Butternut Squash Seed Oil and Quinoa Cakes

I love seed oils.  They’re all so unique – some have a deep,rich, nutty flavor, and others are clean and mild.  I’ve long been a regular user of grapeseed oil, a flavor neutral oil with a high smoke point perfect for high-heat cooking, but also good in light salad dressings.  I also enjoy toasted sesame seed oil, where a little goes a long way in the flavor department.

When I heard that Marx Foods was running a seed oil review contest, I knew I wanted to get in on it.  They have recently begun carrying Butternut Squash Seed Oil and Delicata Squash Seed Oil, and were offering a complimentary bottle of one of the flavors in return for candid reviews.  I submitted my request, and was delightfully surprised when I was chosen to participate.  Within a week, a petite bottle of Butternut Squash Seed  Oil was delivered to my doorstep.

I first wanted to taste it on it’s own, so I uncorked the bottle and sniffed it.  It had a full, round scent – reminiscent of roasted nuts – with a slight vegetal undertone.  I poured a little out onto a plate, dipped the end of my finger in the oil and placed it on my tongue – the flavor was rich and nutty, with a hint of sweetness.  You could definitely taste the butternut squash flavor in the background, but mostly it reminded me of a toasted nut oil (like walnut or hazelnut), or even a mild sesame oil.

According to the Marx Foods website, these oils have a relatively high smoke point, so they’re appropriate for cooking, but are also good as dipping oils or in salad dressings.  I decided to put it to the test on both fronts, using it to fry up some savory quinoa cakes, and in a light salad dressing for a spinach and mixed green salad for dinner one night.

Quinoa Cakes, Fried in Butternut Squash Seed Oil and Clarified Butter

(based on this recipe from The Healthy Foodie, which I found via Pinterest)
prep time: 15 minutes
cook time: 15 minutes
yields: 8-10 patties

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups quinoa, cooked in chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 small white onion, finely minced
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 whole eggs and 4 egg whites, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons ghee
  • 2 tablespoons butternut squash seed oil
  1. Combine the quinoa, onion, bread crumbs, cheese, salt and pepper.
  2. Add the eggs and stir to combine.
  3. Allow to sit for a few minutes so the bread crumbs can soak up the liquid.
  4. In a large stainless steel skillet, heat the ghee and butternut squash seed oil over medium heat.
  5. Carefully form the quinoa mixture into patties the size of the palm of your hand.
  6. Place them in the hot oil, cooking them for 4-5 minutes on the first side.
  7. Flip them over once they’ve browned and cook for another 4-5 minutes on the second side.
  8. Keep warm in the oven while you cook the rest.
  9. Serve over a mixed green salad, topped with a poached egg.

Butternut Squash Seed Oil Salad Dressing
prep time: 2 minutes
yields: 1/4 cup of dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon mustard (spicy or dijon)
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butternut squash seed oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Combine all ingredients in a small mason jar.
  2. Screw the lid on tightly and shake
  3. Toss with mixed salad greens
  4. Enjoy!

As a cooking oil,  it stood up well to the high-heat test, yielding a super light and crispy exterior on the quinoa cakes.  They had a nutty flavor, but it’s hard to say whether that came from the oil, or from the quinoa itself.  It’s also possible that the clarified butter washed out some of the butternut squash flavor.  Performance-wise, though, it held up – hardly smoking at all, even when I let the pan get a little too hot.

Where this oil really shone was in the salad dressing – you could taste the toasted, nutty flavor and the squash flavor was really nice.  The addition of the honey brought out the sweetness, and the mild champagne vinegar didn’t overpower it at all.  I definitely think this oil is better suited to raw applications than it is to cooked.  Although I could see it in place of a sage brown-butter sauce (or even as an addition to) with ravioli or pappardelle.  It’s nice and mellow, and the flavor can become overpowered easily.  If it’s allowed to stand on it’s own, though, it won’t disappoint.

Note:  While I did receive a complimentary bottle of Butternut Squash Seed Oil from Marx Foods, the opinions in this post are my own.

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A Post Dedicated to Community Supported Agriculture

Over the summer, I took the time to read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  It was the height of gardening season, we’d just acquired our first round of chickens, and I was completely enamored of her stories of sustainability and year-round local eating.

Of course I was – our garden was overflowing with tomatoes and beans and peppers, and there was local produce to be had at farmers markets and roadside stands everywhere I turned.  Even the chain grocers carried local and regional fruits and vegetables, and proclaimed it proudly with prominent signage.

When fall rolled around, I even planted a “winter garden” full of a variety of cruciferous vegetables – cabbages and brussels sprouts and broccoli and greens – along with tender lettuces and spinach.  Unfortunately, the brassicae were more fodder for a host of Mamestra brassicae (cabbage moths and their larvae) than they were for our family.  We managed to eke out a few small heads of broccoli and some collard greens, but for the most part the chickens enjoyed the leafy treats crawling with juicy caterpillars.  Our lettuces did well, though.

