Monday, March 15, 2010

Ground Beef and Squash Picadillo

I've been reading an issue of the New Yorker from last fall, their food issue, and I was amused by Anthony Lane's skewering of a T. S. Eliot character who is able to conjure a supper from next to nothing. Anthony proceeds to make a good point, that eggs do in fact have culinary limits, but I do have my own in-a-pinch recipes -- kitchen conjuring is a challenge I relish more than dread -- and I had to pull one out of my sleeve on Saturday night.

The occasion was a potluck supper for some former teachers who were back in Taiwan for a visit. I knew this was coming, I knew I needed to bring something, yet somehow, at 4:30 (90 minutes before the party, which should be nearly an infinity when one is armed with a whole book of thirty-minute recipes) I only just started to think about what I might bring. "On Rice" came to mind, and suddenly a vision of half a squash, bought on a whim last week and still resting comfortably in my fridge, made all the switches click in place, and Ground Beef and Squash Picadillo was on its way.

In a large (12") nonstick pan, brown
1 1/4 lbs ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced

Drain off excess liquid and add
1 1/2 cups beef broth
2 Tablespoons tomato paste (or 1/4 cup tomato sauce)
1/3 cup green olives (halved if they are particularly large)
1/3 cup raisins

Season with
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon toasted and ground cumin
salt & pepper

Bring to a simmer. Layer on top
Half a large squash, or one acorn squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

Cover the pan and let the squash steam for 15 to 20 minutes. Check seasonings and serve over rice.


Do take five minutes and toast the cumin. The aroma and flavor are greatly improved, and when you crush the little seeds before adding them to the dish the whole house will smell exotic and lovely.

Fresh ground beef is no longer for sale at Costco; other stores may carry it, I don't know. I have switched to buying the Australian beef patties in the Costco freezer -- for this recipe I used five patties.

I seeded my squash half with a grapefruit spoon and then sliced it crossways into C-shapes (not with a grapefruit spoon). With a sharp knife it's not too hard to remove the long strip of peel before slicing the squash into cubes.

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