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squash soupuree

By on Nov 19, 2011 in dinner, experimenting, fail... or not | 0 comments

In fall a young woman’s fancy turns to warm, dense foods that can be scooped into bowls and enjoyed slowly while she watches the waning sun track across the sky. At least, when there are no clouds. And there are a lot of grey days. Enter the kuri squash. Sounds like “curry” and tastes nothing like it. They are of modest size and their skins have a burnished glow, especially when spotted sitting next to the pale butternut. They yield a more delicate flavor than our friend the butternut, a flavor that calls for a slightly different and more complex partner than the traditional sage. What about… tart apple? A bright hit of ginger? A savory smattering of shallot? Perhaps a bit of cumin and clove? The squash slowly roast until it collapses, the outer skin yielding to the softening flesh within. Everything cooks achingly slowly into a deeply colored smooth puree that echoes the colors of the leaves that have finally turned to warmer hues and tumbled to the ground. The puree piles into the bowl and beckons for a large spoon. Each bite alternates between the sweetness of the squash, small bites of ginger, and heady undercurrents of cumin. The mind briefly ponders the fact that this really looks like it should be baby food. The thought is quelled as an eddy of cumin wafts up through the sinuses. This really would go well with a nice pork roast. But that would involve leaving this softly glowing bowl of warmth behind. Maybe tomorrow. Kuri Squash Soupuree (Why am I calling it “soupuree”? Because I intended this to be a soup, but in using what I had on hand, it became clear I did not have enough broth to make it a soup. And then I decided against adding water, since I tasted it and did not want to dilute it. So you can add less broth and make it denser, or add more broth and make it soupier. Just do what you like.)   2 Kuri squash (In my experience these tend to be all around the same size. If you can not find Kuri, try it with butternut squash. I would guess you would need one good-sized one or two smaller ones… I would guess.) 1 small-medium tart green apple (Granny Smith), peeled and chopped app. 1 1/2″ knob of ginger, peeled and minced 1 big fat shallot, peeled and minced 1 tsp. cumin seeds 4 whole cloves 2 c. low-sodium vegetable broth (or more, if you want it more soupy… I just had 2 c. left over from the couscous from earlier in the week) a bit of sunflower oil (you can use vegetable or canola, this is just the type I tend to keep in my house) salt to taste   Preheat oven to 350°. Carefully cut squash in half (those skins are tough, and none of my knives are big enough to go all the way through neatly.) Scoop out all the seeds. You can save them to roast, if you wish. Lightly oil a baking sheet with the sunflower oil. I would suggest using your hands so you can not only use your lightly oiled hands to rub down all the surfaces of the cut squash with residual oil, you can garner the moisturizing benefits of oil. Place the squash cut side down on the baking sheet, slide into the oven. Let them roast for half an hour, check to see if they are good and soft, maybe even collapsed, and if not, let go for another 15 minutes or so. During this round they took about 45 minutes. Butternut will take longer, since it tends to have thicker flesh. Once the squash is beautifully soft, pull out of oven. (Or, if you are like me, you can start cooking the rest of the stuff while the squash is roasting so you end up trying to scoop very hot squash flesh out of the rinds and adding it into the pot, swearing every time your fingertips get slightly burned.) In a soup pot (I have a 3 qt. Le Creuset I favor for this) warm about a Tbsp. of sunflower oil over medium heat. Add in the shallot and ginger and cook for a minute or two, until the shallot begins to get translucent. Pause halfway through to realize you haven’t ground the cumin and cloves together. Throw them in the mortar and pestle and grind fine, alternating with stirring the shallots and ginger, swearing at yourself for being so stubbornly old school and not having a spice grinder. Put it on the list, for crying out sideways. Add in the freshly ground spices and cook for about 30 seconds more. Add in the apple, cook for another minute or two. Scoop the flesh out of the squash and add into the pot. Add in the veggie broth (you may find you want to add the veggie broth in earlier if you don’t feel like you are scooping squash fast enough, which will probably happen.) Stir to combine everything, bring to a simmer, then cover and let simmer for a good 20-30 minutes. Come back to stir every so often, or it will burn to the bottom of the pot. Trust me. Remove from heat and thoroughly puree using an immersion blender. Continue to swear as you accidentally get the blades above...

apple butter

By on Oct 10, 2010 in fail... or not, love, preserving | 0 comments

Another fall day masquerading in summer’s heat. The apples were nestled together, dozing in the warm air, waiting patiently for their transformation into that most magical of fall elixirs… apple butter. Six pounds of apples were swiftly cored and thrown into a pot so large it would not fit in the sink, then drowned in apple cider made of their brethren pomaceous fruit. The day had been warm, but for the apples, it was about to get warmer. Slowly, achingly, the apples and cider came to a boil, the moist white flesh softening in the growing heat, letting forth a warm tangy scent. It was time for the skins to leave. Slowly, ladle by ladle, the mix was ground through a food mill into yet another pot, emitting a luscious dark puree. The puree was set to the boil again, spices were added, and then… a long slow simmer. Two large pots on the stove were not enough. A third pot, used countless times before and through generations, came to a boil, cleansing the glass jars of invaders that would spoil the fall harvest. At long last, after four hours of simmering, the sun had set and the apple butter had turned a delicious dark hue. Scents of cinnamon and clove swirled through the air. But something was not right. The scent was divine, the taste induced eye-rolls, but still… was it thick enough? Hot jars were pulled from their private hot tub, filled, lidded, and then returned to the hot tub to finish. As the moon rose, the jars cooled on a rack, the four caps let forth one full plink after another, announcing to the quiet kitchen that the jeals were now fully sealed. The next morning, in the early morning light, all appeared well, but only time will tell. This could be a lovely batch of...

the graping

By on Oct 6, 2010 in fail... or not, preserving | 2 comments

Less than 24 hours off the vine, the grapes warily eyed the cold light of the city. Plucked and cooked into a vivid mass, the grapes were ground slowly through a food mill that had been crushing their ancestors for decades. The thick syrupy juice collected below, working through the molecules of the mill and the bowl, delivering a purple blush that belied the vivid magenta of their fresh demise. Unbeknownst to the cook, the grapes had spent their night in the dark confines of the refrigerator in tense communication with the packet of pectin. At the crucial moment, the grapes fighting to their last as the heat went high, the pectin seized into a hundred gelatinous chunks, refusing to release back into the boiling liquid. All chance of jam was lost. The cook, desperate, twirled between the stove and the sink, sifting out the chunks, spraying the kitchen with bright grapey droplets. The Pectin Rebellion came to an end, and the pectin had won. Thick grape syrup was resolutely poured into hot sterile jars and sealed away, with waning hopes that it would settle into jam. The cook, happy at least with the victory of wasting very little of the grapes, listened to the forlorn pings as the jars sealed and dreamed of what could be made with grape concentrate… And then the jam set...

won ton soup… in a manner of speaking

By on Oct 6, 2010 in cooking, fail... or not, love | 0 comments

A sane person would buy won ton wrappers rather than make and roll out yard upon yard of smooth supple dough, letting the cool dough glide along the floured counters as it becomes ever thinner. I am not a sane person. A won ton soup fail can elicit other delectable results. The smooth and supple dough stuck together in the damp kitchen, so the dough got pulled apart like some sort of savory taffy into ribbons and dumplings. The filling of fresh ground pork, steamed spinach, ginger, soy sauce, and peanut oil was cooked on its own, broth added, the random bits of dough flung in along with bright scallions, and at long last, a single egg beaten then swirled in, creating a final tangle of egg and noodle to rival any Pollock...