Indian Spiced Winter Squash Soup

Quite a mouthful. Literally. My Farmer’s Market decided to host a soup swap. I had butternut and acorn squash sitting on my counter forever and more puree in the freezer. This was the perfect excuse to use it, along with some of my other favorite local ingredients!

Ingredients:
Local butternut and acorn squash (from the CRFM but I can’t remember which vendor!)
Fabyan’s Sugar Shack Grade B Maple Syrup
Wayne’s Organic Garden Onions & Garlic
Penzey’s Tikka Masala, Garam Masala and Tandoori Spice mixes
Coconut milk
Olive Oil
Homemade veggie stock (a la The Sweet Beet – see below)

Peel and chop the squash and 2-3 small onions into similar size pieces. Peel 2-4 cloves of garlic, depending on your preference. Throw all the veggies on a baking sheet with a drizzle of olive oil, fresh ground pepper and salt. Roast at 400° for about an hour – until the big chunks of squash are fork tender and they are taking on a little bit of color.

You can multitask by roasting all of the veggies while making stock. Take the vegetable scraps (squash peels, garlic and onion skins and begin to sautee them in a little olive oil over medium heat. Once I could smell them, I added the contents of my frozen scrap bin. I keep a container in the freezer to collect scraps until its time to make stock. This one had more onion and garlic remnants and eggshells. I’ve been using this method from The Sweet Beet and saving eggshells and adding a touch of vinegar to my vegetable stock. Anyway, once you can smell the veggies cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer while the veggies in the oven are roasting.

After the veggies are done, take them out and strained the stock. Add them back into the soup pot, add enough stock to cover by a few inches. If you are making a big batch (like 6 quarts big) you may have to use two pots/batches. I then add indian seasonings to taste – I would estimate maybe about 3-5 tablespoons depending on the size of your batch. I also add salt and pepper to taste. If its too hot, you can add a little maple syrup – or you can do both to have a sweet/spicy soup. At this point, I immersion blend the whole thing. You can do it without a hand blender by putting it into a regular blender – just make sure if the soup is hot to vent it and cover the lid with a hand towel – it WILL splatter. Alternatively, you dont have to blend it, but this soup is much better when it is thick and creamy.

Options:
1. Change the flavor. I like Indian spices, so I used them here. Squash is such a neutral flavor – your options are really endless. You could easily use sage and/or rosemary, maybe those herbs with apples or pears, sage and brown butter would be lovely. Spanish flavors of pimentón and sherry could also be great. I think I need to make this soup again…
2. Without the eggshells, I believe this recipe would be vegan. Easy to change for your vegan friends!
3. You can always use cream instead of coconut milk, but I am dairy sensitive and I prefer the flavor of coconut milk in this recipe.
4. Serve with crusty bread – naan in my case (don’t I seem to say that with every recipe?) and a drizzle of olive oil.

Advertisements

Pork Chile Verde

So in 2009 I had the privilege of staying in Juneau, Alaska for the summer. Despite being a capital city, Juneau’s population is only around 40,000. In combination with being able to access the city only by boat or plane, Juneau really acts more like a small town than anything else. I wound up staying with two former Californians (Hi Swansons!) who have a special place in their heart for burritos. And only in Juneau do they have absolutely fantastic pork chile verde at the local 24 hour convenience store. So, needless to say, I got hooked on pork chile verde really quick.

While there is great Mexican food in CT, I have yet to find a great pork chile verde within reasonable driving distance. So I am forced to recreate it myself. Darn. My only regret with this recipe is that I only made one batch of salsa verde and froze it. Never again – much more will be made this summer! This recipe is the sole reason I am going to try growing tomatillos again this year.

Pork Chile Verde
pork shoulder, cut into 1 inch chunks. I would approximate about 1/2 lb per person.
one serving chile verde (see below)
onions, garlic chopped in small pieces
cumin, salt and pepper to taste
one can green zebra tomatoes (optional)

First, brown the pork in a heavy-bottomed pot – I used a dutch oven. I had to do it in many batches so that the pork would actually brown instead of just sautee.

