November 18, 2017 Curried Butternut Squash Soup

 

A reluctant fall has finally settled in and made itself at home in Bucks County. We have experienced our first killing frost, officially ending the growing season. One of the last survivors of the garden is the kale. Cold weather just seems to make it sweeter. I have a sinkful soaking right now, reviving it for tonight’s dinner. We also have a wheelbarrow full of butternut squash in the garage that was harvested before the frost.

Fortunately butternut squash stores well in a cool basement, so I will be able to use it through to next spring. I cube and roast it to add to our green salads, butternut squash lasagna is a new favorite, and of course, soup. Smooth and silky butternut squash soup is a cold weather favorite. I have shared several recipes for butternut squash on this blog but this is the original, the recipe I have been making for over thirty years.

When I first discovered my love for cooking one of the first cookbooks in my library was The Silver Palate cookbook. Silver Palate’s recipe for curried butternut squash soup was a constant on our Thanksgiving table for many years. This velvety rich soup has just the right combination of sweet, tart and spicy and was met with rave reviews from friends and family alike.

Begin the recipe by sautéing chopped onions and curry powder in sweet (unsalted) butter. If your curry powder has been sitting in the back of your spice cabinet for longer than you can remember, it’s time to invest in a new jar. There is no one formulation for curry powder and each variety can have different component spices in differing amounts. For this soup the best choice is sweet curry powder. It will give you a wide range of flavors without too much heat. One large onion yielded the two cups I needed. The covered pan will allow the onions to cook slowly,  give them a stir every five minutes or so to keep them from sticking to the pan.

While the onion is cooking, peel and cube the butternut squash. The medium-large squash I used weighed in at 3.3 lbs and yielded about 6 cups of peeled, cubed squash. Add squash cubes, apple and chicken stock, bring to a boil and cook until squash and apples are tender. Purée the soup in a food processor or blender. Return the soup to the pot, add apple juice or cider and season with salt and pepper. Serve piping hot with a garnish of a tangy freshly grated green apple.

Over the years this recipe this soup has become less of a project for the home cook. Don’t feel like chopping a large unwieldy squash? You can buy peeled and chopped squash at most grocery stores. Does the thought of straining and pouring hot soup into a blender make you just a little nervous? An immersion blender eliminates this step. If you make this soup ahead of time, cool it and store in the fridge.  When you reheat the soup you may thin to thin it out a bit with a little more stock.

The most amazing thing about this recipe is you have made a rich, creamy soup without a drop of cream or milk. Perfect for the holidays or great alongside a sandwich of leftover turkey.

The primary players.
A three pound squash yielded about 6 cups of cubes.
Simmering on the stove top.
I pureed my soup in the food processor but a blender or immersion blender works too.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Serves six

Ingredients

  • 4 T unsalted butter
  • 2 c finely chopped onions
  • 4-5 t sweet curry powder
  • 3 lb butternut squash
  • 2 tart apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 3 c chicken stock
  • 1 c apple juice or cider.
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 shredded unpeeled tart apple (garnish)

Directions

  1.  Melt the butter in a 5 quart Dutch oven. Add chopped onions and curry powder and cook, covered, over low heat until onions are tender, about 25 minutes.
  2. While the onions are cooking peel the squash, scrape out the seeds and chop the flesh into 1″ cubes.
  3. When the onions are tender, pour in the stock, add squash and apples, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until squash and apples are very tender, about 25 minutes.
  4. Pour the soup through a strainer, reserving the liquid, and transfer the solids to a bowl of a food processor. Add 1 cup of the cooking stock and process until smooth.
  5. Return the puréed soup to the pot and apple juice and the remaining cooking liquid, about 2 cups, until the soup is of the desired consistency.
  6. Season to taste with salt and pepper, simmer briefly to heat through, and serve immediately, garnished with shredded apple.

April 9, 2017 Butternut Squash, Bacon and Black Bean Chili

I am well aware that butternut squash is typically a sign that the cool crisp days of fall are approaching. But since I still have a large supply from last year’s garden, I will be looking for ways to use them into the summer. And why not, butternut squash has a sweet nutty  flavor and creamy texture that pairs well with many ingredients and is loaded with vitamin A, C, potassium and fiber. Joe’s opinion on the last variety I made, butternut squash soup with cannellini beans and sage pesto was,”I really like it, but bacon would make it even better”. Since there are many who would concur that bacon makes just about anything better, I was up for the challenge.

Butternut squash, bacon and black bean chili is a delicious, hearty and slightly spicy chili that’s great any time of the year. The sweetness of the butternut squash contrasts nicely against the salty bacon and the savory richness of the black beans.

