White Bean, Butternut Squash and Kale Soup

Clearly I haven’t been blogging much lately. I have been still creating a lot good eats–like fig and cashew granola and apple-squash curry soup–but the blog has become a wee bit dusty in the meantime. Sometimes you just need a break from things though.

I learned something fundamental last night that inspired me to post: freshly grated Parmesan makes all vegetable soups better. See, I had the creative bug last night, urging me to make a gigantic mess in the kitchen. I wanted soup. I wanted to clean out tons of vegetables from the crisper bin to make a huge cast iron pot full of it. My second soup of the season. Since I didn’t have ham, bacon, or sausage to deepen the  flavor I turned to the Parmesan wedge. It did just the trick.

This is just the kind of no-frills soup that I can see transitioning from fall to winter. It is hearty with butternut squash roasted beforehand in olive oil and creamy white beans. The standard vegetable broth is heightened with Parmesan and dried herbs. Kale, usually a bitter green, is softened by all the other flavors.

I had a second dinner of soup last night. I could get used to ten o’clock bowls of soup, topped with cheese.

White Bean, Butternut Squash and Kale Soup
Serves 6

Ingredients:

3 cups of butternut squash, peeled and sliced into chunks
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 celery stick
1 carrot stick
1/2 white onion
4 cups vegetable stock and 2 cups water
1 can of white beans, rinsed
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
6 cups of packed, chopped kale
1 dried bay leaf
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan, (more for serving)
1 tablespoon of pesto (more for serving)

Directions:

1. Toss butternut squash chunks with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Roast on 350 for 18-20 minutes, tossing a few times to ensure even cooking/browning.

2. While squash is roasting, mince the celery, carrot, and onion. Prepare other ingredients to have ready.

3. Near end of roasting add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to big soup pot. Heat to medium high. Add in celery, carrot, onion. Cook for 5-7 minutes until soft.

4. Add in white beans. Season with salt and pepper. Add rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf.

5. Add roasted butternut squash, broth, water and bring to a boil. Slowly add in cups of kale, wilting each in the boiling soup before adding the next. Squeeze lemon juice over pot.

6. Bring down to a low simmer and cook for 10-20 minutes, to let the flavors combine.

7. Remove bay leaf. Add parmesan and pesto after finishing simmering, swirling them into the soup. Salt and pepper now if more is needed. Serve with more parm and pesto with each bowl.The flavors of this soup improve after a day in the fridge!

Soba Noodles in Ginger Broth for One


Kitchen failures. That is the theme of January so far.

First, my pita breads did not puff up in the oven. I pleaded with them. I rolled them thinner. But they ended up as limp mini pizzas. Was it me or the recipe? I can’t tell. Worst of all is that I just don’t have it in me to retry the recipe yet.

Next came Guinness brownies that wouldn’t be no matter how much melted chocolate I spread on top. I got inventive–a little cinnamon here, a little Guinness syrup there–but I baked bad brownies in the end. I actually threw them away. I never throw things away either. I finally made a dark beer cake that was pretty perfect except for the fact that it collapsed in the middle. A sunken cake that tastes great doesn’t quite fix everything. It worked a little bit, though.

Oh well. I guess failing is part of getting better? It still bothers me, but I can move on.

I’ve decided instead to write about the easiest recipe I’ve ever invented. Best of all it feeds one (me) so I can make it fast, without thinking too much or writing a recipe. And it is the kind of comforting warm and carb loaded dish that in the bitter temperatures and icy air I crave.

I came up with the dish this past week out of boredom. I’ve adapted it twice already. I was stuck inside because of a rain, sleet, and snow. I made a huge bowl of soba noodles in a ginger broth and just lingered, sitting, reading, and watching tv. The nutty soba noodles and the light ginger broth work perfectly, the kind of creation that owes a lot to the fast food Asian dishes I’ve come to love.

The fixings are customizable. Collards, carrot matchsticks, and scallion seemed easy enough, but sliced cooked chicken or pork could be added at the end. Not to mention the affinity this dish has for an egg in any form. Fried egg on top? Why not! Hard boiled may even be better, sliced thin and topped right before serving. Chili garlic sauce, for me, is essential. A heaping tablespoon adds a spicy depth.

Sometimes food that is so basic you forget about it altogether is the best kind to eat because it won’t end up like failed brownies, lonely in your trash. And it will keep you warm.

I present the cure for kitchen disasters in January:

Soba Noodles in Ginger Broth (for one)

Ingredients for broth:
3 cups of water
1 tablespoon of soy sauce, with more for serving
1 chunk of peeled ginger (about a tablespoon)
1 garlic clove
1/2-1 bunch of soba noodles
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
fixings:
1/2 cup of chopped greens
2 scallions, sliced thinly
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
sesame seeds
optional fixings:
chili garlic sauce
hard boiled or fried egg
sliced cooked chicken or pork
whatever your heart desires

Directions:

1. In a sauce pan heat 3 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce with chunk of ginger and the peeled garlic clove. Bring to a boil. Remove the garlic clove but let the ginger remain. Turn down to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Drizzle with a teaspoon of sesame oil.

