butternut squash soup with parmesan cheese crisps

My counter is full of squash.  Acorn.  Butternut.  Spaghetti.  All rolling around and teeter-tottering about like vegetable weeble wobbles. Squash was not meant to lay about on a countertop.  I  fear that they will eventually end up cracked and splattered on the floor before I find the time and energy to create a dish that would be eatable …

I don’t mind the squash on my countertop as they are my  only fall decorations…I bet my CSA didn’t know they were providing a bedecking service once they started harvesting squash.  Perishable decorations however at some point in time need to be eaten.  I don’t have many dishes to hide squash in…and yes, I hide squash.  There is the ever so popular mac and cheese or the fancy schmancy butternut squash risotto, both of which claim to be crowd pleasers.  I am not sure about just eating it roasted because I have this misconception that it should be as sweet as a sweet potato, but it isn’t and it never will be.  And therefore,  I need to load up the vegetable with butter and brown sugar, and while I see very little wrong with this picture, I feel like I am pushing squash to be something it isn’t.  A sweet potato.  You see, they may have similar color…but no go on the level of sugar.  If the vegetable is bright orange, I have a level of sweetness that I inherently connect with it…sweet potatoes, sweet.  Carrots, sweet.  Yams, sweet.  Butternut squash, not sweet.  So upsetting!  So, over the years I have had quite a few of so-called failed dishes because they missed the flavor bullseye in my brain because I was hoping for a bit of sweetness when I should have been striving and expecting a savory end result…my mistake.  I am in the midst of reshaping my thinking.  Altering my taste buds.  Maturing if you will.

So, with this in mind…and more squash expected in this weeks CSA and a lack of any more counter space for fall decorations, and a craving for comfort in a bowl…I went in search of a decent soup recipe.  I knew going in, the basics of a butternut squash soup.  I knew how to roast the squash.  I knew how to saute my onion and garlic.  I knew how to add chicken stock and bring it to a boil.  I knew how to puree until smooth.  I knew to add cream at the end.  I knew to top with chopped chives and a dollop of crème fraîche.  I, however, needed help with the spices.  Deb of Smitten Kitchen to the rescue.   And come to find out…cumin, ginger, thyme, and sage are exactly what you need.  Que Simon and Garfunkel.  She is genius.  But I already knew that and I am betting you did too.

So with the right spices on board and a change in mind-set from sweet to savory…I made a bowl of roasted butternut squash soup that was quite enjoyable and necessary on Saturday as the cold rain fell and we curled up on the couch and settled in for a day of sweatpants and Netflix.

And seriously, the parmesan crisps are a must and take literally 6 minutes to whip up…maybe 8 if you are grating your own cheese, which huge props to you…I have a tendency to buy pre-shredded parmesan cheese because I abhor shredding cheese of any kind and plus I like to snack on parmesan cheese throughout the day…a pinch here and a pinch there…talk about salty goodness.

5.0 from 1 reviews

butternut squash soup with parmesan cheese crisps
 
Makes enough for 4 decent sized servings.
Ingredients
  • 1 Butternut Squash – medium in size
  • 1 Acorn Squash
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 Sweet Onion, small dice
  • 4 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 2½ to 3 Cups Chicken Broth
  • 1+1/2 Teaspoon Sage finely chopped
  • 1+1/2 Teaspoon Thyme finely chopped
  • 1+1/2 Teaspoon ground Cumin
  • ½ Teaspoon ground Ginger
  • ¼ Cup Heavy Cream (or half and half)
  • chives (optional)
  • Creme Fraiche or Sour Cream (optional)
  • Parmesan Crisps
  • 2 Tablespoons Freshly grated Parmesan per crisp.
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Cut butternut squash and acorn squash in half, length wise. With a sturdy knife, slice off top of squash close to stem. Scoop out seeds and membranes. Lay face up on a tinfoil lined baking sheet and roast for about 30 to 45 minutes, until fork tender. Remove from oven and let cool. Once cool, scoop out the squash flesh and place in bowl, set aside.
  3. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and garlic, saute until translucent. About 10 minutes.
  4. Add chicken broth, cooled squash flesh, sage, thyme, cumin, and ginger. Bring to a simmer and let cook for 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Working in small batches, transfer soup to a blender and puree until smooth, transferring pureed soup back into original pan. Once all the soup is pureed, stir in cream and salt and pepper to taste. (if the soup is too thick, stir in a bit more broth until desired consistency is reached…I like a thicker soup, so I used only 2 +1/2 cups) Bring soup to a simmer over low heat and prepare parmesan crisps.
  6. Preheat oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  7. Neatly mound 2 tablespoonfuls of grated parmesan cheese per crisp on lined baking sheet 3 inches apart. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes until edges are browned and centers are bubbly. Remove from oven and let cool. These are best slightly warm or at room temperature.
  8. Serve soup with a dollop of creme fraiche, chopped chives, and a parmesan crisp or two.

