Yesterday and today were picture perfect early October days with sunny blue skies, puffy clouds and the cool feel of fall in the air. Everything is still green after our unusually wet summer and there is just a tinge of color beginning to show in the leaves. Even if you weren't interested in the stops along the way, the drive through the Kaw Valley on such a day would be a worthwhile way to spend some time. Being outside in such a beautiful place when the weather is so lovely is amazingly restorative. I wish that I were a landscape photographer so that I could share the beauty with you.
My part in the weekend's activities was a short cooking demonstration and tasting yesterday at a the Blue Jacket Crossing vineyard and winery. I have to confess that I wasn't sure how my part of the day was going to go. I had not visited beforehand and it is not uncommon for a chef to go into a situation where they simply have to make the best of it. But this was not the case at Blue Jacket. The delightful couple who own and operate the winery graciously welcomed me and had a special place set up for me to do my demonstration. Despite the rather stiff Kansas wind, I truly had a wonderful time (I hope I get to go back).
|Demonstration mis en place ready to go|
I eventually settled on a pilaf with just roasted butternut squash, pistachios, golden raisins, loads of mint and the optional addition of chickpeas for when it is to be served as an entrée. Without the chickpeas it is a wonderful side dish for Autumn. I think it would make a nice addition to the Thanksgiving table. And judging from the reaction of those who tasted it yesterday, it would be very well-received...even by people who think they don't like "whole grains".
The tasting room at the winery is open year round, so if you are in the area, check out their website and drop in to see them and taste their wines while you enjoy the spectacular view of their Kaw Valley Vineyard. (While you're at it, make a batch of this pilaf to take with you. With the addition of a little yogurt, some fruit and a bottle of wine, it would make a great picnic lunch.)
Bulgur Pilaf with Butternut Squash,
Pistachios & Golden Raisins
2 to 2 1/2 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut in a scant 3/4-inch dice (about 5 c. diced)
3 to 4 T. olive oil, divided
1 small onion (about 6 oz.), diced (you will have about 1 c. diced onion)
1 fat clove garlic, minced
1 t. ground cumin
1 c. (6 oz.) medium bulgur, rinsed and drained
1 1/4 c. water
1/2 c. golden raisins
1/4 c. mint chiffonade
2 T. minced flat leaf parsley
1/2 c. toasted pistachios, coarsely chopped
Toss the squash with 1 to 2 T. olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake in a 425°F oven until tender and caramelized—20 to 30 minutes (stirring once so it will brown evenly).
Warm 2 T. olive oil in a medium saucepan with a tight fitting lid over moderate heat. Add the onions along with a pinch of salt and sweat until tender and translucent. Add the garlic, cumin and cayenne and cook until fragrant—about a minute. Increase the heat to medium high and add the drained bulgur along with a generous pinch of salt. Continue to cook for a minute. Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook, covered until the bulgur is tender—12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and scatter the raisins over the surface of the bulgur. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes.
Transfer the bulgur to a large bowl. Add the herbs, roasted squash and pistachios and toss until everything is well combined. Serve warm or room temperature. Serves 4 to 5 as side dish.
- To make a more substantial pilaf to be served as an entrée, add a 1 to 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (if using canned, drain and rinse before adding). Add the chickpeas with the roasted squash and pistachios.
- For a late summer variation, top and tail a medium eggplant (about 12 oz.). Cut into a 3/4-inch dice and toss with salt, pepper and olive oil to coat and spread on a baking sheet. Transfer to a 425° oven and roast until tender and caramelized—about 20 minutes. Add to the pilaf with the butternut squash. Substitute walnuts for the pistachios and add 2 to 4 tablespoons of lemon juice to the final pilaf.
- Add 10 oz. of stemmed spinach that has been wilted, squeezed dry and roughly chopped.