A Total Moot Point

One of the things that I absolutely do not enjoy is replacing items I’ve already purchased. Especially items that aren’t exciting to purchase in the first place.

For instance, we are taking our first trip together since living in San Francisco (Chris has jet-set plenty on his own), and we remembered that we tossed out my old, bright orange suitcase. The one with the handle that got stuck nearly every time. The one that required frantic pushing on said handle in the aisle of the plane to get the dang thing to fit in the overhead bin. Yeah, that one. I haven’t missed it one bit – until we realized we needed 2 carry-ons for our trip down to Sedona next weekend. I suppose we could have paid a fee to check our bags, but after you pay that for a round-trip, you’ve almost bought yourself a new suitcase (in my case, you have bought yourself a new suitcase, because I was an Amazon.com rockstar and found the good ones on clearance – score!).

Also, an air mattress would fit into this category. We bought one of those a long time ago, probably 7 years ago when we moved to Chicago and lived in a 650 square foot high rise. I’m surprised we even had space on the floor for it… At some point, it managed to get punctured, and since then it’s had a slow, steady leak – meaning, the folks using it are sleeping on the ground when they wake up. Yeah, sucks for them. In addition, the battery-operated thing that blows up the mattresses was all sorts of corroded too, so the whole shebang got thrown out. No big deal, since we had an extra bedroom and pull-out couch at our last place. But now, we’re down to a pull-out couch, and have three guests coming in a couple of weeks. Needless to say, we get the pleasure of purchasing yet another air mattress. Fun times. Of course, it will come in handy plenty, especially with the Thanksgiving crew making their way out here in November (SO EXCITED!).

Of course, the routine replacement items qualify too – who likes buying toilet paper, sponges, and dish detergent?! The other day, we had to buy a batch of replacement brushes for our electric toothbrush – now that seems like a huge waste of 40 bucks. But, I guess we have clean teeth, and fresh breath, so there is that…

Last, but certainly not least, is my immersion blender. I’m not sure how, but the damn thing broke a month or so before I moved west. You’d think it could handle pureeing some soup every now and then, eh? But truthfully, who knows what I tried to puree – I could easily assume it was something best left to a blender. But blenders are so annoying when it comes to soup. You have to dirty up a blender, for one, and in addition, you have to dirty up an extra pot/bowl for the already-pureed soup, if you have to puree in batches, so as not to toss the pureed soup into the non-pureed soup. It’s annoying, at best. But as you can see, I’ve been a little stubborn on this one. It seems there are more fun things to buy than replacing something I’ve already paid for once (yea, cookbooks, hiking boots, new camera lenses, a juicer – you get the point, right?).

I am, however, willing to admit that some things are worth the trouble, even if I do grit my teeth the whole way through it, and even if I do miss my immersion blender to pieces. Sometimes, washing a few extra dishes is a total moot point altogether.

This soup is one of those things that’s worth the trouble. I mentioned it a few posts back, remember? It’s loaded with roasted tomatoes, a couple of fresh heirlooms for good measure, and a roasted red pepper, too. The red pepper adds that warm richness to the soup, and to top it all off, some roasted ham and chickpeas are used as garnish. You could easily make this a vegetarian soup if you wanted (although the roasted diced ham is sorta perfect) or you could sub in some bacon if that’s what you have on hand. The chickpeas add a nice little crunch to each bite, so do make sure they are roasted until they reach that slightly crunchy, but still chewy, point.

I promise you, if you don’t have an immersion blender, or if you did and can’t seem to bring yourself to buying another one, you’ll forget all about it in no time. Well, at least until it’s time to clean up.

Tomato Soup with Roasted Chickpeas
Adapted from Cooking Light, August 2011; serves 4

time commitment: ~45 minutes

printable version

ingredients
1 red bell pepper
2 T sliced almonds
3 T olive oil, divided
6 garlic cloves, divided
1/4 c heavy whipping cream
1 (28-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
2 fresh heirloom tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 t smoked paprika
1/2 t salt, divided
1/2 t red pepper flakes
2 oz thick-sliced deli style ham, finely chopped
1 (15.5-ounce) can organic chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/4 t ground cumin
1/4 c fresh flat-leaf parsley

instructions
Turn stovetop gas burner onto high heat and place bell pepper directly onto burner. Cook until black on all sides (2-3 minutes/side), place in a plastic bag, seal it, and let it sit for at least 10 minutes. (If you have electric burners, you can instead roast a pepper under a broiler in the oven until blackened, but cut it first and remove the membranes, then lay it flat in the baking sheet.) Remove from bag and peel, discarding seeds and membranes.