Next, thaw the chile verde base. I made this in the summer. Essentially, wash and peel/clean tomatillos, onions, garlic and chile peppers of your choice. If you are not a fan of spice, you can use green bell peppers, but it wont be the same. I used poblano chiles from my farmer’s market. I roasted them in a 400° oven with olive oil and salt for about 45 minutes – until the veggies take on some color. Once combined, I mixed them in a food processor until it took on small chunks. I then put it in a quart size freezer bag and froze for later use. To thaw it, submerge it in a pot of cool water when you start. It should be ready to go once the pork is browned.

At this point, I like to add some fresh veg too. I add some fresh onions and garlic into the bottom of the same pan I browned the pork. I then add some cumin for a little earthiness. It really brings out the flavors in the verde base. At this point, I also added a small can of green zebra tomatoes (also preserved this summer). The juice from the tomatoes helped to deglaze the pan, and balance out the strong-flavored sauce. If you dont have them, dont worry about it.

The rest is really simple. Add the base to the aromatics, add pork in and cook over a low temperature until the sauce turns from a bright green to a green-brown. You can do this in the oven or on the stove.

Sorry about the missing bite of beans. I need to work on that self-control thing. Er, and the poor photo quality.

Options
1. Serve in burritos. Enough said.

2. We served them with homemade refried beans/refritos and tortillas. Goes great with a strong lime margarita! But really, when its blizzarding outside, what DOESN’T go great with a strong margarita?

3. You can really adapt this method to any kind of stewed pork. I am going to try a version of carnitas this way, in a red sauce. I bet it would transition well to a mole sauce or really any strong flavored stew base.

Spice Rack Challenge: Rosemary

Finally, a challenge that I didn’t completely miss! After missing out on Dark Days 2011 and the 2010 Can Jam, I came across the 2011 Spice Rack Challenge. Hosted by Mother’s Kitchen, essentially the challenge is to use a particular spice/herb in one dish per month. Very doable – and helps clean out the pantry and explore new recipes? I am totally in.

This month’s challenge is rosemary. I love rosemary, but it can be a little strong for some people. I like this recipe because its subtle, and doesn’t require a large amount. Probably a good thing because my fresh rosemary is down to two sprigs!

I made this recipe last month, and while its very good I wanted to tweak it a little. Unlike other recipes, Martha I think hit it out of the park on the flavors of this one.

Rosemary Tomato Cannelini Beans
Inspired by Martha Stewart’s Stewed White Beans with Tomatoes and Rosemary

one can (15.5oz) cannelini beans
finishing extra virgin olive oil
fresh grated parmesano reggiano
one large sprig rosemary
canned tomatoes
salt, pepper, garlic to taste

Drain and rinse the beans. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of your pan and add beans. Fry for approximately 5-10 minutes until golden and crispy. Remove from pot.

Add tomatoes – I used home-canned puree. I then take the back of a chef’s knife and smack the sprig of rosemary a few times. Really – its stress relief! Don’t chop it – just break it up enough until you can smell the rosemary. Add rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper to taste in the pot and reduce until desired consistency – anywhere from half an hour to simmering all day. I put mine on the stove for a few hours. If it reduces too far, add a little water and cook for another minute or two.

At that point, add the beans, and remove the rosemary. Serve with freshly grated parmesano reggiano and a drizzle of olive oil. And please, please use real parmesan – that fake stuff in a can isn’t worthy of this recipe.

Options
1. Change the beans. I used canned cannelini beans, which are always in my pantry. Please use the beans of your choice – some heirloom Rancho Gordo beans would be lovely.

2. Change the tomatoes. I used tomato puree – because that’s what I had – but you can also use whole or diced or even tomato sauce. I think a bit of tomato paste for richness couldn’t hurt, either.

3. You can certainly chop the rosemary and add in, I dont mind a few large bits of rosemary. You could always use an immersion blender to puree it if it bothers you, or infuse the sauce with rosemary/other herbs in cheesecloth, or mince the rosemary before adding it.