It all begins with bacon, cooked over medium heat to render out the fat.  Restrain yourself from eating the bacon pieces, they will be added to the finished soup. Place the cooked bacon on a paper towel lined plate to absorb excess grease. Pour the fat through a fine strainer into a metal bowl. Don’t use plastic, if the fat is hot, it could melt the container, I know from experience. Add 2 tablespoons of the strained bacon fat back to the pan and saute the chopped onion. The garlic, butternut squash and red pepper are added and cooked until soft. Chili powders, herbs, a can of tomatoes with chilis, and cook for one minute. Stir in the chicken broth and drained black beans and simmer until the butternut squash is tender.

I made this recipe with fridge and pantry ingredients. I think the chipotle chili powder adds a complexity with its smoky flavor. Other additions to the soup could include a finely chopped chili en adobo, cooked corn, avocado slices and tortilla strips. If desired, top with a dollop of sour cream.The flavors get even more complex over the course a few days and makes great leftovers and lunches.

 

 

Butternut Squash, Bacon and Black Bean Chili

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 3-4 slices of thick cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
  • 4 c cubed butternut squash
  • 1 c minced red pepper
  • 1 t chili powder
  • ½ t chipotle chili powder
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1 t oregano (preferably Mexican)
  • 1-15 oz can tomatoes with green chilis, I used Rotel
  • 1-15 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3-4 c chicken broth
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • cilantro leaves
  • sour cream

Directions

  1. Cook the bacon in a Dutch oven over medium high heat. Remove bacon pieces to a towel lined plate to drain, strain the fat into a metal bowl. Add about 2 T bacon fat back to the pan and add onion and cook until soft, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic, butternut squash and red pepper and cook until the vegetables are tender and the onion begins to brown, 12-15 minutes. Add more fat to the pan if needed.
  2. Add chili powders, herbs and tomatoes with green chilis and cook for 1 minute. Stir in chicken broth and drained black beans. Simmer until the butternut squash is tender, 20 minutes or more. Add more broth as needed.
  3. Stir in the bacon pieces, serve with sour cream and cilantro leaves.

March 26, 2017 Butternut Squash Soup with Sage Pesto

Is there really a need for another recipe for butternut squash soup when there are already three other butternut squash soup recipes on the blog? Well, when you have a metal locker in the basement still half full of last year’s harvest, (in excellent condition I will add) there’s always room for one more soup. This time the squash isn’t blended into a silky purée resulting in a soup that’s perfect as a starter for an elegant meal, here the squash pulls double duty. The fat bulbous end becomes part of a squash “stock” and the neck is cut into chunks that are simmered in the stock to make this hearty main dish soup.

Start with a medium-sized squash, 2 to 2 1/2 lb, use a sharp knife to cut off a half inch piece at both ends.  You can either cut the squash in half (approximately) where the neck meets the bulb or leave it whole for peeling. The next part I find easiest to do using a vegetable peeler, the inexpensive Kuhn Rikon ones are my favorite. A well sharpened chef’s knife works well too. Place the squash on its side and run the peeler down the length. This part goes quicker with the neck, the curved bottom takes a little more time, but with practice the whole process shouldn’t take more than ten minutes. Be sure to remove the white flesh and green fibers that are right below the skin’s surface. The squash should be completely orange after peeling. Scoop out the seeds and the fibrous pulp from the bulb end. I save the seeds for roasting as a garnish for soups and salads.

The bulb halves are cut into four chunks and combined in a saucepan with stock, water, butter and soy sauce or tamari. The soy brings a savory umami note to the natural sweetness of the squash and the butter adds richness. Cook until the squash is very soft and mash in the pan until broken down.

While the stock is cooking, cut the neck end into 1/3 inch cubes. Sauté leeks and tomato paste in a Dutch oven. The mild sweet onion flavor of the leeks complements the squash and the tomato paste adds a little umami to the mix. Add the garlic and squash pieces and cook, stirring occasionally. Pour in the squash stock, bring to a simmer, partially cover and cook for ten minutes. Canned cannellini beans are the last addition and add a hearty creaminess and some substance to the soup. Simmer until the squash is tender. You can serve it now or if you have the time, make the soup, cool, refrigerate and reheat and serve the next day. As with many soups and stews, the flavors have time to meld together and it even tastes better.

Don’t skip making the pesto, it is a wonderful addition to the soup. Sage and parsley replace the typical basil in this recipe. I’m glad that sage is one of the first herbs to perk up in the garden, in spite of the cold temperatures of late. I truly despise paying several dollars for a handful of less than perfect leaves when I can pick them fresh.

