Rosemary and Thyme Mushroom Polenta

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“What’s going on with your…” Roo started, waving a fork towards the vicinity of my face.

“You mean this?” I asked, pointing at my eyes.

“Did you…are you trying something new?”

“What, you don’t appreciate the Clockwork Orange look?”

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“It’s just,” he paused, “different.”

I looked down, pushing the polenta onto my fork. “It’s what happens when your eyeliner pencil breaks mid-application at work.   I got my left eye done and then the tip broke off when I was starting on the right.”

“Why didn’t you just wash it off?”

I sighed. “Well, that would have been the obvious thing to do.”

Roo furrowed his brow.

“You know how I am in a panic.” I said, between bites, “I ran back into the office and tried to sharpen the pencil.”

“With a pencil sharpener?”

“With a blunt pair of scissors.”

“It looks fine.” Roo replied, turning his head slightly, trying to hide a smile.

I sighed, grabbing a napkin and dipping it into my water glass.

“What are you doing?”

I started wiping off the botched makeup job on my right eye, “Trying to fix it.”

“Babe, I don’t even know why you put on makeup.”

“What are you talking about?”

“It’s like,” he paused, “you’re like Beyonce. She looks even better without makeup. Unlike Nicki Minaj who just needs more and more piled on.”

“I don’t know whether to be more surprised about the Beyonce or the Nicki Minaj reference you just made.”

“Fine. It’s like this dish,” he said, tilting his plate of mushrooms and polenta forward. “It doesn’t need a whole bunch of stuff piled on top of it to make it better. It’s just great the way it is.”

I smiled. “You know I would have preferred Rihanna, right?”

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Roasted Red Pepper Soup

It’s hard making friends after college. The pool of new people drastically decreases, there’s usually a lack of liquor conversation, with the majority having more interest ‘pinning’ a cookie that’s inside a cupcake that’s inside a pie, than attempt to fill the awkward silence.

It’s not like you can knock on people’s doors to see if they want to be friends. That’s how you get your pic trending under #creeper on Twitter.

Which may explain my desperation behavior at my new job.

Ohmygod. I love Rihanna too!”

Lindsay turned around and removed her earbuds. “What? I couldn’t hear you.”

“I said, ‘I love Rihanna too.'”

“Ok.”

“We should be friends.”

Let’s be clear, I don’t walk around my neighborhood, trying to hear what’s playing on strangers’ iPods. Instead, I’ve convinced myself that a new job is like college, but with paychecks. You know, an absolutely proper place to make new friends.

“Do you do yoga?”

Amy took a sip of her tea. “Sometimes.”

“I noticed that you wear leggings a lot-”

She set her mug down on her desk. “You’ve been noticing…what I’ve been wearing?”

“I do yoga too!”

“Um-”

“We should be friends.”

I’m surprised I haven’t been reported to HR. ‘Noticed what you’re wearing?’ She looked at me like I said, ‘it puts the lotion in the basket.’

“You had soup for lunch yesterday?”

“Yeah it was leftovers.”

I pulled two Tupperware containers from my purse. “I brought you some soup I made last night. It’s roasted red pepper.”

“Oh…I already ate.”

“It’s 10 a.m.”

“Like I said-”

“You eat lunch at ridiculously early times too?”

“Uh-”

“Be my friend.”

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Corn Chowder

Dear Young Singleton,

Perhaps you came across this page, hoping to find some nekid pics of Liz Lemon.  Sorry to disappoint, but while you’re here, can we talk about a couple things?  Like, what not to say to girls¹.  I can’t exactly tell you what to say, but if you avoid the following, you may be able to avoid another night alone Googling ‘What’s under Liz’s shirt.’

1) Are you really going to wear that?

I was, until you looked at me like I was rolling around in cheese. Now I hate clothes. All the clothes.

2) Don’t you have enough shoes?

THERE ARE NEVER ENOUGH SHOES! (wipes drool from side of mouth)

3) Are there going to be any guys there?

Yes. It’s actually brothel. And you’re so not invited.

4) You should definitely get a gym membership.

Now I’m just going to spite-eat these cookies while picturing your face melting off. In yoga pants of course.

5) Are you going to eat all of that?

Yes, and so should you. It’s delicious. Asshole.

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Rosemary and Thyme Bread

Sometimes I wonder if the library has a wall mounted with photos of their most notorious card holders.  Members who have been caught repeatedly doing things “against the rules,” like eating, drinking or talking. (Clearly one of the greatest institutions must be worse than prison.)

