Sunday, January 30, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

You may remember my love for roasting vegetables.. some may call it a problem. I call it a healthy obsession.

This recipe evolved from my need for butternut squash soup. I went to a friend's house with all the ingredients to make us lunch and realized that his kitchen's contents did not include a vegetable peeler. After the shock wore off, I was able to improvise. I guess I should thank my friend for slacking in the kitchen accessories department, since it resulted in a delicious soup, but in reality he will be receiving a special Groundhog Day present. I bet you can guess what it is.

for a dairy-free or vegan meal, omit heavy cream and garnish with a sprinkle of brown sugar
  • 2 butternut squashes, halved and cut into large chunks for roasting
  • olive oil for roasting
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil for sautéing
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 1 1/2-inch chunk fresh ginger, grated
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 cups water
  • heavy cream for garnish (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. 
  2. Place squash chunks, flesh side up, in baking dish(es). Drizzle with a good amount of olive oil and coat with salt and pepper.
  3. Bake at 450 degrees for 70-80 minutes. Check for doneness with a fork - squash should be soft.
  4. When squash are almost done, heat olive oil over medium-low heat in a large stockpot.
  5. Sauté onion, garlic, and fresh ginger for 3-4 minutes, until onion is translucent.
  6. Scoop squash from its skin and add to stockpot. 
  7. Add ground ginger, cinnamon, thyme, salt, pepper, and water. Simmer over low heat for 15-20 minutes.
  8. Remove from heat. Mash with potato masher (for a chunkier soup) or blend with immersion blender (for a creamier consistency).
  9. Dish into individual bowls and top with a splash of heavy cream or sprinkle of brown sugar, if desired.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Easy Scallops with Lemon Juice

We had scallops the other night paired with the Leek & Lemon Risotto that I posted earlier in the week. I recommend eating them as part of the same meal, or even with the scallops served right on top of the risotto.

Scallops are pretty easy to overcook. Seafood more than any other meat I tend to rely on time, rather than a color, to determine doneness.

Do yourself a favor and treat yourself with these delicious scallops. With a short grocery list and simple directions, they're likely to please any seafood lover.

  • 1 lb sea scallops
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • salt and pepper
  1. Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes.
  2. Coat pan with butter and olive oil.
  3. Add scallops and squeeze half the lemon juice on top. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Cook until scallops are browned on bottom, about 30-45 seconds.
  5. Flip scallops, add rest of lemon juice and more salt and pepper if desired.
  6. Remove from heat when scallops are browned, about another minute. They should be warm inside but not rubbery, and easy to cut with a fork.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Leek & Lemon Risotto

Imagine yourself on a villa in Tuscany, enjoying crusty bread, perhaps a glass of wine, and a dish of a warm, creamy risotto.

Minus the villa, you can recreate this scene yourself with a dish my best friend used to make when we were in college. She loved risotto and the combination leek and lemon stuck in my mind.

Risotto is an amazing dish because it is a chameleon, accommodating whatever you put in it. I've had mushroom risotto, red pepper risotto, and a multitude of others. But no matter your seasonings, the slow process allows the rice to absorb more broth, and therefore more flavor. You can make it with any short grain white rice, but I've found it works best with Arborio rice: this rice is the reason for such a creamy consistency. Luckily it's easy to get: I found a bag at my local grocery store.

Trust me, don't rush this process. In the past I've tried pouring all six cups of broth in at once and it was an utter failure. You don't get the creaminess if you go too fast. If you start to get impatient, channel your inner Italian on that villa and relax as you stir.