4. I liked the flavors in Martha’s recipe, but it was a bit lacking in texture for me. So I started this version by draining and rinsing the cannelini beans and frying them in olive oil. It makes them slightly crispy and I think really makes this dish. Please feel free to go back to the original if you’d rather not.

5. If you live with a die hard carnivore, this recipe would be great over pasta with pork or chicken. Italian style sausage, grilled chicken or even chicken sausage would be great. I like to keep it vegetarian, served with crusty bread to sop up the sauce. This time, I added some chopped Rainbow Chard for some greens.

6. Spice it up! Some red chili flake in the olive oil when frying the beans would be awesome. For a less potent kick, add it with the tomatoes.

Steamy Kitchen Chinese Boiled Pork Dumplings

Steamy Kitchen Chinese Boiled Pork Dumplings – any dumplings really come down to one thing. They are a giant pain in the butt to make – but totally worth it – so when you get going you might as well make a big batch.

Chinese Dumplings: Boiled Pork and Cabbage
Adapted from Chinese Boiled Pork Dumplings by Steamy Kitchen, which was adapted from Asian Dumplings by Andrea Nguyen

As Jaden said, salting and squeezing the water out of the cabbage REALLY is essential. It prevents your dumplings from being too soggy!

12 ounces napa cabbage leaves, roughly chopped (or regular cabbage)
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon table salt)
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (use microplane grater)
1/4 cup minced Chinese chives or green onions (white and green parts)
2/3 pound ground pork
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper (or freshly ground black pepper)
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine (or dry sherry)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 package frozen round dumpling wrappers (gyoza/potsticker wrappers), defrosted at room temperature for 30 minutes (I used square wrappers – worked just fine)
for the slurry: 1 tablespoon cornstarch + 1/2 cup water (I didnt have any cornstarch handy, and used Wondra flour and water instead.)

1. To make the filling, put the cabbage in a food processor and process until cabbage is finely minced. Remove the cabbage to a large bowl and sprinkle with the salt. Let cabbage sit for 10 minutes. In the meantime, return the food processor bowl to the stand and add the ginger, chives, pork, pepper, soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil. Pulse 4 times to mix the ingredients well. Set aside.

2. Use your hands to grab a handful of the cabbage and squeeze and discard the excess moisture out into the sink. You can also spoon all of the cabbage onto a cheesecloth and then squeeze all the water out. Place the dry cabbage back into the large bowl and add the pork mixture. Fold the cabbage into the pork mixture.

3. Mix together the slurry. Take one dumpling wrapper, spoon scant 1 tablespoon of the pork mixture onto the middle of the wrapper. Dip one finger into the slurry and “paint” the edges of the dumpling wrapper. Bring up the bottom side of the wrapper, fold up and press to shape into a half-moon shape, encasing all of the filling.* Place on baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap and repeat with rest of dumplings. Make sure that the dumplings do not touch each other on the sheet.

*At this point, if you have square wrappers, its a bit different. Instead of a half moon, you fold from a square into a triangle. I then folded the ends of the triangle in (see below). Be gentle – its easy to rip them here!

Dont worry if you have a couple screwups, you’ll get the hang of it quickly. Its incredibly easy to overfill – when in doubt, underfill them!

4. When all dumplings assembled, you can cook immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to several hours. To cook, half-fill a large pot with water and bring to boil. When boiling, and gently slide in 1/3 of the dumplings. When water returns to a boil, turn heat to a simmer and gently cook for 6-8 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and repeat with remaining dumplings. Serve with hot chili sauce. Makes 50(ish) dumplings.

Snowflake Kitchen Dumpling Sauce
Honey
Chili Garlic Paste
Soy Sauce
Rice Wine Vinegar
Garlic

Mix to taste – I used about equal parts of the soy/vinegar, one clove minced garlic (or frozen garlic cube) and one heaping tablespoon of chili garlic paste – cause I love the stuff. I added honey in small amounts until it balanced the acid and heat.

