IN THE KNOW – Autumn

All About Taste

By Emily Liebert
Provided to KLAFFS exclusively by Moffly Media

Cook better this winter with Chef Lauren Kohr

Thirty years ago, when Lauren Kohr set up shop in her first Fisher Price kitchen, little did she know her playtime would burgeon into a lifelong passion. Now, at the helm of her own Westport/Weston-based company, LDK Kitchen, Lauren prides herself on creating fresh, healthful meals for her clients. Not only does she offer chef services for celebrations and on a weekly basis for families on-the-go, but she also hosts innovative cooking classes for adults and kids. Fun idea for a party, right? I thought so! That’s precisely why I hired her for my six-year-old’s birthday party, but not before sitting down to ask her a few questions…

Wild black rice, red grapes and roasted acorn squash with beet and winter microgreens and a lemon herb vinaigrette (microgreens local from Gilbertie’s Herbs and Garden Center). Photo by Lauren Kohr.

What are your most popular cooking class themes?

It’s so important for kids and adults alike to learn how to cook and eat real, wholesome and unprocessed food—and to have a blast doing it! Some of my favorite themes are: handmade pasta with a variety of sauces, including filled pastas such as ravioli, dumpling-style pasta such as gnocchi, and traditional spaghetti. Sushi is also a winner. I do hand rolls, maki and even a few Japanese-inspired side dishes.

Wild winter baby greens, red and golden beets, grapefruit and orange, pomegranate, walnuts and champagne vinaigrette. Photo by Abby Jiu.

What are your top five winter ingredients?

Squash, squash and more squash! While many cooks rely on butternut, I seek out green and red kabocha, buttercup and acorn squashes. They’re delicious and add fabulous color and texture to a meal.

Next is cinnamon sticks, which I love to use in unexpected places, perhaps as a stirrer to enhance the aroma and flavor of coffee or hot cocoa.

I also delight in fresh whole nutmeg. It may typically be used in desserts, but a pinch will go a long way when sprinkled into sauces or over roast vegetables, even in marinades for chicken or lamb.

Apples are great as well. They store very well and make a natural sweet addition to a meal. My favorites are Honeycrisp, Pink Lady and Granny Smith.

Last, but not least, blood oranges. The vibrant red color is phenomenal. I love to use them with multi-colored beets and winter greens such as frisée, escarole and watercress.

 

Below are some of Lauren’s picks for side dishes that use seasonal vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, beets and pomegranate. You can see more at www.LDKKitchen.com.

Roasted acorn squash stuffed with turkey, tart dried cranberries, brown rice, fresh herbs and toasted pecans. Photo by Lauren Kohr.

Acorn squash

Ingredients:

3 Medium acorn squash, halved down the middle, seeds removed
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Pound ground turkey
1 Sweet onion, diced
1 Leek, cleaned and diced
2 Cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 Cup dried cranberries
1/3 Cup toasted pecans, chopped
1/2 Cup cooked brown rice
4 Tablespoons parsley, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
1/2 Cup chicken broth

Directions:

Heat oven to 375F.

Cut a thin slice off round side of each squash half to create a stable base. Using 1 tablespoon of olive oil, drizzle the inside of each squash and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place squash flesh side down on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil; bake until golden and tender about 30 minutes.

Once the squash is tender remove from the oven, flip over so the cut side is facing upwards and allow to cool. While squash is roasting, make the filling.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add ground turkey and cook, breaking into coarse pieces, until brown and transfer into a bowl. To same skillet, add remaining olive oil, onion and leek. Sauté on medium-high heat for approximately 5-6 minutes or until golden brown and soft. Season with salt and pepper while cooking. Add garlic and cook for about 45 seconds to 1 minute. Once you smell the garlic it is cooked!

Add cooked onion mixture to the bowl of ground turkey. Add cranberries, toasted pecans, cooked brown rice, parsley and thyme. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt and pepper as needed. If the mixture feels dry add broth as needed. Start with 1/4 cup broth just to moisten and add additional if needed.

Divide filling among 6 acorn squash “bowls.”

Bake at 425 for 3-4 minutes just to re-warm squash. Or pre-make and place from refrigerator into oven at 425 for about 8-9 minutes until warm.

If desired, make a crunchy topping of 2 tablespoons additional chopped pecans, 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs and 1 tablespoon additional chopped parsley. Sprinkle some of the topping on top of each squash and broil until golden brown.

NOTE: Image is gluten-free and does not include crunchy topping. But the crunchy topping is delicious!

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Lauren Kohr
Photo courtesy of  Abby Jiu

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