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Happy November (and a winner)

Happy November! We weathered Hurricane Sandy safe and sound. We never lost power, and no trees fell on anything nearby. My heart goes out to everyone on the Eawt Coast who didn’t fare as well. The recent extreme weather patterns are downright scary. Anyone who says there’s not such thing as climate change is delusional. While Sandy might have been the Storm of the Century, rising sea levels and warming ocean temperatures certainly contributed to making this hurricane extra powerful.

We managed to win the annual challenge of waiting until November to turn on the heat. The weather has been so mild, temperature wise, that it wasn’t even a stretch. The forecast shows daytime highs only in the 40s and freezing overnight temperatures coming this weekend, so the heat will be on soon.

Colder weather calls for comfort food. Lovely autumn vegetables were calling out to me during a stroll through the l0cal farm stand. I came home with leeks, anise, , sweet potatoes, and parsnips. I already had carrots, butternut squash and potatoes at home. It seemed like the colorful array of vegetables would make a gorgeous pot pie.

I diced the squash and root vegetables into small pieces and, separately, steamed them until just tender. Then, I sautéed the leeks and anise until they softened. The steamed vegetables were gently folded in along with a generous handful of chopped sage and thyme. Everything was bound together with a velouté made with vegetable stock. I turned the vegetable filling into a baking dish and topped it with a thin biscuit-like crust. I baked the pot pie until the filling was bubbly and the topping was lightly browned.

Harvest Pot Pie
Serves 6-8

2 carrots, peeled and diced into ½ inch pieces
3 parsnips, peeled and diced into ½ inch pieces
One quarter of a butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced into ½ inch pieces (use 2 cups)
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced into ½ inch pieces (use only 2 cups)
2 medium red potatoes, diced into ½ inch pieces
1 leek, sliced in half through the root, then sliced thin
1 head fennel, cored, quartered, then sliced thin
2 Tbsp olive oil
Generous handful of chopped fresh sage
Generous handful of chopped fresh thyme
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
2 cups vegetable stock (you could use chicken stock)

Pot Pie Topping
1 cup flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ cup (½ stick) butter, cut into 8 pieces
¼+ cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350F.

One at a time, steam each of the following diced vegetables until nearly tender: carrots, parsnips, squash, sweet potato, potatoes. Each vegetable should take 5-8 minutes. As each finishes cooking, transfer to a large bowl.

In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leek and sauté until it starts to soften. Add the anise and continue cooking until tender. Add to steamed vegetables and stir to combine.

To make the veloute, in a saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and cook for 3-5 minutes, until the flour is cooked and lightly golden. Slowly whisk in the stock. Cook over medium high heat until the sauce thickens, about 5 more minutes.

Pour the sauce over the vegetables. Add the chopped herbs and gently stir to combine. Transfer the filling to a baking dish. I use a 12×7 pan, but you could with 13×9.

Prepare the Pot Pie topping. In the food processor, pulse together flour, baking powder, and salt to combine. Add the butter, and process until the mixture resembles sand. Add ¼ cup of milk, and pulse until the mixture comes together as a dough.

Roll it out on a lightly floured surface to a size that will fit on top of the filling. Place topping over the filling. Brush with milk. Cut a few slits for steam to escape.

Bake for about 30 minutes until filling is bubbly and topping is lightly golden.

It was the perfect thing to eat while waiting for trick-or-treaters to come by for candy.

Bella waits at the door for Halloween visitors. Check out her holiday collar!

Last, but not least, I’m pleased to announce the winner in the honey giveaway. I used a list randomizer to select the winner. Candy of Dulce’s Home wins a jar of my newly harvested backyard honey. I’ll be touch to get your address so I can send the honey your way. Congratulations, Candy!

Hot Stuff

I haven’t mentioned it in a while, but I used to grow a six-pack of tomatillos in the garden every summer and transform it in to a wonderful roasted tomatillo sauce. I made more each summer than I used up over the winter, and the stash in the freezer grew and grew. Howard finally said enough is enough, and it’s been several years since there were tomatillo plants in the garden.

There is still tomatillo sauce in the freezer, though the supply is dwindling.

At this week’s farmers market, I saw a pile of beautiful poblano peppers. I love chile rellenos, so I picked up a few. The only thing is that I’m not big on frying. Fortunately, cheese-stuffed peppers bake up very nicely.

I like the filling I use when I make jalapeno poppers, so I went the same route, combining grated cheese with cream cheese to bind it together. Lots of creamy gooiness!

How does the tomatillo sauce figure into this? The peppers need something on top, of course. I tried something new, combining the tomatillo sauce with ground sesame seeds for Pepian Sauce.

Poblanos were typically on the mild side, but the ones I used this time turned out to be somewhat spicy. The cheese helped. Good thing I didn’t go for the PepperJack cheese that I originally considered. Also, I think I drowned the peppers in too much sauce, though the tastes went together well.

Chiles Rellenos with Pepian Sauce
Serves 2

4 poblano peppers
4 oz cream cheese (light is fine), at room temperature)
4 oz Monterey jack, grated
5 scallions, sliced
Pepian Sauce (see below)

Char the skin of the peppers under the broiler or over a gas flame. Put the charred peppers in a covered bowl to steam. Peel the skin off the peppers. Core the peppers and gently remove seeds and ribs from the inside.

To make the filling, combine cream cheese, grated cheese, and scallions. Divide mixture evenly. Form into an oval patty, and stuff each pepper.

Cover the bottom of a baking dish that just fits the peppers with sauce. Arrange stuffed peppers. Cover the peppers with sauce.

Bake at 350F for 20 minutes.

Pepian Sauce

1½ cups tomatillo sauce (recipe here) or purchased salsa verde
½ cup stock (corn or chicken) or water
½ cup sesame seeds
8-10 cilantro sprigs
½ tsp ground anise seed

In a dry skillet, toast the sesame seeds until golden. Be careful not to burn them.

In a medium pot, add the stock, toasted sesame seeds, cilantro and anise to the tomatillo sauce. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Puree the sauce in the blender until smooth. It will take at least a minute.