Preheat oven to 450 F. Place almonds in a saucepan over medium-high heat until toasted. Remove from saucepan, chop roughly, and set aside.

Heat 1 T oil in same saucepan over medium heat. Add 3 garlic cloves; cook 1 minute. Add cream and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Add paprika, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and red pepper flakes; simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, mince remaining 3 garlic cloves and combine garlic, ham, and chickpeas in a roasting pan; drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil, cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Toss. Roast at 450 for 15 minutes, stirring once.

Combine tomato mixture and bell pepper in a blender; puree. (If you have an immersion blender, this would work nicely; just chop the bell pepper roughly and toss it into the soup.)

Ladle the soup into each of 4 bowls; top evenly with chickpea mixture, parsley, and almonds.

Something like this

For whatever reason, it has become abundantly clear to me, this week, that summer is LONG gone, fall is about to wear out its welcome, and winter is fast-approaching.

Maybe in your part of the world you’re sitting out in the still-warmish sun, wearing your flippies, and still enjoying the leaves falling, changing colors. Maybe you’re wearing your jacket (the one you can barely call a jacket because it’s so damn thin), but the gloves are still packed away, and maybe you’re trying to squeeze in another grill-fest or make another batch of iced tea. Maybe your scarf is just an accessory, rather than a neccessity.

If that’s you, please shush yourself. I’m quick to report that I’d be extremely jealous, and if you were in front of me bragging about your gorgeous weather, I’d contemplate punching you in the groin, and if you were on Facebook I’d highly consider de-friending you. I’m that jealous, people. It’s weeks like this that I wonder why I don’t live back in the south, or in California, or New Mexico, or freakin’ Jamaica.

Have I told you I can be a bit dramatic? It’s not really that cold…and to be perfectly honest, what troubles me most about this weather is the fact that I’ll soon have to start wearing socks every day, and every night I go to sleep. I hate socks. I like to expose my wonky toes to the world, donning sandals and flats, and even flippies although those were put away a month ago, thank you.

Yesterday, I reached into the depths of a closet and out came one of my gramma’s handmade quilts. And even though I hated the fact that I was cold enough to need it, once I wrapped myself up in it, I sorta had a change of heart. I was warm, and I was home, and in a matter of moments I’d be gobbling up a bowl full of this soup.

This soup, I tell you. When you have flavors of curry and coconut and lime at your tongue, you realize the weather outside doesn’t matter much.  You realize that one of the many inherited blankets you have in your possession is oh so comforting, and even though the sandals are no more, the gloves much needed, and the snow not far away, it doesn’ t quite matter as long as you come home – to something like this.

Coconut Red Curry ‘Hot Pot’ w/ Braised Chicken & Mushrooms
adapted from Cooking Light, October 2010; serves 4 as main, 6 as first course

time commitment: less than 1 hour; 30 minutes active time

a traditional hot pot is an ultra hot bowl of broth where the meat is generally thinly sliced and cooked tableside in the pot. the meat here, as well as the ‘shrooms, is braised prior to serving, but the Thai flavors are still present, still tasty.

printable version

ingredients
2  14 oz cans  fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
2 stalks chopped peeled fresh lemongrass
5  (1/4-inch) slices fresh ginger
2 Thai chiles
1 1/2  T  red curry paste
1  (4-ounce) package presliced exotic mushroom blend (such as shiitake, cremini, and oyster)
8  oz  skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1  (13.5-ounce) can light coconut milk
1  T  Thai fish sauce
2  t  brown sugar
1/3  c  thinly diagonally cut green onions
3  T  fresh lime juice
6  T  coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, divided
5  oz  uncooked wide rice noodles

instructions
Bring broth to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; stir in lemongrass, ginger, and chiles. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand 30 minutes. Strain through a sieve over a bowl; discard solids. Return broth to pan; add curry paste, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; cook 2 minutes or until tender. Stir in chicken; cook 3 minutes or until chicken is done. Add coconut milk, stirring well to combine. Stir in fish sauce and sugar, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat; stir in onions, juice, and 1/4 cup cilantro.