when slicing leeks, use only the white part
  • olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 medium white onion, sliced and roughly chopped
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 leeks, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups short grain rice, such as Arborio rice
  • 6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • zest of 1 lemon (grated)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 - 1 cup parmesan cheese
  1. Heat stockpot over medium-low heat.
  2. Add olive oil and swirl to coat.
  3. Add garlic, onion, and shallot. Cover and cook 4-5 minutes, until softened and translucent.
  4. Add leeks. Return cover to pot and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add rice, stirring constantly. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
  6. Pour in 1/2 cup stock and continue stirring. When stock is absorbed, add another 1/2 cup stock. Continue this process (and the constant stirring to avoid sticking on bottom of pot) until all stock is used and rice is cooked. Don't rush this part! It will take about 20-25 minutes.
  7. Turn off heat. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, and parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sweet & Sour Meatballs

These meatballs were a total experiment. Besides preparing them in a different kitchen, I've never made meatballs by measuring anything other than the beef and eggs. These were spiced very plainly and that's something I would change in the future: perhaps grated ginger in the meat would add a nice flavor to the mix.

My other challenge was that the sauce in this recipe didn't become, well, saucy. I always struggle with thickening sauces and this one was no different. It turned out kind of thin but still packed a great flavor. If you are good at thickening sauces, you may want to work a little more with some cornstarch to thicken this one before the last step.

This is adapted from a recipe by the Pioneer Woman.

Ingredients for Meatballs
  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • a few shakes each of salt and pepper
  • flour
  • olive oil for frying
Ingredients for Sauce
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 bell peppers (one green, one red),  cut into large chunks
  • 1 fresh pineapple, cut into small chunks
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine beef, onion, eggs, breadcrumbs, and salt and pepper. 
  2. Form meat into golf ball sized meatballs.
  3. Pour some flour into a small bowl. Roll each meatball in flour.
  4. Heat large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add a generous amount of olive oil.
  5. Fry meatballs (in two batches).
  6. While meatballs are cooking, whisk broth, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and cornstarch in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.
  7. Once all meatballs are done, set them aside in another bowl. Pour oil / fat out.
  8. Return hot frying pan to stovetop over high heat. Add peppers and cook for about one minute.
  9. Add pineapple and cook for another minute.
  10. Pour sauce into frying pan. Let boil, then reduce heat to low and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  11. Add meatballs and serve immediately over rice (as a main dish) OR place meatballs in a crockpot (I used a 5-qt. crockpot) and pour pepper-pineapple-sauce mixture over top. Set heat to warm and enjoy throughout the evening as an appetizer.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tomato Florentine Soup

This is a great soup because it is accepting of any flavors you might want to add. It's loosely based on Budget Bytes' Swamp Soup recipe and it caught my eye because of the ingredient list. I've never made a tomato based soup that actually used pasta sauce in it before, but it made perfect sense to me. We often have a half full jar of tomato sauce in our fridge that is left over from one thing or another. Adding it to this soup tasted great because the sauce is already seasoned so I had to add very little in terms of spices for this soup.

After changing the recipe quite a bit and working with the contents of my own kitchen, I ended up with this. Dan the Man wanted it on the record that future versions of this soup should experiment with the addition of chicken or pasta. To make it a little heartier I'd like to try adding another can of smaller beans, like Great Northern beans, to add some extra protein and color variation.

for a vegan or dairy-free meal, omit the parmesan cheese at the end and replace with fresh basil leaves for garnish.
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, sliced in 1/4-inch pieces
  • 4 stalks celery, sliced in 1/4-inch pieces
  • big pinch (about 1/2 tsp) oregano
  • big pinch of basil
  • big pinch of parsley
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 3 oz (about 1/2 bag) fresh baby spinach
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes (don't drain - you will need the juice)
  • 15.5 oz can beans, drained and rinsed (I used red kidney beans)
  • 12 oz (or 1/2 jar) tomato sauce
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)

  1. Heat olive oil in large stockpot over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic, onion, carrots, celery, spices, and pepper. Stir well and let cook for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add spinach, cover stockpot, and reduce heat to low. Cook until spinach is wilted, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add tomatoes (with their juice), beans, tomato sauce and broth. Cover, return heat to medium and cook until soup is heated throughout.
  5. Serve as is or sprinkled (covered?) with parmesan cheese.