Archive for January, 2010

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

January 29, 2010

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If you are going to live in Seattle, you must know something very important.  If at all possible, you have to get out of town in the winter.  Preferably February.  When the dark and the gloom is more than you can bear, it’s time to go find the sun somewhere.  (Personally, I think it is also necessary to skip town in May.  That’s the time when it is actually spring in 90% of the country and our trees are blooming in the Northwest and the days are long, but the rain is often still sticking around.)

My parents love to ski and all three of us kids learned how at an early age.  Our winter escape was going to Sun Valley to ski.  Now, I recognized at the time how fortunate I was to get to go on such a nice family vacation.  I also recognized (and here is where you will want to cue the small violins) how desperately I wanted to go to Hawaii or Arizona or somewhere warm.  Because yes, Sun Valley is sunny, but it is also snowy and I would have rather spent a vacation (and still would rather spend a vacation) on a beach than on a mountain.

Well, it’s almost February and guess where we are going?  Sun Valley!  We went to Hawaii last year and Randy loves to ski more than anything and my parents now own a time share there, so snow and cold – here we come!  I am actually really excited and think the boys will have a total blast.  We plan to try Graham in ski lessons and put Spencer in some kind of daycare so we can actually get a couple of days on the mountain, hopefully in the sun.

So, I’m off for a week.  I will still have a post or two for you while I am gone.  In the meantime, I leave you with this soup.  Butternut squash soup is everywhere on menus these days.  I love butternut squash soup but I almost never order it in restaurants because it is usually just a big cream festival.  I love the flavor of winter squash – why would I want to drown it out with cream?  I prefer to make my own soup.  My old go-to recipe was from Bon Appétit and was very simple and very delicious.  This one is a bit more complex, still very simple, and even more delicious which I didn’t think was possible.  Roasting the squash brings so much flavor to the soup and the generous amount of curry and bit of honey gives you tremendous depth of flavor.  Sweet, salty, spicy is an intoxicating combination.  The original recipe calls for a cup of cream but I cut it down to a half-cup of half-and-half and it was still plenty creamy, but the flavor of the roasted squash really came through.

One more note.  On the whole, I find garnishes to be kind of fussy.  They make for good photographs but often times I feel like the are an added step when I really just want to get dinner on the table.  Don’t skip the garnishes here.  They take the soup from quite lovely to quite lovely and really interesting.  If you don’t want to shell out for crème fraîche here, you could use sour cream.

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One Year Ago: Two Favorites.  My tried and true Guacamole and Lentils with Capers, Walnuts, Walnut Oil and Mint

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Lime Crème Fraîche
Adapted from From the Earth to the Table
Serves 6

2 tbps. unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 large butternut squash (enough to give you about 3 cups after roasting)
Olive oil
6 cups vegetable stock
1½ tbsp. curry powder
¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 tbsp. honey
½ cup half-and-half
3 tbsp. dry sherry
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Toasted pumpkin seeds or almonds, and chopped chives for garnishing
Lime Crème Fraîche (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out all the seeds.  Brush the cut surface generously with olive oil and place on a baking sheet.  Roast in the oven, cut side up, for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the flesh is very soft and very lightly caramelized.  Allow to cool, then scrape out the flesh and set aside.

In a large dutch oven or soup pot, melt the butter and sauté the onions until very soft but not brown.  Transfer to a food processor and process in batches if necessary, the onions and roasted squash.  Return mixture to soup pot and whisk it together with the stock, curry, nutmeg, and honey.  Bring to a simmer and cook 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the half-and-half and sherry.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve in bowls garnished with the pumpkin seeds, chives, and a drizzle of the Lime Crème Fraîche.

Lime Crème Fraîche

1 cup Crème Fraîche
2 tsp. freshly grated lime zest
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a medium bowl, mix the crème fraîche, lime zest, and lime juice.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Refrigerate for at least an hour for flavors to develop.  Can be stored, refrigerated, for up to 3 days.