If there were such a wall, I’m almost positive my photo would be up there for “most fines accrued.”  When I check out a book it’s pretty much guaranteed it’ll be returned overdue.

I don’t know why laziness I can’t get books back to the public library on time, but as of late the circulation desk staff have started asking, “Another one?” when they spot me rounding the corner.  It’s kind of like when the baristas at Starbucks see you coming through the door and start making your drink.

But with shame.

This bread however

is something to be proud of.

This bread would bring back books to the library on time.  This bread wouldn’t be recognized by the staff at the circulation desk because of fees.  This bread is good.  Quite good.

Studded with woodsy herbs, a lovely salted crust that it pulls apart with ease, it just begs to be dipped into a bowl of hearty soup. And when you come back from the library after paying your shame fees, you can find some comfort by tucking into some of that savory warmth.

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Mushroom and Wheatberry Soup with Kale

Some New Year’s resolutions may be to lose weight this year.  Others may want to quit smoking.  And maybe a few would like to spend less money.

I on the other hand, would just like to keep the crew from Hoarders from showing up at my apartment doorstep.

My kitchen cupboards are full, full of pantry staples like flours, dried beans, sugars, canned tomatoes and the like.  Unfortunately, it goes beyond that.

Various dried mushrooms? Shitake, porcini and woodman’s blend (whatever that means…)

Hijiki? Shacking up with arame.  They’re besties.

Dates? Sure, but to get to them you gotta push aside the dried cranberries, raisins, golden raisins, apricots, dried cherries…hold on a sec….where did these cacao nibs come from!?

And with the cupboards being filled to the brim, some items have found “homes” in re-usable grocery bags on the floor.  It just needed to stop.

Soup, was the answer.

The flux of warm, re-circulated, dry air in the lab to a drastically different, wet, cold and sometimes windy Boston side-street, has brought on sniffling noses, stiff joints and knuckles begging to be cracked.  Perhaps it’s a lingering bug, but I’m convinced that the constant change has left my body tired and hungry; hungry for warm bowls filled with hearty ingredients and dunkable broth.

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Vegetable and Pearl Barley Soup

I’ve been living with Roo for over a year now, and I feel like I have enough data to say that he’s probably a serial killer.  Or an alien…but better looking than Powder of course.

*The fact that I mentioned Powder and “data,” should be far enough evidence to prove something’s wrong with him for staying with me.

Anyways…

1) When I discovered a few grey hairs and told him about it, he said, “I bet you’d look hot with salt and pepper hair.”

Who says that?  No one wants a 30 year old female to go gray.

Except for serial killers.

2) He always tells me I’m beautiful when I wake up in the morning, despite my insisting that I more resemble a Kraken.

Let me state, I am not “beautiful” when I wake up.  My face is oily, my hair that I put in a bun to keep myself from choking on it in my sleep is all mussed up and sitting on the top of my head, and I have the. worst. breath.  Hence, Kraken.

3) When I come home from the yoga studio, always after a practice where I sweat with such ferocity that it goes into my eyeballs (probably the worst thing to experience since you go both blind and your eyes itch), he’ll hug me even tighter saying that I “just smell like Lys.”

What does that even mean?!

I’ll tell you, it means he’s trying to memorize my scent so when he’s hunting me in the woods he can track me better.

4) Whether we’re sitting on the couch in private or at a bar amongst friends, he always has to have some part of his body touching mine.  At first I thought it was sweet when we were first dating, but now I know it’s just to make sure that when his head is turned he knows I haven’t fled the scene as he can feel me beside him.

Oh, I’m onto you Roo.  But for now, I’ll make you a pot of vegetable and pearl barley soup on this windy December day, insisting that it was made with love, despite my hand rattling the ladle against the bowl.

Chunks of potatoes and carrots, amongst the tender chew of pearled barley, net in by sweet kale makes this soup fit for winter.  This dish has hints of earthiness from the addition of rosemary, only to be paired with two other favorite herbs of mine: thyme and bay.  Adding a big hunk of bread to your plate will practically leave little else to be desired for supper.

Except for my freedom from a serial killer.

Roo is not really a serial killer or alien but a really good boyfriend despite my being a giant pain in the ass.