Cook noodles according to package directions; drain (if your noodles are like mine and the package writing is in another language, this won’t help… rice noodles are generally soaked in water for 30 minutes, then cooked in boiling water for 3-4 minutes; cook noodles right before serving, and not in advance). Add noodles to coconut milk mixture. Ladle 1 cup soup into each of 4-6 bowls; sprinkle evenly with remaining 2 tablespoons cilantro.

Turnip the Volume

Does everyone go through a ‘cooking funk’ every now and then? Does everyone wanna come home from work and not stand in the kitchen – chopping veggies, sauteing, cleaning – every now and then? Does everyone who joins a CSA look at the produce they’ve been given and say, “What in the hell am I going to do with this shit?” every now and then?

If not, then I’m totally off my rocker this time. But I have a feeling I’m not standing in this barren, gritty field all alone, am I now?

Don’t get me wrong. I love to cook, 95% of the time. I love to come home and hang my bag on my kitty hook in the hallway, toss my shoes down towards the bedroom, occasionally spin some tunes in the background, and practically meditate in front of stainless steel & granite –  chopping veggies, sauteing, and even cleaning. But the 5% does occur (5% of the time, actually). Being part of a CSA is unfortunate during those times, because the produce glares at me each time I open the pantry or the crisper drawer, and each time I open the freezer to see a plethora of meats, various cuts and types, piled high amidst peas, ‘pickle sickles’, and turkey stock.

Turkey stock. I must have overlooked it dozens of times this year already, since I vaguely recall tossing it in there last Thanksgiving weekend. Seeing turkey stock was all I needed, this time, to ‘knock the funk away’. When the CSA gives you a bag of root veggies and you’ve got a tub of stock in the freezer, it only means one thing: soup. Plus, what else is one to do with three big ol’ turnips anyway?!

I’ll admit I’ve never made turnip soup, nor have I seen many recipes for it elsewhere. And I’m not sure I’d want to eat it solo, but I’ve learned that winter squash makes just about anything taste good, brussel sprouts aside. One of my favorite parts of fall is the abundance of the winter squash crops, and we seem to always have a variation of it lying around, which is perfect when a plan for soup suddenly emerges.

So even though I wasn’t necessarily excited about cooking anything these last couple of weeks, thanks be to the turkey stock, I managed to find a little inspiration to not make those veggies wither away (although truthfully, it would take a lot for the humongous turnips to wither away…). The soup is hearty and definitely has that turnip-y taste, but the squash really provides a nice accent so balance it out, I think. And for spice, I thought a nice kick of chipotle chile powder and smoked paprika might turn the volume up, just a tad. Of course, if you’re like our downstairs neighbors and you like things nice and quiet, you can reduce the spices, but that’s just plain silly, if you ask me.

Roasted Turnip & Squash Chipotle Soup
chiknpastry recipe; serves 8-10

time commitment: 1 hour, 45 minutes (most of which is inactive)
other: freezes well

it doesn’t take much to whip up a comforting soup – honest. veggies, spices, and broth is generally all you need. Here, the squash works well with turnips which to me taste sort of bitter and cabbage-y. the squash adds the sweetness and tames the turnips, i think. you’ll note the recipe here calls for diced squash, but you can certainly halve them and roast them the “lazy way”, which is what I do!

printable version

ingredients
2 delicata squash, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
3 turnips, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
2 T chipotle chili powder
1 T smoked paprika
salt and pepper
evoo
1 onion, large dice
2 firm apples, large dice
3 garlic cloves, minced
36 oz turkey or chicken stock or broth
18 oz water
1 T oregano, chopped
1 T agave nectar

instructions
preheat oven to 350 F.  in a large bowl, toss squash and  turnips with chipotle powder, paprika, salt and pepper and olive oil. turn onto foil-lined baking sheets. roast until tender, about 1 hour. cool slightly.

meanwhile, heat about 1 T of oil in a large heavy pot (dutch oven is perfect) over med-hi heat. add onion, apples, and garlic; saute 5 minutes. add broth, water, oregano, and squash/turnip mixture. bring to boil; reduce heat to med-low and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.

working in batches (or using immersion blender), puree soup until smooth. return to pot. at this time, if soup is too thick, add more water to thin, being sure to heat through. stir in agave nectar. season to taste with salt and pepper and finish with a splash of half & half, if desired.

Foodbuzz 24×24: The Last Supper

This is the post where I bash vegetarianism. But only after a night full of meatless, fishless fare, loads of wine, and 6.5 people to consume it all.