Butternut Squash Soup with Sage Pesto

Serves 6-8

Ingredients for soup

  • 1- 2½ lb butternut squash
  • 4 c broth, chicken or vegetable
  • 3 c water
  • 4  T unsalted butter
  • 1 T soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 1 lb leeks, white and light green parts only, washed thoroughly, sliced thin
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced finely
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 3-15 oz can cannellini beans
  • White wine vinegar to taste

Peeled whole butternut squash.

Cut the bottom into large chunks, they will become part of the squash stock.

Directions for soup

  1. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the skin and the fibrous threads just below the skin, the squash should look completely orange, no white spots remaining.
  2. Cut the squash in half where the neck and bulb meet. Cut the bulb section in half and remove the seeds and any strings. Save seeds for toasting if desired.
  3. Cut each half into four sections. Place the squash sections, broth, water, butter and soy or tamari in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer, partially cover and cook for about 25 minutes or until squash is very soft.
  4. Using a potato masher, mash the squash, still in the broth until it is broken down. Cover pan to keep warm and set aside.
  5.  While the broth is cooking, cut the neck of the squash into 1/3 inch pieces. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the chopped leeks and tomato paste and cook until the leeks are softened and the tomato paste darkens, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add squash pieces, some salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes.
  6. Add squash broth and bring to a simmer. Partially cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add beans and their liquid, partially cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender 15 to 20 minutes.
  7. Ladle soup into individual bowl, add a splash of white wine vinegar and dollop of pesto and an additional sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

 

Sage Parsley Pesto

Ingredients for the Sage Parsley Pesto

  • ½ c toasted walnuts
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 c fresh parsley leaves
  • ½ c fresh sage leaves
  • ¾ c extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ c grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Sage is one of the first perennial herbs to emerge in the herb garden.
By the end of April, the sage will look more like this.

Directions for the Sage Parsley Pesto

  1. Pulse walnuts and garlic in food processor until coarsely chopped, about 5-6 pulses.
  2. Add parsley and sage to the bowl, with the processor running, slowly add oil and process until smooth, about 1 minute.
  3. Transfer to a bowl, stir in Parmesan and add salt and pepper to taste.
Parsley mellows out the sage in this pesto, a combination I will definitely try again.

 

 

January 19, 2016 Tomato Lentil Soup

Inspiration for the recipes I post originate from many different sources and this qualifies as the most unusual, my new car. In the first week of driving my 2015 Volvo I received this warning, AWD (all wheel drive) disabled, please schedule service. This was accompanied on the dashboard with the picture of the frame of a car with two wheels out of line. That was enough to get my attention. I had it in for service in less than a week of driving off the lot, only to have the same message reappear the day after the first service. So I needed to take it back in again. Nothing seemed wrong with the steering, and the warning would be on one day, and off the next. Of course the day I took it in the service light was out.

I am occasionally offered a loaner so I don’t have to wait on the car but that can also be a pain too, driving to the dealership, driving home, driving back and so on. So this time I thought I would just wait. I came prepared with a large stack of food magazines. The lounge is large and on this day, pretty full. The television was on and several of the men who were there seemed to be enjoying the banter on Live with Kelly. So I settled into my spot, pulled out my magazines and started reading as much as one can when the only available chair is right next to the television.

After Kelly comes Rachael, as in the Rachael Ray show. I don’t watch much daytime television but Rachael’s show isn’t too bad. After a very interesting segment on cutting edge skin care, celebrity cooking with folks I’ve never heard of (too many channels, too many “celebrities”) and how to get your house ready for a Super Bowl party, it was time for Rachael to cook. Her recipe grabbed my attention since Joe and I were both fighting the good fight against pretty nasty colds. We blamed each other for giving it but I think I know which one of us spends a lot more time around sick people! The night before per Joe’s request I made a chicken soup with veggies and ditalini pasta. Rachael’s recipe for tomato lentil soup looked fairly quick and just the thing for my Cold-Eze numbed taste buds.

This time of year there is nothing more comforting than a bowl of soup. Rachael calls this soup cheap, cheerful and filled with great nutrition. This recipe makes a lot of soup for two people, but as she points out, soup freezes beautifully. Perfect for a cold winter’s night or just the right thing when a cold is coming on.

Start the recipe by cooking the lentils. Unlike other beans that need to soaked overnight, lentils just need to be picked through to remove stones and rinsed well in a colander. Put the lentils in a pan with water to cover by at least two inches, they will at least double in size. Add a clove of crushed garlic and salt and bring them to a boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for thirty to forty minutes. You want tender, not crunchy or mushy lentils. I used the French Puy variety available from Bob’s Red Mill.  If I used the lentils di Norcia referenced in  recipe I would need to mail order them through Amazon, but at almost thirty dollars a pound, I will stick with French lentils. Lentils di Norcia are grown in the high plains (4500 ft) of the Apennine mountains of Central Italy. They are said to have thin skins and a soft consistency. I will never know….

