Roasted Butternut Squash, Acorn Squash, and Apple Soup

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For 2018 I hope to be here more than I was in 2017. I’m envisioning more of a journal of sorts, where I can feel free to pop in and say “I just made this for dinner! I’m not apologizing for the bad photos! Here’s the general technique and ingredients so you can make it too, if you so choose!” I’m saying goodbye to weighing vegetables and judiciously measuring out olive oil. Maybe I’ll even share some (gasp!) meaty recipes here. We’re going to write our recipes in real time!

2017 was a strange year for me in that it treated me personally very well and it was still painful to go through. I have a feeling that 2018 is going to be much of the same. Since the last time I checked in here (which was what, August?!?) Aaron and I have moved and started talking seriously about getting a dog. I left cooking professionally and became more focused on writing. And I started to cook seriously at home again for the first time in a year or more. Jobs. They drain you of what you love.

We started 2018 as we mean to go- a chill open house filled with friends, water, and soup. We called it “Yes, Soup for You”, and spent the entirety of New Year’s Day at home, with friends coming and going, sharing food. Aaron made some mulled wine, friends brought treats, and I made three soups- my mom’s chicken chili, a vegan version of this coconut red lentil soup, and a creamy and sweet-but-not-too-sweet roasted squash and apple soup inspired by Smitten Kitchen. It was such a success that we’ve decided that we’re going to do this every year from now on. It’s hard to think of a better place to be than surrounded by lovely people and good food.

I’ll see you more in 2018. May you start as you mean to go.

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Roasted Butternut Squash, Acorn Squash, and Apple Soup

inspired by this recipe over on Smitten Kitchen

The timing for the roasted squash and caramelized onions will depend on how much moisture is in your vegetables, and how much attention you’re paying to them.

Preheat the oven to 400.

Quarter and deseed 1 medium butternut squash, 1 large (or 2 small) acorn squash, and 4 apples. Divide between two cookie sheet (I placed the butternut squash on one and the acorn on another), and drizzle liberally with olive oil, sherry vinegar, salt, and pepper. Place in the oven and roast until the squash is tender and the apples are shriveled, between forty minutes and an hour.

In a large heavy pot over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add in 4 yellow onions, thinly sliced, and toss well. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they have lost at least half of their volume and are becoming golden in color. Add in 4 cloves of minced garlic and about 2 tablespoons roughly chopped thyme. Continue to cook until the onions are at least amber, though you can take them darker if you desire.

Remove the squash and apples from the oven. Peel away the skin from the squash and roughly chop it into large chunks. Add the peeled squash and the roasted apples to the soup, along with about 1 cup of white wine (if it’s the remainder of a flat bottle of bubbles, so much the better) and 4 cups of vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, just to let the flavors melt together.

Add 1 cup heavy cream and puree soup, either in an upright blender or with an immersion blender. Taste, and adjust the seasonings with sherry vinegar and dark soy sauce as necessary. If it’s too thick, add some more cream or more water (or both). Serve hot, with lots of crusty bread and butter.

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White Bean and Cabbage Soup with Rosemary

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As someone who celebrates Christmas this is the home stretch. There’s cookies to bake, an apartment to clean, and a dinner to plan. There’s also family to host and a tree to buy and presents to wrap… uff da. And so in the spirit of the holiday and of business, here’s soup. Soup is an excellent meal for many reasons- it’s easy, it’s nutrient dense, it’s warming. Soup is the ultimate comfort food, and it’s what I want to eat right now.

A few weeks ago our friend Anne and Brian made white bean soup for Aaron and I when we all got together for dinner. I’ve been thinking about that soup ever since- it was hearty and satisfying and exactly right for a wintery dinner party. This is my wintery lunch variation. Onions and cabbage are slowly cooked in butter with a good dose of chopped rosemary and chopped thyme. Stock and canned beans are added and simmered together, then it’s half-pureed, a compromise for the chunky (Aaron) and smooth (me) soup eaters.

