0928 A Refined Squash Soup

The winter squash from our garden may never materialize, but winter squash has arrived in the market in spades.  And I couldn’t be happier.  The winter months are long and lean in these parts, but butternut squash never fails to put a smile on my face and a healthy dose of beta carotene in my system.

curry butternut squash soup with fresh bread & baked pumpkin seeds
Photo by valkyrieh116

We fell in love with our friend Bill’s butternut squash soup recipe last year, but I have to say that tonight, through my fevered zombie haze, I kicked it up a notch.  I’ve given up on our immersion blender, and had I realized how easily I could do the same things with my food mill, I would’ve done so a long time ago.  While the onion and apple sweat, I pressed the roasted squash into a thick paste using the mill’s coarse plate.  I stirred the squash paste into the onion and apple, added a couple of cups of broth, and let everything simmer a bit.  Once the soup was heated through, I passed it all through the fine plate, which resulted in an impossibly silky texture enhanced by a bit of half and half (in lieu of the whole milk).  Next time I’ll amp up the seasoning a bit during the roasting and sweating steps – I roasted the squash with a dusting of cinnamon and curry, but both flavors were almost lost in the final product – but otherwise, I have to say that this was a damned fine bowl of soup.

Recipe:
Butternut Squash Soup a la Bill Jusino from my other blog

0925 Corn Chowder and an Attempted Robbery!

Another quiet Saturday.  Shane got home last night, tired and sick after a week away.  We went to Corner on our way back from the airport, had beers and fish tacos, and went to bed early.  Seriously, he was sawing logs by 9pm – well deserved after a long day of travel while under the weather.

To his credit, he dragged himself out of bed in time to go to the market with me – on the condition that we go to Comet first so that he could get his first good coffee in a week or more.  Apparently Viennese coffee is all weak or sweetened or both – not the bracing fantastic espressos and cappuccinos from SF, alas.  Comet cappuccinos followed by pumpkin donuts and several random friend meetings at the market makes for a nice fall morning.

And so we spent the Saturday – a few chores, a little moped work, a lot of getting caught up on new tv, and another batch of corn chowder with more sweet ears of market corn.  I’ve been buying a few extra each time so that our freezer is nicely stocked for the months to come.  I just hope we have enough…

Oh, and because several people have requested more biography and less straight-up food blogging, I should mention that at the end of a very relaxing and laid-back fall day, some JERK tried to steal one of the mopeds off the porch!  I was in the bathroom, so I didn’t witness any of this, but Shane was sitting on the couch and heard a weird noise outside, and when he got up to check on it, he found some dude trying to pick up one of the mopeds.  That alone is a feat since they aren’t light vehicles and they’re kind of packed in on the porch, and probably should’ve indicated his frame of mind.  Shane yelled at the guy, who backed off of the porch as if he were getting kicked out of the club “yeah, yeah, I’m going”.  Some further yelling took place as the guy walked away down the driveway and Shane followed, phone in hand and dialing the cops all the while.

By the time I looked outside to see what the hubbub was about, both Shane and the dude were across the street and Shane had reached the cops – in time for the dude to sort of attempt to chase Shane off?  I guess?  The cops were at our place within about 10 minutes, reporting that they’d caught the guy – a homeless(?) teen or 20something from an area familiar to the cops – so all’s well that ends well, though we’re newly paranoid about the (locked up) mopeds on the porch and our general safety in the area.

0911 Corn Chowder

It was rainy and cool today – a perfect opportunity to make soup.  With corn still in season, I was inspired to riff on my mom’s corn chowder.

Honestly, there’s nothing special about this recipe.  No exotic ingredients, no amped up flavors, no designated pairings – just the warmth and comfort of root vegetables, homemade chicken stock, and the crunch of corn freshly cut from the cob.  My family eats this soup out of bread bowls after Christmas Eve church.  There’s usually a platter of cheese slices and Pepperidge Farm crackers.  Later in the evening we might have a hot toddy.  Again, nothing fancy – just familiar, and after ten days away from home, familiar was just right.

Corn Chowder

2 tbsp butter
1 small white onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 small white potatoes, diced
1-2 small carrots, sliced into coins
kernels from 1 ear of corn (around 1 cup corn)
4 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp flour, or enough to reach desired consistency

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat, then add the onion and garlic and saute until golden. Add the potatoes and carrots and continue to saute until soft. Add a generous pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, and stir everything around, then add the corn, broth, and bay leaf. Bring just to a boil, then whisk in the flour. Start with one tablespoon and increase a little at a time until the broth thickens. You don’t want it to go all the way to a gravy – just a wee bit thicker, so that it clings to the vegetables a bit in the spoon. Let it simmer for a while – maybe 10 more minutes – stirring occasionally, then serve with crusty bread.