In a soup pot over medium high heat, add olive oil, she calls it “two turns of the pan”, which translates to approximately two tablespoons. The vegetables and herbs are added and partially cooked to soften. Add stock, she used vegetable to keep this a vegetarian dish, but chicken stock is fine with me. Next into the pot are the San Marzano tomatoes that we both like for their natural sweetness. Rachael pointed out that some canned tomatoes have the word San Marzano in the title but not in the can! Spin the can around and make sure it contains San Marzano tomatoes in the ingredients. Break the tomatoes up with a spoon, kitchen scissors or for the tactile inclined, with your hands. Rachael and her mom do it that way. Tomato passata, a new one on me, is next into the pot. Passata is uncooked tomato puree that has been strained of seeds and skins. It is very common in Europe. I found a product from Pomi brand tomatoes in an aseptic container referred to as strained tomatoes. Substitute tomato puree with no sugar added if you can’t find it, but I think it is worth searching out.

Add the cooled lentils to the pot and simmer to combine flavors and the thickness you desire. Remove the herb bundle and bay leaf before serving. This is a vegetarian dish but my husband is not. To make this more to his taste I added a few turkey meatballs at the end of cooking time. Rachael serves this soup with bruschetta, which really is, as she points out, just charred bread. She took a chunk of ciabatta and charred it over an open flame, then seasoned it with cut garlic, a good quality olive oil, flaky sea salt and chili flakes. This bread is ripped up in pieces to wipe the bottom of the bowl, in Italian that is called the scarpetta. Rachael tops the bowls of soup with grated Parmesan. Delicious!

Saute the vegetables to soften.
An herb bundle of parsley, thyme and rosemary.
Add the herb bundle and a bay leaf to sauteing the vegetables.

Tomato Lentil Soup

Serves 6 or more

Ingredients

  • 1 pound lentils, I used small French lentils
  • 4 cloves garlic, 1 crushed and 3 chopped, divided
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small bulb fennel, cut into small dice
  • 1 leek, quartered lengthwise then chopped
  • 2 to 3 ribs celery with leafy tops, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • Herb bundle of parsley, thyme and rosemary (a few sprigs of each)
  • Pepper
  • 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 cups passata or tomato purée
  • 1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
  • Chili flakes and EVOO – Extra Virgin Olive Oil, to serve

Directions

  1. Rinse lentils well and add them to a large pot with enough water to cover by about 2 1/2 inches. Add crushed garlic clove and bring to a boil. Add salt, reduce heat and simmer 30-40 minutes. Turn off heat and let lentils cool in any remaining liquid.
  2. Heat a soup pot over medium-high heat with olive oil, 2 turns of the pan. Add chopped garlic, fennel, leeks, celery, onions, bay, herb bundle, some salt and pepper, and cook partially covered for 7-8 minutes to soften, stirring frequently.
  3. Add stock, passata or purée, and tomatoes, breaking them up with a spoon or crushing them with your hands when you add them to the pot. Stir in cooled lentils; combine and simmer to combine flavors and until soup reaches desired thickness.
  4. Remove bay and herb bundle, and serve in shallow bowls garnished with chili flakes and a swirl of extra virgin olive oil.
I had a personal assistant on this shoot.

 

October 13, 2016 Chicken and Butternut Squash Soup

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Joe begins planning the vegetable garden right after the Christmas holidays. As always, he asked me if there was anything I wanted to add this year. I knew right away I wanted him to grow butternut squash. They were never planted before because the vines need considerable room to grow. Since the ever-expanding garden now includes an area near the orchard and the berry bushes, there would be some more room available. Last year he grew some loofah and bird house gourds in that area but since they were not going to be repeated, butternut squash got the okay.

Butternut is a variety of winter squash. The name is a bit of a misnomer however,  since all winter squashes are frost tender (the plants will die with the first frost) warm season (seeds must be planted when the soil temperature is above 65°) annuals (plants that complete their life cycle in one growing season). With a growing season of 110-120 days for full maturation, they are harvested in the fall and can be kept well through the cold winter months, hence the name. Summer squash like zucchini and yellow crookneck are harvested all summer long while the fruit is still immature and the skin is still tender. Not counting the ones that “get away” and could fill in for baseball bats. And yes, botanically speaking, both winter and summer squash are fruit since they develop from a flower and are the part of the plant that contains the seeds. Winter squash should only be harvested when fully mature. When winter squash is mature, the stem end will turn from green to brown and will appear that the stem is beginning to dry out. The skin should look dull, not shiny and it should be difficult to dent the squash skin with your fingernail. Winter squash do not require refrigeration but should be stored in a cool dark area.