Monochromatic Food

January 28, 2010

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I was recently reading something about our sense of taste.  You probably know this, but it turns out that our tongue actually plays a fairly small role in our being able to taste things.  Our sense of smell is much more influential and our eyes play a big part too.  As I have become a better cook, I have paid more attention to the “eating with your eyes” part of food.  In planning a dinner party, for example, I will try to make sure that the plate has a balance of flavor, texture, and color.  Once in a while I am surprised when something turns out differently than my expectations and I have an all green dinner.  Or an all beige dessert as in this case.

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I’ve had this Caramel Cake in my dessert notebook for a long time.  Periodically I would pass it by and read, in the header, how the Gourmet test kitchen couldn’t keep their hands off of it.  For unexplained reasons, I would then turn the page.  Not last weekend.  It was finally time to see what got the test kitchen so excited about this cake.

To be fair, the cake itself is actually quite plain.  Moist and pleasant but really just a basic buttermilk cake.  The icing is where it’s at.  There isn’t much of it but what there is has terrific caramel flavor.  The recipe tells you to allow it to drip off the sides but I was really careful and tried to keep as much on the cake as possible.  Yes it’s fun to swipe your finger(s) through the yumminess that pools on your baking sheet, but it really tastes so much better on the cake.

Because I can’t leave well enough alone and because I am infatuated with my ice cream maker, I made a pear caramel ice cream to go along with the cake.  Here is a weird thing about me.  I keep chocolate, caramel, and mint in one category and all fruit in another when it comes to ice cream.  I don’t usually like those two categories to meet one another.  However, I had two pears sitting on my counter and it was time to use them up so I cross contaminated and found sheer ice cream bliss.   Pear and caramel – who knew??  David Lebovitz, that’s who.  The Perfect Scoop is full of untold treasures.

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One Year Ago: Orange Pound Cake

Caramel Cake
Adapted from Gourmet
Serves 9

For Cake
2 cups plus 2 tbsp. sifted cake flour (sift before measuring)
1 tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature 30 minutes
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk

For Caramel Glaze
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Make Cake: Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.  Butter an 8-inch square cake pan and line with a square of parchment paper, then butter parchment.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla.  Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture may look curdled).  Add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated.

Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles.  Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.  Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan.  Invert onto rack and discard parchment, then cool completely; about 1 hour.

Make Glaze: Bring cream, brown sugar, corn syrup, and a pinch of salt to a boil in a 2 quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved.  Boil until glaze registers 210 to 212°F on a candy thermometer, 12 to 14 minutes, then stir in vanilla.

Put rack with cake on a baking sheet and pour hot glaze over top of cake, allowing it to run down the sides.  Cool until glaze is set, about 30 minutes.



300

January 26, 2010

So 300 posts.  Really?  300?  How did that happen?  Didn’t I just start this blog yesterday?  Numbers, as they say, don’t lie and my count says 300.  Wow.  I thought I would give you some Top Ten Lists in celebration.

Top Ten Things You Probably Don’t Know About Me

1. I play guitar and sing.  Well, I don’t much anymore but I started guitar lessons in 7th grade and took them all the way through high school.  I sang in coffee houses all through college and at some open mic’s in my 20′s.  Now I sing “The Wheels on the Bus” ad nauseum.  I also write my own songs for the boys such as the “Hippo Song” and “I’ve Got Two Little Boys and They’re Eating Some Dinner”.  Genius stuff.

2. My boys’ names are Graham and Spencer.  There is a very cool (and very expensive) clothing line also named Graham and Spencer, which I didn’t know about until after we had decided to name the youngest Spencer.  It is the last names of the two designers.  I am always tempted to buy something of theirs so I can go around town showing people my label.

3. I am very very afraid of spiders.  All bugs really.  Can deal with snakes but not bugs.

4. I kind of hung out with – I wouldn’t say dated – the drummer from Alice in Chains for a summer.  He had a cervil (which is an African cat – like a small leopard) roaming around his house.  True story.

5. My dream is to attend the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) in Napa for pastry.

6. As a child, I was told that I would grow to be 5’9″.  I stopped at 5’3″.  Sometimes I pine for those 6 inches.  My own mother is four inches taller than me and both my brothers are over 6 feet.  My boys are tall for their ages so it looks like the short gene skips a generation.