Adapted from Orangette

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients

2 – 3 tablespoons of olive oil

1 large onion, diced

Half cup of pearl barley

4 stalks of celery, diced

4 carrots, peeled and diced

4 potatoes (about the size that can fit in the palm of your hand), peeled and cut into one inch cubes

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon of dried thyme

1 teaspoon of dried rosemary

Quarter teaspoon of chili powder

6 cups of low sodium stock (I used homemade)

2 – 3 bay leaves

1 bunch of kale (about a pound), leaves removed from stems and torn into easily edible pieces

Salt and pepper to taste

Equipment

A sharp knife

A vegetable peeler

A very large pot (or a dutch oven)

Add the olive oil to your large pot or dutch oven and place on a burner over medium high heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onion and pearl barley.  Stir the ingredients together, coating them with oil.  When the onions start to soften, and the pearl barley starts to brown, add the celery, carrots and potatoes.  Stir the ingredients together so that they’re well combined.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until they are softened.  Add the garlic, thyme, rosemary, and chili powder, stirring them into the other ingredients till well combined.  Cook them for about about a minute, till well fragrant.  Add the stock slowly, just a little at first, to allow the brown bits to come off the bottom of the pot with a spatula.  Scrape them off the pot’s surface, then continue adding all the stock.  Add the bay leaves and bring the liquid to a boil.

Once at a boil, reduce the heat so that the liquid is at a simmer.  Cover the pot and cook for about fifteen minutes, then add the kale, stirring it into the liquid.  Continue to simmer the ingredients for five more minutes, then check to see if your barley and potatoes are cooked through.  The potatoes should be soft to the touch (be able to poke a fork through easily) and the barley should have a little bit of chew to it.  Season with salt and pepper if desired, then serve.

Veggie and Dumpling Soup with Oven Roasted Cauliflower

Roo and I live in a part of the city where many college students sublet apartments throughout the school year.  By living in an area heavily populated with undergrads, we have easy access to many locally run restaurants within walking distance.  However, one of the businesses across the street from our apartment is a chain restaurant.  And this particular chain loves to receive deliveries at 4 in the morning, with the semi-truck right parked in the middle of the road, complete with the engine running for the entire time.  The truck is usually there for 30 minutes to an hour, complete with hissing from air being released from the brakes and sometimes if you’re really lucky, a blast of the air horn, to let the employee stashed in the back know that they’ve arrived.

Usually Roo and I can sleep through it, as after living on a busy road for a while, little wakes you up.  But this morning was different, as the truck driver decided to use a cart to move items in and out of the restaurant.  Clickity clack clack clack, is what I woke to at 5 a.m.  As I rolled over to whine to Roo about the noise (because whining is totally appropriate couples’ communication when you’re pre-coffee and the sun isn’t up yet), I found that he wasn’t there.

Where was he?

When I turned the light on in the living room, I found Roo asleep on the couch, and Evil Monkey, obviously caught red-handed in some sort of master plan.

(Seriously, she’s an evil genius.)

I asked him what happened, and apparently I told him in the middle of the night, “stop coughing or get out.”

Wow.

I know what you’re thinking, because I am too: he’s so lucky to have. all. this. (crazy.)

All joking aside, I felt incredibly guilty that I forced Roo into exile, and knew I had to make it up to him.

When I’m sick, all I want is a warm, hearty soup that I can eat while wrapped in a blanket and my feet tucked up under me.  (Spooning a soup bowl is like my hobby when I have a cold. That and using every conceivable paper product in the house to blow my nose.  Really.)  I knew Roo wasn’t a fan of brothy soups, so I decided to do an adaptation of an old favorite of mine: chicken and dumplings.

While Roo and I are now eating plant based meals, I felt that that was no reason to stop eating the comfort foods we had grown up with.  There is always room for adaptation.

Simmering in my dutch oven, were flavors of woodsy thyme, onions, practically melted into the olive oil, with chunks of carrots and a peppering of celery throughout, all enveloped by a rich and creamy soup.  What I especially loved was that the oven roasted cauliflower placed at the bottom of the bowl, gave a slight crunch, from the caramelized bits that had cooked up against the baking sheet, only to end with a smooth and silky taste, coupling perfectly with the soup.

This meal does well as leftovers, as overnight, the flavors truly meld together, and make a lunch all your co-workers will be jealous of.

