I had to make room in my hateful, miniscule, dorm-room size refrigerator for the 25-pound turkey, the 10-pound spiral cut ham and all the trimmings that go with Thanksgiving dinner. On a mission, I threw out THREE, count ’em, three, opened jars of Greek pistachio spoon sweets in syrup. Keeping one, the thought occurred to me, “Really? Who needs four OPEN jars of that ambrosial stuff?” Into the trash went an enormous, almost empty jar of jalapenos in brine, four lonely slices sloshing around the glass. I found an unopened jar of that fabulous jar of fig in red wine jam I made a month or two ago. I set in on the counter…in the maybe section. The plastic container filled with obsidian green spinach, dark and glossy with olive oil and sautéed garlic…out you go. And then I discovered the leftover butternut squash I had roasted several nights ago. It was gorgeous and I knew I couldn’t part with it. I had run into my friend, Brooke, at Michael’s Craft Store the other day and after laughing and chewing over our personal problems, our children’s problems and our career problems we moved on to discussing dinner. She asked me if I had a good recipe for roasted butternut soup. “No”, I answered, “I don’t. Every recipe I’ve tried has always been a significant disappointment. Why, do you??” She did not. Today I figured I’d come up with my version of a roasted butternut soup that would make me swoon with culinary delight whether it be hot, warm or cold. I was determined to make those leftovers work for me. I pulled out every cookbook and recipe I had. I didn’t want a soup strong with the flavors of ginger, cinnamon or cumin. No. I wanted a French-style soup that had the sweet yet savory flavor that butternut squash can be coaxed to share. You know. The kind of flavor you get in a $14.00 cup lunching at some stellar museum restaurant. Well! This is it. Silky smooth, it is noting short of perfection. That bowl that’s in the photos? I gobbled it down. You will love this winter soup. The squash may be roasted specifically for the soup or you can use your leftovers. It can be pureed with an immersion stick blender, (that’s what I use), a food processor or a traditional blender. It’s beautiful. Enjoy!
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 1/2 pounds butternut squash
- 6 tablespoons butter, divided
- 5 scallions, white and pale green parts chopped
- 5 stalks celery, chopped, leaves included
- 6 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 quarts, (8 cups), water
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- salt and pepper to taste
- Pre-heat oven to 375°. Cut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds.
- Rub 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the cut side and into the bowl of each piece of squash.
- Sprinkle half of the brown sugar over each piece of squash and roast in the oven until fork tender, anywhere from 45 minutes to 90 minutes depending on the thickness of the squash.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool enough to handle. Set aside.
- While the squash is cooling, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a large, heavy bottomed pot.
- Add the scallions to the butter, stirring often, and cook until limp and translucent.
- Add the carrots and celery and stir well to coat all the vegetables with the butter.
- With a large spoon, scoop the flesh of the squash out of the peel and add it to the pot. Discard the peel.
- Add the water and bring to a boil.
- Drop the heat down to a simmer and let the vegetables gently cook for 45 minutes or until all the vegetables are soft and tender.
- Puree the soup until it is completely smooth. Add the remaing 2 tablespoons of butter and cayenne pepper and stir until completely incorporated.
- Add salt and pepper as needed.
- Serve hot, warm or cold.
How many times have we all exclaimed, “If I have to have chicken for dinner one more time I’m going to scream!”? I loathe that chicken rut. Just hate it. I’m done with that old, beat soy sauce-worcestershire sauce-garlic-ginger-honey marinade. It’s so … 2005. Never you mind because I have the answer… for one night, anyway. Turkey sausage, kale and sweet potato stew is quick to prepare, clean and feeds a crowd. If you don’t have a crowd you’ll have plenty left over to pack for next day’s lunches. I’m all about that. Somewhere between a stew and a soup, this meal is high in fiber and low in fat. It can be served with a side salad but is hearty enough that it can be served alone. And as the weather’s turned from cool to positively sweltering it turns out this dish is even tastier when it is eaten just warm. How’s that for lagniappe? If you have time, the vegetables can be chopped and refrigerated the night before preparing the stew. I alternate between organic turkey and chicken sausage, typically buying whatever’s on sale. If your family’s not finicky you can skip chopping the baby kale and toss the whole leaves straight into the soup. Or you can substitute baby spinach for the kale. I spend a little extra on canned organic cannellini beans rather than conventional canned beans. They’re not much more in cost and organic will yield a cleaner, tastier meal. In fact, I use organic products for this entire recipe. But it’s up to you. I say, just get the best you can. Also, feel free to add more or less of any of the ingredients based on your likes and dislikes. It’s an incredibly adaptable and forgiving recipe. Start to finish you’re looking at about an hour and a quarter. With 45 minutes to cook, there’s plenty of time to enjoy a quick shower and a glass of wine!
Turkey, Kale and Sweet Potato Soup
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 pounds Italian turkey or chicken sausage, out of casings
- 1 large, sweet onion, finely chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
- 1 32-ounce box low sodium chicken broth
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 cups rough chopped baby kale, that’s a 5-ounce box
- 2 cans cannellini beans, drained and well rinsed
- Over medium heat, add olive oil to a large, heavy bottomed pot.
