Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Cooky Monster

I forgot to mention another resolution for the upcoming year: cook more, and better.

Panera now has this incredible butternut squash soup on their menu. It's thick and smooth, slightly sweet with just a hint of curry. Mr. Awesome says it's the perfect soup and could probably be paired with just about anything, and I agree. Since we both like it so much, and I'd like to use my immersion blender more, I resolve to learn to make my own delicious butternut squash soup in the coming year. So far, I've found this recipe to be rather intriguing:

South African Butternut Squash Soup

Serves 6 - 8

1 butternut squash, cleaned, peeled and diced
2 T. dark brown molasses sugar or dark brown sugar
2 T. honey
4 T. unsalted butter
1 ripe banana, unpeeled
½ medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 tsp. curry powder
½ tsp. ground coriander seeds
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 c. coconut milk
1 c. chicken or vegetable stock, plus extra
juice of 1 lime
kosher salt and freshly group black pepper to taste
garnish: fresh cilantro, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sprinkle diced squash with brown sugar, honey and 2 tablespoons butter and roast in 350-degree oven until caramelized and soft to the touch, about 20 minutes; roast the unpeeled banana in the oven at the same time.

Melt the other 2 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan on medium-low heat and sweat the onion, celery and carrot for a few minutes until tender and onion is translucent. Add the garlic, curry powder, coriander, nutmeg and cinnamon and cook slowly for a few more minutes.

Remove the banana from its skin, slice and add it with the butternut and its juices to the pan, along with the coconut milk and chicken (or veggie) broth. Simmer until hot. Remove from heat and ladle the soup into blender in small batches. Blend the soup in a blender until smooth. Adjust to consistency desired with more broth, if necessary. Add fresh cilantro, lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Blend again until smooth and if you want a very delicate soup, pass the soup through a chinois or household strainer using a rubber spatula to press the soup through the strainer.

The soup should be served hot, so return to stovetop and gently reheat if necessary. Pour soup into bowls and garnish with a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil, a few toasted pumpkin seeds and a sprig of fresh cilantro.

I also would like to learn how to make really good brussels sprouts. About a year ago, after having some really awful frozen brussels sprouts, I decided brussles sprouts were inherently awful and worth avoiding. Then, about 2 weeks ago, while having brunch at Room 39, I ordered their side of brussels sprouts with bacon, on the notion that if I didn't like brussels sprouts from Room 39 (a place that cooks everything beyond perfectly), I would never like brussels sprouts and therefore my avoidance of the vegetable would continue. Needless to say, the brussels sprouts were, as Mr. Awesome has been saying lately, fuckin' yum, so now they have been added to my short list of items to master this year in the kitchen.

A quick search turned up this: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon (and pictures). I think it looks quite promising.

Tonight we're making stuffed peppers. Target was out of red and green peppers, so we're stuffing orange peppers with a meatloaf made from ground turkey and Italian sausage. Fuckin' yum? We'll see...

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