Roasted Butternut Squash & Red Onion with Tahini Sauce

Oct 25, 2012

A little sweet and a little savory at the same time, butternut is easily my favorite winter squash. I love that it can prepared so simply and be so delicious on its own.

This recipe dresses the squash up a bit, and pairs it with a wonderful lemon-tahini sauce, toasted pine nuts, and caramelized red onions. The flavors in this dish compliment each of the others fantastically... not that you'd expect anything different from the incredible chefs behind Ottolenghi. (I've sung my praises of the London-based Ottolenghi in the past, here.) 

This squash is a great main dish for two, or a wonderful side dish for about four. Enjoy it for lunch, dinner, or in between. It is a simple one to prepare and I think you'll love it as much as I do!

Notes: If you don't have butternut squash around, sweet potatoes will substitute well. Also, za'atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend that can be a little hard to come by, so if you can't find it I've included a substitute blend in the recipe below.

Adapted from Jerusalem by Yottam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi also seen here
Roasted Butternut Squash & Red Onion with Tahini Sauce

roasted squash & red onion
1 large butternut squash (about 3 lb.), cut into 3/4 x 2 1/2-inch wedges
2 medium red onions, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt & black pepper

tahini sauce
3 tablespoons tahini
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2-4 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 small garlic clove, crushed

1/4 cup pine nuts
Sea salt
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon za'atar (To substitute: 1 teaspoon each of sumac & sesame seeds, 1/2 teaspoon each of thyme, marjoram, & oregano, and a pinch of salt. Whiz in a spice grinder for a few seconds.)
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
A few handfuls of arugula to serve over (optional)

roasted squash & red onion
Preheat oven to 475°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

Put the squash in a medium bowl, add about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and some black pepper. Toss well. Spread squash on one of the baking sheets.

In the now-empty bowl, toss the onion with a tablespoon of the oil, a generous pinch of salt, and a little black pepper. Spread the onions on the other baking sheet.

Place both baking sheets in the oven. Roast the onions for about 15-20 minutes, until they are tender and caramelized. Remove onion sheet from the oven and set aside. Allow the squash to continue roasting for an additional 10-15 minutes (for a total time of 25-35 minutes) until the
vegetables have taken on some color and are cooked through. Remove squash sheet from the oven, add the squash to the sheet with the onions, then set it all aside to cool.

tahini sauce
While the vegetables are roasting, place the tahini in a small bowl along with the lemon juice, water, garlic, and salt. Whisk until the sauce is the consistency of honey, adding more water or tahini if necessary. Set aside.

Toast the pine nuts in a small frying pan over medium-low heat with a drizzle of olive oil and a 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir often, until the nuts are golden brown. Remove from the heat and transfer the nuts to a small bowl to stop cooking.

To serve, spread the vegetables out on a large serving platter over a bed of arugula (if using) and drizzle the tahini sauce over top. Sprinkle the pine nuts on top, followed by the za’atar (or substituted spice blend, if using) and parsley.

Yield: Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side

This post shared on The Nourishing Gourmet

Quintuple Chocolate Brownies

Oct 23, 2012

quin·tu·ple  [kwin-tuhp-uhl]   
1. fivefold; consisting of five parts.

Yes, I managed to put five different kinds of chocolate into one brownie. Why? Um.... Because chocolate is obviously the best food group ever invented. And also because brownies are obviously the best vehicle for consuming the aforementioned best food group. Obviously.

Let me explain...

Last spring my mom and I got to spend 10 days in England. We went in celebration of my graduation from college and it was one of the best trips ever. We had such a blast and loved every minute of our time there. It was wonderful to be back in the stunning country that we grew to love so dearly when we lived there years ago. It is our second home, you might say, and I daydream of it often.

While out in the country one day, we stopped at a little tea shop and had lovely lunch. After our yummy sandwiches were gone and the meal had been paid for, I stopped to oodle at the glass case full of delectable baked goodies. 

And then... She brought them out. From the back kitchen with a plate full of warm, deep, dark, eat-me-now-and-you-will-never-love-another-brownie-quite-like-me-again brownies she came. 

I just couldn't not. So I asked for one ("...without an edge, please."), paid for it in pounds, and walked out into the crisp England air. 