Last weekend the harvest was finally ready and Joe brought them in by the wheelbarrows full, 60 in all. Some of the squash were slightly damaged and they will be the ones I use first. Some I will give away to friends and the rest we are storing on shelves in our basement.

Low in fat and rich in vitamins A, C, fiber and antioxidants, butternut squash is a great addition to many recipes. I like to roast cubes of butternut squash to add to my fall salads.The butternut squash seeds can be tossed with olive oil and salt and roasted for a crunchy snack or a salad topper.

The creamy texture of butternut squash makes a wonderful soup and I have recipes for two on the blog from years past, butternut squash soup with cider cream and butternut squash soup with Asian pear and ginger, both unique and delicious.

Because of fall’s chilly temperatures, I wanted to make a more substantial main course soup. I liked the idea of roasting the vegetables on the baking sheet to bring out their natural sweetness. For easy clean up, I lined the baking sheet with parchment paper. The leek, pepper and squash should be cut into pieces all relatively the same size so they cook evenly. A medium dice works best here, about 1 to 1 ½ inches. Toss the vegetables with olive oil and spread out evenly on a baking sheet, don’t overcrowd. Arrange the chicken thighs on top of the vegetables and season everything with salt and pepper. I think chicken thighs are the best choice for this recipe, the skin keeps the meat moist during the roasting process. Rotate the pan halfway during the cooking process to ensure even cooking.

Transfer the chicken thighs to a plate to cool and add the roasted vegetables to a pot along with the chicken broth and spices. Simmer over medium heat and use a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon to mash-up some of the vegetables to give the soup a thick, chunky texture. Shred the chicken into bite sized pieces, discarding the skin and bones. Add to the soup and stir in fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. When the soup is almost done stir in the kale ribbons and cook until they are wilted, an additional five minutes. Additional add ins for this soup could include cannellini beans and fire roasted diced tomatoes. The soup can be frozen or stored in the fridge for several days.

Roasted Chicken and Butternut Squash Soup

Serves four to six

Ingredients

  • 6 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
  • 1 medium butternut squash, (2½ to 3 lbs) peeled, seeded and diced medium
  • 1 medium leek, sliced medium
  • 1 small red pepper, diced medium  (I added a red poblano too for a little kick)
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 c low sodium chicken broth
  • ¼ t ground cumin
  • ¼ t ground coriander
  • ¼ t smoked paprika
  • 2-3 cups of thinly chopped kale (avoid thick stems)
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • Fresh parsley or coriander (optional)

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Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. In a large bowl toss the squash, red pepper and onion with the olive oil. Spread evenly on a large baking sheet. Arrange the chicken thighs on top, spacing out evenly. Season everything with salt and pepper.
  2. Roast until the squash and chicken are cooked through, rotating pan halfway through the cooking process.
  3.  Transfer the chicken to a plate, loosely cover and let cool. Transfer squash and onions to a medium pot and broth, cumin, coriander and smoked paprika. Simmer over medium high heat.
  4. With a potato masher or the back of a  wooden spoon, mash some of the vegetables until soup is thick and chunky.
  5. Discard the skin and bones from the chicken, cut meat into small pieces and add to the soup. Stir in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Stir in the thinly chopped kale and cook for five minutes more, until the kale is wilted. Taste and adjust seasonings, To serve, top with fresh parsley or cilantro.
Preparing the butternut squash.
Preparing the butternut squash.

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I used a leek from the garden but an onion will work as well.
I used a leek from the garden but an onion will work as well.
Lining the baking sheet with parchment makes for easy clean up.
Lining the baking sheet with parchment makes for easy clean up.
The "after" picture.
The “after” picture.
Kale ribbons only need about five minutes to wilt into the soup.
Kale ribbons only need about five minutes to wilt into the soup.

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August 20, 2016 Orange Tomato Soup

DSC_7773-copyaThis recipe could also be titled Orange, orange tomato soup. All the recipes I found on line for orange tomato soup included orange juice, but not orange tomatoes. My recipe uses both. Orange tomatoes come in all sizes, from the cherry sized Sun Gold, that you can eat out of hand like candy to the Valencia, an heirloom variety that we are growing this year. Orange tomatoes are less acidic and fruity while still providing a true tomato flavor. Orange tomatoes inspired me to add a little orange juice to the soup to highlight the sweetness of the tomatoes.