I hope you enjoy this. And I’d love your help- if you’re celebrating a holiday in the next week, what are you making? (And what are you celebrating?) My brain stuck, and inspiration would be very welcomed.

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White Bean and Cabbage Soup with Rosemary

If you’d like a creamier, thicker soup then I would start with 2 cups of broth, and add water from there as necessary.

Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, diced
2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped thyme
2 cups finely chopped cabbage
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 fifteen ounce cans cannellini beans
4 cups light vegetable broth
1 tablespoon lemon juice
flaked almonds, to serve
shredded parmesan cheese, to serve

Heat a heavy bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Add the butter and allow it to melt. Add the onion and stir well to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and has started to take on a golden color. This should take between 10 and 20 minutes. If the onions are cooking too quickly or taking on more color than you’d like, turn down the heat.

Add the rosemary, thyme, cabbage, and spices. Stir well and cook for another few minutes, until the cabbage is starting to soften. Add the beans and the vegetable broth, and bring to a simmer.

Skim any foam that comes to the top of the pot. Simmer the soup for 20 minutes, until it’s reduced a bit and the flavors have concentrated.

Using an immersion blender, blend in quick bursts. You want for the soup to be smoothed out a bit, but still have some texture- about half-pureed. Alternatively, you could use an upright blender, blend half the soup, and then return it to the pot.

Stir in the lemon juice, and taste for seasoning. Add more salt and lemon juice as necessary. Serve hot with flaked almonds and a dusting of parmesan.

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Celery Root and Parsnip Soup with Apple Butter

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Minneapolis is the coldest major city in the United States. We have yet to hit 32 degrees Fahrenheit, which usually happens by first week of October. It’s not that it’s warm- if you don’t live in the North, you might think the air is chilly. But it doesn’t feel like Novembers past. There are still leaves on trees, and I’ve only worn a coat at night. It hasn’t snowed yet. It hasn’t snowed in over 200 days.

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After a turbulent and strange week I would very much like for the weather to follow its predictable pattern. This unanticipated lag is unsettling. I wish for snow, and I fear it won’t come.

In times of stress I cook. This isn’t new news, and I have a feeling that you may have a similar coping strategy. I’ve recently tried to turn more to other people’s recipes, to let them guide me through new ideas and different ingredients. It’s an education and a practice. If you cook frequently you have a vocabulary. You have the ingredients you always keep on hand and your go-to techniques. It’s both a pleasure and a challenge to spend some time with another person’s vocabulary, using unfamiliar words. At the end there’s a new knowledge gained. With a capable guide and a bit of luck it’s good knowledge.

I make soup all winter long, both for warmth and for comfort. Right now comfort is the sole reason for making soup. It’s been a stressful season and it doesn’t seem like it will get any less stressful soon. I found this soup in Sarah Copeland’s Feast, a smart and elegant book on vegetarian cooking. And so here are vegetables and cream and spices all blended together. This is not a groundbreaking recipe, but it’s very good. Celery root and parsnips are cooked with apples and onions, then get blended together with a healthy drink of cream. It sounds fine, but it really very delicious. But then when it’s time to serve there’s a dollop of apple butter, and that sweet/tart apple butter turns the soup from something good to a knockout.

Aaron and I ate this soup for a cozy lunch together with some crusty bread and strong bleu cheese. If you’re into elegant, coursed dinners, this would be an incredible starter for a fall/winter dinner party. And if you’re uninterested in the apple butter, this would make a simple but very tasty dinner.

