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Roasted Butternut Squash Soup — and some Tuesday Tips

19 Nov

Roasted butternut squash soupThe main Tuesday Tip is that if you don’t already have an immersion blender, put it at the top of your holiday gift list. They’re not all that expensive, and they are invaluable whenever you want to make any kind of pureed soup, like this one. When you’ve got everything cooked and ready to puree, you just stick the immersion blender right in the pot, even if the contents are still hot, and whiz away. In just a few minutes, your dish will be creamy smooth — no need to ladle the stuff out into a counter-top blender in batches.

Another Tuesday Tip is that you can save a lot of time and effort, and spend just a little more money, by buying your squash already peeled and cubed at Trader Joe or Costco.

And the third and final Tuesday Tip is that if you do peel and cube the squash yourself, here is the easiest way to do it:

Cut a thin slice off the squash at both ends. Cut the squash in half crosswise, between the thin part and the part where it starts to bulge out. Then cut the bottom half in two lengthwise; you’ll now have three pieces. Scoop out the seeds and pulp from the bottom pieces. Use a vegetable peeler to take the skin off in strips. Be sure to also peel off the thin green lines that lie just beneath the skin.

After you peel all three pieces, cut them into wedges or cubes for your recipe.

Here’s a very short video from Good Housekeeping that shows you how to do it.

This delicious soup recipe comes from Chef Paul Penney, also known as Aussie in the Kitchen. He used to do cooking demonstrations in the workplace for the health insurer provider that my employer used. It’s creamy without being high in fat, and the spices make it very flavorful but not hot.

Ingredients:

3 cups butternut squash, cut in ½-inch pieces
1 Tbs. fresh sage, chopped, or ½  tsp. dried
2 tsp. olive oil
2 Tbs. butter or margarine
1 large onion, chopped
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbs. fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. curry powder
2¾ cups vegetable broth
6 oz. light coconut milk
Salt and white pepper to taste
2 Tbs. fresh cilantro or parsley

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Peel squash and cut into pieces (or buy cubed squash at Trader Joe or Costco — you’ll want about 1 lb. for this recipe). Put it into a bowl with the sage and the olive oil and toss until the squash is coated. Place on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper and roast for about 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. The squash should be nicely browned. Set aside.

Heat 2 Tbs. butter or margarine and 1 Tbs. vegetable broth in a medium soup pot. Saute the onion in the butter and broth over medium heat for about 6 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté another minute. Add the turmeric and curry powder and mix well.

Add the squash and the broth. Bring to a boil on high heat, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered until the squash is tender, 10 to 20 minutes. Add the coconut milk and blend. Use an immersion blender if possible. If you don’t have one, blend in batches on low speed.

Thin with a little broth if necessary. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. Garnish with chopped cilantro or fresh parsley.

Serves 4 to 6

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Carrot Soup With Ginger

27 Aug Carrot Soup with Ginger

Carrot Soup with GingerAdapted from a recipe on foodnetwork.com, this is a nice light summer soup. We made it with low-fat milk, and it was fine, but it would probably be better made with cream. We had some left over and served it the next day cold, which was also good. If you don’t like a strong ginger flavor, use a little less ginger.

Ingredients:

1 Tbs. butter
2 onions, chopped
6 cups vegetable broth
2 lb. carrots, peeled and sliced
2 Tbs. grated fresh ginger
1 cup whipping cream
Salt and white pepper
Sour cream and parsley for garnish

Directions:

In a 6-quart pan, over medium high heat, melt butter, add onions and cook, stirring often, until onions are soft.

Add broth, carrots and ginger. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until carrots are tender. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Add the cream and stir over medium heat until the soup is hot. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and chopped fresh parsley.

Serves 6

Cold Cucumber Soup

30 Jul
Cucumber Soup

Cucumber Soup

If your backyard garden has a surfeit of cucumbers, or if your local farmers market is selling beautiful cukes at a good price, consider making this refreshing, cold summer soup. I got this recipe from my dear friend Mandy Garver.  It’s very easy if you have a food processor.

Ingredients:

3 large cucumbers
1 clove garlic, chopped
3 cups sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
3 cups parve “chicken” broth
3 Tbs. cider or red wine vinegar
1 tsp. salt (optional)
parsley or chives for garnish (optional)

Directions:

Peel the cucumbers, quarter them and remove the seeds. Using the steel knife in a food processor, process the cucumbers and garlic by pulsing; the cucumbers should be chunky, not smooth. Add the broth, sour cream or Greek yogurt and vinegar, and salt if needed. Chill at least an hour before serving.

