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Easy Curried Butternut Squash Soup! (vegan)

26 Feb

I had a butternut squash from way back in the fall and a desire for real arroz con habichuelas (Puerto Rican pink beans and rice), which may seem not to have anything to do with butternut squash soup, but after I boiled the squash, I realized I had about twice as much as I needed!

This recipe uses just about a half a typical butternut squash

This recipe uses just about a half a typical butternut squash

Waste not want not is my motto (as much by necessity as by design), so I thought it would be nice to simmer up a warm soup.

A bit of home-made sofrito (substitutes included in recipe!)

A bit of home-made sofrito (substitutes included in recipe!)

Thus, this ever so simple butternut squash soup, vegan (unless you swirl in some yogurt or sour cream at the end), and rich without being fatty. I used some sofrito I made the other day, but give instructions for store-bought or home-made substitutes.

squash and seasonings simmering

squash and seasonings simmering

Easy Butternut Squash Soup

2 Cups butternut squash, peeled and boiled until soft in vegetable broth. RESERVE broth

1 tsp olive oil

2 Tbs sofrito (homemade or Goya. May be substituted with a tablespoon of finely minced onion and a tablespoon of finely minced green cooking pepper like cubanelle, in which case you need to saute a bit longer until tender)

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ tsp mild curry powder

½ tsp cumin

½ tsp salt

Fresh cracked black pepper

(dab of pesto, hot sauce or –if you aren’t vegan – yogurt or sour cream to finish, optional)

In a medium soup pot, heat oil at high until fragrant. Lower to medium, add sofrito and garlic and sauté until fragrant and getting dry. Add curry powder and cumin and toast until slightly fragrant. Add broth and squash, bring to a boil, then simmer for 15-20 minutes until very, very soft. Use an immersion blender or food processor or blender to liquefy. Season to taste and serve with optional toppings.

Arroz con habichuelas (click for basic recipe!)

Arroz con habichuelas (click for basic recipe!)

Or click for another MORE basic recipe!

Sopa de pollo y fideos (pre-Sandy Chicken Noodle Soup)

4 Nov

Thanks to all those who sent messages of support before, during and after the storm. You are reading the words of someone who feels incredibly blessed; aside from losing power for a few days and a big branch down in the backyard, we came through pretty well. I was even able to attend a teaching conference in Albany (the capital of NYS) which was not affected by the storm, and present successfully with my colleagues from Thursday to Saturday; we were among the few who made it from downstate.

Big tree down in the backyard

Please lend a thought or prayer to the many who have lost lives, or homes, or peace of mind, who are still without power as the temperature drops, or don’t have clean water  or food to eat.

I go back to teaching tomorrow. We already know of one student in our program who lost his life. I am praying for him and his family, as well as hoping that none of our other students were so fatally affected.  I have only heard from three out of my nineteen students and am very anxious for their well-being. We’ll now see how we can help. Our students are immigrants and international students; certainly we will have to help the boy’s family raise the funds to send his body home. Continue reading

Chicken Feet Stock (not for the squeamish, so don’t say I didn’t warn you)

19 Oct

It’s not every day that someone swings a plastic bag of severed extremities at you by way of “hello.”

My Precioussssssssss

But when that day comes and if the swinger happens to be Caroline Fanning, one of the growers at Restoration Farm, and she happens to follow her swing by saying, “Hey do you want some chicken feet?” then you should most definitely say “YEAH!” Continue reading

Green Tomato and Tomatillo Bisque (Life-Goes-On-Lessons from the Garden)

4 Sep

I got my first inkling of disaster from the Blogosphere.

The fabulous Karen of Backroad Journal chronicled her battle with late blight in a recent post about her tomatoes. I gasped. In my myopic focus on avoiding the blossom end rot that plagued my tomatoes last year – a result of uneven watering while we were gallivanting about the island keeping the boy on the hop and too busy/tired to cause trouble — I had neglected to consider the possibility of late blight. After all, wasn’t that all done with in the catastrophic 2009 season? (It should have been done with after the Irish Potato Famine of 1845, but apparently not). Continue reading

Back-To-School Freezer Fillers 2: Nostalgia-Driven Tomato and Rice Soup

31 Aug

When I was a kid, I love-love-loved Campbell’s Tomato and Rice Soup, the kind from the can that you just added water to and stirred around on the stove top for a while. Holy Happy Meal, Batman, with a couple of saltines on, that was the best stuff ever to slurp on a fall day, and best of all, I could do it myself from a young age. Don’t ask me how young, because I don’t remember! But it was a handy thing to make, and it got you tons of labels for your school back in the day. Ah yes, the Campbell Soup Label Drives…. Continue reading

Simple Caribbean Chicken Noodle Soup (throw it all into the pot at once! Serves four as a main course))

19 Aug

Yeah, yeah, your grandmother’s chicken soup. I know. It was the best. Could raise the dead, in fact.