I have a horrible habit of blurting out my opinions with reckless abandon. Not thinking before I speak. I’ve been accused of having no ‘mental filter’, whatever the hell that nonsense is. And this ‘no meat’ business, it happened in much that same way: a quality i generally admire in myself (although others may not) backfired. I was the victim of my uncensored words, this time.

You see, for those of you who’ve not been reading along this month, it’s been a long month of vegetarian-occasional-pescaterian-ism in these parts, and it’s all my fault. I thought it sounded like a good “project”, and I blurted it out, and so it was. I’d made an assertion, and I’ve stuck to it.

In that respect, I’m what you might call a “sure thing”: if I tell you I’m doing something, I will do it. If I RSVP “yes”, I will be there. And by golly (I’m lame too, you see) if I say I’m going vege(pesca)tarian for a month, I’m damn well going to make sure it happens, even if the Hubs sticks his pulled pork, brisket, AND his crisp pork belly from People right underneath my nose. Come to think of it, that guy is lucky to be alive, isn’t he?!


{adventures in semi-molecular gastronomy: the making of tomato gelee}

So – longish story a wee bit shorter, but still long, that’s what this post is about. The Last Supper as a wannebee (or not) vegetarian. And yeah, I ate a little fish, I even ate a little shrimp, and I may or may not have licked the juice from the stranger’s burger last week, but this meal you see here is 100% vegetarian. I even used agar agar instead of gelatin for my fancy gelee; I’m hardcore like that. And fancy, too.

Quite honestly, I don’t see how these ‘high-end’ restaurants do these tasting menus. Well, maybe I do: they have a brigade system, for one. And Foodbuzz may offer cash incentives for their monthly hoorahs, but they don’t staff these parties… So, friends, I was chef de cuisine for the night, but I was also my own sous chef, and for the most part, my own plongeur and certainly my own pâtissier. Prep started on Wednesday when I got the urge to make caramel powder. I almost ate it all that night, but I decided to share. And Thursday involved a quick trip to Crate and Barrel for a couple of missing pieces, a Whole Foods excursion (which, why don’t I always go on weeknights? it is so very quiet there after 7), and more prep – making the base for the ice cream, cubing some bread I made a month ago and froze (not for this party, I should say, but why buy brioche when you have frozen cardamom-spiced bread that you made from scratch?!), and getting my plan of attack put together for the rest of my time before Saturday, which included a lot of research about spherification, gelees, and preparing risotto restaurant-style.

With much of the work behind me, Saturday was actually manageable. Thanks to the 3-day weekend, I skirted outta work early on Friday and prepped a bit more, and then celebrated (yeah, I really made this month a big deal, didn’t I?) with a penultimate dinner at Green Zebra (go there, even if you love meat – read about our experience here). After a trip to Green City Market for my local ingredients (‘shrooms, rhubarb, asparagus, un baguette, etc), it was prep ’til service, but in a totally unchaotic way, which is far different than I’d imagined.

Before long, I’d managed to squeeze in some quality book-reading, and then it was “go-time” once everyone arrived. Fortunately, Katherine & Brook (newlyweds – say congrats everyone!) brought apps and wine, Ryan & Caroline (along with Hudson, who I promise didn’t drink any, or not much…) brought more apps and a drink I thought only my sister drank, and I, since I volunteered, got the short end of the stick, and finished it up with 4 courses of veggie fare.

Here’s the dishes:

First Course, Savory: Tomato, Basil, Mozzarella ‘Salad’. This was my insane attempt at molecular gastronomy, and I gotta give mad props to Grant Achatz, because this shit is a lot of work, and he has 10 components on his dishes – this was supposed to be two and a half: mozzarella spheres powder, tomato gelee, and basil oil. Lesson: don’t start molecular gastronomy spherification with mozzarella; start slowly with easy liquids, and not during a dinner party :).

Second Course, Savory: Carrot-Ginger Soup with Chili Butter, Roasted Peanuts, & Crostini. This is what we’d call the ‘easy course’. I think soup is best made in advance so the flavors develop, and making it Friday, rewarming Saturday, was perfect. Plus, who doesn’t like butter in the shape of a star? I knew those ice cube trays would be used one day!