This is a very quick recipe to prepare, begin by melting some butter and olive oil in a large saute pan. Add chopped shallot and carrot and cook until softened. Shallots provide a milder flavor, but a white onion could be substituted. Add cored chopped tomatoes, roughly torn basil leaves, chicken stock and just a touch of maple syrup. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.

Allow the mixture to cool a bit before transferring to a blender. Blend the soup in two batches. Very hot liquids expand as you blend them so place a kitchen towel over the lid to protect your hands from any soup that might escape the blender. For the finest texture you could put this soup through a food mill. Next, stir in the orange juice, fresh squeezed of course. Cool the soup to room temperature before placing in a covered container in the refrigerator. Chill for at least four hours or overnight to allow the flavors to blend.

This soup is great for entertaining, it can be made well in advance. It could be dressed up with a seared scallop or a poached shrimp. Serve the soup garnished with some basil leaves and some quartered Sun Gold tomatoes. We enjoyed ours along with a BLT.

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Orange Tomato Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/3 c chopped shallots
  • 1/3 c chopped carrot
  • 4 c cored and quartered orange tomatoes
  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • 1 T olive oil
  • ½ c shredded basil leaves
  • 2 c chicken stock
  • 1 T maple syrup
  • ¾ c orange juice

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Directions

  1. In a large saute pan melt the butter and olive oil over medium high heat.
  2. Add the shallots and carrot and saute until softened, five to six minutes.
  3. Add chopped orange tomatoes, basil leaves, chicken stock and maple syrup. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Allow the soup to cool for at least five minutes before proceeding to the next step.
  4. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth. If desired you can also put the soup through a food mill.  Put the soup in a bowl and stir in the orange juice. Cool the soup to room temperature. Put the soup in the refrigerator in a covered container and chill for at least four hours or overnight.
  5. Serve garnished with orange cherry tomatoes and a few basil leaves.

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April 10, 2016 Spinach Soup with Middle Eastern Spices

DSC_6651aSpring made an early entrance this year, but it’s not quite sure if it wants to stick around permanently yet. One day it’s rainy and seasonably warm, the next we are anticipating wet snow that will bring a coating to possibly an inch to grassy surfaces.

The occasional warm day we’ve been having is causing the spinach in the greenhouse to bolt, that is, go to seed. It ‘s time to pick as much as possible, so recipes that use mass quantities of spinach look good to me. This recipe for spinach soup with middle eastern spices uses a pound and a half of fresh spinach. That translates into approximately 18 cups of spinach, and I say, bring it on!

Cookbook author and New York Times food columnist Martha Rose Shulman got her inspiration for this soup from a Syrian pan cooked spinach recipe. The warming spices, clove, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon and coriander are a pleasing contrast to the sweet, mild flavor of freshly picked spinach.

To start, saute a medium chopped onion and celery in a Dutch oven. I checked with the NOA, National Onion Association and they say a medium onion equals about 1 cup chopped onion. When the vegetables soften, add a few cloves of chopped garlic and cook until fragrant. Add stock, rice, bouquet garni and a generous pinch of salt. Bring the mixture to boil and simmer for 30 minutes. This infuses the broth with flavor and cooks the rice which thickens the soup. Remove the bouquet garni and add the spices and the spinach. It is best to add the spinach in batches to the hot broth, continue to add more until it is all wilted. Cover and cook for five minutes, no longer. The spinach should retain it’s bright green color, any longer it could turn gray.

Puree the soup in batches in a blender or blend in the pot with an immersion blender. The final touch is the addition of some tangy yogurt, half is blended into the soup and the rest is a garnish for each bowl. Sprinkle a few chopped walnuts on top before serving. I served it hot but I think it would be good cold as well.

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Spinach Soup with Middle Eastern Spices

Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/3 c finely diced celery
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ to ½c medium grain rice
  • 6 c chicken or vegetable stock
  • Bouquet garni of a few sprigs parsley and thyme and a bay leaf
  • 1 ½ lbs fresh spinach, washed thoroughly, large stems removed
  • ¼t ground allspice
  • 1/8 t ground cloves
  • 1/8 t freshly ground nutmeg
  • ¼ t ground cinnamon
  • 1t coriander seeds, lightly toasted and ground
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 c Greek yogurt (low or full fat)
  • ¼ c chopped walnuts to garnish

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Directions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy soup pot or Dutch oven. Add the chopped onion and celery and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and a pinch of salt and cook until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Add the stock, rice, bouquet garni and salt to taste and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes.
  3. While the stock is simmering you will have time to measure out the spices and toast and grind the coriander.
  4. After the stock has simmered, remove the bouquet garni. Add the spices and add the spinach in batches, wilting it as you go. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Spinach should still retain its bright color.
  5. Puree the soup in batches in a blender. Be sure to not to overfill and hold down the lid tightly. Alternately you could puree the soup in the pot with a hand blender. Stop at this step if you are not serving the soup immediately.
  6. Return the soup to the pot and heat through, stirring occasionally.  Whisk half of the yogurt into the soup and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. Serve the soup with a swirl of yogurt and garnish with chopped walnuts.