Thoughts:
Really satisfying, even though a ton of work. I boiled the ones we ate that day and froze the rest. I think I might try steaming or pan frying the next batch. The wrappers are so versatile – I am scheming up new things to do with those… I see custom ravioli and dessert wontons in my future!

Poke. Its good for what ails you.

Now if I had my say I’d be eating this on the North Shore of O’ahu drinking a Mai Tai and watching the sunset. Instead I have this view:

Its not a bad view, its just not this one…

…but I digress.

Whenever I am in the need for a Hawaiian pick-me-up or I see some sushi grade tuna, its poke time.

Poke

Sushi grade tuna, cut into small squares
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon each black and white toasted sesame seeds
1 scallion, chopped
1 sprinkle of Hawaiian pink sea salt (optional)

Dice tuna and chop scallions. You can cut them to your preference but the idea is to be able to pick up a small bite or two with a pair of chopsticks. Toast sesame seeds until slightly golden. You know – a little less than I toasted them this afternoon – whoops! Combine tuna, scallions, sesame oil, soy sauce and salt in a bowl. Add in almost all of the sesame seeds, reserve some for topping. Marinate in the fridge for a few hours, then top with the reserved sesame seeds before serving.

Grab Bag Chili

Normally I am pretty consistent about following a recipe, or at least a method or technique. Not this time. It was a little bit of this, a little bit of that. And it came out AWESOME. There’s only one downside – I dont know if I can replicate it. Only one way to find out – I bought more chili beef today.

Grab Bag Chili

1.5lbs Chili Beef. Our local grocery store carries this – beef ground less fine (er, more coarse? Its a bigger grind. Words seem to fail me today).
Veggies. I had onions and garlic. You could add bell peppers, carrots – whatever you like. This is grab bag chili, after all.
Tomatoes: Canned – crushed/whole/pureed and tomato paste.
Beans. I had canned kidney and black beans.
Beer. 1 bottle Sam Adams Boston Lager. Absolutely required.
Other liquids: Stock or water, whatever is on hand.
Spices: Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Chili Powder, Ground Cumin, Pimentón. Fresh ground black pepper and salt to taste.
Peppers: Dried Ancho and Red Bell Peppers.

Mise en place: Chop onions, garlic to preferred preferences. I like my onions in smaller pieces and garlic minced. If you are using canned beans, drain and rinse them well. Normally I hate canned products but canned beans are one of those things I always keep in my pantry. Put the dried chiles in a small bowl and cover with hot water to rehydrate.

On to actual cooking! Brown the beef over medium heat, remove. If there is a lot of fat, drain all but a few tablespoons off. Add onions and any other veggies to sweat for approximately 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and drained, rinsed beans. Add spices, approximately a tablespoon of each, and salt and pepper to taste. I like a deeper onion and garlic flavor, so I use powder – not onion/garlic salt. Pimentón (Smoked Spanish Paprika) gives a really nice smoky flavor and beautiful color to the chili. Make sure to use a chili powder that has cumin in it. I like mine, but I add additional cumin. Continue to cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes more to incorporate. At this point, remove the rehydrated chiles, chop into small pieces and add both the chiles and rehydrated water into the pot.

Then add the beef, beer, tomatoes and liquid. I add the liquid (stock/water) last to just cover everything. Oh, and if using whole canned tomatoes, crush them as you put them into the pan. Just be careful to do it slowly and into the pot or you might make your kitchen look like a murder scene. I speak from experience.

Let it all come to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and eat when it has reached the consistency you like. Its good after a few hours, but better as leftovers the next day. Top with sharp cheddar cheese and serve with crusty bread, biscuits, cornbread, tortilla chips… As always taste as you go and adjust to your preferences. Its easy to go vegetarian too – just eliminate the beef and use veggie stock. I would add more than one kind of beans for protein, though. Perfect on a snowy winter day.

UPDATE: Made a second batch along similar lines. Also tasty, but lacked a certain something. Perhaps frightful weather outside is required.