Third Course, Savory: Truffled Mushroom & Spring Vegetable Risotto with Fried Egg. Hmm… I think this was the trickiest. Risotto is best served immediately, but clearly restaurants have to have another way, or they’d have a 30-minute wait just for risotto, which would be stupid. So, you cook it 2/3’s, chill it quickly, and finish it off before service. Add a fried egg on top and you certainly don’t miss the meat. You do, however, miss the full effect of the finished product, because I was intent on getting the hot egg to the table ASAP, and sacrificed the pic to do so. So just imagine that over-easy fried egg atop.

Fourth Course, Sweet: Rhubarb-Ginger Cardamom Bread Pudding, Cardamom-Vanilla Ice Cream, and Caramel Powder. You’re gonna have to hold your horses for this one, friends, because it’s very special and in need of the spotlight. Full post (with recipe) coming soon.

—————————————————————————-

I gotta be honest here: I am so freakin’ glad this month is almost over, at which point I’ll stop whining and thinking of all the food I’ve missed out on because of my silly ideas.

But….

I have eaten (and cooked) some really good vegetarian food these last 30 days. From Korean tacos to ramp pesto pizza to Green Zebra and now this big ol’ dinner. When you’re actually eating a vegetarian meal, you don’t know what you’re missing, quite honestly. But for me, only choosing to eat vegetarian to “see if I could”, I couldn’t help thinking about what I really was missing, because many times I would have rather eaten meat.

Is it healthier to eat vegetarian? It shouldn’t even be a question. But the answer is no, and if you’re surprised, I’ll tell you why it’s not. For a typical person eating vegetarian food (and when I say typical, I’m comparing that to a vegetarian who eats salads all the time – your stereotypical vegetarian), you are drawn to the heartier recipes – which are cheese-laden and overflowing with carbohydrate – both in a meagar effort to make up for the lacking protein. On the other hand, you do eat more fruits and vegetables, which is without a doubt healthier. And certainly, a balance is probably best, at the end of the day: some meats during the week, a bunch of whole grains, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Maybe flexitarian is where it’s at.

And maybe one day I’ll consider it. But for the next few weeks, you best believe I’m loading up on pork, beef, lamb, and even chicken. Come to mama.

 The First Course:

Tomato, Basil, & Mozzarella Salad
Inspired by Alinea; makes at least 6 with extra tomatoes and oil

printable recipe

ingredients
tomato gelee (recipe below)
6 small mozzarella balls, sliced in half
basil oil (recipe below)
balsamic vinegar
Maldon sea salt

instructions
assemble each component on small plate. basil oil and balsamic vinegar first, then tomato, then mozzarella. sprinkle with a tiny bit of sea salt.

Tomato Gelee

ingredients
1 lb heirloom tomatoes
salt and pepper
1 T olive oil
drizzle of black truffle oil (optional)
agar agar (quantities below)

instructions
Blanch tomatoes (score bottom of tomatoes, boil for about 2-3 minutes, shock in ice water bath) and peel. Chop roughly and dump in food processor;  add salt, pepper, olive oil. Puree until smooth and strain. Measure liquid content, and dump in saucepan. For every 1 cup of juice, add 1 T agar agar to mixture and bring to boil; simmer for about 5 minutes. Pour into desired container (such as rubber ice cube trays). Cool until firm. Can be made 1-2 days in advance.

Basil Oil

ingredients
1 ½ c fresh basil
¾ c evoo

instructions
blanch basil for 20 seconds. rinse with cold water and pat dry. puree fresh basil and olive oil until smooth; strain. Can be made three days ahead.

The Second Course:

Carrot-Ginger Soup with Chile Butter, Roasted Peanuts, and Crostini
Adapted from Bon Appetit, May 2010 ; serves 6-8

printable version

ingredients
chile butter
1/4 c (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 T finely chopped green onions or ramps
1/2 t dried crushed red pepper

soup
2 T butter
¼ t curry powder
¼ t hot smoked paprika
¼ t cumin
1 1/2 lbs carrots, peeled, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
1 1/4 c chopped onion
5 oz taro root (~2 small, or white-skinned potato), peeled, chopped
3 1/2 T minced peeled fresh ginger
4 c vegetable broth
1 c water + more for thinning soup, if needed
2 T heavy cream
splash of balsamic vinegar
6 T unsalted roasted peanuts, finely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
fresh baguette, sliced and toasted

instructions
For chile butter
Mix all ingredients in small bowl. Cover and chill (or pour into shaped molds and chill). Bring to room temperature before using.  

for soup
Melt 2 T butter in large pot over medium-high heat. Add carrots, onion, taro root, and ginger; sprinkle with salt and sauté until vegetables are slightly softened but not brown, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add 4 cups broth and 1 cup of water; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly, then puree in batches in blender until smooth or all at once using an immersion blender, without leaving the pot. Return soup to same pot; if desired, add more water by 1/4 cupfuls to thin soup (I added at least 1 cup). Bring to simmer. Season with salt and black pepper and add heavy cream and a splash of balsamic vinegar at end to freshen.