0720 Summer Corn Soup with Shrimp

I’m a little in love with Sprouted Kitchen.  Their food photography is consistently wonderful – to the point that when I showed Shane tonight’s recipe on the blog, he asked “do they cook outside?”.  Seriously, they must be blessed with the best lighting in all of Southern California.

This dish feels very Southern Californian to me  in that it embraces seasonal produce while also throwing in a bit of seafood and velvety avocado.  Of course, I live far from the origin of both the shrimp and the avocado, so it’s not terribly seasonal for me, but occasionally those splurges are worth it.  Like here:

Shrimp and Avocado

I didn’t love the corn soup, but I did love the contrast between the warmth and richness of the soup and the texture and freshness of the shrimp and avocado.

Summer Corn Soup with Shrimp

If you make this recipe, I suggest cutting way back on the oregano.  In fact, that’s the only thing I’d really recommend changing, though I look forward to trying this with my mom’s corn chowder recipe.  Maybe I can even talk my brother into bringing some avocados home from LA…

Recipe:
Summer Corn Soup with Shrimp from Sprouted Kitchen

0606 Race-Day Swamp Monster Soup

I ran my second 5K of the year this morning: the annual Dexter-Ann Arbor Run.  I had intended to run the 10K, but an injury a few weeks ago has kept me sidelined, and this was the longest run I’ve managed in a few weeks.  As always, the best part of running a race is the post-race food – in this case, loads of fruit, pizza (weird, right?), and piles and piles of thick slices of bread from Zingerman’s.  Suffice to say that after a banana and a few (ahem) slices of dense chocolate-y bread with dried fruit and chocolate chunks, I didn’t need to eat much for the rest of the day.

The aftermath of last night’s storm left today pretty gray and dismal, so soup seemed like a good fit, what with my morning indulgence and my drawer full of produce.  This soup from Orangette looked easy and refreshing – the sort of thing I could make while doing laundry, knitting, and watching Law & Order, which was all I could really muster after two days of non-stop activity.

Alas, I’m not sure it was worth even that little effort.  It’s not like the soup was bad – it was just very green and kind of thin – like a good spinach dip that had been significantly watered down.  Part of the problem was likely related to the fact that I used an immersion blender – too many kitchen explosions or soupy messes on record with soup in the food processor – which resulted in a weird, kind of slimy consistency.  There were good flavors, and I’ll do my best to finish the leftovers, but I won’t be making this again.

Spinach and Green Garlic Soup from Orangette

0518 Spontaneous Soup

Like last night, it was unseasonably cold and rainy tonight – a good night for a simple but filling soup and for sitting on the couch.  While Shane ran a few errands, I sauteed onions, garlic,  and a leftover sausage in a bit of butter, then added chicken stock and simmered the whole thing with a couple of handfuls of white rice.  Just before serving, I tossed in some fresh spinach and let it wilt while warming up leftover dinner rolls from this weekend.

I imagine we won’t have many more nights like this for a few months, so it was good to enjoy a last cold weather meal – and then some (kind of miraculous) PRETZEL M&Ms later during LOST.  That’s right: pretzel. m&m’s.  Pretty ridiculous if you ask me.

0425 Rainy Day Eats

Today was just – gray.  Gray.  And wet.  And sleepy.  I kept opening the front door to check on the weather, hoping that the rain had let up so that I could run, and then closing the door and pouting.

Shane got home mid-afternoon, exhausted from Dark Lord Day debauchery and from the drive home, and we both crashed out on the couch in front of the Cavs game.  When we woke up, I was totally unmotivated to roast the chicken we’d planned to have for dinner, especially when Shane mentioned that he was craving a grilled cheese sandwich.

I wonder if this is a typically middle-American thing, or if grilled cheese sandwiches and bowls of soup are universal comfort foods.  For me, they’re an essential part of childhood – slices of American cheese peeled from their plastic wrappers, melted between two slices of bread and served with a bowl of Campbell’s cream of tomato soup – and then of my early adulthood, when Eva introduced me to homemade tomato bisque, and when Jeff Perri would stand his sandwiches on end to avoid total grease saturation.