About four weeks ago, the Marketing Team Leader at Harry’s Farmer’s Market (with whom I’m partnering on the pantry stock-up giveaway – if you haven’t already entered, there’s still time!) announced on their facebook page that they were working with Rockin’ S Farms to put together a Community Supported Agriculture subscription program.  I was so excited to hear this – I’d read about Rockin’ S on Jenn Carter’s A Hundred Miles of Food blog, and was intrigued by this little farm located about 14 miles northeast of my house.  They grow their own corn for meal and grits, and grind it on their property.  They also make jams and jellies, and are known for their chow-chow.  I immediately decided that I would give their CSA program a chance.  I even had a chance to meet Nichelle Stewart, one of the owners, and her family at Harry’s one day when I went in to pick up my produce.

The thing about eating locally year round is that winter can be a tough time for produce.  Luckily, here in Georgia we’ve had a very mild winter so far, which means our winter growing season has been extended.  However, winter vegetables are very different from what we’re used to in the spring and summer.  Instead of brightly colored summer squashes, peppers and tomatoes, we’re talking about root vegetables, leafy greens and densely packed heads of cabbage.  As far as fruits go, you might still be able to get some varieties of apples, persimmons, pears and pomegranates.  And since we’re close to Florida, citrus is always an option.

One of my favorite ways to use kale

Our bags from Rockin S’ are always chock full of picked-fresh (usually the morning of the day they are delivered) greens and root vegetables. We’re also privy to bags of corn meal and grits, as well as shiny jars of preserves.  One week we even got honey from a local bee keeper.  I’ve had a great time coming up with new and interesting ways to incorporate these vegetables into our meal routine.  Yesterday, I had a comment on my facebook page from a fellow CSA subsriber.  I had mentioned using rutabagas from our bags one week to make dinner for our family.  She said she was a little inexperienced with some of these veggies, and asked for more info on how we used the rutabagas.  It occurred to me that there might be more people out there with similar questions (Nichelle Stewart from Rockin’ S does a great job of including recipes and information in the bags each week, by the way), so I decided to do a post recapping some of the ways we’ve put this bounty to good use, including the Kale Carbonara pictured above.

This salad with greens, pomegranate arals, pumpkin seeds and goat cheese is based on one that Tami of Running with Tweezers featured a couple of weeks ago. I shredded up some napa cabbage and colorful rainbow chard from one of our bag one week, and subbed chevre and pumpkins seeds for Tami’s pine nuts and aged goat cheese.  It was a huge hit at a dinner party we went to, and I’ve been making variations on it ever since.

This Asian-style beef stew is loosely based on this recipe for pot roast from Whole Foods.  I used carrots, beets and rutabagas as the vegetables in the pot and added some orange zest to brighten things up a bit.  It was delicious.

And for breakfast this morning, I made rutabaga and mixed-greens hash with a poached egg.  I love hash, and typically make it with potatoes.  Nichelle had mentioned that they use turnips and rutabagas in place of potatoes in lots of different applications so I thought I’d try them here.  I have to admit, I’ve always had a slight aversion to turnips.  They have a slightly bitter earthy flavor that can be a little offputting.  However, I really enjoy them in this hash.Rutabaga Hash
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Serves: 2

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil
  • 1 large rutabaga, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 small carrots, finely diced
  • 1 cup mixed greens (I used rainbow chard and mustard greens), cut into thin ribbons
  • salt and pepper to taste

Begin by melting the coconut oil in an iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the diced onion and saute until translucent.

Add the rutabaga and carrot and spread out into a single layer.  Allow to cook, undisturbed, for 5 minutes (you want them to get good and brown on one side before stirring).  After the first five minutes, check to see if they have browned sufficiently.  At this point, stir periodically to make sure that rutabaga pieces get brown on all sides.

Toward the end of the cooking time, add the greens.  If necessary, cover for a couple of minutes to make sure the rutabagas are cooked through.  Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve topped with a poached or fried egg and a sprinkling of hot sauce.

I have really enjoyed the challenge of finding creative ways to use the vegetables I’ve received from Rockin’ S Farms.  I love knowing where the food comes from, who grew it and harvested it, and that I’m doing my part, however small, to support our local economy and agriculture industry.  Nichelle and her family are providing a wonderful service, and we’re lucky to have access to that.

Don’t forget to click over to this post and let me know your New Years Resolutions (maybe you resolved to eat more locally this year!), or tweet the following: I want to win a $50 Whole Foods Gift card from @HFM_Alpharetta and @lifeinrecipes: http://bit.ly/AsEio7.  You could win a $50 gift card to Whole Foods, courtesy of Harry’s Farmers Market.