Just five minutes of chopping, and throw it all in the pot! No browning, no saute, no mirepoix, no sofrito, no roux.

Well this chicken soup may not be your grandmother’s, or even your mother-in-law’s. It may not be complex, may not feature a rich and dense stock, may not have anything at all fancy about it. But if you want to just throw a bunch of things in a pot and end up with a soothing, yummy, cure-all of a soup in less than a half hour, I think you will like my soup a whole lot. It’s a typical Puerto Rican and, apparently Aruban, style of soup prep.

The first tender tropical culantro leaves from a container on my Long Island stoop!

Important note: in this soup, my herbs were the first recao (culantro) I was able to harvest from the seeds I brought from Puerto Rico. You do not need them to make this soup – choose whatever you most like in the green herby kingdom – but I want to share with you my satisfaction at growing, on my stoop, one of the most distinctive elements of Puerto Rican cuisine. Eryngium foetidum – also known as recao, culantro and sawtooth coriander — is something that smells delicious in the rain, that tastes similar to cilantro, but is less citric and a bit deeper.

And another view of the recao…yes, I am inordinately proud…

I grew it at my grandmother’s house in Mayagüez from seeds from my great-aunt Amida, but have struggled to get it to grow here on Long Island. Thanks to a mad-humid summer, it has flourished in a container and I am very happy not to have to buy it already cut and fading in flavor from the local Latin grocery that gets it from Costa Rica. ¡¡¡¡TRIUNFO!!!

Comfort in a pot

No-Fuss Chicken Noodle Soup (amounts of vegetables are flexible)

2 quarts water (with a stock cube) or stock (or a mix of the two)

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 green pepper (preferably cubanelle or Italian cooking pepper), chopped

1 lb chicken breast (or boneless thighs), in 1’ cubes

1 Tbs herbs of your choice, chopped (especially culantro/recao/sawtooth cilantro)

Handful of soup noodles (fideos)

Salt to taste

Bin a large stockpot, bring water/stock to a boil. Add remaining ingredients, except noodles and salt. Return to boil. Lower heat to a lively simmer for at least 20 minutes. The longer you have the more tender the chicken. Add noodles five minutes before you finish simmering. Salt to taste and serve. I recommend adding hot sauce, like sriracha, to taste!

Quick Vegetable Soup for a Sick Day You Couldn’t Take

10 Jun

A few weeks ago I got bronchitis. I don’t get sick often, but sometimes you just pound it too hard and the body craps out.

However, it was not the right time to take off from work, which statement is probably a clear indicator of how crazed about work our American society is (And how I have become). “Yeah, I am on death’s door, but I gotta go to work.” Heavy sigh followed by a hacking, wracking cough. Wipe nose on sleeve. Carry on.

And I was one of at least two in our department who were in the same boat. Ah well. In my next iteration, I will go back to being Mediterranean or Caribbean in my approach. It is much better.

Anyhoo, by the time I stumbled home and crawled up the stairs on one of the worst days, I wasn’t up for much cooking. I was, however, very much in the mood for a comforting, nourishing soup. So was my mom, who was in similar condition downstairs.

That is when knowing your way around a kitchen is a good thing. If you can chop, saute, and add flavorful liquids, in about 25 minutes you can have a soup that may not raise the dead, but will smell good, taste good (if you have any sense of smell or taste left)  and make you feel better. If you don’t have any sense of smell or taste, just load on the hot sauce and enjoy a few minutes of steamed and spicy relief.

Feel like you can’t even deal with chopping fresh vegetables? Go ahead, empty out all the useless quarter bags of frozen vegetables buried in the back of the freezer. The tomatoe-y broth and herbs will make it all taste good, even if the texture leaves a bit to be desired.

Easy Vegetable Soup

2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 Cup chopped carrots and celery

2 Cups other mixed vegetables (whatever bits are around the fridge anxious to be used – I used cauliflower, broccoli, summer squash. Potatoes, leeks, spinach would be nice too. You can also use frozen – why not?)

15 oz. can of tomatoes – pureed, chopped, diced, whole, whatever*

1 quart your preferred stock, plus more liquid to cover – can be stock or water*.

15 oz. can of white beans, rinsed and drained

½ Cup of cooked rice or pasta, if you’ve got

½ Cup fresh or frozen chopped spinach, optional

1 Tbs dried herbs (your preferred combination of oregano/thyme/rosemary/parsley/marjoram)

Salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste

In a deep soup pot, heat the oil at medium high until loose and fragrant. Add onions, stir to coat, and lower heat to medium. Add garlic, carrots, and celery, and saute for five minutes, until becoming tender. Add additional vegetables, stir to coat and sauté another three minutes. Add tomatoes and broth, plus enough additional liquid to cover, bring pot to boil, then lower heat and simmer for ten minutes. With about five minutes left in the simmer, add beans, and optional pasta and spinach, and seasoning. Serve with saltines or crusty bread.