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients

For the oven roasted vegetables

1 – 2 tablespoons of mild flavored olive oil

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into bite sized florets (*if you don’t like cauliflower – gasp! – you can always roast broccoli)

1 big pinch of fine sea salt

For the soup

3 to 4 tablespoons of mild flavored olive oil

2 medium onions, diced

6 carrots, peeled and chopped

4 ribs of celery, thinly sliced

Half teaspoon of red pepper flake (optional)

1 teaspoon of dried thyme

Quarter teaspoon of tumeric

Five and a half cups of low sodium stock/broth (I used homemade vegetable)

2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast (this adds to the creaminess of the soup)

Half cup of apple cider (apple juice also works if that’s all you have)

2 tablespoons sherry

Half cup of unflavored unsweetened almond milk (or any other non-dairy milk)

Half cup of water

Half cup of all purpose flour

For the dumplings

One and a half cups of all purpose flour

Half cup of cornmeal

1 heaping tablespoon of baking powder

Half teaspoon of fine sea salt

Three quarters of a cup plus 2 tablespoons of unflavored unsweetened almond milk (or any other non-dairy milk)

2 tablespoons of mild flavored olive oil

Equipment

A sharp knife

2 medium sized mixing bowls (can hold about 4 cups), or you can wash out the mixing bowl and use it again

One to two cookie sheets with (optional) parchment paper to line

A large dutch oven or a large pot with lid

A spatula

A blender or immersion blender…you may be able to get out the lumps when mixing the almond milk/water/flour with a whisk/shake a lidded jar

A whisk

A tablespoon (to scoop the dumplings with)

Place the oven racks to the middle and lower position in your oven.  Preheat your oven to 425F.

In your first mixing bowl, add the cauliflower florets, olive oil and big pinch of sea salt.  Toss the ingredients together till the cauliflower is well coated with the olive oil.  Place the cauliflower on one to two (optional, lined with parchment paper) cookie sheets, depending on how much cauliflower you have.  If using only one cookie sheet, place it on the bottom rack.  Otherwise, place both cookie sheets on individual racks in the oven, and roast for 20 to 30 minutes, switching position of the sheets halfway through.  Roast the cauliflower until it is tender and the outside is beautifully browned (it does not have to be browned all over, if leaving it in the oven for too long makes you nervous about burning).

Pour 3 – 4 tablespoons of olive oil into your dutch oven/large pot and place over a burner on medium heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onion.  Cook, stirring occasionally until the onion starts to become translucent.  Add the carrots and celery, and cook, stirring occasionally until the onion has browned.  Add the red pepper flake (if using), thyme and tumeric.  Stir the spices into the ingredients until combined.  Cook until fragrant (about a minute).  Pour in the broth/stock slowly.  Using your spatula, scrape up any brown bits at the bottom of your dutch oven/large pot (this is the good stuff).  Continue to pour in the broth/stock and stirring the ingredients.  Add the nutritional yeast, stir till combined.  Add the apple cider.  Stir till combined.  Add the sherry.  Stir till combined.  Cover the dutch oven/large pot and simmer the ingredients while you make your dumplings.

In your second (or cleaned) mixing bowl, add the all purpose flour, cornmeal, 1 heaping tablespoon of baking powder and half teaspoon of fine sea salt.  Whisk the dry ingredients together.  Add the almond milk and olive oil.  Stir the ingredients together, being careful not to over mix.  The dough should be slightly damp.  If it’s too wet, add a bit more flour.  If it’s too dry, add a little bit more almond milk.  Set aside.

In a blender (or if using, an immersion blender and bowl, whisk and bowl, or jar with lid, maybe?), add the half cup of almond milk, half cup of water and half cup of all purpose flour.  Mix the ingredients together until no longer lumpy.  Add the almond milk, water, flour mixture to the dutch oven/large pot.  Stir till combined.

With a clean tablespoon, spoon out the dumpling dough and drop it onto the soup.  Continue adding dollops of dough into the soup until you run out.  Partially cover the dutch oven/large pot and simmer for about 15 minutes.

Check the seasonings and add salt if needed.  Let the soup sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

Potato and Leek Soup

Woah, did everyone else barely survive Tuesday after the long weekend?

One of my colleagues is interviewing at medical schools until later this week so I’ve had to cover for her a bit.  There wasn’t much to do this past week, but at the end of today I opened my inbox, to see it full of emails from my boss asking if I could take care of a few things for her before I left.  Needless to say I ended up leaving late, which always results in a snowball effect when commuting from Boston.  I.e. the later you leave, the worse your commute back home is going to be.

