Sunday, November 22, 2009

Soup of the Week: Curried Pumpkin Soup

Love this Curried Pumpkin soup, especially around this time of year. No one usually guesses that mushrooms are in it. It is a very simple, yet deeply flavorful soup. A crowd-pleaser.

Curried Pumpkin Soup
Serves 8
1 pound sliced mushrooms
1 large onion, chopped roughly
1/2 cup butter (you could get by with 1/4 cup)
3 T. flour
1 T. curry powder (McCormick's Madras Curry is good )
4 cups chicken broth or stock (about 2 cans)
1 16-ounce can pumpkin
1 T. honey
1/8 t. ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1 can 2% evaporated milk or 1 cup light cream

Saute mushrooms and onion in butter until softened. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Add flour and curry powder,

stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Remove from heat;

add stock in a stream, whisking the bits on the bottom of the pan into the soup.

Stir in the pumpkin, honey, nutmeg and a little more salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

Puree with a hand blender, or in a blender,

and stir in milk or cream. Reheat until hot. And enjoy.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Stuffed Sweet Dumpling Squash & Baked Apple

I am on my own while Tom is away helping his parents after his father's hip replacement surgery. Making dinner for one often doesn't seem worth the effort. It is more fun to cook for others, but I must say, I enjoyed this meal. It was easy and very satisfying.

It's a stuffed Sweet Dumpling squash with leftover buckwheat meatloaf which I cooked it for an hour and 15 minutes, along with a big Crispin apple with cinnamon and walnuts.

Sweet Dumpling squash was at the farm stand in Penn Yan when I stopped by to see what was still available in mid-November. So, I bought one to try. It's about the same size as an acorn squash.

And they also had a beautiful assortment of apples, and to my surprise, some English walnuts from the trees on their property. So, I also bought a huge Crispin and a small bag of shelled nuts.

I cut the squash in half sideways, then scooped out the seeds. This squash has a Halloween pumpkin aroma when you open it, but tastes more like butternut squash.

I piled it high with leftover, cooked meatloaf and

then put the top back on it.

In the same roasting pan, I cut the apple in half, cored out the center, and then put salt & pepper on it --- this step is important to bring out the flavor and to add some heat -- and then sprinkled on cinnamon and coarse brown sugar, then piled the nuts in the middle. During baking , the apple became soft and pillowy in the middle and the nuts were crunchy in contrast.

Here's how cute the squash looked after baking. It became golden brown, and was fun to eat. Inside, the soft squash and the meatloaf leftovers married well.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Jeanne's Red Pepper Pasta Sauce

I was going to write about buckwheat today, but that's going to have to wait. Instead, I want to share with you this simple, fantastic recipe that Jeanne made. (She also made the pasta from scratch, but that's another entry.)

She is back in town this week (from Taipei) and pointed out that I had never posted our cooking fest which we held a couple of months ago. It was a fun, ambitious day of cooking together: Jeanne, her sister, Nancy, Chris S. and myself. Well, Jeanne and Chris did most of the cooking. I took photos. There's lots more to post: gnocchi with roasted tomatoes, a lesson in how to properly make pasta, and Chris's awesome triple chocolate dessert.

So, yes, I am remiss in posting the photos and recipes but it was overwhelming to sort through them all. But today, with her prodding, I looked through them and my mouth started watering when I saw the red pepper sauce. So, I said to myself, "I gotta post this!"

We are both big fans of Craig Claiborne, so I pleasantly surprised that she got her recipe from him. (She learned to cook from her Italian grandma so I thought it was from her.) And he apparently got it from Ed Giobbi, who the heck is that? Am I supposed to know??? But I love the fact that great recipes get passed around. Even by Craig.

Ed Giobbi's Sweet Red Pepper Sauce for pasta
from Craig Claiborne's NYTimes Cookbook -- the white one

4 servings

2 very red, unblemished sweet red peppers, about 1/2 pound
2 T. olive oil
2 cups coarsely chopped onions
2 t. minced garlic
1/2 t. hot red pepper flakes
1 cup chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 chopped basil
1 pound cooked pasta
grated Parmesan cheese

Cut the peppers lengthwise in half. Scrape away and discard the stems, veins and seeds. Chop the peppers coarsely. There should be about 2 cups.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the peppers. Cook, stirring, about 5 minutes. Add the onions, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, 2 minutes longer. Add the stock, salt and pepper. Cover and cook 15 minutes.

Ladle the sauce into the container of a food processor and blend thoroughly. Return the mixture to the saucepan and bring to a boil. cook about 2 minutes and stir in the basil. Serve with 1 pound pasta cooked to the desired degree of doneness. Serve the cheese on the side.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Salmon and Soba Noodles in Ginger Broth

Needed something completely different to counteract the overindulging we did over the weekend, so this recipe appealed to me. And it is super easy. It's a meal in one dish, and very tasty. Plus it combines two of my current food interests: how to incorporate more fish into our diet and buckwheat.

Buckwheat??? Yes, more on that tomorrow.

All of the ingredients were readily available at Weggies. Soba noodles were in the International section, under Japanese cuisine. The shiitake were pre-cut and bean sprouts were pre-packaged. We had the salmon fillets in the freezer.

Salmon and Soba Noodles in Ginger Broth
adapted from Food & Wine's Quick from Scratch Fish and Seafood cookbook, pg. 155

Serves 4

1/2 pound buckwheat noodles, look for Japanese Soba noodles (or whole wheat linguine)
2.5 cups chicken broth (I used 2 small cans)
1/4 cup dry sherry
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 2-inch-piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
3 scallions including green tops, cut into thin slices (I used shallots)
1/4 t. salt
1/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps cut into thin slices
1 pound salmon fillet, skinned, cut into 4 pieces (I used frozen fillets)
1 quart spinach leaves (about 3 ounces)
1/4 pound bean sprouts (about 1 cup)

In a medium size pot of boiling, salted water, cook the noodles, per the package, until almost done. For whole wheat linguine, plan on 12 minutes. For Soba noodles, it only takes 3 or 4 minutes.