*(Note: You can substitute some or all the stock, or the can of tomatoes with vegetable juice such as V-8 – low-sodium preferred)

Found Stock (Waste Not, Want Not)

20 Mar

Hate throwing things out? Me too!

(I am trying to work through a tendency to clutter in all areas of my life, but right now I am referring to the kitchen exclusively).

We are just starting to compost over here – actually, my dad is doing it with lawn clippings and autumn leaves so I can’t claim any credit — and haven’t sorted out how to approach the whole food waste thing. In the meantime, with a freezer bag you can make good use of vegetable trimmings by making a very nice, low sodium stock for soups. No two ever taste the same (and I admit to taking out some of the celery and adding extra carrots or onions for sweetness), but since this is not a professional kitchen – who cares? I like to think of home-cooking more as live theater than a DVD of a movie – full of surprise flavors, new interpretations, flubbed lines and quick recoveries, and the occasional revelatory performance by an understudy. The fact that I don’t have to make it exactly the same every time takes a lot of the pressure right off!

So, here’s an easy and cheap way to reduce your waste stream and have a terrific stock on hand for spontaneous outburst of homemade soup!

Found Vegetable Stock (makes about a quart)

8 to 10 cups of vegetable trimmings (about a gallon* freezer bag full – just keep adding to a freezer bag or other container in your freezer till you have enough!): carrot tops, onion peels, garlic peels, pea pods, celery bits, stems ends of squash, tomato cores. DO NOT include cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower.

½ – 1 whole head garlic, broken in half, unpeeled

1 onion, quartered and unpeeled

Enough water to cover

1-1.5 tsp salt per quart of water

Bring all ingredients to a boil in a generous pot. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer gently for about an hour. Cool to lukewarm, then strain (I used a colander lined with paper towel) into a fridge or freezer-friendly container and store in fridge or freezer.

*This post has been corrected! The original suggested a quart freezer bag and has been corrected to a GALLON freezer bag. Thanks to my sharp-eyed, keen-witted reader Kendra for catching the error!

Lentil Soup/Sopa de Lentejas (with vegetarian/vegan option); Snuggly, Spicy Winter Soup

22 Jan

If you do not have a bag of dried lentils in your larder at all times, you’ve got some explaining to do. These little cuties are about $.80 a pound, keep for a year, are full of good stuff for you and don’t need to be pre-soaked. They are fast, convenient, filling and ever so tasty. How could you not?

Lentil Soup has got to be the best comfort food ever. It is rich and hearty and slurpy and — this version at least – just a bit spicy. You can use whatever scraps you’ve got around. You can give it a Middle Eastern flavor or Italian flair by varying the spices. Use a different type of sausage – like kielbasa – and some sage or rosemary for a more Eastern European style. Use no sausage at all and a dash of liquid aminos or veggie steak sauce and some red hot pepper flakes or chipotle for a vegetarian/vegan version. It will keep in the fridge for several days and packs up really nicely for an office lunch that will make you feel loved and valued.

This is a slightly modified version of a previous lentil soup recipe…I make this all the time and I vary it to my mood. This time I included celery and just added a teaspoon of oregano; the vegetable stock I used (Nature’s Promise Organic, from Stop and Shop) really punched up the flavor so much that it didn’t need much added seasoning.

A dollop of plain nonfat yogurt or sour cream or creme fraiche makes it creamy!

Lentil Soup (Sopa de lentejas)

2-3 Tbs olive oil

1 baseball size onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced or diced to fingernail size (approx 1 Cup)

2 stalks celery, chopped

(1/2 cup chard stems, chopped – optional – I just happened to have some left over from a previous chard leaf dish)

3-4 oz chorizo (Spanish dry hot sausage), peeled and sliced into 1/4-1/2 inch rounds (I use Palacios Hot; vegetarians can omit it entirely and add liquid aminos, steak sauce or snoky chipotle to taste)

1 medium potato, peeled (if you like) and chopped into 1.2 inch cubes (approx. 1 Cup)

1 Cup (8 oz) dry lentils, rinsed, picked through and drained

4 – 8 Cups chicken or vegetable broth (you may use water as well)

15 oz can diced tomatoes (optional)

1 tsp each – ground cumin, turmeric and oregano OR 1 tsp each – oregano and marjoram OR Tbs dry Italian herbs

Heat oil until it runs quickly and is fragrant. Add onions and stir to coat. After a minute, reduce heat to low. After five minutes start adding, garlic, then carrots, celery and optional chard, then chorizo. When chorizo begins to release its color,  stir in lentils, potatoes, broth/water and tomatoes, if using. Bring to boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered for 20 minutes or until lentils and vegetables are tender, adding water a cup at a time, if desired. Add spices at the end and salt to taste.

Serve as soup with crusty bread, or over rice. Finish with a dollop of plain yogurt, sour cream or creme fraiche!

Split Pea and Ham Soup (so dense, so smoky, so easy)

1 Dec
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