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April 2, 2016 Triple Mushroom Soup

DSC_6583aCreamy, rich mushroom soup, a dish that is so simple, yet so refined. This version, from chef Anthony Bourdain provides maximum flavor with not a great deal of effort. The rich velvety texture of this soup doesn’t come from cream, it comes from the butter that the mushrooms are sautéed in. I used two of the most readily available mushroom varieties,  white “button” mushrooms and creminis. If you were not aware, creminis are referred to as portabellos when they grow to full maturity.  To up the mushroom quotient, add some reconstituted dried mushrooms, I used chanterelles. Not too many, I started with about a quarter of a cup dried, you don’t want to overwhelm the soup.

We live about an hour from the mushroom capital of the world, close enough for mushrooms to be sold as a local product at our farmers market. Kennett Square in Chester County Pennsylvania is home to farms that produces over a million pounds of mushrooms a week. Kennett Square did not become the mushroom capital for reasons of climate or soil conditions but for reasons of ingenuity. Enterprising and frugal Quaker farmers in the late nineteenth century were looking for ways to use the wasted space under the elevated benches where they grew flowers. They imported spawn from Europe, created the right growing environment and a successful industry was born.

Whenever possible I prefer to purchase whole loose mushrooms. Inspect mushrooms carefully, they should feel damp, not moist. Try to avoid mushrooms that are badly bruised or broken. Many sources say that you shouldn’t rinse mushrooms because they soak up water but the folks at Cooks Illustrated have proven that wrong. They found that after a quick rinse of a six ounce container of mushrooms they gained only a quarter ounce of water. The key is to rinse, not soak and dry immediately. Cooks Illustrated also suggests that if you store mushrooms it should be in a partially open zipper bag. This maximizes air circulation without letting the mushrooms dry out.

Begin the recipe by melting butter in a medium sized pan, I prefer my Le Crueset 5 quart Dutch oven for any soup I make. Add the sliced onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Next add the mushrooms and allow the vegetables to sweat, that is, to soften without taking on any color. The mushrooms will exude their liquid and cook down considerably. If you want, add 1/4 cup of dried mushrooms that have been reconstituted in warm water for about 20 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock (vegetable if you prefer a vegetarian dish) and a small bouquet garni of a few sprigs of parsley and some fresh thyme. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour. Although it wasn’t in the original recipe, I added a small piece of Parmesan rind to add to the umami quality of the soup.

After an hour, discard the piece of Parmesan rind if using, and the herbs. Allow the soup to cool for about 15 minutes then transfer the soup to the blender in batches, being careful to keep the lid on tight;  blend until smooth. Return the soup to the pot, season with salt and pepper, reheat and add sherry. One last word of admonition, do not use cooking sherry. It is sherry with salt and other additives to prolong it’s shelf life. Look for a dry sherry to compliment the flavors in this recipe. Saute a few mushrooms slices to garnish the soup and maybe a small sprig of thyme.

Triple Mushroom Soup

Serves four, can easily be doubled

Ingredients

  • 6 T butter
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 12 ounces mushrooms (I used half button and half crimini)
  • ¼c dried mushrooms (shiitake, chanterelles etc.) reconstituted in warm water for about 20 minutes and well drained, optional
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • Several sprigs of parsley
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 2 ounces sherry
  • salt and pepper

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Directions

  1. Over medium heat, melt two tablespoons of the butter in a saucepan. Toss in the onion and cook until soft but not browned.
  2. Toss in the remaining butter and then add the mushrooms. Cook for 8 minutes.
  3. Pour in the chicken stock, add the herbs and rind (if using), and bring to a boil. When bubbling, reduce to a simmer and cook for an hour.
  4. Pour soup into a blender (you might need to do this in stages), and process until smooth. Return to the saucepan and bring to a simmer. Pour in the sherry, and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with sauteed mushroom slices and a sprig of thyme.
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Dried chanterelle mushrooms
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The same chanterelles after a twenty minute soak.
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Sauteeing the mushrooms
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Add chicken stock , herbs and bring to a boil.

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January 26, 2016 Smoky Bacon and Lentil Soup

DSC_5761aThe anticipation of a cold and snowy weekend was a good reason to make a slow cooker soup. It only took about twenty minutes to put this smoky bacon and lentil soup together on a Friday afternoon.