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Celery Root and Parsnip Soup with Apple Butter

Copeland originally calls for 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger, but when I went to grab our fresh ginger it was gone. The powdered ginger is delicious and significantly easier, so I’ll be using it again in the future.

adapted from Feast by Sarah Copeland

Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tart apple (such as a granny smith), peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
1 celery root, trimmed, peeled, and roughly chopped
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
apple butter, for serving
green onions, finely chopped, for serving
olive oil, for serving
Aleppo pepper, for serving

In a large pot over medium heat warm the olive oil. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softening and becoming translucent, about 5-8 minutes. Add the garlic and the spices, and cook for 1 minute. Add the parsnips, apple, and celery root and 4 cups of water. Season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until the vegetables are soft, between 20-30 minutes.

Once the vegetables are soft remove the soup from heat. Blend, using either an immersion blender or an upright blender, until smooth. Return the soup to the pot and stir in the heavy cream and apple cider vinegar. Taste, and season with salt and pepper as needed. Warm the soup on low heat to serve.

To serve, top the warm soup with a dollop of apple butter, a flurry of green onions, a sprinkle of Aleppo pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

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Carrot and Coconut Dal

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Fall is on the edges here in MPLS. Aaron has put our old, ineffective air conditioner back into storage and we’re no longer sleeping with a fan. We’ve made the official switch from serving cold soup to hot soup at work. The temperature falls into the 50s at night, even as it sometimes hits 80 during the afternoon. People are breaking out the flannel and even the occasional puffy vest again. And my old friend, seasonal allergies, has come back for a visit.

I’m not sure what, exactly, I’m allergic to, whatever it is it’s all around. I have the full monty- itchy eyes, runny nose, congestion. And sneezes. Oh, the sneezes. Once they start they just won’t stop. I would describe them in more detail, but this is a food blog whose goal is to make you hungry, not grossed out, so I’ll stop.

I have no objection to taking an allergy pill, but all of ours seem to have disappeared. It’s a temporary problem, as I’m making a Target run tonight. But in the meantime I figured that food, while not able to cure my allergies, certainly couldn’t hurt.

To this effect I give you this carrot and coconut dal. It’s full of the types of food you want to eat while mildly sick- ginger, garlic, onions, turmeric, and black pepper. It’s warming at a time when I want to eat something warm, but still light enough for the end of summer. The red lentils dissolve just enough to bring in a beautiful, soft texture. There’s three types of coconut- oil, milk, and flaked for the topping- to bring some sweetness and creaminess. The whole thing is deeply flavored, slightly tart, bright, and earthy. The spice is there, lingering softly after each bite.

This dal reminds me of the soups that I liked to eat in my college house.We used the heat as sparingly as possible there to save money, and so would wrap ourselves in sweaters and blankets. I almost always had something warm in my hands then, whether it was a bowl of soup or a mug of tea. I also ate most of my meals either perched on the couch next to friends, or lounging on the floor. Vegetables and lentils were cheap, much cheaper than dairy and meat, and so I ate them in abundance. This dal is not the same as I would have made then- it is more subtle in its spicing, and made with a more patience and care. But it has the same sort of warm, earthy, straightforward qualities that I’ve loved in lentil soups, past. I still love the clean goodness of lentils in the present, and am certain I’ll continue to love them in the future.

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Carrot and Coconut Dal

adapted from Good + Simple by Jasmine Hemsley and Melissa Hemsley

If you’d like a spicier dal you could double the chili powder. This dal would be an easy one to make your own by changing the spices- cinnamon, ground mustard, or cumin would all be delicious here.

Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 medium onions, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
a 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 cups red lentils
4 cups vegetable broth
1 15 ounce can of coconut milk
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon tamari
1 teaspoon of salt, plus more to taste
3/4 teaspoon pepper, plus more to taste
1/4 cup unsweetened flaked coconut, for serving
roughly chopped cilantro, for serving

Heat a dutch oven or other soup-sized pot over medium heat. Add the coconut oil and heat for a minute. Add the onion and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not dark, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add in the ginger, garlic, turmeric, and chili powder and stir well, then cook for another minute. Add the lentils, vegetable broth, and coconut milk. Bring the whole thing to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 or so minutes, until the lentils are tender.