It has been since that very day, that very first nibble outside of Collington's Tea Shop on the  cobblestone street of Brampton, England, that I declared that I would recreate that exact brownie.

And now, over a year later, and... 20-ish (?!?) pans of brownies... Here they are. 

Oh my goodness. These are the most chocolatey brownies. (Remember the quintuple part?) They are so moist and rich. They are also perfectly thick, hefty, and not-too-gooey-but-still-gooey brownies you will ever meet. They are the brownies that remind you why the chocolate food group was ever invented in the first place.

A simple word of advice: I think the brownies are at their peak approximately 1.5 hours after being removed from the oven (but who am I kidding, they're insanely wonderful any time...) because then they've set up nicely, are still warm and oh-so-rich, and the milk and white chocolate chunks inside stay soft and melty.

Mmmm... Chocolate seriously doesn't get any better than this.

Go make yourself a batch of Quintuple Chocolate Brownies and you will never love another brownie quite like these again. 


Notes: First thing: Use really high-quality chocolate (I prefer Callebeaut or Scharffen Berger). It definitely makes a difference. Second: Of course I had to create these brownies with whole-wheat flour, and yes, it works absolutely wonderfully here. I made a slight adjustment to the original quantity of flour because I added the whole-wheat, so if you are using all-purpose, increase the flour to 5 ounces. Third: I also found that, because of my addition of white and milk chocolate chunks, these are best with  slightly less sugar in the batter than the original recipe called for, so the recipe below reflects this adjustment as well (the original calls for 8 3/4 oz (1 1/4 cups) sugar). And one more thing: I bake these in a 7x7 baking pan so that they're even more thick, but an 8x8 also produces a hefty brownie just fine. Other than that... Enjoy your chocolate-loving hearts out!

Inspired by the brownies at Collington's Tea Shop in Brampton, England
Brownie base adapted from Cook's Illustrated's Chewy, Fudgy Triple Chocolate Brownies

Quintuple Chocolate Brownies

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into quarters
3 tablespoons cocoa

3 eggs, at room temperature
7 1/4 ounces (3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

4 ounces (1 cup) whole-wheat pastry flour
3 ounces high-quality white chocolate, cut into 1/4-1/2 in. pieces
3 ounces high-quality milk chocolate, cut into 1/4-1/2 in. pieces

Heat oven to 350°F. Butter a 7x7 in. (or 8x8 in.) baking dish, then line the dish with parchment so that there is an inch or two of extra parchment hanging over the sides (to help you lift the brownies out). Butter the parchment. Set aside.

Place a medium glass bowl over a pan of almost-simmering water. Melt bittersweet and
unsweetened chocolates with the butter, stirring occasionally until the mixture is smooth. Whisk in cocoa until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt until combined, about 15 seconds. Whisk warm chocolate mixture into egg mixture, then stir in flour with a rubber spatula until just combined. Gently fold in white and milk chocolate pieces until evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Spread batter into the corners and level the surface with the rubber spatula. Bake brownies until slightly puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a small amount of sticky crumbs clinging to it, about 33-38 minutes.

Allow brownies to cool completely on a wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours. Remove brownies from pan using parchment overhang. Cut into 9 or 12 squares and serve.

Yield: 9-12 brownies, depending on the size you cut them

:: A Thank You ::

Oct 13, 2012

Hello there, everyone! 

I just wanted to write a quick note to you all this morning to simply say THANK YOU so very much for your support. Today The Flour Sack reached 100 followers (!!!) and I am so excited about this milestone. 

I hope that each of you have been able to find some healthy and yummy inspiration here and I look forward to sharing much more with all of you. 

So... here's to the next 100 followers and lots more yummy stuff, too!

:) Cheers!

Tomato Bisque Soup with Orzo

Oct 10, 2012

One of my favorite things about the cooler weather is the reappearance of soups in the menu again. Soups are so versatile and usually quite simple. They're warm and comforting on chilly days. And they're also perfect for dipping fresh crispy bread - which is always a good thing.

This soup is so flavorful. It is extra tomato-y and wonderfully creamy.

A warning: This soup is also very addicting. My family polished this off in a matter of hours one afternoon... for, you know, that meal between lunch and dinner...

A huge thanks to our wonderful neighbor and friend, Michelle, for sharing this fantastic soup recipe! 

