Sunday, September 25, 2011

Butternut (and other) Squash Soup

Ladle into your prettiest bowl and be happy.
 I know.  I know.  Everyone and her brother makes butternut squash soup in the fall.  And I do, too.  In November, I mean.  As a first course for Thanksgiving dinner.  That soup holds roasted pears and apples, bits of flyingly fragrant ginger and garlic, and is served with a small glass of Riesling to open a beautiful meal.  It might even have a drop or two of real cream as a garnish.

But this soup is not that long-winded, almost poutingly full bowl of autumnal bounty.  This soup is a 1-2 punch meal, light but nutritious and perfect for dinner with a bit of cheese and bread.  Almost better warmed up in the microwave at work the next day. It makes use of the rest of the zucchini (geez) or yellow (summer) squash, but takes into account the winter squash you couldn't resist at the market. Freeze a bowl or two for next week and you're done and feeling rich.  Here's the drill:
Chop your veg, season, and saute in a bit of oil.

Add the butternut squash.
2 quarts of stock and bring to a boil, then simmer until veg are tender.
Puree with an immersion blender (or in food processor blender)--or not.  It's tasty chunky, too.
 Butternut (and other) Squash Soup

2T olive oil
1 cup each chopped onion and celery
1 each:  small-medium zucchini and yellow (summer) squash, diced--no need to peel
1/2 cup chopped carrot
2 cloves minced garlic
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Pinch of crushed red pepper
2 T fresh thyme, divided (or 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme, divided)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 tsp ground ginger, optional
2 -3 cups chopped and peeled butternut squash
2 qts chicken or vegetable stock (plus or minus)
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, optional or 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In an 8-10 qt soup pot, saute over medium-high heat onion, celery, zucchini and yellow squash, and carrot until softened.  Add garlic and season liberally with salt and pepper.  Add crushed red pepper and 1T fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried thyme), parsley, and ginger.  Cook, stirring, another minute or two.  Stir in butternut squash and cook a few minutes, stirring.  Add broth, stir well, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are all tender--15-20 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Puree with immersion blender or food processor or blender, if desired. If too thick, add a little more stock. If too thin, set back back on stove to simmer until reduced and thickened.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with a bit of thyme and a spoonful of Greek yogurt (or a sprinkle of Parmesan) if desired.  Serve hot.

Note:  This is a lovely meal for an ill friend. Go easy on the seasonings and check about the yogurt.

Have fun cooking and taking care of yourself,

Friday, September 16, 2011

Greens Pasta--Pantry Meal

I topped mine with some teeny squash from my neighbor.
Once in a while a pantry meal is in order.  If you filled your pantry with things like whole wheat pasta, garlic,  olives, and olive oil...and if you have some fresh greens (arugula, spinach, etc) and even a piece of gratable cheese in the frig, you have dinner.  And you have a luscious dinner.  Good enough for you and, if you had a hankering, this is nice enough to share.  It'll stand up to a nice big red wine.  Did I mention it's vegetarian?   I've rewritten this little ditty with a few changes and also to make it sound as easy as it is, but the idea comes from Andrea Immer's (now Robinson) EVERYDAY DINING WITH WINE, and a lovely cookbook it is.  Thanks, Andrea!

Greens Pasta  2 servings

Cook up 1/2 pound whole wheat pasta (I like Whole Foods 365 brand best; it's tasty--) according to package directions.  Don't over cook it.  While it's cooking, saute in a large deep skillet 1-2 chopped clove(s) of garlic in 1 T of olive oil.  When the pasta it done, using tongs, transfer it to the skillet with the olive oil.  Toss well.  Add a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water. Add 1 cup of fresh spinach, chopped kale, spinach, or any greens you have.  Throw in a pinch of crushed red pepper.  Stir in a bit of grated cheese* and top with a last drizzle of olive oil, lots of black pepper, a good dose of salt and chopped olives, if you have them or like them.  Toss one last time and serve hot.  A bit of grated lemon zest is another addition you can consider--even at the table.

*Skip cheese for Vegan option

     Why not add those chopped, leftover vegetables you have from last night's dinner?   Or saute a few fresh ones like I did.
Here's what the T-Tiny squash looked like before I cooked it.  Pencil for scale.
Thanks, Wendy!

Add a good book and a candle and enjoy the meal.

 Have fun cooking and taking care of yourself,

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Herb-Butter Tuna

Herb Butter Tuna
If you need your main course in six minutes, this is your dinner.  Of course, if you want it done that fast, you'll need to buy the herb butter that tops this tuna.  Unless you are incredibly fast... and you might be.  In that case, make your own herb butter while the tuna cooks. 

If you like well-done tuna (tastes like pork tenderloin), you're going to need a little more time.  But not much.  You'd have time to, say, make a quick salad or phone call.  Nope, I'm wrong:   Skip the phone call while cooking--bad idea.  Let's just let the appliances in the kitchen be plugged in.

Add a couple of sides for a bigger meal--here with potatoes and squash.
The great thing about Herb-Butter Tuna is that you make a double dose and have enough for an entree salad the next day (or tacos, a sandwich, or wrap) or simply sweet, cold tuna chopped up for not so regular old tuna salad.

Sides?  I made two sides as it was a Friday night dinner I shared.  One was a saute of  thinly-sliced potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic and a bit of thyme--rather fall-like.  The other was some sliced snake squash (from my neighbor) that I sliced, cooked, and topped with chopped fresh, sweet red pepper and Italian parsley.

Sliced Snake Squash

Here's what this looks like whole... one of my favorite pics this summer.  Thanks, Wendy!
 At this time of year, a side of sliced tomatoes is probably plenty.  Still too warm for tuna and red wine (I typically like Pinot Noir with tuna)--try a no-Oak Chardonnay or an Oregon Pinot Gris or Pinot Blanc.  Here's how:

Herb-Butter Tuna

3T herb butter (instructions below or purchase pre-made)
2 tuna albacore steaks, about 6 oz each
olive oil
salt and pepper

 Pat tuna dry with paper towels and salt and pepper thoroughly. 

Heat a grill or grill pan (or skillet) over medium-high heat, brush with olive oil,  and add both tuna steaks.  Do not move the tuna around.  Let it sit to brown.  After 2 minutes (for rare) and 3 minutes (for medium rare), turn tuna over and repeat on the second side.  During last minute, top each piece of fish with half of the herb butter.  Cover with a pot lid, if needed, to melt butter, being careful to not overcook the tuna.  Let tuna sit one minute and serve hot.

Herb Butter
 *Herb Butter:  In a small bowl, mix well together (I use a wooden spoon)1 stick salted butter, 1-2 T each your choice of herbs (I like dill and parsley), 1T minced green onions, and a good pinch each of salt and pepper.  A bit of grated garlic is also a nice touch.  You can freeze this in tablespoons and take out just a bit to top vegetables, chicken, fish, or bread. 

South Beach Diet Note:  Do not choose the side with potatoes; stick with the squash.

Have fun cooking and take care of yourself,