The Third Course:                                                                                  

Truffled Mushroom & Veggie Risotto with Fried Eggs
serves 6-8

printable version

ingredients
5 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, divided
1 lb chopped shitake mushrooms
1 T black truffle oil
salt and pepper
1/2 lb diced trimmed asparagus
1/2 lb fennelhead ferns, cleaned well (if unavailable, use asparagus)
3/4 c chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 c carneroli (or arborio) rice
3/4 c dry white wine
4 c vegetable broth
3 c water
3/4 c 1/3-inch cubes carrots
1 c freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese plus additional for serving
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
1 T evoo
6 large eggs (one for each person)

instructions
melt 3 T butter in medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms; sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add truffle oil, simmer for about 1 minute. Season mushrooms with salt and pepper. Set aside.

meanwhile, blanch asparagus and fennelhead ferns (separately). boil asaparagus for about 2 minutes then shock in cold water; boil fennelhead for about 3. set aside.

In a saucepan, heat veggie broth and water. keep heat on low while making risotto.

melt 2 T butter in large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add onion; sauté until beginning to soften, 5 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Add rice and stir for about 5 minutes. Add wine. Stir until liquid is absorbed, 1 minute. Add 1 cup broth. Simmer until broth is absorbed, stirring often, 3 to 4 minutes. Add carrots. Continue to add remaining broth/water, 1 cup at a time, until rice is just tender and mixture is creamy, stirring often and letting almost all liquid be absorbed after each addition, about 25 minutes total.

Stir 1 cup cheese, parsley, mushrooms, and blanched veggies into risotto. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook eggs, without turning, until whites are cooked through and yolks are cooked to desired doneness.

Mound 1 cup risotto on each plate. Top each with egg. Serve, passing additional cheese.

The real bacon-lover:

Getting Souped-Up

curried butternut squash soup



For whatever reason, I’ve had a handful of summer soup recipes just sitting, waiting patiently, in my recipe stack. They’ve been sitting there all summer. I never made them, never even pulled them out of the stack to consider making them. I simply cannot get behind the cold summer soup recipes. And don’t get me wrong – I like them – I just don’t seem to ever want to make them.

Hot soups though? Hot damn, and yes ma’am!

roasting squash


Have I mentioned my love of butternut squash? Alright, I know I did – but I really really really love it. I mean really. In fact, I’d reconsider my choice of stranded island food if it weren’t for the difficulty I might encounter peeling them on that imaginary island. And since I had a table-full of various squash from my apple picking adventure, all I had to do other than get those puppies cut and roasted was to see what was hanging around the pantry and fridge to add to ’em.

Which brought about a huge revelation: I have to finally admit that I’m really getting into fall right about now. Although I love the weather of the summer, I love the food of the fall. I couldn’t wait for the winter squash to take root in the Whole Foods’ produce section and farmers’ markets, I am so excited about making cranberry sauce I can’t see straight, and I love using my immersion blender to make a rich, comforting, hot soup.

red curry paste addition


Especially this soup, which is undoubtedly our new favorite around Chez Wetzel. If my love of the squash itself wasn’t enough, this soup ups the ante by also having one of my other favorite things, curry. Red curry paste, to be exact. And instead of blabbing about its’ loveliness with halibut or short ribs, I’ll blab about its’ loveliness in this soup. It is to. die. for. Autumn in a bowl – a rich, decadent, healthy bowl of orange deliciousness but with a wee hint of Thai spiciness.

And although I haven’t met a butternut squash soup I didn’t just adore, I will quickly admit that this “souped-up” version with curry is on a whole other level. The curry paste is the perfect complement and adds just a hint of heat to the soup. The carrots and apples balance out the flavors a bit, and finishing it with a little honey adds a teeny tiny touch of sweetness.

veggies


It’s too bad that pretty soon the leaves will all be dead and I’ll be swapping out my light fall jacket for my marshmellow coat – right when I start to be excited about this weather. Such a Debbie Downer, right?!