Here's what soba noodles look like. They are made of buckwheat. I used two of the three wrapped sections in the bag.

In a large saucepan, combine the broth, sherry, soy sauce, ginger, scallions (I substituted shallots), and salt (I skipped the salt).

Bring to a simmer and continue simmering, covered, for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile I washed and spun the spinach.

And washed the bean sprouts. My package wasn't as fresh as I thought they should be, so I thought I'd better give them a bath.

Added the mushrooms and the salmon to the broth and simmer, covered, until the fish is just cooked through, about 6 minutes for a 1/4 inch thick fillet. I started with the salmon frozen so it took a little longer. Remove the salmon from the broth. And set aside.
Add the spinach to the broth and let it shrink so you have room for the noodles.

Stir the pasta, spinach and bean sprouts into the broth.

Cover and simmer until the pasta is finished about a minute more. Put the noodles and vegetables into serving bowls. Top with the salmon, and ladle the ginger broth over the top.

Slurp away!

Since I was cooking for 2 instead of 4, the first day I poached salmon fillets, and saved the rest of the pot in the fridge.
Then on the second day I poached large shrimp, again starting from frozen and letting them gently simmer until done, about 3 minutes. They will turn pink and stiffen a little, but don't overcook the shrimp.

I liked the shrimp better than the salmon, but then again, I am not a huge salmon fan. I eat it because I think should eat it, because it's good for me.

And I think I'd improve the broth if I knew enough about Japanese food to know what to change. Maybe my next door neighbor, Masako, could give me some ideas for a good hot pot broth. She is in Japan, caring for her elderly mother, but I will ask when she gets back.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Split Pea Soup with Smoked Ham Bits

For this week's soup, I made a delicious (albeit not pretty) split pea with smoked ham bits. I am willing to look past its looks because it tastes so good!!

It starts out with beautiful bright green dry split peas. And gets its smokiness from ham hocks, but you could use smoked chicken wings or smoked ham.

Then it's my usual way to create a soup, with the exception of adding cloves to the onion. I read that James Beard did that to the onion in his split pea soup, so I thought I try it, too.

Split Pea Soup with Smoked Ham Bits
1 onion
5 cloves
2 carrots
2 ribs of celery
2 large garlic cloves
bay leaf
4 cans of chicken broth
3 smoked ham hocks (not necks!) (Look in the freezer section if you can't find fresh)
1 lb. bag of green split peas

Sort peas and rinse in cold water. Drain.

In a large stockpot, brown smoked ham hocks. Scrape carrots and cut into large chunks. Stud onion with cloves. Smash two large garlic cloves. Clean and cut celery ribs into large chunks.

Add drained split peas.

Cover with chicken broth, add bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours until meat is tender.

Remove ham hocks. And let cool. Remove bay leaf.

Remove cloves from onion. Smash with potato masher. I find a potato masher works well (vs. blender) when you want a thicker, chunkier soup, but still want to disburse the flavors.

Cut up bits of ham and return to pot. Note how little ham came off the hocks. So, if you want lots of ham in your soup, buy smoked ham and cut it up in cubes, instead.

Serve and enjoy. We had it for lunch, but it is hearty enough for dinner, too.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Linguine with Roasted Red Clam Sauce

For a quick dinner last night, I made linguine with red clam sauce ---with a twist.

I used our homemade roasted tomato sauce instead of crushed tomatoes --- and it worked very well. Tom says he loved it. I sort of like the brighter, lighter version myself, but if it makes him happy, I am happy.

Linguine with clam sauce, red or white, is a really simple, fast dish to make. You just need to buy canned clams and a bottle of clam juice -- they are in the same aisle as canned tuna fish. The other items I usually have on hand. Then it's a matter of boiling water for the pasta while you create the clam sauce in a large skillet.

I started with a recipe from the Food & Wine's Quick from Scratch Fish & Shellfish cookbook, and adapted it for our ingredients.

Linguine with Red Clam Sauce
Serves 4
1/4 cup olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, chopped (I use jar garlic when I am in a hurry, but fresh would be better)
2/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 t. dried thyme (sometimes I use basil instead)
pinch red pepper flakes (add more if you like it spicy)
3 cups canned crushed tomatoes in thick puree (28 ounce can)(I used our homemade roasted sauce)
1 cup bottled clam juice (I used one bottle)
salt, if needed
3/4 pound chopped clams, drained (about 1 1/2 cups) (I used two cans but three would be better)
1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1/4 t. pepper
3/4 pound linguine (I used one package fresh linguine)

Start of large pot of water for the linguine.

Then, in a large skillet, heat oil over moderately low heat (so you don't burn your garlic). Add the garlic and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the wine, thyme, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer. Cook until reduced to about 1/3 cup, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, and clam juice. Raise the heat to moderate and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 10 minutes.

Add the clams and bring back to a simmer. Continue simmer until the clams are just done, about 1 minute longer. Stir in the parsley and black pepper. Season, if needed.

Add lots of salt to your water when it comes to boil. Cook your pasta per the package directions. Dry takes about 10-12 minutes. Ours only took 2 minutes because it was "fresh". Better to be on the al dente side.

I take it directly from the pot into the sauce and let is soak up all the juices. And stir to coat. Then lift out individual portions of pasta and spoon sauce and extra parsley on top.