Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Curried Butternut Squash Soup (with sriracha!)

Y'all, it just tastes like fall.

I love spring produce, with its peas and asparagus and loads of fresh herbs, and the way it melts into the berries and tomatoes of summer, but there's just something so very, very satisfying about FALL PRODUCE: the sweet potatoes, the pears, the brussels sprouts, and all manner of decorative gourds!

I bought a butternut squash the other day and roasted it with za'atar. It was lovely, and then the rest of it has been hanging out in my crisper waiting to be made into something special. And today I decided on soup.

Now, I'm not big on sweets. I love salty, I love sour, I love spicy, and when it comes to my veggies, I love savory, savory, savory. I grew up my whole life thinking I hated sweet potatoes, because I'd only ever had them covered in marshmallows!!! Can you believe that nonsense?

This one is super easy, super cheap, and super satisfying on a crisp fall day. Here's what you do: first, swirl some olive oil in a pot and turn the stove on. While it's heating, chop an onion. Cry. Add the onion to the oil, add some salt, and get that to sweating. While the onion is cooking, go ahead and peel/mince a coupla-three garlic cloves and about an inch of fresh garlic. Then grab a butternut squash-- I only used half, but it was probably 3-4 cups, peel that and dice it into cubes.

When the onions turn translucent, add the garlic and ginger, and stir it around for a minute or so until you can smell it, add some more salt, a generous pinch (or two) of hot chile flakes, a dried chile de arbol, and about 2 tablespoons of good curry powder. I used Madras, but use your preferred brand or your own mixture.

Add the squash, mix that all up, and cover it with a quart of vegetable or chicken broth. I used chicken, because it was on sale this week, but if you use veggie, ta-da! your recipe will be veggie. Cover it, bring it to a boil, then back off the heat and simmer until the butternut squash is very tender (as in, you can easily mash it with the back of a spoon). At this point, text the broth and re-season. I found it to need quite a bit more salt.

Now here's the important part: Let it cool a bit. Otherwise when you inevitably end up wearing it like I did, it won't scald the ever-living $&%*! out of you like it did me.


So now that we've let it cool, puree it with an immersion blender. Alternatively, you could move it by batches into a stand blender, but that's a lot of work and you should really own an immersion blender.

Puree until smooth-- believe me when I say this needs no cream to be silky-- and then reheat to serving temperature, taste again for seasoning, and top with a glog of good olive oil (and sriracha, if like me, you want it even spicier). 

like a sweater for your insides.

And here's the other important part: do NOT leave off the olive oil. Fat spreads the flavor across your tongue. Fat lets all that deliciousness get down into the grooves of your taste buds. Fat-free food is gross. So twirl some olive oil on top and enjoy your bowl of autumn.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

sometimes curries fail, but okra is forever

Two weeks ago, I presented to you my favorite creamy tahini dressing, and a promise to blog every Tuesday rain or shine. As usual, my grandiose plans fizzled before take 2. Sigh. Whatever; I'm turning 37 next week and clearly this is who I am meant to be. I'm not going to stop making grandiose plans just because I'm a big fat loser!!!

I skipped last Tuesday because I hadn't cooked anything. FOR A WEEK. In my defense I was moving so the kitchen was in complete disarray but really, wow. Then last night, for Meatless Monday, I was super intent on making a lovely chickpea coconut curry to share with you today, and... it flopped. Not a complete flop, but it definitely didn't sing. It didn't sizzle. It was definitely not worthy of sharing. We have leftovers, too, so I've got some major tweaking to do before I can eat it again. 

Nom nom nom.
SO. Let's get to the okra. I found these lovely specimens at the Sunday farmers' market and was thrilled. Now, I love love love fried okra. Fried okra is one of my very favorite things. I'm from the South, y'all. I'd eat fried okra at the movies if they sold it to me in a paper bag with salt and pepper. But I have neither time nor inclination to deep fry at home. What a mess. Boiling/steaming = slime. No time for stewing or pickling. I thought I'd try my tried-and-true method of roasting... but that didn't seem quite right either. That's when my stroke of genius hit: cornmeal.

prep time: 5 minutes

I washed the pods and sliced them on the bias, then tossed to coat with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a mixture of cornmeal and coarser-ground polenta. Into the oven they went, 425, in a glass casserole big enough to give them room to crisp.


It took about half an hour, tossing every 10 minutes or so, and it turned out par-fried: perfectly done on the inside, not a wisp of slime anywhere, crisp and caramelized on the outside, and crunchy. I can only imagine that it is healthier than its deep-fried cousin, but certainly no less tasty. This is bound to become a staple in my house during okra season.

this helping could have been bigger.

I served them with this chicken from the latest issue of Bon App├ętit, and I could have happily gobbled up at least twice the amount I made. I even stole some from the mister when he wasn't looking. And bought more okra this week!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

back to blogging, in a creamy tahini-lemon dressing

I've decided to give this whole blog thing another stab. When I started, approximately one million bottles of sriracha ago, blogging was a whole different thing. We didn't even have facebook! I just had to TELL people to read it!! I've always missed having a place to write, which I love, about cooking, which I love even more.

I feel like blogging fell out of style and is making a baby resurgence, so I'm going to try it again. Every Tuesday, rain or shine. In the meantime you can always check out my tumblr and/or instagram links to the left.

Looking back through ye olde food blog, I seem to constantly be on a food journey. I've been a vegetarian, a pescatarian, a flexitarian, and a dainty little carnivore. These days I'm roughly "sometimes" gluten-free and "mostly" dairy-free. The bottom line is that I have always wanted what I want when I want it, as long as it doesn't make me too fat. That's the dream, right?

In my attempts to go dairy-free, I've finally perfected my favorite "creamy" salad dressing. I've had several friends ask for the recipe, and now I'm obliging.

Caveat emptor: I always cook and prepare in VERY broad strokes (partly because I wait too long to eat, get super HANGRY and have to make do with what's in front of me at that very moment, but mostly because I am very, very bad at following directions). So keep in mind when I give YOU directions, you are allowed and encouraged to riff on them how you please.

kale with white beans, quinoa, and a leftover dill/caper/parsley relish

I prefer to build my salad dressing in the bottom of a large stainless steel bowl. It's easier to whisk and then I can make the salad on top, thus dirtying one less dish. Since my dishwasher is my two hands, I always prefer to use as few utensils as possible.

Start with a large spoonful of tahini. If you're not familiar with tahini, it's basically ground sesame seeds. It's thicker than oil, but thinner than a nut butter. It's most often used to make hummus. Here in the city it's at any corner market, but if you haven't seen it before, check the ethnic section of your grocery store.

I add the juice of one lemon, one garlic clove, microplaned, a pinch of hot pepper flakes, and a pinch of Maldon sea salt, and whisk in extra virgin olive oil to the desired consistency:

It's perfectly creamy, and coats all manner of things in the best, exquisitely clingy way. I most often have kale around these parts, but you can put it on anything you like.

raw kale, roasted brussels sprouts & broccoli, pre-cooked chicken

1 TBSP tahini
1 lemon, juiced
1 clove garlic, microplaned
1 pinch hot chile flakes
1 pinch good sea salt
olive oil

large stainless steel bowl

Add first 5 ingredients to bowl. Whisk in olive oil to desired consistency.