 

Tomato Corn Chowder

I am a chowder girl.  All the way.

OR chowda…if we are to be saying it correctly.  Which I think we should be, even if we are in Ohio and a good days drive from any New England accent…which is sad, because I could listen to them talk for days.  And driving 8+ hours to hear an accent might be a bit crazy.  But what if I added chowda’ eating and lobsta roll gorging?  The thought of driving for all three of those things; accents, chowda, and lobsta rolls….well, I am thinking it might be doable.  Insane, perhaps…but totally worth it.

Did someone mention coffee ice cream?

OK, all dreaming of a New England fall vacation aside…

Do you have an insane amount of tomatoes sitting on your counter?  And a few cherry tomatoes too… that perhaps your cat is swatting off the counter?  No?   My CSA and fellow co-workers have been supplying my humble abode with tomatoes faster than I can eat or Stan can swat.  Such a tough situation, right? Too many tomatoes…womp, womp…

Besides canning or making salsa – both great ways to enjoy a tomato…I didn’t have enough to go through the whole canning process and I can’t be trusted with salsa and a bag of tortilla chips….So, I always turn to making some sort of soup/stew or in this instance, a chowda when I have more tomatoes than I can eat on sandwiches or in salads.

Lets gather some ingredients.

Skinned yellow tomatoes…and all their glorious juices.  Super easy…the darn oven does all the work – you just have to wait and allow them to cool or wind up nursing burnt fingertips.  I swear, I pray for patience.  Daily.

You will need some sweet corn.  And leave it under the broiler longer than I did.  Read about my patience above.

 

Handy dandy way of trimming off the kernels without them flying all over your kitchen…Game changer.

Is there anything more satisfying than eating a chunk of corn kernels?  No, there isn’t.  Sorry, I didn’t give you a chance to answer.  So. darn. satisfying.

What is chowda without bacon and onions?  I don’t even want to think about it.  Get bacon.  Find an onion. Dice.

 

Potatoes.  Keep the skin on.  It is easier.  Why new potatoes rock.

 

 

Eat.

With crusty bread.

And a spoon.

And friends.

A cold beer wouldn’t be bad either…

Tomato Corn Chowder
 
Makes about 4 large servings
Ingredients
  • 3 Large Yellow Tomatoes, ripe (or 4 medium)
  • 4 Ears Fresh Corn, in husk
  • 6 Slices of Thick Cut Bacon, Diced
  • 1 Onion, diced
  • 1 Teaspoon Dried Thyme (use 1 Tablespoon if you have fresh)
  • 3 Cups Chicken Broth
  • 5 Small New Potatoes, washed and large dice – I used Yukon Gold
  • 1 Cup Half and Half.
  • Salt and Pepper
Instructions
  1. Roast tomatoes and corn. Turn boiler on high. Place tomatoes and corn (in husk) on separate tinfoil-lined rimmed baking sheets and place under broiler. Broil tomatoes until the skin has blackened – turning every so often. Broil the corn until the husks begin to brown. Remove trays from oven and let cool until they can be handled. Remove skins from tomatoes and remove husk and silk from corn. Roughly chop the tomatoes, reserving any and all liquid. Slice the corn kernels off of the corn husks. Set tomatoes and corn kernels aside.
  2. Place a large pot over medium heat and add diced bacon to pan. Cook bacon until crispy.
  3. Stir in the onions and thyme and cook until onions are softened and translucent, do not let them brown (about 5 to 7 minutes, if they begin to brown, turn down heat).
  4. Add tomatoes and corn and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  5. Add broth and potatoes and bring to a simmer, cook until potatoes are fork tender (about 8 to 10 minutes).
  6. Stir in half and half. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Serve immediately.
  8. Store in fridge.

 

 

Broccoli Salad

My week days consist of me telling  people they can’t eat broccoli.

Or brussel sprouts or kale or god-forbid any greens – including but not limited to turnip and collards.  And do not even think about spinach.

But I feel really bad about the broccoli.

I blame the drug they’re on…it is the main reason.  Or perhaps it’s their heart that isn’t functioning as it should or maybe they have blood clots in their legs or lungs or somewhere in-between or perhaps it because they had a knee replaced….I place the blame on one of the above….but I think the patients blame me.  Because I am telling them ‘ no dark green vegetables’.  I am the bad guy.  If only vegetables didn’t contain vitamin K…because that is the true suspect.

