Tag Archives: recipes

fall-in-a-bowl soup

16 Sep

This is only sort of a recipe post. My cooking strategy borders on haphazard and too often I don’t keep track of proportions when I am making something up as I go. I like the freedom of adding dashes of this and a sprinkle of that, but there is always risk with cooking that way. Sometimes things don’t taste the way I hope; sometimes I love the way something came out and then I can’t ever make it the same way again.

I made a big pot of soup for a gathering of friends last weekend, and it received such favorable reviews that I thought I’d try to record what I did. As an encouragement for anyone who wants to make their own version, I think that this combination of veggies is hard to go wrong with, whatever spices you choose to use. Butternut squash and carrots pair wonderfully together, and I like to add sautéed onion and potato to squash soup to add some interesting texture. This was a great meal to welcome Autumn and all her bounty. Also, for what it’s worth, I don’t think any of the meat-eaters in our group could tell that the soup was vegan. It came out so rich and flavorful, and it was so loaded with veggies, that I definitely didn’t get that “something is missing” feeling.

I’ve made variations on an ultra-simple Butternut Squash Soup for years, and I just love the rich color and delicious flavor of butternut squash. It pairs so well with other veggies; you can make it sweet with apples or zap it with curry and it’s great just about any way in between. Last fall I started roasting my squash instead of boiling it, and I can’t see myself going back to my old method. Roasting does take a little more time, but the difference in flavor is worth it. Roasting vegetables like squash and carrots brings out their sweetness and sort of intensifies their flavor. I also like to think I’m getting more of the vitamins by roasting, but it’s possible that I am deluding myself.

Here’s the “recipe,” with the caveat that I’m definitely not a professional chef (that much may be obvious because of the spice combinations I used), and I am piecing this together from memory. Also, although it takes me a bajillion words to say anything, this isn’t a hard soup to make. You can do it too, in just over an hour! It should go without saying that if you don’t want to make such a massive quantity, just divide things in half– one squash and one pound of carrots will still make a good amount.

start with these.

 

Vegan Roasted Squash-Carrot-Etcetera Soup

(makes enough for more than 14 large servings)

5 lbs butternut squash (I used two medium squash)

2 lbs carrots

2 shallots (I wouldn’t usually use these because they’re expensive and I guess my palate’s just not sophisticated enough to tell the difference between a shallot and a little bit of onion, but they were on sale at Save-a-Lot)

1 large red onion

4-5 medium potatoes

to taste:

several sprigs fresh rosemary

olive oil

vegetarian margarine

thyme

minced garlic

vegetable bouillon

cinnamon

nutmeg

ginger

salt

pepper

1. Cut squash in half. Scoop out seeds (feel free to save these for drying/roasting).

2. Scrub carrots and cut into 2-3 inch pieces. I didn’t peel my carrots. More fiber, less work.

3. Rub the bottoms of two roasting pans with olive oil. Place the squash cut-side down in the pans, and add the carrots, shallots and rosemary. Pour 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over the carrots and toss gently to coat. Sprinkle the carrots and shallots with salt and pepper.

one pan of veggies ready to be drizzled with olive oil and roasted

 

4. Roast in a 375′ oven until the carrots can be easily pierced with a fork. In my oven, this was about 45 minutes. I checked on my veggies every 15 minutes or so and took the opportunity to toss the pans to ensure everything was coated with olive oil.

5. Remove from oven. Allow to cool slightly so you don’t burn yourself like I did. Discard the rosemary.

While the squash and carrots are roasting you can work on step 6:

Combine about a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of margarine in a large skillet over medium heat. Chop up the onion and add it to the pan when the margarine is melted. Chop the potatoes up small and add them to the pan too. Sprinkle with about a teaspoon of thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir occasionally and keep cooking until the onions and potatoes are cooked through (onions translucent, potatoes just beginning to develop a brown crispiness). Add several tablespoons of minced garlic and cook for a minute or two longer. Remove from heat.

red onion and potatoes ready for sautéing

 

7. In a very large pot (I used my best one, a 6.5 qt dutch oven given to me by my Aunt J) set about 6 cups of water to boil. Add vegetable bullion to taste. Reduce heat to low.

8. Add the roasted carrots and shallots to the vegetable broth. Use a spoon to scoop the flesh out of the butternut squash skins, and add that to the pot too.

9. Once you’ve got everything simmering away in the pot, it’s time to blend the soup. I am lucky enough to have an immersion blender that I love, love, love (thanks to my cousin C who got me in Secret Santa last year). If you don’t, you’ll need to use a regular blender and blend the soup in batches. Sorry I don’t have any more pictures of this process; I will trust in your imaginations, readers.

