Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup


adapted from

1 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 1/2 c. butternut squash puree*
2 medium or large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced into 1" cubes
3-4 c. chicken stock
sea salt
freshly ground pepper
4 fresh sage leaves
a generous pinch of cayenne pepper

In 4-qt. stockpot, warm olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and stir to coat, cooking for 3-4 minutes until beginning to soften. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the squash puree, potatoes, and enough chicken stock to cover the potatoes. (The more stock you use to cover the potatoes, the thinner your soup will be. Use just enough liquid to boil the potatoes; if needed, you can add more stock to thin the soup later.) Add the sage, cayenne, salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes or until potatoes are fork-tender. Puree soup in blender until smooth, then return to pot. Test for seasonings.

Serve with sage breadcrumbs (see recipe below)

Sage Croutons

2 c. French baget, torn into 1/2-1" pieces
1 T. finely chopped fresh sage
ground sage
Extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and pepper

Toss bread cubes in olive oil. Sprinkle with fresh sage, ground sage, salt and pepper. Bake at 275 degrees until browned, approximately 20 minutes.

*Note - to roast squash, cut it open lengthwise and scoop out the seeds.  Rub oil over the flesh, then sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Roast cut side down in a 400 degree oven until tender (approximately 40 min.).

Update - 3/24/12
My nephew was here for lunch today, so I pulled some of this delicious soup of of the freezer.  I'm pretty selective about who I cook for these days; I'm not willing to waste the hard work and precious ingredients on just anybody.  However, I'm more than happy to expose my nephew to the pleasures of good food since he's a fellow foodie; in fact, I've been trying to make that a priority.  When I told him what we were having, he threw a hunger fit:  "I'm sick of soup!  Eeuw - that doesn't look good.  I DON'T like butternut squash soup!! "  I reminded him that he's never even tasted butternut squash soup before, and that he rarely dislikes what I prepare for him.  Lo and behold, he not only loved it, but he was concerned that I had gotten a bigger portion than he did.

Roasted Beet Sandwich


I broke my "local/in-season" rule by buying some arugula for this recipe - a friend was coming for supper, and I didn't want to wait until spring to try this.  I knew it would be good because it's basically a variation of the Roasted Beet  Salad that I love, love, love, and it was as good as I anticipated!  I'll be sure to plant some beets and arugula and make this again!

Source:  adapted from recipe in Botanical Interests 2012 seed catalog

2-4 fresh beets, roasted, peeled and sliced
2 large handfuls of fresh arugula
4 slice (1/2" thick) good quality, multi-grain bread slices
4 T. soft goat cheese
sea salt, to taste

Remove stems and greens from beets, wash and pat dry.  Place in glass baking dish.  Toss with small amount of olive oil; sprinkle with sea salt.  Tightly cover dish with foil and bake at 400 degrees F. until soft (30-50 minutes, depending on size.  A toothpick should be easily inserted all the way to the center.)  When cool enough to handle, gently rub the skins off and slice.  Toast the bread.  Spread a thick layer of goat cheese on one slice of toasted bread.  Layer sliced beets on top of goat cheese.  Pile arugula on top of beets.  Drizzle with vinaigrette and sprinkle with sea salt.  Top with other slice of toasted bread.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Butternut Squash Risotto

The Slow Food folks would be proud of me for taking the time to make this dish!
While it seems crazy to spend so much time peeling and chopping, then stirring the risotto as I wait for the liquid to absorb, somehow I think it pays homage the lovely butternut squash which in essence is honoring the Lord for His amazing provision.

This recipe is pretty detailed, but it does help to ensure good results.

Source:  Cook's Illustrated magazine, October 2005

2 T. olive oil
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 lbs.), peeled, seeded (fibers and seeds reserved), and cut into 1/2" cubes (about 3 1/2 c.)
3/4 t. salt
3/4 t. ground black pepper
4 c. low-sodium chicken broth
1 c. water
4 T. unsalted butter
2 small onions, chopped very fine (about 1 1/2 c.)
2 medium garlic cloves, minced (2 t.)
2 c. Arborio rice
1 1/2 c. dry white wine (I substituted 3/4 c. water + 3 T. lemon juice)
1 1/2 oz. finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 3/4 c.)
2 T. minced fresh sage leaves
1/4 t. grated nutmeg

Heat oil in 12" nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking.  Add squash in even layer and cook without stirring until golden brown, 4-5 minutes; stir in 1/4 t. salt and 1/4 t. pepper.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is tender and browned, about 5 minutes longer.  Transfer squash to bowl and set aside.

