No R’s in August

I had an urge for mussels the other day.  I went to the market and was told that they don’t order mussels during hot months.  I then remembered “Don’t eat shellfish in months without an R.” It can be risky to enjoy bivalves and mollusks when the waters are warm because of their ingestion of potentially toxic algae. I found it interesting that there were live clams and oysters in the display case.  Clearly a case of mussels discrimination! I had to improvise, so I went to the freezer case and picked out a bag of frozen mussels and a bag of frozen clams and took them home.

I steamed them in a mix of clam juice, a splash of white wine, a little tomato water with chopped tomatoes.  At then end, a light sprinkle of red pepper flakes perked it all up.  Tomato water is an amazing thing.  When working with tomatoes, save every drop of the water they shed.  I sometimes chop tomatoes and let them sit in a strainer so I can catch the water.  It is a nice layer of flavor in soups and sauces and shouldn’t be tossed out.

Clams and mussels with a side of red cabbage and fennel slaw.

My niece had given me a head of red cabbage from her garden. I found a good sounding recipe for a red cabbage and fennel slaw with a dressed with fresh orange juice, cider vinegar and minced fresh ginger. If it says fennel, I’ll try it!  The slaw had the cabbage and fennel and  scallion greens and grated carrot.  The recipe called for the dressed slaw to be refrigerated for at least a half hour before serving.  The slaw was tasty, but the cabbage was a little on the tough side.  I think I’ll try it again with more vinegar and more time in the fridge.  The acid in the vinegar should soften the cabbage and provide a little more tartness to the dressing.  All in all, it’s not a bad slaw; it just needs a little practice and manipulation.

Red cabbage and fennel slaw. Crunchy and tasty, but I need to experiment with improving the cabbage texture. Its good enough to make it worth the effort!

Brown Butter and Sage Butternut Squash




Butternut squash – choose the size based on number of servings desired

One or two tablespoons olive oil, depending on volume of squash

One or two tablespoons butter depending on volume of squash

Salt and pepper to taste

5 or 6 Fresh sage leaves.  A half teaspoon of dried ground sage may be substituted.


Heat oven to 425

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil

Cut both ends off squash; peel and slice in half, remove seed with a spoon.

Place squash cut side down and slice at half inch intervals to get attractive half-moons.  If the squash is huge, you can cube it to cook faster.

Put squash in a gallon size plastic bag, drizzle with olive oil.  Close bag and turn it over and over to coat squash with oil.

Empty squash onto roasting pan and spread out all slices flat.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and place in oven.

Roast for 15 to 20 minutes until squash is tender when tested with a fork.  I start checking at 10 minutes, depending on the size of the squash.

When squash is done, remove from the oven.

Heat butter in a large sauté pan until it is a light brown.  Add sage and squash and toss or stir until squash is coated with butter and picks up a little color.

Serve right away and enjoy!

Brown butter is a good finish for many vegetables.  If you want to impress folks, call it beurre noisette – French for brown butter or literally hazelnut butter because of the color and its slightly nutty flavor.  I always tell the audience in my cooking demos that you can charge more if you call something by its name in French!

It may be a winter squash, but it is good in the summer, too.

I love butternut squash.  My niece gave me a pair of baby butternuts from her garden.  They were about 4 inches long.  I peeled, sliced and baked them, the gave them, a quick finish in brown butter and sage.

Very simple and VERY, VERY good.  Check the recipe  category to see how easy it is.



Brown butter and sage roasted butternut squash was the perfect accompaniment for a grilled pork loin chop and simple heirloom cherry tomato salad.



Simple but Special Sunday Breakfast

For the past several days, our chapter of the New Mexico Native Plant Society has been preparing for and hosting the annual state native plant society meeting.  Yes, we are in Texas, but our El Paso Chapter affiliates with New Mexico because our native plants, climate and geographic features are more similar to New Mexico than they are to parts of Texas that are further east.  For this meeting, we adopted the nickname “Baja New Mexico Chapter” (baja means under or below).  Now that the meeting is over (except for the paperwork and unloading my truck), this is a day to take it easy and keep things simple.

Earlier last week, I managed to swing by a melon stand and pick up some Pecos (Texas) cantaloupes.  Pecos melons are known for their flavor and sweetness. This morning, I woke up at my usual time and sliced and peeled one and got in in the fridge to chill a bit before worrying about breakfast.  I happened to have some prosciutto from a previous dinner.  I made the classic melon wrapped with prosciutto and served it with a slice of buttered 12-grain toast.  It was light, summery and easier than cooking something up!  (I can’t call making toast real cooking).