7. I used to be a huge Bruce Springsteen fan.  My senior year of high school, I camped out on 3rd Avenue in downtown Seattle (with my parents’ consent) to get tickets for his concert.  In spite of almost being at the front of the line, we had lousy seats.  I wrote a letter to his fan magazine (Backstreets) and it got published.  And that is the only bit of my writing that has ever been published.

8. I don’t like tropical fruit.  Wait.  Is pineapple considered a tropical fruit?  If so, I don’t like tropical fruit except for pineapple.

9. I used to work in radio and I went to concerts for free for two years.  I got to go backstage often and met a lot of cool people.  Lenny Kravitz, Melissa Etheridge, kd lang, Jackson Browne, Hootie and the Blowfish, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Dave Matthews (yes, he is my neighbor – well, close enough), Tori Amos, Chris Cornell, the Spin Doctors (yes, this was the mid-90′s), Shawn Colvin, etc.

My favorite experience was meeting Jackson Browne.  My dad has been a huge fan since the early 70′s and we listened to a lot of his music all throughout my childhood.  I was friendly with his record label rep and asked if he could get us good seats and backstage passes.  This very nice guy delivered and we enjoyed a terrific show.  Afterward we went into the holding room where the “meet and greet” was going to happen and waited.  The label rep found us and brought us back to Jackson Browne’s dressing room where we got some one on one time with him.  My dad was like a kid in a candy store (not a description I would ever use for my dad) and asked him all sorts of questions.  Jackson Browne was really lovely and indulged him.  I had a lot of fun and was so proud that I could do something special for my dad who has done so many special things for me.

10. I met my husband online.  We used a site called kiss.com which was eventually bought by match.com.  I didn’t want to put up a picture but I didn’t want guys to think I was a dog either, so my tagline was “People Tell Me I Look Like Teri Hatcher” which at that time, pre-Desperate Housewives, they did.  Of the 50 responses I got, 48 of them told me how much they loved Teri Hatcher.  My husband was one of the other two.  About one hour into our first date (that eventually lasted ten hours), I asked him if he thought I looked like Teri Hatcher.  He said, “I don’t know who that is.”  He responded to me because he liked what I wrote about myself.  That may have been the moment I knew I was going to marry him.

Top Ten Cookbooks I Would Bring to a Desert Island
(I’m not saying my favorite books because some of my favorites fall into that category because of good looks.  If I were going to be stranded, I would like some variety – and some dessert – so that is how I chose these books.)

1. Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone – Deborah Madison
2. Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen
3.  All of Jeanne Lemlin’s books
4. Fields of Greens – Annie Sommerville
5. The Martha Stewart Living books, Volume 1 and 2
6. From the Earth to the Table – John Ash
7. The Provence Cookbook – Patricia Wells
8. Real Vegetarian Thai – Nancie McDermott
9. Tartine – Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson
10. The Perfect Scoop – David Lebovitz

Ten Food Bloggers (+2 More) I Want to Have a Potluck With and Their Assignments

1. Stacey from Stacey Snacks – Appetizer of her choice – no meat please!
2. Sarah from In Praise of Leftovers – Galette or Pizza of her choice
3. Sara from Sprouted KitchenPeanut Sauce Bento Bowls for everyone and her boyfriend as a photographer
4. Joy from Joy the Baker – Dessert and possibly breakfast for the next morning
5. Lisa from Lisa is Cooking – Main Course – something interesting and spicy
6. Tracy from Shutterbean – Some kind of salad and her adorable boy to play with my boys
7. Tara from Seven Spoons – That chickpea dish and her sweet gentle soul
8. Vivianne from Food and Style – That mac and cheese and she has to let me speak French with her
9. Allison from Local Lemons – Her Limoncello, once it is done
10. Cheryl from 5 Second RuleToasted Cumin Hummus and her wit
11. Giao from Kiss My Spatula – Her perfect bread with homemade goat cheese
12. Tim from Lottie and Doof – Two words – French Fries

I could have invited about 20 more people – so many lovely blogs out there.  Thanks to everyone for reading!  I really appreciate your support.