I usually leave work at half past three to avoid the crazies of “I’m going to sit on you despite that you’re a person,” or “hey, that’s your face? Let me get you right in the eye with my overstuffed Coach bag,” or “I’m going to thrust my crotch in your face even though the train isn’t moving. At all.”

At half past four I left the research building, but unfortunately, it’s the same thing as leaving at rush hour.  (Rush hour for Boston is from four to seven.  Seriously.)

Forty five minutes later, I got to Kenmore, but I was relieved that I knew that my commute was halfway over.  All I had to do was board the 57 bus, get through the mayhem that is BU, and I’d be home.

Instead, the bus caught on fire.

As we pulled up to the St. Mary’s stop, a strange smell that I can only describe as metallic and cooling, like a Vicks Vapor Rub gone carcinogenic, started coming from the back of the bus.  When I turned around, I saw smoke coming from the rear engine.  In good timing, the bus failed to move any further, so we slid to a stop.  However, with the engine dead, the power to the doors was also shut off.

Well…I found out this afternoon that I really don’t do well in “I think I’m going to burn to death in this smelly old bus,” situations.

When one of the passengers was told by the driver (at the front of the bus) to manually open the rear door by using the “emergency latch,” she had an absolute mental fail. She proceeded to tap the glass with her hand and say, “wait, I don’t get it.”

The glass box read, in all caps, “SMASH GLASS AND TURN RED HANDLE.”

As the smoke started to creep in on us, I completely lost my marbles.

“It says smash glass and turn red handle.”

Girl taps glass again and looks around. “Wait, but, it’s not working.”

“It says to SMASH it.”

Girl starts to pull on box.

“OH MY GOD, IT SAYS SMASH GLASS AND TURN THE RED HANDLE. SMASH IT! SMASH THE GLASS!”

The driver ended up climbing over people to take care of it.

I’m not proud of that moment.  In fact, when I finally arrived home (in a non-flammable bus) all I wanted to do was eat a bowl of hot carbs and tell Roo how horrible I was to another human being.

Thankfully Roo (who is way too good to me) just laughed and said no one is good in those situations.

Still not feeling exactly good about myself, I was in dire need of comfort food. I thought about just chopping a bunch of potatoes, tossing them in olive oil, and roasting them in the oven for dinner.  (If you haven’t tried oven roasted potatoes yet, you must.  It’s so good.)  But when I went to grab some wine out of the fridge, I eyed a few leeks that I hadn’t used yet from our CSA.

What resulted was a potato and leek soup, that almost, almost made me forget about this afternoon.  The sherry just adds that “little something,” that I felt was lacking when I first tasted it.  Though it’s not completely necessary, as some don’t wish to cook with alcohol, I feel if you have it, use it.  It’s lovely.

Also, while the browned leeks and potatoes go against the usual mantra of potato and leek soups, I felt it really boosted the flavor.  As I’ve said multiple times in the past, I absolutely love caramelized onions.  Leeks are onions, right?  Sure.

The thyme and rosemary warmed the dish through, making me relive memories of baked potatoes my mother would pull out of the oven on cold winter nights.  She’d then split them open, seasoning them generously with salt and pepper, serving them alongside a rosemary and thyme oven roasted chicken.

While Roo and I are eating a plant based diet this month, I feel you can still have meals that leave you feeling satisfied without having an animal protein on your plate.  All the flavors were there in this little bowl of soup: warming thyme and rosemary, creamy potatoes, with rich caramelized leeks.  An addition of chili powder perked up our taste buds, making the dish feel not too heavy.  And lastly, the sherry just pulls everything together.

The weather forecast for the rest of this week is going to be rain, so I’ll be looking forward to having this as leftovers for lunch, with a thick slice of toasted artisan bread of course.

Adapted from David Lebovitz

Serves Four Generously

Ingredients

3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil

3 leeks, white and light green parts sliced then washed very very well in a colander

Five medium sized potatoes, the size that can fit inside the palm of your hand, diced

3 to 4 cloves of garlic, minced

5 cups of low salt vegetable broth (I used homemade) plus an extra cup or so, in case you’d like to thin it out at the end

3 tablespoons cooking sherry

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon dried thyme

Half teaspoon dried rosemary

Half teaspoon chili powder

Half cup soy milk

Equipment

A large pot

A sharp knife

A spatula

A ladle

A blender

A tea towel/a few paper towels

Add the olive oil to your large pot, and place on a burner over medium heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add your sliced leeks and cook, stirring occasionally.  When the leeks become translucent, about five minutes, add the diced potatoes. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes and leeks become golden brown.  Add the minced garlic, and stir into the ingredients.  Cook until fragrant, about a minute.

