squash into summer or winter.
This year, there are some big things going on at the Walworth County Fair in Elkhorn. Organizers are asking, “Are you ready for big?” As the theme of the annual event, it’s a good one. And I’m thinking the Horticulture Barn will have its share of big — entries will be accumulating this week in the biggest elephant garlic, biggest tomato, heaviest onion, largest pumpkin, biggest stalk of corn and tallest sunflower categories.
This summer went by way too fast. This is the month in which department stores replace the summer patio chairs and sun umbrellas with school supplies and book bags. Summer, doggone it, is supposed to be the time you enjoy leisurely cookouts on the grill with your family and friends.
Yet, here it is August already and I haven’t had enough of any of those things. I figure there’s about a month left for cooking outdoors. That’s because come September, the evening sun dips down in the sky just a bit sooner, the nights get cooler and parents with kids in school are much too busy to enjoy a leisurely midweek get-together on the patio.
Corn on the cob
Everyone knows it, but it deserves repeating: For the sweetest sweet corn, get it fresh from a local grower; there are plenty around.?Then cook it up quick. Cooking it on the grill is best.
One old-timer I know always said the best sweet corn is soaked in milk before cooking. And that is good, but I just soak mine, unhusked, in water. This is to saturate the husks, which you leave on throughout the grilling process. This accomplishes two things. First, it keeps the corn from burning, and second, the absorbed water steams the corn. Soak it at least an hour, then lay the corn on a preheated charcoal fire that has gone grey. Turn two or three times and cook for about 20 to 30 minutes. Adults should peel the husks away before serving to the smaller kids because the steam that escapes is hot enough to burn little hands. Serve with butter and salt as needed.
Don’t forget other vegetables when you are grilling. Right now there is plenty of zucchini in the garden, so that’s always a good choice. Wash but do not peel any combination of zucchini, yellow squash, pattypan or green Benning squash. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Place in an aluminum pie tin or some other usable pan that can go straight on the grill. Splash with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle some herbs, such as chopped chives or parsley, thyme or savory, on the top. Cover with a piece of aluminum foil and set on the side of your grill for about 30 minutes. Stir once or twice to check the cooking.?As soon as the vegetables are fork-tender, they are done.
Dry rub pork ribs
St. Louis-style ribs
Use a dry rub of spices to give the ribs flavor. Figure one pound of ribs per person. Rub the whole rack of ribs with the dry rub spice mixture. Once cooked, cut the ribs (St. Louis cut) into two- or three-bone sections.
Cook very slowly on the grill for about 45 minutes. This makes for a “chewy” rib. If you like the meat “falling off the bone,” boil the ribs in water for 15 minutes, drain, blot dry with a towel, then proceed with recipe. You could do this a day or two ahead.
For the last 15 minutes of cooking, brush the ribs with barbecue sauce. The reason you don’t do this from the start is that the sauce has a certain amount of sugars in it which will burn more quickly than the meat itself. You don’t want the ribs too dark too quickly before they actually are cooked through. Use your favorite barbecue sauce or try this recipe.
Dry rub for barbecue
1 tsp. ground or minced, dried garlic
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. parsley, crushed fine
3 Tbsps. barbecue spice
Mix all ingredients together. You can make a larger batch and store this, tightly covered, for weeks.
Makes 1 cup
2/3 cup ketchup
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. dark molasses
2 tsps. smoked paprika
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground mustard
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan, bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for five minutes.
Use for chicken, pork roast or ribs.
There are three things you need to make a quick dinner on a weeknight: First, a well-stocked freezer; second, a well-stocked pantry; and third, enough self-control to get past all those fast-food places on the way home from work.
Calzones, empanadas, knish, pasty, pirozhki — all cuisines have similar stuffed foods. They may have different names, but these easy-to-hold and easy-to-eat snacks are very similar; a sweet or savory filling wrapped inside some kind of pastry.
Which means you have plenty of options to consider if you plan on entering the Strut Your Stuff recipe challenge at this year’s Walworth County Fair in Elkhorn.
Strut Your Stuff recipe challenge
When: 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 2
Where: Old World Artisan Market Village, Walworth County Fair, Elkhorn
Details: No entry fee, open to all ages, WalworthCountyFair.com
A calzone is an Italian oven-baked, folded pizza dough that originated in Naples. A typical calzone is stuffed with salami or ham, pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese.
An empanada is a stuffed bread or pastry baked or fried in many countries of Latin America and in Spain. The name comes from the Spanish verb empanar, meaning to wrap or coat in bread.
A knish is an Eastern European snack food consisting of a filling covered with dough that is either baked, grilled or deep fried.
When Cornish miners migrated to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in the 1800s, they brought with them their beloved national dish: the pasty, stuffed with meat and potatoes.
Russian pirozhki, small pies, surround a savory cheese and beef filling. This recipe is adapted from King Arthur Flour.
4 cups flour
1/3 cup sour cream
6 Tbsps. butter, softened
1/2 cup warm water
2 large eggs
2 Tbsps. sugar
1-1/2 tsps. salt
2 tsps. instant yeast
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3/4 cup diced onion
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
8 oz. ground beef
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp. parsley, dried
4 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water, to brush on dough
To make the dough: Combine all the dough ingredients and mix and knead — by hand, mixer or bread machine — until a soft, smooth dough forms.
Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover and allow to rest for about 90 minutes, until puffy but not necessarily doubled in bulk.
Meanwhile, make the filling: Heat the oil in a saute pan set over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the garlic, ground beef and mushrooms and cook for five to 10 minutes, breaking the meat up as it browns, until it’s cooked through. Drain excess liquid and fat.
Season the filling with salt, pepper and parsley, remove it from the heat and cool to room temperature.
Stir in the cheese. The filling can be made ahead of time, then wrapped and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Assemble the pirozhki:?Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces. Shape the pieces into balls and place them on lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving about an inch between them. Cover the dough balls and allow them to rest for about 15 minutes.
Shape each ball into a flattened round about 5 inches in diameter, brush the surface with some of the egg/water wash and place 2 tablespoons of filling onto the center of each round.
Pull the dough over the filling, pinching two opposite edges together tightly to seal in the filling; it should look like a dumpling.
Place the buns on two lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheets. Cover the buns and allow them to rise for 1 hour or until puffy.
Preheat the oven to 400 toward the end of the rising time.
Brush the buns with the remaining egg wash. Bake the buns for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Don’t worry if some of the seams have come undone and the filling is visible; they will be delicious either way.
Remove the buns from the oven and allow them to cool for five to 10 minutes before serving.
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