Until then, I’m gonna knock out a few more soups, use (or freeze) the rest of my squashies, and look forward to a day full of turkey, casseroles, and cranberry sauce. Because after all that, it’s chili time!

 

Curried Butternut Squash Soup
Adapted liberally from Bon Appetit, February 2007; serves 6-8


printable recipe

ingredients
2 2lb butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded (can also use other winter squash – I used 3/4 butternut, 1/4 delicata)
2 T unsalted butter
1/2 onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1 T fresh ginger, chopped
4 t  Thai red curry paste
2 14-oz cans low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 c water (or another can of broth)
2 bay leaves
3 T heavy cream
2 T honey
cilantro, chopped (for garnish)


instructions 

  1. preheat oven to 375 F. place cut squash on foil-lined baking sheet. roast until tender, about 1 hour. cool slightly. scoop squash out into large bowl. measure ~4 to 4 1/2 c (reserve remaining for another use)
  2. melt butter in large heavy pot (dutch oven is perfect) over med-hi heat. add onion, carrots, apple, ginger and saute 5 minutes. add curry paste and stir for 2 minutes. add broth, water, bay leaves, and squash. bring to boil; reduce heat to med-low and simmer uncovered for 1 hour. discard bay leaves.
  3. working in batches (or using immersion blender, my best friend), puree soup in until smooth. return to pot. at this time, if soup is too thick, add more water to thin, being sure to heat through. stir in cream and honey. season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. divide among bowls and serve with chopped cilantro



More Butternut squash:

Romaine & Butternut Squash Salad w/ Chipotle Ranch

Barley & Butternut Squash Risotto

More soup:

Cauliflower-Apple soup with Roasted Red Peppers & Apple Cider Reduction

Pumpkin & Shrimp Bisque

U2 can make soup

soup

As a result of the wonderful event that is “Spring Forward”, like most I’ve managed to begin this Sunday an hour behind. It’s almost 1 and I’m still working on coffee and am barely hungry enough to think about lunch. Fortunately breakfast consisted of cereal, so that won’t be filling my tummy for too much longer and in no time my tum will start talking to me to feed it.

In addition, it’s been raining all weekend following a lovely Friday of sun where I was of course stuck indoors at work. I apparently am destined to be inside this weekend. Good thing I was up early enough yesterday to get the grocery shopping done before the rain came down! But since I’m stuck indoors with the raining pouring outside and the house quiet except for the occasional thump of music from the upstairs neighbors, I think it’s a perfect time for – you guessed it – soup!! So don’t go too far – I have a recipe in mind that I meant to make last weekend but never got around to. If you like cauliflower this won’t disappoint. I’ll try it out and report back in a jiffy!


Alright, here it is. In about 1/2 an hour time and with the help of the new U2 album playing in the background, lunch is served. As I’m writing, the soup is already beginning to add a little coziness to the increasingly horrible rain storm. It’s practically coming down in sheets, and it’s already scared the hard to scare cat into the closet. I started the soup with a recipe and ended up with an empty fridge by using random ingredients that were begging to make their journey to my tummy through soup 🙂 I think they are happy with the result:


soup

DSC02015

 

Cauliflower-Apple soup with Roasted Red Peppers & Apple Cider Reduction
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine; serves 6

ingredients

1 cup apple cider
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon Madras curry powder
1 teaspoon Five Spice powder
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
3-4 cups cauliflower florets (1 head)
4 cups low sodium chicken or veggie broth
1 cup beef broth (or 5 cups chicken/veggie – I ran out)
2 Gala apples, peeled, cored, chopped
handful of Shitake mushrooms, chopped
1/2 roasted red pepper, chopped
1/3 cup half and half
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
salt & pepper



instructions

  1. Bring cider to boil and reduce to 1/4 cup. Cool to room temp.
  2. Heat oil in Dutch oven and add onion. Saute 3 min; add spices & garlic and saute another minute. Add cauliflower, apples, broths, peppers, shrooms; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer ~15 minutes or until cauliflower is tender.
  3. Remove from heat and cool 5 minutes. Blend with immersion blender until soup consistency. Add half and half, lemon juice, salt/pepper.
  4.  Ladle 1 cup servings into bowls. Drizzle cider reduction over top.