Add the vegetable broth, sherry, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary and chili powder.  Stir the ingredients till combined.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat down so that the soup is at a simmer.  Add the soy milk, and stir till combined.

Cook the soup until the potatoes are soft/fork tender.

Working in batches, ladle some of the soup into a blender, making sure to not fill it more than halfway.  Place your tea towel over the blender’s cover, and puree the soup.

I like my soup to have some texture, so I only puree half of the batch.  If you’d like to have a super smooth soup, then puree away.

Return the puree back into the soup pot, and stir till combined, working till you get the texture you want.

Add more vegetable broth to you soup also, if you’d like to thin it out more as well.

Oven Roasted Acorn and Butternut Squash Soup

Last week I received three acorn squash from my CSA.   Yes, three, and when Roo plopped them down on our kitchen table after he picked them up from the Allston Farmer’s market, I couldn’t help but think, “what the hell am I going to do with these things?”

I’ve had butternut squash, and I absolutely love pumpkin.  I’ve even had kobocha squash on an almost weekly basis due to my Asian upbringing, but acorn squash? What?!

So I did what any other person would do…when they’re as lazy as me in the kitchen.

I roasted it.

And then I made it into a soup.

What turned out was something that tasted like the fall I fantasize about when our air conditioner breaks in a July heatwave; sap popping amongst the embers in a fire, knee high socks (hello, they’re so warm), and the crunch of golden leaves underneath my feet.

It was pretty awesome.

Luscious, warming flavors of roasted squash, thyme and sage, and a lovely depth from caramelized onions (yes, I have a problem, I love love love caramelized onions), this soup was what I needed to curl up with for another rainy fall day.  It’s not laden with sugar and cream, which sometimes is a complaint about butternut squash soups.  It freezes beautifully (I said it) and I love having a bowl of it with a side of roasted cauliflower.

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

A couple tablespoons of olive oil (to coat the squashes with)

Quarter cup vegan butter, like Earth Balance (I know, I know it’s a bit of butter, but I found it necessary for the richness)

2 medium onions, chopped finely (I love love love lots of caramelized onions, I am a true believer it makes a soup)

6 cloves garlic, chopped finely (I also really love garlic, if you don’t, try 4…please?)

4 cups oven roasted acorn squash (about one a half pounds), scooped out from skins and set aside into a bowl

4 cups oven roasted butternut squash (about one a half pounds), scooped out from skins and set aside into a bowl

6 cups low sodium vegetable broth

Half cup light coconut milk

1 teaspoon dried thyme (start with half a teaspoon, and taste, if you want to up the herbs, add another half)

1 teaspoon dried sage, minced (same as thyme)

Salt and pepper

Equipment

A very large pot

A blender

A spatula

A sharp knife

A soup spoon

One medium sized mixing bowl that can hold about eight cups of squash

Two cookie sheets

Aluminum foil (optional) to cover the cookie sheet with

Place oven racks to the upper and lower positions in the oven.  Preheat your oven to 425F.

Cut your acorn and butternut squash in half.  Scoop out the seeds, then coat the cut sides of the squashes with olive oil.  Lay the squash, cut side down on a cookie sheet.  Place cookie sheets into the oven and bake, switching positions of the cookie sheets halfway through roasting.  Bake for about an hour, or until the flesh of the squashes are very tender.

Set aside the squash to cool.  Once cool, scoop out the flesh and set aside into a bowl.  There should be about eight cups worth.

In a large pot, add the butter, and melt over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until golden brown, for about seven minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, for about a minute.

Add the broth and squash to the pot.  Stir the best you can, till the ingredients are just combined.  *This doesn’t have to be super strict as you’re about to blend everything in the next step.

Remove the pot from heat.

In increments, and not filling the blender more than halfway, puree the contents of the pot until smooth. *Be careful and place a tea towel over blender cover, to prevent splashes onto your hand.

Add the pureed ingredients back to the pot.  Place the pot back on the burner on medium heat.

Add the coconut milk and herbs.  Stir till combined and bring the soup to a simmer.

Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Marinated Chickpea and Red Onion Salad

The heat has been pretty unbearable this week. Our cats have been found in the tub, sprawled out against the white tile, trying to tell us that the air conditioning in our uninsulated apartment is insufficient. The fact that Roo and I can’t even sit on the same couch together without sweating, with the a/c on 60 degrees and the fan blowing full speed is kind of ridiculous.  Then again, living on the third floor of a triple decker that hasn’t had any work done to it since the beginning of time is also pretty ridiculous.

I felt especially bad when Monkey laid down on a Target bag that previously held a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. The cool condensation trapped against a plastic bag was just too much temptation for our furry little ferret.

I was totally snarfing down ice cream as I took this photo. Bad owner.

Despite my previous protest of not making salad after salad this summer, I caved. I’ve been making salads for the past couple of days and Roo hasn’t said a word. He actually commented, “this is really good,” on several occasions, and my paranoia of him leaving me over lettuce has actually subsided. He’s even mentioned that he would definitely eat some of them again; this salad being one of them.

The key to this dish is the marinade and the almost pickling effect it has on the ingredients. Another positive is that this salad contains loads of protein, and many, many delicious components (don’t worry, it’s still simple, and easy to adjust what you want in it), that aren’t the usual horror show that’s the American salad seen in chain restaurantsIceberg lettuce, unripe, mealy tomatoes and cucumber slices that taste like raw wet cardboard?  No thanks.

Again, this was a ploy to use up a lot of what I received from my CSA.  But you know what?  It worked.  I really do love it when the stir-fry approach to dumping everything into a wok works when applied to chopping everything up and throwing it onto a plate for a salad.

Adapted from Saveur

Serves two to three generously

Ingredients

8 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

half teaspoon of dried oregano

half teaspoon of dried thyme

1 teaspoon of dijon mustard

1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes (I like things spicy, if you don’t start with a quarter teaspoon)

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 cup of dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained or 1 can (12 – 15 ounces) of chickpeas drained, rinsed and drained again

1 cube of sharp cheddar cheese, two inches by two inches, cut into even smaller cubes *this is your salad, if you hate cheddar, go with something else, like provolone, and cut the pieces into what you’d like to have speared onto your fork along with the other veg*

1 large ball of fresh mozzarella, cut into half, then cut into even smaller pieces (save the other half for a caprese salad or whatever your fancy)

1 red onion, sliced thinly (we love red onion and love lots and lots of it on our salad)

Half a head of lettuce, leaves torn into easily edible pieces (be sure to make your lettuce leaves as dry as possible!)

1 cup of fresh basil leaves, torn into easily edible pieces *you MUST use fresh basil! It really makes the salad special*

1 ear of cooked corn (either from the night before, or that day), cooled, and kernels cut off the cob

1 cucumber, about the length of your hand (from tip of middle finger to wrist), chopped

2 carrots, peeled and cut into easily edible pieces (I prefer stick form)

1 red bell pepper, chopped

Equipment

A very sharp knife

A small mixing bowl (if you have a set of three for mixing bowls, I use the smallest one for this recipe)

A whisk

A spatula

*Maybe a small pot (for chickpeas that have soaked overnight)

Whisk in your small mixing bowl the oil, vinegar, dried thyme and oregano, dijon mustard, garlic and crushed red pepper flakes.

If you are using chickpeas that have been soaked overnight, make sure they’re soft enough.  If they’re not, throw the chickpeas in a small pot with water over a burner set on medium heat.  Bring the chickpeas to a boil, then back down to a simmer.  Sometimes I have to cook them for 30 minutes, sometimes an hour.  Check them periodically, and when they’re soft enough, drain the chickpeas, rinse them with cold water to cool them down a bit, and throw into your dressing bowl.

If you are using chickpeas from the can (or your overnight chickpeas are soft enough), after they have been rinsed and drained, throw them in your dressing bowl.  Add the mozzarella, sharp cheddar and onions.  Stir to combine everything so that it’s all coated with the dressing, with a spatula.  Let the mixture marinate at room temperature for about an hour, stirring once or twice in the meantime.

While you’re waiting, plate the (please be dry) lettuce, basil, cucumber, red pepper, carrots and corn on two (or three) plates for your meal.  I like the lettuce to be at the very bottom, topped with the basil, and then the other veg just thrown about on top.

When it’s time to eat (!) top the plates with the chickpea mixture.  I love to add cracked pepper on top, I can’t say why, but it just makes it so much better.

Try to pick up everything with your fork, or at least some basil, chickpea, cheese and <insert other veg here>.  Devour.  Like a lady of course.