Butternut Squash Soup

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It’s fall, it’s fall, let the soup making begin! I can’t think of a more appropriate one to start with than butternut squash soup. These last couple of weeks Zoeya and I have gotten a little squash and pumpkin happy; everywhere we go there are gourds large and small and we’ve been bringing them home like lost puppies. They are functioning as both food and decoration.

On cooking methods: you will never in your life find me dicing, peeling or boiling a butternut squash (same goes for pumpkin, acorn squash, etc.). Why do people torture themselves? It is a thousand times easier – not to mention more flavorful – to halve or quarter it, scoop out the seeds and roast it.

Butternut Squash Soup

1 butternut squash, halved
olive oil
sea salt & pepper
1 onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves
1 1/2 c chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 c milk
squash seeds
1/2 tsp garam masala (or just cinnamon)

Cut squash in half, drizzle with olive oil and sea salt, and roast at 400° until tender, about 25 to 30 min. Remove from oven and let it sit until it’s cool enough to handle, then use a spoon to scoop out the flesh into a blender or food processor (if you’re impatient like me you’re going to burn your fingers).

Meanwhile, heat olive oil on medium and gently cook onion and garlic until caramelized, about 20 min. (You can regular old saute your onions and garlic, but the carmelized ones are really sweet and go with the sweetness of the squash). Transfer to blender or food processor, along with broth. Puree. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Transfer to a soup pot, add milk, and gently heat through.

Serve sprinkled with spiced seeds: clean the seeds and dry. You can roast them but I actually did them stove top in a small skillet. Heat just enough olive oil to coat the seeds, sprinkle with salt and garam masala or cinnamon, and toast until they start to pop.

#Unprocessed in October

“Unprocessed food is any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with readily available, whole-food ingredients.” – Andrew Wilder.

A lot of people are not going to be eating processed food during the month of October – sounds fun, I’m in!

I don’t think this would be a huge stretch for our family; we eat pretty well most of the time. Of course, we are coming off a weekend of takeout (as our kitchen was in pieces, now we have a new floor and counters – beautiful!) but that’s really even more reason to detox with some decent food.

My first thought was that this will be a piece of (homemade, lovingly prepared) cake. Upon further reflection, I do foresee some things being a challenge. Bread for example. I pack Zoeya a sandwich for lunch at least once a week, and we often eat naan with dinner. Not a huge problem, just means a little baking on the weekends and whipping up some homemade roti.

Other things to consider are condiments and canned foods used in cooking otherwise whole foods. I’ve decided on a two pronged approach. Some things, like my sauces and chutneys, and even mayonnaise I’m going to make from scratch. Other things, like the coconut milk I use that contains stuff like guar gum (not an ingredient I usually have hanging out in the pantry) I’m not going to stress about.

A final challenge – isn’t Halloween in October? Not much I can do about that…maybe October is #unprocessed except for a couple funsize Snickers.

Romesco Sauce

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I am in love with all things Spanish – gypsies, flamenco dancing, Moorish architecture, El Cid, tapas, Almodovar movies, Ojos de Brujo, depressing novels, Castellano as opposed to regular old Spanish. Spain is number one on my long list of places I’m dying to visit, and Shan has promised to take me one day.

Until then, I can pretend that I’m there by eating like I’m there. Romesco is a combination of so many quintessential Spanish ingredients: olive oil, roasted red peppers, almonds, sherry vinegar – I even put a drop of honey in mine for balance. It is a versatile sauce that is rich and bright at the same time, and goes on anything from seafood to veggies to a plain slice of bread.

Romesco Sauce

2 red peppers
handful of almonds, blanched and peeled
3/4 c olive oil, divided
1 head of garlic
1 slice bread (I used 1 whole wheat naan)
3 roma tomatoes, chopped
salt & pepper
1/4 c sherry vinegar
1 tsp honey

Roast the red peppers the usual way: 350° right on the grate, turning, until blackened. Peel, clean out the seeds and slice.

In a food processor, blitz the almonds until finely ground.

Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil on medium, and gently cook the garlic (alternately you could roast the garlic, but I was in a hurry and this was quicker). Use a slotted spoon to transfer the garlic to the food processor.

Tear the bread and fry in the same olive oil – you can turn the heat up a little. When browned, transfer to food processor. In same pan, saute the tomatoes with salt and pepper. Transfer everything to food processor and blitz.

Add sherry vinegar and honey and combine. Slowly add the rest of the olive oil and combine. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

I served this on top of braised paprika chicken thighs with a spinach salad. It made a nice big batch – I froze half and we used the leftover from the first half as a dip for veggies and pita bread.

I chose this as my best recipe in September :)

Roasted Sesame Acorn Squash

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Three year old Zoeya is going through an adorable phase where she’s really into acorns. Every day she scavenges for them on the playground at school and collects them in her little pockets (she’s also really into pockets, and putting things in them). She proudly presents them to me at home, and then leaves them laying around, and later I’ll find Quentin the cat batting them around on the floor.