2. Add the soba noodles and fixings. If using meat, add here. If using fried or hard boiled egg, wait until the end. Chili garlic sauce can be added now or at the end. Cook for 3-5 minutes. The noodles will be done quite quickly, so the fixings should be sliced thin so that they cook fast as well.

3. In a large bowl serve the noodles first with the fixings on top. Then pour broth into bowl. Serve with additional sesame seeds, soy sauce, sesame oil, and chili garlic sauce (if using). Top with additional fixings if you decide to like: egg, meat, additional vegetables and scallions, etc.

4. Eat with a fork and a spoon if you don’t own chopsticks (regretfully, like me)

A Simple Carrot Slaw with Lemon, Honey and Parsley

I spent Saturday in Portland, Maine with Brian.  It was a spur of the moment trip. Brian and I have vowed to travel every corner of New England while living in Boston, and Portland was high on the list of desintations.

While there we happened upon Rabelais Books, a bookstore dedicated solely to food and wine. I was in heaven amongst the plethora of cookbooks. Plus, there was the cutest scraggly dog putzing around gleefully beneath my feet. Cookbooks and animals is a hard to resist combination. 

It was a food and drink heavy weekend to say the least; there were the burgers, sweet potato fries, blueberry root beer (amazing!) and coffee drinks in Portland, as well as the throw-your-fridge-onto-a-bagel  sandwich we ate for lunch today. It was a weekend of good food, as all weekends should be.

Late in the afternoon today I was craving something simple and fresh. A carrot slaw is my go to recipe when I’m feeling deprived of vegetables.

Brian remembers eating this carrot slaw as a kid; he was the one that actually introduced me to the recipe. It is just a simple mix of carrots, lemon juice and a sweetener of choice. You can take it anywhere from there. I throw in parsley because I’m a sucker for its taste and look. I love honey too, so much so that I can eat it right out of the jar. I’ve done this carrot salad with radishes, orange slices and cilantro for a stronger Moroccan influence before. I love all versions of carrot slaw. Even cumin with less sweetener makes a great one.

But the old stand by of sweet and lemony is always on my mind. Such a simple combination of fresh ingredients creates a really delicious salad. I made a huge batch so I could eat it for a few days.

Words of wisdom: this slaw is really a create-by-taste kind of thing. I’ve estimated a recipe below, but I highly advise just tasting and adjusting to your own liking.  No slaw is the same as any other slaw!

A Simple Carrot Slaw with Lemon, Honey & Parsley
A Made by Frances Original

Serves 3-6, depending on size of portion

Ingredients:
5 or 6 large carrots, peeled, and shredded
The juice of one lemon
1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar
1/2 tablespoon of honey
1 tablespoon of canola oil
1/4 cup of parsley leaves, roughly cut
a pinch of salt

Directions:

1. Mix shredded carrots with lemon juice, sugar, honey, canola oil and parsley leaves. Refrigerate to let the flavors comingle for at least a half hour. Serve cold.

Carrot Ginger Salad Dressing

 

I have been craving the carrot ginger salad dressing that you get in sushi restaurants for weeks. I  have been scribbling the name down on post it notes, printing out the recipe several times (to only lose it later) and relentlessly describing the dressing to anyone interested in hearing me talk endlessly about food.

With the nice weather as an impetus to action, I took a walk to the Super 88 grocery store in Allston after work to make the salad dressing a reality. There, amongst the aisles of hard to find but affordable Asian and South East Asian ingredients, I  came upon the missing and illustrious last ingredients. The two essential ingredients I needed but were without were mirin and rice vinegar. Both are used commonly in Japanese cuisine so their new arrival in my cabinet may signify a Japanese cooking fixation in the weeks to come.

The Food and Wine recipe I decided upon in my hunt for carrot ginger dressing is near perfect in replicating that desired smooth but slightly chunky, gingery, and brightly colored dressing. I only tweaked it a bit and really, it didn’t need my changes. But I added an extra 1/4 cup of shredded carrot and a tablespoon of honey, both of which were changes more to fit my own preference for a chunkier dressing and a mild sweet note to downplay the lemon and vinegar than any substantial criticism of the recipe as it is written. To my taste buds this recipe is essentially the exact same as the dressing that covers those little bowls of cucumber and avocado salads I always get with my sushi order.

Oh, and please enjoy this dressing with avocados. It is the most perfect way to do so.

Carrot Ginger Dressing
Adapted from Food and Wine

Ingredients:

1/4 cup minced shallot
1/2 cup finely shredded carrot
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
1 tablespoon of honey

Directions:

1. Puree all ingredients in a blender/food processor until smooth. That is it!