- Add turkey sausage and brown, breaking up the sausage with the back of your spoon or with an old fashioned potato masher.
- When sausage has browned add the onion and cook until clear, about 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the garlic, carrots and sweet potato and cook until the garlic has softened, about 2-3 minutes. Continue stirring to avoid scorched vegetables.
- Using your hands, squeeze the tomatoes over the pot to break them up and stir into the vegetables. Pour any juices from the can into the pot.
- Add the chicken broth to the pot, stir and taste for any needed salt and pepper.
- Raise heat to a soft simmer and add baby kale and cannellini beans.
- Stir, cover pot and simmer 30-45 minutes or until all vegetables are tender.
- If you have time, uncover and remove from heat for 10-15 minutes. The stew will thicken a bit as it cools.
Lent is coming up, Gentle Reader, and as I say to myself EVERY year, “I’ll be ready. I’m ready.” I eat a little meat and think, “Okay. I’m good”. But a week or two later I start wanting chicken…in a Puerto Rican stew or Greek style with lots of lemon, olive oil and oregano. Or a little charred, grilled flank steak, rare and sliced thin on top of a HUGE salad. But that’s the name of the game. Sacrifice. Fasting. Sigh. Anyway, to circumvent that longing I’ve been meating up. I figured there’s plenty of time for shrimp gumbo so when I planned this batch I focused on the OTHER white meat. Smoked pork and Andouille sausage backed up with chicken. Sounds good, no? I thought I’d start with a dark, chestnut colored roux and masses of vegetables. The trinity, of course, finely chopped sweet onion, bell pepper and celery. Don’t be tempted to cut corners and buy that frozen stuff. It has NO flavor. Truly. Then heaps of freshly chopped garlic and flat leafed parsley. I’d use chicken stock as my broth and season with a heavy hand of cayenne pepper and Tony Chachere’s. If you don’t know the glories of Tony Chachere’s then you’re in for a pleasant surprise. It’s loaded with salt but it’s used in place of salt. So throw it on your chicken, fries, omelets, fish, really anything. But check it out. It’s got a great little kick. Tony Chachere’s can be found on the spice aisle in your grocery store. If your store doesn’t carry it you order it on Amazon. I started by making a roux. The darker the roux the less it thickens but that’s all right because I wasn’t going to make my gumbo soupy. I wanted my roux a rich, nut-brown color.
Into a big, heavy pot I added vegetable oil and flour. Yes, it’s a lot but, hey, it’s gumbo… you’re gonna cut back? Then it’s not gumbo. It’s like caesar salad without anchovies. It’s not a caesar salad. At a medium-high heat I continually stirred for about 15-20 minutes watching my roux like a hawk. It gets to a dark stage that can easily scorch if you’re not careful and then you have to throw it out and start all over. There’s no saving it once it’s scorched. I find if you use a wide, wooden spoon preferably flat, it’s easy to keep turning over the mixture. Once I got my roux the shade of brown I wanted I added all my vegetables except the parsley. I add that later so I don’t lose any flavor. I stirred the vegetables well until they were well coated with the roux and then I let them cook a bit…so the onions were almost clear. The Tony Chachere’s was thrown in along with a box of chicken stock. I use chicken stock for everything. I can’t find commercial beef broth that doesn’t have that horrible processed, dirty-foot taste so instead of beef broth I typically use chicken. I add just the chicken and let that simmer for a good half hour-45 minutes. The simmering process breaks the chicken down a bit so it’s tender. I don’t add the pork products at this point because it would boil out all the flavor. After 45 minutes I then add my chopped parsley, Andouille sausage, smoked pork. The heat is dropped to low as the sausage and pork just needs to heat thru and flavor the soup a bit. That’s it! Serve it over fluffy, white rice and cool the heat with a beer or some brown. And if you’re Catholic or Orthodox Christian you’d better hurry up… Fat Tuesday’s day after tomorrow. “Hey, mister! Throw me sumpin’!”