Zoeya likes many vegetables, but squash is not one of them, I’m guessing because of the texture. I tried to take advantage of her affinity for acorns while roasting up this yummy sweet and salty acorn squash.

She turned up her nose when I served it to her, but showed some interest when I told her it was acorn squash. She took a bite, but ended up spitting it out.

At least she tried it. Oh well, more for me.

Roasted Sesame Acorn Squash

2 medium smallish acorn squash, quartered and seeds scraped (save the seeds for pepitas!)
olive oil
sea salt & pepper
1 tbsp sesame seeds, lightly toasted
1 1/2 tbsp demerara sugar
1/2 tbsp sesame oil

Heat oven to 400°.

Place squash quarters face up on a foil-covered baking sheet or glass dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until fork pierces the flesh easily. Remove from oven.

Stir sesame oil into the sugar and spread over surfaces of squash. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, and return to the oven for another 10 minutes. And to be honest, next time I might crank it up to a broil and try to get a better crust.

I just loved this, but since it wasn’t so popular I’m thinking to puree and strain the leftovers, then thin with broth for a soup. I think little Z will like that.

Kale Chips

Kale chips were pretty trendy last year; I finally got around to making them and all I can say is what in the world took me so long?! Yum! They couldn’t be easier to make and they really are as crispy and delicious as everyone promised they would be.

To give credit where it’s due, I referenced the recipe on Smitten Kitchen, adding a chaat masala zing.

Zoeya loved them as you can see. We munched on them last Friday evening, a complete treat for her – snacks…on the couch (yay! Eating on the couch is fun!)…watching a movie (Coraline!)…staying up late!

Kale Chips

1 bunch kale – the curly kind
olive oil to lightly coat
sea salt
chaat masala (optional)

Wash the kale and dry thoroughly. Trim away the stalks and rip into “chip-sized” pieces. Arrange in one layer on a couple of cookie sheets, toss with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and bake at 300° for about 20 minutes or until crispy.

I sprinkled mine with chaat masala (a little spicy, a little tangy) and left Zoeya’s plain.

Wednesday Snack: Make Aheads

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I don’t know about you, but I need a little something to get me through the week. Here’s a yummy little Wednesday round-up.

I’ve been trying to do a little extra cooking on the weekend to give us a jump start for the week. I’m not trying to spend my whole day Sunday in the kitchen and make entire meals that all we have to do is reheat. Just making a few components ahead of time that can help streamline lunch and dinner.

Pizza Dough

I made a batch last weekend, let it rise once, punched it down and just saved it right in the bowl in the fridge until Thursday. Thursday morning I left it out on the counter, then in the evening proceeded as usual to make pizza puttanesca. The hands-on time for pizza isn’t that much, but it’s hard to do on a week night because of the rising time. Making it ahead made for an easy dinner.

Hummus

I’ve written about making hummus before, but this has become even more popular in our house as I’m making Zoeya’s lunch. It was really easy to whip up a batch on the weekend. Instead of in the crock pot, I simmered the dried chickpeas on the stove as I was cooking other things, and they really didn’t take as long to soften as I thought they would (maybe an hour, hour and a half).

The combination of the chickpeas and tahini makes a complete protein, and she loves it, so it’s a win all around. I’ve been making her hummus and cucumber wraps on tortillas, and I took the leftovers to my sisters to enjoy sprinkled with sumac and scooped up with toasted naan.

Chicken Stock

Last week Shan made tandoori chicken drumsticks, so like a good little housewifey I boiled the leftover bones, along with a bunch of veggie trimmings I’d been saving in the freezer (onion tops, ginger skins, broccoli stalks, the ends of green beans). I added water several times as it boiled off, and finally reduced and strained. I poured the stock into an ice cube tray, froze it, then popped them out into a freezer bag. Now in whatever I’m making this week (soups, curries, etc.) I can use a cube or two of homemade, low sodium, no preservative chicken stock.

Rosewater and Cardamom Lassi

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On the way to work a couple weeks ago I was listening to NPR coverage of the Syrian revolution. Although the regime has been quick to strike down resistance, I was touched by the creative and peaceful ways people are protesting, particularly those protesting by throwing roses in a fountain.

I guess I still had roses on the brain later when making lassis with Zoeya. We dressed this one up a bit with rosewater and cardamom for a pretty and delicate drink.

Rosewater and Cardamom Lassi

4 cardamom pods
1 1/2 c yogurt
1/2 c cold water
4 tbsp sugar (I used demerara, but plain would be fine)
1 tbsp rose water
1 c ice cubes

Crack cardamom pods, keeping seeds and discarding the outer shell. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend. Pour into glasses and enjoy.

To the revolution!