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Archive for October, 2010

Don’ t you love this time of year? That time of year when the sad, mealy stonefruit of early fall are replaced by glorious, bumpity squashes? Something about the pile of squashes at the market or the grocery store, with all their varying shades and shapes, makes me feel joyful about autumn – right up there with shooshing through the fallen leaves.

Combine those squashes with the official arrival of Soup Season, and the need to use up the jar of curry paste in my fridge and a can of coconut milk in my pantry, and we have this soup.

This soup is easy to make, and ideal for a Sunday afternoon when you’re futzing around the house. It involves roasting the squash first, which adds sweetness and depth. (In fact, if you’re really into squash, you could roast a double batch – one to to have as a side dish with dinner one night, and one batch for this soup.) It’s a forgiving recipe, too. I like to add the potato for extra starch, which helps make the soup creamy, and the carrot for extra sweetness and colour. But if you don’t have these on hand, just straight squash will be just fine.  However. Essential to this soup are the spices and the coconut milk. Without them, it just won’t be the same. It also helps to have an immersion blender to make the soup nice and smooth.

Coconut curry squash soup
serves 6 to 8.
freezes well.

1 medium-sized butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2″ chunks
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. mild curry paste (I used Patak’s, but you can use any curry mix you like)
1 tbsp. brown sugar
salt and pepper

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger root
1 tbsp. mild curry paste
1 large potato, peeled and diced
2 large carrots, diced
6 cups stock or water (In my world, water and a veggie bouillon cube is acceptable for this soup.)
1 can coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste

Roast the squash: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oven is heating, peel, seed and chop the squash. In a large mixing bowl, toss the squash chunks with the olive oil, curry paste, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, until the squash is soft and and browned. (Tip: deglazing the pan with some water and adding the juices to the soup pot is a good thing to do, and adds flavour to your soup.)

Make the soup: In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and saute the onion until it softens. Add the garlic, ginger and curry paste and cook 1 or 2 minutes until very fragrant. Add the potato and carrot chunks, the roasted squash, water and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, and simmer for about 45 minutes until all the vegetables are soft.

Taking the soup off the heat, puree with the immersion blender until the soup is completely smooth. If you’re having a dinner party and want to be extra fancy, you can push the puree through a fine mesh strainer to remove some vegetable fibre and make the soup perfectly velvet-smooth. If you just want a bowl of tasty soup, then skip this step. Season to taste. 

Delightful potential garnishes include: chopped green onion, chopped cilantro, toasted pumpkin seeds, a yogurt swirl.

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Whew. Who knew that moving with an almost-three-month-old would be so crazy? Um, yeah.

So, in the words of the immortal Inigo Montoya, let me ‘splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

Did I succeed in using up all my edible inventory before we moved? Well, no. Did I get rid of a lot of it? You betcha. Mostly the victories were in the frozen goods department (ate through all our frozen meats and most of the veg) and the flour. I had a ton of whole wheat flour, which gave me an excuse to bake a lot, albeit with middling results since I didn’t have much white flour on hand.

What do I mean? Generally when you bake anything with whole wheat flour you still need to use mostly white flour since the fibre of whole wheat tends to make things heavy. Still, I pushed it a bit, attempting a pizza dough (semi-fail) and pie crust (super fail) with all whole wheat flour. But! I did find one awesome recipe for ginger scones that call for all whole wheat flour, from Everybody Likes Sandwiches. Mine turned out a bit flat and heavy, I suspect because I was using some coarse, stone-ground whole wheat flour – not because of the recipe. But what they lacked in the light and airy department, these scones more than made up for in the flavour department. And they didn’t look half bad:

Other successes include a fennel risotto with shrimp. Still tweaking the recipe though, so I’ll post it here once I’ve got it down. Also, a squash soup recipe I’ll post separately.

All in all, I found my attempt to leave No Food Behind worthwhile. I was surprised to see just how many meals I could get out of my pantry and freezer with the addition of a few fresh ingredients. It also got me to stop buying food I didn’t need, a habit I didn’t realize I had. Lots of people eat when they’re stressed, but it turns out I also stockpile food as a coping mechanism.  Who knew? So I think I’m going to try working this ‘use what you have’ approach into my cooking more. It may get me cooking different things in new combinations, and lower my grocery bill to boot.

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This week in No Food Left Behind, I made a dent in my stash of dried lentils, used up some nuts and finished up the breadcrumbs I had in my freezer with this tasty recipe. They’re like falafels, but without that messy deep frying. They’re crispy and hearty, and a really satisfying vegetarian dish. 

They’re also fairly versatile – you can make them as full-sized burgers and eat them on pitas, or make tiny patties and serve them as appetizers. (I made them small this time, because I like cute food.) I have served them with a full spread of mezze-style salads and dips, but they’re just as good with nothing more than a side salad. Although! I would recommend taking an extra two minutes to mix some chopped green onions and cilantro into a bit of yogurt for a tasty raita to drizzle on top, as follows:

Lentil walnut burgers
serves 4

3/4 cup lentils
3/4 cup nuts (walnuts, pecans, and almonds are all tasty choices)
1/3 cup breadcrumbs*
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. ground coriander
pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
4 tbsp. olive oil
1 egg*

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the lentils in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook, covered, until the lentils are cooked through but still holding their shape. This takes about 15 minutes. Drain.

Meanwhile, spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven until fragrant – about 10 minutes.

In a food processor, combine the lentils, nuts, breadcrumbs (if using), garlic, cumin, coriander, salt and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Pulse until coarsely chopped. Move the mixture to a mixing bowl and stir in the egg.

With your hands, shape the patties. Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, and cook the burgers until browned on each side – about 8 to 10 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.

Raita

3/4 cup plain yogurt
1 green onion, minced
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
salt and pepper

  

* If you can’t eat breadcrumbs for some reason, just replace this amount with extra nuts.

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