It is hard to be angry at a vitamin…

 

The other month (yes, I made broccoli salad weeks ago and just haven’t found the time to post ) when I was explaining to an elderly women and her daughter, with whom she lived, that she would need to hold off on the broccoli, she turned to her daughter and shouted (either from pure distress over no broccoli or she damn near deaf…) ” DOES THAT MEAN NO MORE BROCCOLI SALAD FROM HEINENS’?!?!?!?! (note: Heinen’s is a local grocery store with a lovely prepared food/salad bar and their produce is top- notch, but their parking lots are death traps and they don’t let you remove their carts from the store…drives me bonkers)  She was visibly upset by this fact.  And I instantly had to agree with her…that stuff is like crack.

Dopamine triggering goodness.  Bacon, cranberries, red onion, creamy dressing, and of course – crunchy, vitamin K rich broccoli.  I felt the need to hug this lovely old women, with graying hair, and wrinkly thin skin…because I too, would be unconsolable.

Honestly, I hadn’t given broccoli salad much thought in some time…I am not a frequent salad bar at the grocery store type.  I grab my veggies, coffee, head down the baking aisle for flour and sugar, grab my almond milk, eggs, and butter in the dairy and I am out the door…But I knew of the concoction she was mourning over.  I’ve been to summer picnics and church dinners…places where broccoli ALWAYS makes an appearance.  And I have had my fill…trust me. And it is delicious.

The thought of broccoli salad stuck with me and before long I found myself in my kitchen rendering bacon, chopping onion, and nibbling on cranberries…I needed a fix before I got too old and needed to be placed on Coumadin, which I think is the prize that is awarded for becoming elderly.  Can.  Not.  Freaking.  Wait.

Until then…I am loading up on broccoli salad.  I think you should too.

 

 

Broccoli Salad
 
Serves about 4-6 as a side.
Ingredients
  • 2 Heads Broccoli, stems removed and florets chopped into bit sized pieces
  • ½ lb Bacon
  • ⅔ Cup Cranberries
  • ½ Cup Walnuts (or pecans or almonds)
  • ½ Small Red Onion, diced or thin half moons
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Dressing
  • ½ Cup Buttermilk, well shaken
  • ⅓ Cup plus 2 Tablespoons Mayonnaise
  • 2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1-2 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 2-3 Tablespoons finely diced red onion
  • Pinch of salt and Pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spread walnuts (or your nut of choice) evenly on a baking sheet. Place in preheated oven for about 5-8 minutes until fragrant (keep close eye). Remove from oven and let cool and then roughly chop. Set aside.
  2. Place a large skillet over medium heat and cook bacon until brown and crispy. Place bacon on a paper towel lined plate to absorb extra grease. Let cool and then roughly chop.
  3. In a large bowl, combine bit sized broccoli florets, bacon, cranberries, roasted walnuts, and red onion. Toss to combine. Salt and pepper to taste.
  4. In a large measuring cup or bowl, combine ingredients for dressing and whisk to combine – if you would like a thicker dressing, decrease buttermilk and increase mayonnaise.
  5. Pour over salad and toss to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste as needed.
  6. Place in refrigerator to chill. Serve cold.

 

Asparagus and Shrimp Stir Fry w/ Farro

Morning shows are not generally my thing…unless we are talking Sportscenter – then I am totally game.  As a female, I feel the need to explain this habit.  You see, I grew up with brothers…therefore, mornings were comprised of Frosted Flakes and SportsCenter and after 18+ years of this ‘torture’, don’t ya know I found myself actually enjoying the darn show.  To the point that I continued to watch it throughout college (where I then insisted that my roommates watch – a childhood without control of the remote makes you quite the dictator later in life).  During my pre-cable-lessness days (aka Amish living) – I have begun dating my life pre and post cable... ESPN/SportsCenter is what you would find on my TV, all morning long – because as you know (or maybe you don’t), SportsCenter will replay, hour after hour, until about noon.  It restarts without much warning and before you know it – you have watched the Top Ten Plays 3 times and the morning is gone.  It happens to the best of us.  But post cable world…I am SportsCenter-less.  Whomp, whomp!  And honestly, it was the hardest part to the whole no cable thing…ESPN.  But I have survived and while my mornings aren’t the same (besides being a tad bit more productive) I have found a replacement of sorts, NBC.  It isn’t a fair trade or even remotely a good substitution…but it is what it is and I am too damn stubborn to return to cable because of the remarks from the peanut galleries of the world.  And in all reality, I don’t miss paying the cable bill.  So NBC it is.

What does ESPN have to do with a stir-fry?  Well hold your panties…I will tell you… had I been watching SportsCenter I would not have seen this dish being prepared on Hoda and Kathy Lee – ya know, the 20th hour of the Today Show.  In the 20th hour, there is a lot of wine and mishaps and bad jokes – my kind of morning entertainment.  Cooking on morning shows generally drives me up-the-wall- bonkers…you can not properly show how to roast a chicken (with 3 sides) in a 10 minute time slot.  You are not serving any purpose and confusing/intimidating instead of encouraging folks to don an apron and get cookin.  But a stir fry…these are meant for 10 minute time slots…and perhaps that is why this recipe caught my eye.