Notes: You could leave the orzo out of this soup, if you don't have any on hand, but I would strongly advise against doing such a thing. (Pasta makes just about everything better, IMHO.) Also, be sure to taste the soup as you're finishing it up to know if it needs any additional sugar or salt. Enjoy!

Adapted from Michelle's recipe
Tomato Bisque Soup with Orzo  

1/2 pound whole-wheat orzo pasta
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrot
1 medium onion, diced
sea salt
4 cloves garlic, pressed
8 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
2-3 cups water (or vetetable/chicken broth)
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 teaspoon minced fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3-4 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Generously salt it, then add the orzo. Cook just until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 2 cups of the cooking water. Set pasta and water aside in separate bowls.

In a large soup pot, heat butter over medium heat until melted and hot. Add the celery, carrots, onion, and a generous heap of salt. Cook the vegetables, stirring often, until just tender. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds. Stir in the chopped tomatoes, orzo cooking water, 2 cups water (or broth), tomato paste, basil, oregano, and black pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Let the soup simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, or until slightly thickened.

Working in batches, transfer the soup to a high-powered blender. Puree until very smooth, then return to pan. (You can also puree the soup right in the pot with an immersion blender, if preferred. I find that this doesn't get the soup quite as smooth as a stand blender does.) Add 3 teaspoons sugar, the cream, and the cooked orzo. Taste and add additional water (or broth), sugar, and salt as needed. Heat through, then serve with a little freshly ground black pepper to garnish.

Yield: Serves 6-8          

This post shared on The Nourishing Gourmet and Beyond the Peel

Spiced Honey Pumpkin Bread

Oct 6, 2012

Mission: To create a pumpkin bread that is just-my-kind-of-perfect pumpkin bread. 

Requirements as follows: 

- obviously pumpkin-y
- whole grain
- naturally and lightly sweetened
- plenty of spice (especially cinnamon)
- very moist
- a strong, tender crumb
- crunchy top crust

Mission: Accomplished. Yessssssss.

Notes: This is a really great base recipe for pumpkin bread. You can certainly bake the batter in muffin tins or even double the recipe to bake in a bundt pan. I've included a three options for slightly different variations; one simply sprinkles a little sugar and some pumpkin seeds on top, another adds a cinnamon-oat streusel topping, and the last is a bittersweet chocolate chunk version. As for the sweetener, honey or maple syrup will do just fine. My reason for using honey (other than the excellent flavor and moisture it adds to the bread) is the fact that we have gallons of the stuff thanks to our busy bees out back. And as for the flour, I found a little white flour gave just enough structure to the bread. A substitution of spelt flour or even white flour may be replaced for the whole-wheat pastry flour.

A Flour Sack original
Spiced Honey Pumpkin Bread

1 1/4 cups whole-wheat pastry flour (or spelt flour)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons freshly-ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (or melted coconut oil)
1/2 cup honey (or maple syrup)
2 eggs, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 8 1/2 x 5-inch loaf pan with olive oil. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the pumpkin puree, olive oil, honey, and eggs until well-combined. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and whisk for 10 seconds, just until the flour disappears and the batter is mostly smooth.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle with desired toppings (see below) and bake for 40-45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean.

Let the bread sit in the pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack, then remove bread and finish cooling on the wire rack. Slice the bread once it has cooled for at least 1 hour.

Yield: one loaf

:: Variations ::

Crunchy Pepita Topping
Pour pumpkin bread batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle top with 2 tablespoons pepitas (pumpkin seeds), then 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Bake as directed above.

Cinnamon-Oat Streusel Topping
In a small bowl, mix together 1/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour, 1/4 cup rolled oats, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, and a pinch of sea salt. To the mixture, add 4
tablespoons of chilled unsalted butter that has been cut into cubes. Rub the butter between your
fingers, breaking it into smaller bits. Continue rubbing until the mixture feels coarse like cornmeal, with some larger chunks of streusel as well. Add in 1/4 cup chopped pecans. Pour pumpkin bread batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle top with streusel. Bake as directed above.

Bittersweet Chocolate-Chunk
Fold 6 ounces of coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate into batter after combining flour and pumpkin mixtures. Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle top with an additional 2 ounces of coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate, then 1 tablespoon granulated sugar. Bake as directed above.

This post shared on The Nourishing Gourmet and Beyond the Peel
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