While the dal is cooking heat a saucepan over medium heat. Add the coconut and cook, stirring constantly, for two or three minutes, until the coconut is golden and smells toasty. Remove the coconut from the pan and set aside.

Once the lentils are tender add more water if it’s a bit thick- I added a cup of water to mine. Add the lemon juice, tamari, salt, and pepper. Stir well, and taste. Adjust the seasonings as necessary.

Serve hot, topped with the roughly chopped cilantro and the toasted coconut.

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Caramelized Onion Miso Stew

 
Restaurant week. Customers love it- two courses for twenty five dollars. Three courses for thirty. They come for the bargains, for the chance to try the restaurant that always sat in the someday list without the someday price tag. It’s raucous and frantic and your server doesn’t linger because someone else needs bread, or water, or dessert hands. For a certain type of customer it’s the ideal.

Perhaps restaurant week is also the ideal for a certain type of cook, but I am not that cook. Restaurant week is coming in early and staying late, and coming home too exhausted to read but too wired to sleep. It’s plating desserts in flights, of four chocolate, five chocolate, six chocolate coming in all at once, and putting tickets after that on hold. It’s washing my hands every fifteen minutes because no matter how careful I am they’re always coating in sugar and caramel. It’s trying to shout to servers “Dessert hands please” in a way that’s both urgent, because this ice cream is going to melt and soon, and polite, because they also have a difficult job and we work best together when we’re being respectful. It’s plating a hundred plus desserts a night as efficient as a robot but as careful as a painter. It’s not having time for dinner and stealing pieces of bread and cheese for sustenance. It’s hell. It’s a rush.

In the past, I would have tried to survive restaurant week or other times like this with a mess of my comfort food- mac and cheese, popcorn, pizza, pasta. Carbs and cheese are my weaknesses. These foods all satisfy me emotionally, and there’s space for that. But as I’ve grown up a little bit I’ve realized that eating only emotionally during hectic times speeds my crashes, rather than preventing them. During busy times I need vegetables.

I made this caramelized onion miso stew together for lunch before work earlier this week, and when I finished my last restaurant week shift all I wanted to eat was the leftovers. It’s easy as anything. You slice yellow onions into thin moons and slowly cook them, caramelizing the sugars, in olive oil. Once they’re at the level of caramelization you want you add in water and miso paste, a handful of greens, and some somen noodles. A few more minutes cooking and you’re done. The result is a thick, noodle-y stew that’s sweet from the caramelized onions, nutty and salty from the miso, and filling from the noodles.

I can imagine making this over and over, changing out the greens for whatever other vegetables I have on hand (cooked sweet potatoes! mushrooms!), adding aromatics (ginger! garlic! chilis!), and toppings (chili oil! a 7 minute egg! cilantro and scallions!). It’s my favorite kind of back pocket meal- endlessly adaptable, and deliciously easy.

Caramelized Onion Miso Stew

Serves 2

Miso paste and somen noodles should both be available at a well-stocked supermarket. If you can’t find somen, you could substitute another noodle of choice. In that case, just be careful to follow the packaged cooking directions for said noodles.

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
salt
4 cups water
3 tablespoons miso paste (I used a mellow brown rice miso)
handful of spring mix lettuce, or other soft green (optional)
4 ounces somen noodles

In a heavy bottomed pot such as a dutch oven, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt. Stir well. Cook the onions over medium heat, stirring well every few minutes, until the onions are caramelized. They should darken and taste sweet but not burned. This will take somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes.

Stir in the water, being careful to scrape up any brown bits on the bottom. These are where all the flavors live, and you want them. Bring the water to a simmer, and whisk in the miso paste. Be sure to taste as you go, as different brands of miso have different strengths. 3 tablespoons was perfect for mine, but yours may vary. Add the greens if using, and the somen noodles. Simmer until the greens have collapsed and the somen noodles are tender, about three minutes. Serve.

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