Asparagus season is upon us and I am jumping whole heartedly into this shindig.  I have eaten it nightly for the past week or so -which also means that my pee has smelled gawd-awful for the past week or so – but you probably didn’t need to know that, but whenever someone brings up asparagus, talk of pee is sure to follow.  But let’s get back to the tender skinny stalks of green with the spiky spear heads that just asked to be sauted or roasted.  Or made into soups or dipped into a creamy hollandaise sauce.

Asparagus is what dreams are made of.  At least until I eat so much that I can’t stand to look at another spear…but that takes a bit of time.  And when it is mixed with the fresh bite of ginger and toasted sesame seeds and tossed with briny sweet shrimp and nutty farro…I may never tire.

I recommend this served hot for a quick and healthy week night meal and then eaten cold the next day as a cold farro salad in the lunchroom – surrounded by drooling co workers who wish you had made extra.

And I was just thinking…red bell peppers would be a great addition to this.  Toss it in if ya got one hanging about.

 

 

Asparagus and Shrimp Stir Fry w/ Farro
 
4 Servings.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup Farro, cooked according to package instructions
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon Toasted sesame seeds (you can toast them or buy already toasted)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut diagonally into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 pound large shrimp, cleaned and pre-cooked (found in the frozen section of grocery)
  • 1 teaspoon Asian (toasted) sesame oil
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, rice vinegar and grated ginger. Set aside.
  2. In a medium sized skillet, heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add asparagus and cook until tender, but still crisp (taste one to test) – about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir frequently.
  3. Add cherry tomatoes (keep whole, I cut mine in half and it produced too much liquid.). Cook mixture for another 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Stir in the soy sauce mixture and add shrimp to skillet. Cook for about 1 to 2 minutes to heat through.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in sesame oil.
  6. Toss with cooked farro and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.
  7. Serve immediately (also, very good cold!)
Notes
recipe adapted from The Today Show

Shrimp and Grits

Ever feel like you are just one step behind, just a little late.  I think I am perpetually meant to be one step behind, I mean,  I am kind of good at it.  Getting to the party just a little past fashionably late.  Where you sneak in and close the door quietly behind you so that the party in the next room isn’t disrupted and so that you can sneak in without being truly noticed, because you don’t enjoying being the center of anything.  You slip your shoes off and place them next to a pair of wedges that you take notice of and quickly snag a glance at the designer/brand and make a quick mental note to add those to your wish list and wonder/hope if they are still available in your size.  You take quick inventory of your socks, praying there are no holes and that they are matching.   You toss your jacket and scarf over an empty chair and slip ever so quietly into the background of the party, scanning and searching for a friendly familiar face.

This one step behind phenomenon is kind of ironic, seeing how I am one of the most punctual people I know.  I learned early on that to be early is on time, on time is to be late, and to be late is to be left behind.  This may have pertained to team sports and practice and bus schedules and wasn’t meant to be a life lesson, but it has stuck with me.

I have gotten used to showing up to the party a bit late….I am just glad I get to the party, safe and sound.

So when I discovered the glories of grits, I just assumed I was probably the last to figure this out.  And I think I am.  The grit party started hours ago and here I am, sneaking in…trying to pretend that I have been here from the start.   But I haven’t and that is OK…it doesn’t matter when you show up, just that you do.  So here I am…tying on my party hat, grabbing a cocktail, and joining in on the party.

5.0 from 1 reviews

Shrimp and Grits
 
serves 3 to 4
Ingredients
  • 4 Cups Water
  • 1 Cup Stone Ground Grits (or polenta)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Cups Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 3 Tablespoons Butter
  • ⅓ Cup Whole Milk
  • 1 Pound Shrimp, peeled,deveined, tails removed
  • 6 Strips Thick Cut Bacon, chopped
  • 2 Bunches of green onions, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 4 teaspoons Lemon Juice (from a lemon shaped bottle is fine)
Instructions
  1. In a medium sauce pan, bring the water to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Stir in grits and whisk to combine. Reduce temperature to low. Cook for about 20 minutes (or according to package directions) until water is absorbed and the grits have thickened. Remove from heat and stir in butter, milk, and cheese.
  2. Meanwhile, rinse shrimp and pat dry.
  3. Fry the bacon in a large skillet until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon onto a plate lined with paper towel. Set aside.
  4. Discard all but 3 to 4 tablespoons of bacon grease. Add shrimp to bacon grease and cook until shrimp turn pink (just a few minutes).
  5. Add bacon, green onions, parsley, garlic, and lemon juice. Cook for about 3 more minutes.
  6. Serve the shrimp over a healthy helping of grits. Serve immediately.

adapted slightly from Bobby Flay