Lentils are very nutritious. Rich in minerals, vitamins and fiber, they contain more protein than whole grains like brown rice. They have an earthy, nutty flavor and are low in fat and have zero cholesterol.

Unlike other dried beans, lentils can be prepared the day of serving since a presoak is not necessary.  Spread lentils on a light colored plate or board to check for and remove small stones or debris. Then place the lentils in a fine strainer and rinse them until cool running water. Purchase fresh lentils in a store where you know there is high product turnover to ensure freshness. Store them in an airtight container away from heat and moisture, they will stay fresh for about a year.
I chose a flavorful, aromatic cherrywood bacon for my soup. Choose a thick cut or slab bacon for easy dicing. Fry the chopped bacon in a heavy skillet, until brown and add to the slow cooker. In the rendered bacon fat, saute the onion and carrot until the onion is translucent, add them to the cooker.  Now for the easy part, add the lentils, broth, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, smoked paprika and ground pepper to the slow cooker.

Green or brown lentils work best in this recipe because they hold their shape.  I cooked the soup on low for seven hours and turned it off before we went to bed. The next day I turned the heat to low for an hour to warm it back up before it went to the keep warm setting. We had a  satisfying and delicious soup that fortified Joe between his plowing and snow blowing sessions in the blizzard of 2016.

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Smoky Bacon and Lentil Soup

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 8oz smoky slab or thick cut bacon
  • 6c chopped yellow onion
  • 1c chopped carrots
  • 1½ quarts of low sodium chicken broth or chicken stock
  • 1¼c brown lentils
  • 1c canned diced tomatoes (I used a variety with green chilies)
  • 1T tomato paste
  • 1T smoked paprika
  • 1t ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Cut the bacon into medium dice. Fry in a large heavy skillet over medium heat until brown and crisp, about 7-8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to the slow cooker insert. Leave the bacon fat in the skillet.
  2. Add the carrots and onion to the skillet and cook until the onions are translucent, 4-5 minutes. Scrape the onion and carrots into the slow cooker.
  3. Stir in the broth, lentils, tomatoes, tomato paste, smoked paprika and pepper.
  4. Cover and cook on low for 7 hours or high for 3 hours.

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October 25, 2015 Broccoli Leek Soup with Fresh Ginger

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The fall crop of broccoli is making it’s appearance in our farmers market and I love making broccoli soup now that the cooler weather is upon us. This time I combined it with leeks and shallots from our own harvest and one of the more unique offerings at our local farmers market, freshly harvested ginger.

This ginger is younger than the ginger you buy at the grocery store. The skin is  a yellowish beige with pink and purple markings. The flavor is milder and the flesh is delicate and  juicy, not fibrous. This is the ginger commonly used in pickled ginger. You can substitute fresh ginger in any recipe, but because of it’s milder flavor, you will need to use more.

Ginger from the grocery store that has sprouted can be planted but there is no guarantee if it will be disease and pest free. Our local farm, Blooming Glen Farm buys rhizomes from certified organic farms in Hawaii. They start their plants in the spring and grow them in conditions that are similar to the warm temperatures the plants are accustomed to in Hawaii. The rhizomes are ready for harvest by mid October. A bit pricey, 18.99 a pound, but a nice splurge this time of year.  I’m going to hold a few aside for Joe to plant so we can have our own ginger next fall. This soup comes together very quickly and the frizzled leeks that top it are very easy to do and add a nice textural contrast.

Broccoli Leek Soup with Fresh Ginger

Makes about 6 cups

Ingredients

  • 2-3 T olive oil
  • ¼c chopped shallots
  • 1T finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 3 large leeks, sliced, white and light green parts only
  • 1 large head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 4-5c chicken or vegetable stock
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Frizzled leeks as garnish-see recipe following

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Fresh ginger from the farmers market.
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Part of the fall leek harvest.

Directions

  1. Add olive oil  to a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Stir in the chopped shallots and ginger and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for an additional 2 minutes.
  2. Add the broccoli florets and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30-40 minutes.
  4. Puree the soup in batches in a blender. Add additional stock if the soup is too thick.
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper
  6. Garnish soup with frizzled leeks.

Frizzled Leeks

Ingredients

  • 1 leek, trimmed
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

  1. Cut leek in half lengthwise and rinse away any grit. Slice thinly and pat dry to insure the oil will not splatter.
  2. In a small skillet over medium heat, warm ¼ inch olive oil. Add a handful of leeks and fry until golden brown, about a minute or so.  Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Repeat with remaining leeks.

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