Serves 4

A Corny Tuesday Twofer

16 Jul

Along with today’s recipe, you get a promo for one of my favorite gadgets.

Now that fresh corn is in season, I always buy a few more ears than we can eat at dinner (it’s usually just the two of us). That way I have leftover corn to use for a great salad, soup or casserole.

My corn zipper

My corn zipper

A few years ago I got tired of trying to get the corn off the ears with a knife. The knife would slip, corn kernels would go flying everywhere, and I managed to cut myself more than once. So I hied myself over to Bed, Bath and Beyond and bought this nifty “corn zipper.” It makes short work of getting the corn off the cob, though I admit the kernels still go flying everywhere — just not as much as when I used a knife.

The last thing I made with leftover corner was this yummy soup. The original recipe calls for frozen corn, but use fresh if you can get it. After making it I thought it would be even better with the addition of a small, chopped potato, so I included that as an optional ingredient; cook the potato about 15 minutes before adding the corn. I also added a few squirts of Tabasco and a pinch of ground nutmeg. This soup is good — and low-fat — if it’s made with fat-free milk, but if you make it with whole-fat milk or half & half,  it will taste very rich.

You can make your own vegetable stock using the corn cobs after you’ve taken the kernels off as a base. Add a carrot, onion, celery, potato peels and other vegetables, peels or scraps you have on hand, cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer for a few hours, then strain out the vegetables. But I confess I used vegetable stock out of a box.

You can probably use cooked salmon instead of smoked salmon and increase the amount of salt slightly. Once the smoked salmon is in the soup, it tastes like regular salmon!

Corn and Smoked Salmon Chowder

corn & smoked salmon chowderIngredients:

3 Tbs. unsalted butter
½ to ⅔ cup each finely chopped onion, celery and sweet red pepper
2 Tbs. flour
3 cups vegetable stock, heated
1 medium potato, peeled and chopped into small pieces, optional
2 cups low-fat milk
½ tsp. salt
Black pepper to taste
2 cups fresh corn (cooked and sliced from the cob) or frozen corn (thawed)
4 oz. smoked salmon, chopped
Parsley, dill or chervil for garnish

Directions:

Saute the onion, celery and red pepper in butter over medium heat until the onion is just beginning to brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, another minute or two. Add the warm stock, stirring till smooth, and cook another 2 or 3 minutes until it thickens slightly (here’s where I would add the potato and cook a little longer).

Add the milk and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the salt, black pepper and corn. (Remember that the smoked salmon will add some salt, so don’t use too much; you can add more later if necessary.) Bring back to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat. Stir in the salmon.

Serve immediately, sprinkled with a chopped herb such as parsley, dill or chervil.

Serves 6

Hungarian Sour Cherry Soup

25 Jun

Hungarian Sour Cherry SoupIn the first house we ever owned, there was a 30-foot-tall sour cherry tree in the back yard. It was magnificent. Every summer we would easily pick enough to make a couple of pies and other desserts, without even having to climb too high.

We moved to our current house 30 years ago, and I missed that cherry tree! A few years after we moved in, my husband bought me a cherry tree for my birthday and planted it in the backyard. It was barely more than a tall twig then. But it has grown, and is now about 12 feet high. For the last several years it’s been producing beautiful jewel-like cherries.

A couple of years ago I picked a big bowl of cherries, planning to make this soup. The cherries are small and fairly soft, so instead of using a cherry pitter, I just squirted the pits out by hand and put the pit-less cherries in a bowl. But after I measured the water into a pot and turned to get the bowl of cherries, I noticed that the contents of the bowl were moving! The cherries were full of tiny white worms – ugh! I had to throw the whole bowlful away.

Last year, I checked the cherries carefully before using them, and had to throw away most of them, even the ones that looked perfect, because of the worms. (The worms are not easy to see, because they’re tiny, there’s only one in each cherry, and they look almost like the  membrane in the inside of the fruit.) I’m not even sure if I had enough to make a soup or pie.

This year we sprayed the tree before it blossomed and before the fruit was set. That must have done the trick. I picked a big bowlful of cherries last Sunday and set out to make the soup. At first I was worried, because three out of the first four cherries I pitted had worms. But I kept plugging away, and in the end, I had to discard only about a quarter of the batch; I had just enough left for this soup.

