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- Des, The Grommet

Edible Squash Bowls

I admit it — I love to look at Martha Stewart magazines and marvel at the brilliantly clever holiday magic, the perfectly decorated cookies, the floral displays, the beautiful food.  But, that’s the extent of it — just looking.  After all, who has time?  And if I had the time, is that how I’d spend it?  Probably not.

However, for quite a while I’ve been intrigued about using squash as edible containers for serving food.  They’re quirky, fun,  add to the decor and, at the end of the day they’re off to the compost.  Sweet.

I decided that the customers at New Leaf Market provided the opportunity for  indulging my fantasy — certainly they’d be interested to see them live in 3-D even if they never actually make them at home.  I was further invested as the head of produce asked me to come up with a way to move the little decorative-but-edible squash that poured into the market in October.

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Brown and Wild Rice Pilaf

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At the risk of being stoned to death for blasphemy, I admit that I have never liked bread stuffing! From the time I was very young, I always helped my mother tear the pieces of stale bread into a big bowl (without the crusts, of course) and mix the bread, onions, celery and herbs as she blended in the butter. I wasn’t crazy about the sage, but mostly I didn’t like the mushy texture or how it made me feel after eating it. In fact, I’ve been allergic to wheat my entire life though we didn’t know this when I was a child.

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Two Fresh Appetizer Recipes Using Ricotta Cheese

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 The following two recipes make light, healthy and delicious  appetizers for warm spring and summer brunches, lunches and suppers.

Ricotta cheese naturally has a slight graininess to it. You can leave it as it is for a nice rustic texture or you can place it in a bowl and use an immersion blender or put it in a food processor and blend it briefly to homogenize it and make it very light. This is especially nice for the sweetened version for fruits.

Feel free to play with the recipes, adding different or additional herbs or spices.

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Rice with Coconut, Vanilla, Dates and Lemon

This is really good! Although it isn’t sweet, except for the dates, it’s like a savory dessert.  That said, it goes very well with meats, poultry, fish or vegetarian entrees and is especially nice with Southeast Asian and Pacific Islands foods. Kids who aren’t put off by dates would really enjoy it. You could substitute raisins if you prefer.

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Roasted Heirloom Tomato Soup with Cashew Cream

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 Homemade tomato soup is a treasure, especially when it’s made with roasted tomatoes. The sweetness of tomatoes gives the soup a deep, rich flavor that’s nothing like canned soup. If tomatoes aren’t in season and you’re really craving tomato soup, canned San Marzano tomatoes are a good choice. While this recipe is vegan and uses cashew cream, feel free to substitute coconut milk, light cream, sour cream or Greek yogurt instead. You’ll need to adjust it to taste. Soups are very forgiving so don’t worry about exact measurements. You can also cut this recipe in half if you’d like.

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Dominga’s Vegetable Soup

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Dominga has cooked for Heriberto and Joaquin Larios of Papantla, Vera Cruz, for so many years that she and her daughter, Gabriella, are considered part of the family. Every afternoon Dominga creates delicious regional cooking, always starting with freshly made, hot soup. Under any other circumstances I couldn’t imagine eating hot soup when the temperature’s in the high 90s and the humidity is at least 80 percent. But Dominga’s soups are too good to pass up.

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Vanilla Maple Syrup

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Vanilla and maple have a special affinity for one another. Each enhances the other’s flavor. They’re both foods of the Americas, so that might have something to do with it.

As a special pancake topping, heat 1 cup natural maple syrup (B-grade has a deeper flavor, but any grade will do) until warm. Add 2 teaspoons rum and 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract and mix well. Add 1/4 cup chopped, toasted walnuts, and serve over pancakes.

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Roasted Mushroom Salad

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Research has shown that mushrooms contain components that help to prevent cancer and stimulate the immune system. At first it was believed that only Asian mushrooms such as shitake and maitake contained cancer-preventing ingredients, but it appears that even domestic mushrooms are powerful healers. Combined with other healthy ingredients and a bit of vanilla, this is a Power combination that tastes delicious!

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