10. Add the sautéed onion, potatoes and garlic to your smoothly blended soup. Taste it. Add more salt and pepper if you like. If, like me, you think your soup needs a little extra something, add about 1 teaspoon cinnamon, a couple pinches of nutmeg, and a pinch of ginger. I found this really brightened the soup and heightened the deliciousness factor. But that’s just me.

11. You are done. Enjoy!

This batch of soup was very thick, which some of my friends appreciated because it was even more hearty and filling than it would otherwise have been. If I had had room in the pot, I would have thinned things out a bit by adding some water. It would be a great space-saver to freeze the soup in its more concentrated form.

undiluted, this soup was super thick and hearty.

watered down a little, it's still loaded with goodness (and texture from the onions and potatoes). perfect to enjoy with some crusty bread and a salad.

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sweet lavender black tea (on the rocks)

24 Jun

I tried a new take on iced tea recently, and it was so easy and delicious that I think it will be entering my regular beverage rotation.

Most of my friends know that my love of iced tea runs deep. As I’ve tried to reduce my consumption of chemical-laden pop over the past several years, the deliciousness of tea has filled the void. While I will always love the carbonated refreshment that Diet Coke with lemon offers, brewed tea has a lot more to offer in its “pro” column:

–(literally) endless flavor options

–both herbal and regular teas offer numerous health benefits

–you can drink it unsweetened, or pile up the honey or sugar cubes. either way, you’re in control of the amount of sweetness, unlike with packaged drinks.

The impetus for this particular tea was the lavender plant on my porch, which seemed to be determined to spread its leaves all over the place. I knew I needed to prune it down, and I was struggling to decide on a method of consuming its deliciousness. I remembered that fresh herbs can be used to flavor simple syrups (which are basically sugar dissolved into water). I did a cursory Google and turned up several recipes for Lavender Syrup. And with visions of a lavender-sweetened black tea dancing in my head, I took the pruning scissors to my wild plant.

I came away with a generous handful of lavender. As you can see, the plant in the background is still pretty bushy.

Making the syrup is as simple as dissolving 2 parts sugar into 1 part water. You add 1/4 cup of fresh herbs and stir occasionally over low heat. That’s it! I didn’t even bother to strip my lavender leaves from their stems.

sugar, water, and lavender stems stirred together in a saucepan over low heat

within about five minutes, the sugar had dissolved into the water

I let the syrup cool, then strained it into a small canning jar.

the syrup can be refrigerated in a closed jar or tupperware container for up to two weeks.

I brewed up two very strong quarts of English Breakfast tea, and added about 1/4 a cup of lavender syrup to that while it was still warm (because I am impatient). The thing that is really nice about simple syrup is that you can use it to flavor cold beverages as well! No need to stir furiously like with plain sugar.

I served the sweetened tea over ice, with a sprig of fresh lavender just to be a fancy-pants. It's how I roll.

Verdict: if you like lavender, and you like tea, you will like this! It is totally refreshing, sweet but not too sweet.

I had been a little worried that the taste would remind me of soap. But this fall I tried a latte flavored with dark chocolate and lavender, and it was good enough to convince me of the versatility of this herb. As you can see, herb syrups are simple to make, and the ingredients aren’t pricey considering how gourmet the payoff is. I paid $2.00 for my lavender plant– you can always buy fresh herbs at the grocery store, but if you have the space and sunlight, it’s definitely a better investment to shell out for a plant.

Now I’m brainstorming my next simple syrup experiment! I’ve read a lot about basil-infused lemonade… Readers, do you have a favorite summer drink? A favorite tea or lemonade or Kool-Aid flavor? A dream herb to simmer in sugar water? I’d love to hear your ideas.

a pizza dough dwight schrute would approve of.

17 Jun

While I don’t read The Pioneer Woman regularly any more, I do occasionally check out the recipe section of her site. While I’m not generally interested in the meat and fat-heavy recipes she usually posts, she also does weekly “round up” posts of recipes she likes from other blogs. There’s usually an ingredient theme to these posts, ala Iron Chef. And the week she did asparagus, I saw several recipes that I wanted to try. I thought this Asparagus, Gruyere and Parmesan Tart from What’s Gaby Cooking looked positively mouth-watering.

Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables, and we had just gotten a few beautiful bunches from our CSA share. And the look of that asparagus, roasted to perfection on a puff pastry crust, was pretty darn appealing. But then I scrolled down a little more and saw a picture of Purple Pizza With Asparagus and Fontina by The Cooking Photographer, and… let’s just say it had me at hello.

This pizza dough is colored with beetroot puree. And most of the people who know me know how much I love beets. And purple. And pizza. You get the picture. I was thrilled by the idea of sneaking beets into pizza crust.

And then it came to me, like a flash in the night! I could combine both of the recipes for a fun new experience in color and taste. So I did. And it was beautiful.

I know my photography skills are lacking, but you'll just have to trust me on this. It worked.

Recipe below the cut, if you’re interested!