Sunday, September 30, 2012

Butternut Squash Harvest Stew & Focaccia Bread

Welcome!  It's Sunday evening, and we are sitting down to a hearty fall meal of Butternut Squash Harvest Stew and Garden Tomato Focaccia.  The idea behind this blog is that so many of our loved ones, friends and family with whom we would enjoy sharing a meal, live far away.  We like to know what good things fill the bellies of those we care about, and like even better to be the ones to provide those good things.  So imagine you are eating a bowl of stew, occasionally dipping your focaccia in or pausing for a bite, or better yet, go make some for yourself!  Here's how:

Start by making the focaccia dough.

Combine 1 cup warm water and 1 Tbsp. active dry yeast in a bowl.  Mix until the yeast dissolves, then add 1 cup whole wheat flour, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 Tbsp. sugar, 1 1/2 tsp. salt, stirring until smooth.  If you'd like to add some herbs, now is a good time to do so.  I put about a Tbsp. of fresh basil in mine tonight.  Add approx. 2 cups additional flour (white, whole wheat, white whole wheat, whatever you like) gradually until you have a stiff dough.  Knead 8-10 minutes until elastic.  Place in a greased bowl (or, if you're like me and prefer to have the fewest possible dishes to wash, put some oil in the same bowl you've already used, and put the dough back in), cover with a damp cloth, and put it in a warm place to rise until it's about doubled, approx. 45 minutes.

While that's rising, start chopping for the stew.  Chop up an onion and mince two cloves of garlic.  Put 2 Tbsp. of butter in a large saucepan on the stove and melt it.  Add the onion and garlic alone with 1 1/2 lbs. boneless pork cut into bite-size pieces.  Saute until the meat is no longer pink and drain off fat.  Add 3 cups of chicken broth, 3/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. crushed dried rosemary (I didn't have crushed, and just regular rosemary was still delicious), 1/4 tsp. rubbed or ground sage, and 1 bay leaf.  Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.  Your kitchen will smell like a savory heaven.

Meanwhile, peel, core/seed, and chop 1 butternut squash and 2 medium apples.  I hope you're feeling strong and have a sharp knife, because butternuts are no pushovers, but you can do it.  Once all that is chopped, the stew has probably simmered for the required 20 minutes, so dump in the squash and apple to simmer for 20 more minutes, and move back to the dough.

Once the dough has risen enough, press it into an 8x10 jelly roll pan and let it sit while you prepare the toppings and preheat the oven to 450.  Tonight I did some chopped fresh tomato, minced garlic, mozzerella, salt, pepper, and olive oil.  I also recommend doing an herb and cheese topping or sweet peppers, onions, garlic, olive oil, and feta, with the option of hot chilis if you're into that sort of thing.  Put the focaccia in the preheated oven for 12-16 minutes.

Take the bay leaf out of the soup and serve it up with a slice of steaming bread.

Once it is all done, sit down with us.  Maybe grab a beer.  Tonight we're debating this news article:  Basic synopsis: should cities forego bicycle helmet laws to encourage more bike riding?  It appears to work in Europe; could it work here? 

We miss you, but isn't it nice to have a meal together?