Sausage and Chicken Gumbo
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 LARGE sweet onion, finely chopped
- 2 green bell peppers, seeded and finely chopped
- 1 bunch celery, finely chopped, leaves included
- 1 large head of garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons Tony Chachere’s Seasoning Mix or the Creole seasoning of your choice
- 1 32-ounce box chicken broth
- 1 large bunch of parsley
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, or three large halves, chopped into bite sized pieces
- 1 12-ounce package Aidell’s Andouille Sausage or the Andouille of your choice, sliced into bite sized pieces
- 3/4-1 pound smoked boneless pork chops, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- any additional heat to taste
James and I FINALLY went for his wisdom teeth consultation. It could not have been easier or more stress free! The surgery date was set for after New Year’s. Made me think of the last time I had teeth taken out. I had gotten into my head that as an adult I wanted braces. My now dentist AND employer was, 22 years ago, Pamela’s boyfriend and my dentist. Shortly there after he became Pamela’s husband. We’ve all only had two dentists in our whole lives. Dr. Schloss, Chris’ father, and Chris. We loved his father!! That man was SO nice! AND he had mouthwash! Coming from a household with NO sweets that big doins’! He passed away while I was in college and shortly after, Chris graduated and started his own practice. A few years later I told him at one of my appointments I wanted braces. “What? You don’t need braces! You have beautiful teeth! Don’t do it. Leave it alone.” But nooooo, I had this idea in my head, and, well, had to have ’em. He gave me the name of a colleague and off I went to my consult. Turned out to be a really good guy!! He did, however, tell me I would have to have my four perfectly healthy premolars extracted and if was going to do that I might as well have that last wisdom tooth yanked. I told Chris. He was NOT happy. “Your teeth are great. They’re fine. What if you need those teeth later on in life? What if in your eighties you need a bridge and you need one of those teeth to anchor it?” Hellooooo. First of all can’t you count? I have forty or fifty more perfect teeth in my mouth and second, I’m in my 20’s, I ain’t never gonna turn 80! What, are you crazy?? Jeez. So the date was set with the oral surgeon to extract 5 absolutely perfect teeth. I had never had cavities or anything! It was a couple of months after our wedding…James wasn’t even a sparkle in his Daddy’s eye!!! All I remember about the day I had the teeth out is getting home from the surgery, changing into comfortable sleep clothes and falling into bed. I woke up I don’t know how long later and my mouth was throbbing…killing me. I took a pain pill and fell back into a fitful sleep. A little while later I woke up in worse pain. I looked at the bottle of pain pills. It said “Take as needed for pain.” Well. I’m in pain. I took another. This was quickly becoming awful. I swallowed as best I could whatever it was for pain and tried to nap. Why were these pills not working??? I took another. I spent the rest of the afternoon alternating between trying to sleep and trying to kill the pain with whatever they had given me. That was probably not a good plan. Late afternoon I awoke not only to excruciating pain in my mouth but now I had a fire in my tummy. In a semiconscious tangle I stumbled into the bathroom and got sick. I was dying. I called Pamela in a panic, “I don’t know what to do!! My mouth is killing me, I’m puking, and now I’m bleeding!! I can’t do this!!” “Don’t worry, YaYa!”, she said, “I’m on my way!” The burning fire in my belly was roaring and I had never felt such pain as that which was in my mouth. I ripped off my pajama pants and lay on the bed under the ceiling fan with a t-shirt on trying to cool off and contain the rivulets of perspiration running off my face and down my neck. I heard the kitchen door open. It was Pamela. She came bursting into the room with Chris, DR. SCHLOSS! He had immediately left his office and met her here when she called saying that there was an emergency, “Well, she’s bleeding and vomiting!! It’s serious!!”. He tilted my head back to examine the extraction sites and his eyes fell on the bottle of pain pills. Gently putting my head back, he picked up the bottle and read the directions. There were only a couple of pills left, rattling around on the bottom of the plastic bottle. It quickly got really quiet in the room. I felt self-conscious. I realized I was scantily clad with only a tiny, pale yellow t-shirt on and skimpy bikini panties the size of dental floss. And this was my dentist AND PAMELA’S FUTURE HUSBAND. He didn’t even look at me. He was there out of concern for one of his patients. And I was wasting his precious time. He threw the bottle down and disgustedly said to Pamela, “Tell her to quit taking this crap!”. And that’s the story of when I OD’d. He never talked about it. Never mentioned it. Not even today. But Pamela and I still laugh about it. “Well, you were in pain!”, she’ll say and we’ll scream with peals of laughter!! And then she’ll say, ””Well, it was an emergency!!” More screaming!! Then I’ll say to her, “How could you let me be seen with only a t-shirt on and panties??” and she’ll reply, “IT WAS AN EMERGENCY.” And to this day he’s never made fun of me or made an off colored remark. Ya gotta love him! He’s just the best!!
This is a recipe for Leek and Potato Soup if served warm or Vichyssoise if served cold. Either way it’s silky, smooth paradise. It’s easy and fast but do know, it does not freeze well. And it’s pretty. It’s the perfect dish served cold for all those college students getting their wisdoms taken out. Enjoy!
Leek and Potato Soup
yield: one large pot
- 8 leeks
- 1/4 cup butter or good olive oil. (I use olive oil.)
- 6 red skinned boiling potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
- 2 large bunches flat leaf parsley, washed and rough chopped
- 10 cups water or chicken stock, a mixture of both is fine
- salt to taste
- Leeks can be really, really dirty… sandy. You don’t want grit in your soup. So. Cut off the tough, dark green tops of the leeks and set aside for vegetable stock or discard.
- Without cutting through the root end, cut lengthwise from the base of the leek through the end.
- Rinse well under running water, separating the leaves to get out any lurking grit. Continue with all the leeks.
- Drain and, holding the root, slice from the green end all the way to the root end. Discard the root and slice all the leeks.
- Rinse sliced leeks under water using a colander.
- On medium-low heat butter or olive oil in a soup pot and toss in leeks. Take care not to brown just clarify.
- Add sliced potatoes, parsley and water or stock.
- Simmer until potatoes are fork tender, maybe half an hour.
- Puree until smooth using food processor, blender or immersion blender. I use an immersion blender. I love it!
- Taste for salt and serve.