White Bean Dip

January 25, 2010

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We’ve all had white bean dip, right?  I’ve made it myself many times and have had it made by friends and in restaurants.  Hummus would still be my first dip choice, but I do enjoy a good white bean dip.  I love finding recipes that are familiar but with a twist.  In this recipe, you sprinkle a breadcrumb mixture over the top and bake it.  Not rocket science but I never would have thought that warm bean dip could be so good.  I consider this a pantry staple dish because I always have onions and garlic in my vegetable basket, white beans in my pantry, and rosemary growing in my yard.  I made this for a dinner party and adults and kids alike were crowded around the bowl.  What more could you want from a dip?

Baked White Bean Purée
Adapted from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook – The Original Classics
Makes 3 cups, serving 6-10

If you want to make this vegan, just leave out the tablespoon of Parmesan in the topping and up the amount of breadcrumbs slightly.

2 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbsp. minced garlic
2 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 15½-oz. cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 tbsp. dry bread crumbs
1 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1.  Preheat oven to 350°F.  Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and cook until translucent, about 8 minutes.  Add 1 teaspoon rosemary and salt and pepper and stir well to combine.  Scrape into a food processor fitted with the steel blade.

2.  Transfer the beans to the food processor bowl and add the vinegar, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 3 tablespoons water and purée until smooth.

3.  Combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, remaining rosemary, and remaining olive oil in a small bowl, and stir until combined.

4.  Place bean purée in an ovenproof bowl; top with the bread-crumb mixture.  Transfer to oven; bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Serve hot.

(DT: I prepared this through step 2 and refrigerated it overnight.  Add 5 minutes to baking time.)



Vegetarian, Healthy, Not Spa Food

January 22, 2010

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When people ask me what kind of food I cook, the first thing I say is “vegetarian”.  Then I usually say something like, “I make healthy food but not spa food.”  What does that mean exactly?  I think I mean that yes, the food I cook is healthy in that I use a lot of vegetables, whole grains and plant-based proteins.  I cook with a minimum of oil.  I make a salad almost every night.  But my food can also be hearty (see: lasagne) and have more cheese than anything you would ever see in a spa.  If I’m going to make enchiladas, I do soften the tortillas in oil – I just don’t make them very often.

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I think this dish kind of sums it up.  If you are a meat and potatoes person, this soba noodle dish might look like spa food to you – there is tofu in there after all.  But the fact that you brown the tofu in oil and that you add sesame oil as a flavor enhancer might get you kicked out of a spa.  I don’t know for sure – I don’t frequent spas, although I would like to.  So in a nutshell, “healthy food with lots of flavor and mostly good for you”.  How does that sound?

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Soba Noodles Previously on Dana Treat: Soba Noodles with Bok Choy, Shiitake Mushrooms, and Ginger
One Year Ago: Lemon Bars

Soba Noodles with Vegetables, Crispy Tofu, and Toasted Sesame Seeds
Adapted from Gourmet
Serves 4

8 oz. package soba noodles
1 Asian or Bosc pear
Vegetable oil
12 oz. package extra firm tofu, patted dry, cut into ½-inch cubes
4 carrots, cut into 1½-by ¼ inch sticks
1/2 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps sliced thin
4 scallions, sliced thin
2 tbsp. finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp. Tamari or soy sauce
2 tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar
1 tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted lightly

In a large pot, bring salted water to boil for noodles.

Peel and cut pear into matchstick pieces.

In a large non-stick skillet, heat about 1 tablespoon of oil over moderately high heat.  Brown tofu on all sides, working in batches if necessary.  Transfer tofu to paper towels to drain and season with salt and pepper.

Add carrots to skillet and sauté, stirring, until just tender and start to brown.  Transfer carrots to a bowl.  Add another tablespoon of oil to the skillet and then add mushrooms, scallions, ginger, and pear and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until vegetables are tender.  Remove skillet from heat and add carrots.

Cook noodles in water until al dente.  Drain noodles in colander and immediately rinse with cold water.  Leaving them in the colander, toss the noodles with 1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil.

Return skillet to moderate heat and add ¼ cup water, tamari or soy sauce, vinegar, and remaining teaspoon sesame oil.  Bring mixture to a simmer and cook, stirring, until hot.  Add noodles, tossing to combine and adding more water if necessary, and cook until heated through.  Season noodles with salt and pepper and serve warm topped with tofu and sesame seeds.



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