If you don’t have a cherry tree, you may be able to find sour cherries in a specialty fruit store. Or you can use bing cherries, but you’d probably want to cut the sugar by about half.

Don’t be put off by its Pepto-Bismol color. This soup is light and very refreshing on a hot summer day!

Ingredients:

6 cups water
1 pound fresh sour cherries, pitted
¾ cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
2 Tbs. flour
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

In a large saucepan, cook cherries with water and sugar until cherries are soft, about 10 minutes. In a medium bowl, mix sour cream with flour, salt and confectioners’sugar until smooth. Add about a half-cup of the hot cherry liquid to the sour cream mixture and whisk until smooth. Slowly add to the  saucepan with the cherries and stir or whisk until the liquid is smooth. Simmer for 5 minutes but don’t boil.

Cool to room temperature. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the soup so that a skin doesn’t form and refrigerate at least one hour. Serve cold as a first course or as a dessert. You may want to add a dollop of sour cream or whipped cream.

Serves 6

Spinach-Tortellini Soup

9 Apr

Spinach-Tortellini SoupI adapted this recipe from a recipe I clipped from the Detroit Free Press, whose food editor adapted it from Fine Cooking magazine (November 2001). It’s a nice, hearty soup – serve it with a salad and some crusty bread and you’ve got dinner! It’s great for a dreary, rainy, not-quite-spring day like we have today in Detroit.

Warning: it’s quite garlicky, so make sure everyone in the family eats it — and don’t breathe on anyone who doesn’t!

Ingredients:

2 Tbs. olive oil
4-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ cup chopped onion
4 cups vegetable broth or chicken broth
2 cups water
9 oz. fresh or frozen cheese tortellini, or 2 cups of the dry tortellini in a bag from Costco
1 can (14½ oz.) diced tomatoes
10 oz. fresh spinach, wash, stemmed and coarsely chopped, or 1 10-oz. pkg. frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
8-10 basil leaves, coarsely chopped, or 2 tsp. dried basil
1 egg
½ cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and sauté the garlic and onion until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the broth, water and tomatoes (with the juice) and bring to a boil. Add the tortellini and cook over low to medium heat until the pasta is tender. Reduce heat to a simmer. Stir in the spinach and basil; if using fresh, cook until they are wilted, about 2 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and Parmesan cheese. Drizzle the egg and cheese mixture into the soup and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 6

Hungarian Mushroom Soup

4 Feb

Hungarian Mushroom SoupI had a minor catastrophe in the kitchen the other day. I was reaching into the back of the fridge and I knocked over a plastic container with a loose lid, spilling soup all over the fridge.  As distressed as I was to have a real mess to clean up — the stuff seemed to get into every crevice of the refrigerator — I was almost equally upset to lose at least one serving of this wonderful soup!

I got the recipe from my friend Greta Zalman, who served it at our monthly Shabbat study group lunch to rave reviews. She adapted it from a recipe she found online at allrecipes.com. You can use regular button mushrooms, but I really recommend Baby Bellas, which you can buy in bulk at Costco (you need a lot of mushrooms). The photo doesn’t do this soup justice — trust me, it’s delicious!

Ingredients:

1 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 Tbs. olive or canola oil
2 cups chopped onions
1 ½ pounds fresh mushrooms, thickly sliced
4½ tsp. fresh dill or 1½ tsp. dried dill
1 tablespoon Hungarian sweet paprika
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 cup milk
3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
½ ripe tomato, not chopped
½ Hungarian wax pepper (This is a long, light green mildly hot pepper. You can probably find it at fancy produce stores. If not, use another mildly hot pepper, like a cubanelle.)
Salt and ground black pepper to taste (I didn’t need any extra salt, thanks to the soy sauce)
½ cup sour cream

Directions:

Melt the butter/oil in large pot over medium heat. Cook and stir the onions in the butter until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes more. Stir the dill, paprika, soy sauce and vegetable broth into the mushroom mixture. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 15 minutes.

Whisk the milk and flour together in a small bowl.  Stir the mixture into the soup. Add the tomato and the Hungarian wax pepper. Return cover to the pot and simmer another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.

Mix the sour cream into the soup and continue cooking and stirring until the soup has thickened, 5 to 10 minutes more. Remove the Hungarian wax pepper and tomato and discard before serving the soup.

Serves 6