Tonight’s sandwiches were made with a very sharp cheddar and slices of Avalon‘s Rustic Italian bread.  We were too hungry and too impatient to make soup from scratch, so we split a jar of smoky roasted red pepper soup.  Fast, simple, and just right on a rainy night.

0415 Creamy Asparagus Soup

I seem to only plan to make soup on days when the weather is patently inappropriate for it – like today, when the temperatures neared 80.  This recipe – and the asparagus from the market – looked too good to wait for cooler weather, so soup for dinner it was.  I started dinner after picking Mike up from the airport, and by the time the leeks, asparagus, celery, and onions for this recipe had slowly cooked in a bit of olive oil, we were all STARVING.  This soup was less filling than I expected – though it probably would’ve made a more substantial meal with the poached egg and toast that Jamie recommends.  Instead I served it with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt, accompanied by a salad and slices of Zingerman’s all-local West Wind bread.

I look forward to many, many more asparagus meals as the spring carries on, though I don’t know if this soup will be one of them.  While we enjoyed it, I don’t know that it was the best use of this flavorful and surprisingly sweet veg.  The soup was a little thin, and mostly tasted green – not a bad thing, but I think I’d prefer to let the asparagus shine on its own, topped only with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, or shaved parmesan.

Recipe:
Creamy Asparagus Soup from Jamie at Home

0407 Moroccan Carrot Soup

If last night DEFINITELY was not soup weather, tonight definitely was.  We both did some shopping downtown, and by the time we headed home, it was cold and rainy and I had cut up my feet by walking in wet shoes with no socks.

0407 Moroccan Carrot Soup

Shane made this soup last week for the guys, and we liked it enough to make it again immediately.  Carrots and cumin are really a winning combination in general, but when pureed into oblivion and drizzled with a bit of yogurt, they turn into something sublime.  Toss a couple of slices of bread in the toaster, and you’ve got a great vegetarian dinner on the table in an hour or less.

Recipe:
Moroccan Carrot Soup from Bon Appetit

The Last 10 Days of Food

Gees, where to begin?  I’ve been pretty diligent about posting to date, but a weekend of friendos visiting from DC followed immediately by a mid-week trip with some of my favorite girls resulted in 10 days of nothing – and very little desire to catch up.  So here’s what I got:

Mike and Bill rolled in on the 27th, kicking off four days of beer, movies, more beer, vegetarian food, still more beer, a trip to Detroit for the guys, additional beer, dinner at Jolly Pumpkin, and oh, more beer.  I’m still not sure if I accurately captured the amount of beer that was consumed over this weekend.   This wasn’t like a woooo spring break!! kind of blow out – rather, it was a series of tastings, sharing rare or regional treats from each of their stashes.  I wish I’d taken pictures of the very serious boys taking their serious beer very seriously.  I know Shane took a picture of all of the bottles, so that’ll have to suffice.

While the boys were busy with the beer, I made a couple of tasty dinners – Butternut Squash and Fried Sage Pasta (hearty and filling, though not quite what I expected from the recipe) and tempeh tacos (always a crowd-pleaser) – and the killer spinach strata that we’d had at Shana’s on my birthday.  When the boys were late coming back from Detroit, I ate without them, then regretted it as Shane stepped up to make a really delicious Moroccan Carrot Soup (which we’re going to re-run for dinner this week).

Stradaaa

And THEN I hopped on a plane to St Louis, where my friend Erin and I collected some of the best donuts in the country and also some legendary pretzels before hitting the road to Carbondale, where we met up with Angie, Kim, and Laurie for a couple of days of hiking, snacking, napping, drinking, and relaxing with farm animals.

Fritters and Globs

In addition to delicious baked goods and a whole lot of other bad-for-us snacks, we grilled out, toasted s’mores over a campfire, and made breakfast together using two pounds of bacon and the most beautiful farm eggs I’ve seen.  We also checked out a bar and a cute breakfast place in Erin’s neighborhood and had an awesome dinner at Schlafly Bottleworks (including curry crackers that I’m committed to duplicating) on our last night in town.

Farm-fresh free range eggs

Suffice to say that the next few weeks (leading up to um, a special occasion) will should be a bit leaner on the indulgent meals – segueing nicely into the beginning of the growing season and the return of fresh things to the market.  It’s been a delicious and ridiculous ten days – and I’m very much looking forward to getting back into the kitchen and back into more normal eating.

Recipes:
Butternut Squash and Fried Sage Pasta from Self
Tempeh Tacos
Spinach and Cheese Strata from Smitten Kitchen
Moroccan Carrot Soup from Bon Appetit