Return skillet to medium heat; add reserved squash fibers and seeds and any leftover diced squash.  Cook, stirring frequently to break up fibers, until lightly browned, about 4 min.  Transfer to large saucepan and add chicken broth and water; cover saucepan and bring mixture to simmer over high heat, then reduce  heat to medium-low to maintain bare simmer.

Melt 3 T. butter in now-empty skillet over medium heat; when foaming subsides, add onions, garlic, remaining 1/2 t. salt and remaining 1/2 t. pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, 4-5 min.  Add rice to skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until grains are translucent around edges, about 3 min.  Add wine and cook, stirring frequently, until fully absorbed, 4-5 min.

Meanwhile, strain hot broth through fine-mesh strainer into medium bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible.  Return strained broth to saucepan and discard solids in strainer; cover saucepan and set over low heat to keep broth hot.

When wine is fully absorbed, add 3 c. hot broth and half of reserved squash to rice.  Simmer, stirring every 3-4 min., until liquid is absorbed and bottom of pan is almost dry, about 12 min.

Stir in about 1/2 c. hot broth and cook, stirring constantly, until absorbed, about 3 min; repeat with additional broth 2 or 3 more times, until rice is al dente.  Off heat, stir in remaining 1 T. butter, Parmesan, sage, and nutmeg; gently fold in remaining cooked squash.  If desired, add up to 1/4 c. additional hot broth to loosen texture of risotto.  Serve immediately.

Makes 4 main course or 6 first course servings

Butternut Squash Risotto with Spinach and Toasted Pine Nuts

Toast 1/4 c. pine nuts in small, dry skillet over medium heat until golden and fragrant, about 5 min; set aside.

Follow recipe for Butternut Squash Risotto; in step 2, after transferring sauteed squash seeds and fibers to saucepan, add 1 t. olive oil to empty skillet and swirl to coat.  Add 4 oz. baby spinach and cook, covered, over medium heat, until leaves begin to wilt, about 2 min.  Uncover and cook, stirring constantly, until fully wilted, about 30 seconds.  Transfer spinach to mesh strainer; set aside.  Proceed with recipe as directed.

Drain excess liquid from spinach and stir into risotto along with remaining squash in step 6.  Top individual servings of risotto with toasted pine nuts.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Family-Favorite Pasta Sauce

I've been searching for a good spaghetti sauce recipe for some time now.  While this recipe may not be my final destination, I was pleased with the flavors.  I'd love to be able to can some sauce when tomatoes are in season, but sometimes that's the last thing you feel like doing in the heat of the summer (or have time to do!).  This version is a nice option for the winter months, using summer's canned tomatoes.  I'm not so frightened of using sausage anymore since I have a good local source of pork from pigs that have been fed conscientiously, but I did use half the amount of sausage to keep my meat consumption down and save some money.  Believe it or not, my fresh parsley, thyme, oregano and rosemary is still hanging on in the garden, so I was happy to use them to enhance the flavor!

Source:  Taste of Home magazine, Aug/Sept 2011

1 lb. bulk Italian sausage
1 large sweet onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 T. olive oil
1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (6 oz.) Italian tomato paste
1/2 c. water
2 T. minced fresh parsley
1 T. brown sugar
1T. balsamic vinegar
2 t. dried basil
1 t. salt
1/2 t. Italian seasoning
1/4 t. coarsely ground pepper

In a large saucepan, cook the sausage, onion and garlic in oil over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain.

Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, water, parsley, brown sugar, vinegar and seasonings.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hrs. or until flavors are blended.  Serve with pasta.

Yield:  8 servings

Friday, January 6, 2012

Quick and Easy Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

Be sure to add the garnishes - it makes all the difference!

Source:  Adapted from

4 T. olive oil
1/2 c. onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T. ground cumin
1 t. coarse sea salt
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. allspice
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1/4 t. cayenne pepper, optional
2 + 2 cans black beans (15 oz. each), drained and rinsed
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 can (16 oz.) pumpkin puree
4 c. chicken broth
salt to taste

baked pumpkin seeds
sour cream
crushed tortilla chips

In a large pot, heat oil until shiny, then turn to medium low.  Add onion, garlic, cumin, salt, cinnamon, allspice, pepper, and cayenne; stir often until onion has softened, about 3-4 min.

In a food processor or blender, puree 2 cans of beans and the tomatoes.  Add the puree, pumpkin and broth to the pot.

Simmer uncovered until thick, stirring often while scraping the bottom, about 30 minutes or until desired thickness.  Add the remaining 2 cans of beans and heat.  Add salt to taste and garnish as desired.