Posts tagged squash

More Snow, More Soup

soup

How much snow can we get in one winter? Lately it seems like hardly a day has gone by without some sort of snowfall, whether as light flurries or fat, drippy flakes. And of course we can’t forget about the freezing winds and equally low temperatures. At night I struggle home from the subway in my puffy coat, arms hugging my sides as I try to reach my apartment as quickly as possible. All I want to do is to get warm. And recently, to my surprise, warming up after a long, cold day has meant soup.

I’m surprised by my need for soup because I’ve never considered myself a soup person. But since this never-ending cold arrived I’ve rarely thought of any other type of meal. I started with my soul-satisfying lentil soup and moved on to this sweet potato and butternut squash soup from the New York Times Fitness and Nutrition section one week later.

I was attracted to this soup because of its ingredients: sunny sweet potatoes and butternut squash. With these two orange vegetables, Jim and I would receive a double dose of vitamin C, always welcome during flu and cold season. I was also curious when I noticed that the recipe didn’t require cream or butter. And then I saw that the recipe was for a pureed soup and I knew I had to make it. Pureed soups are simply my favorite.

This one is especially easy to prepare after a long day at work. The most time-consuming aspect of the recipe is just peeling the potatoes and butternut squash. After that’s done you just toss the vegetables in a pot with some onion, fresh ginger, and some stock or water, and cook it for a while, maybe 30 to 40 minutes. I used up some homemade vegetable stock from the freezer mixed with a bit of water. A quick whir with the immersion blender, and dinner was served.

Pureed into a rich, soothing soup as orange as a sunset, the sweet, buttery vegetables slid easily down my throat and warmed me from head to toe. Spicy ginger added a tingly accent to the meal, and I honestly didn’t notice the lack of cream. The soup didn’t melt the snow outside, but at least I was warm inside. That’s what counts.

Recipe for Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Soup (adapted from Martha Rose Shulman’s recipe in the New York Times Fitness and Nutrition section)

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1-1.5 lbs), peeled and diced
  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 1-1.5 lbs), peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 2 small Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 6 cups water or vegetable stock (I used 4 cups of vegetable stock and 2 cups of water)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Heat the olive oil in a heavy soup pot or large Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and cook for another minute, stirring. Add the squash, potatoes, and whatever liquid you have chosen. Bring to a simmer. Stir. Add a bit of salt to taste, lower the heat, and cover. Simmer for about 30 to 45 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and can be broken apart with a spoon.

Puree the soup with an immersion blender. Stir with a whisk to even out the texture. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with crusty bread. Soup should serve 4 to 6 people. Enjoy!

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Squash(ed) Resolutions

squash

New Year’s Resolution #1: Eat less meat and more vegetables.

New Year’s Resolution #2: Take better photographs.

Looking at the photo of last week’s winter squash gratin (above), I’m wondering if I should reverse the priority of these resolutions. That is one terrible photograph up there. And I wonder why I have such a small readership.

OK, so we’ve established that I will work harder on my food photography in 2009. But now let’s address resolution #1. I came back from the December holidays feeling meated-out. Beef Wellington, pasta and meatballs, pork three ways: You name it, I ate it. And I’m still feeling it. My focus for the new year is to get back on track with a balanced diet, eating as many different vegetables and healthy, home-cooked meals as I can.

Aiding me in this quest is the Fitness and Nutrition section of the New York Times, which I stumbled upon online a few months ago. Whenever I clicked around the Times’s site something from that section caught my eye, whether it was a delicious-sounding recipe or an intriguing article like that list of healthy foods all of us should be eating but aren’t. (There’s another resolution in there somewhere, but I just can’t deal with it right now.)

I decided that the section’s winter squash gratin would be my first vegetarian dish of the new year. Following the recipe closely, I roasted the squash, chopped the parsley and sage, beat the eggs and mixed them with the cooked squash, milk, and Gruyère cheese before topping the mixture with Parmesan and baking it for 30 minutes.

It emerged from the oven fluffy, bright, and steaming, and practically floated onto our plates. The two cheeses added a sharp, almost tangy edge to the sweet squash, but I have to admit, I didn’t fall in love with this gratin. It was missing something, and in retrospect I’m guessing it was the carbs. Perhaps next time I will sprinkle more Parmesan across the top to achieve a more intense brown crust. I’m also tempted to top the gratin with panko and see if it satisfies my yearning for bread.

Although my gratin was a rather lackluster attempt at vegetarian goodness, I haven’t lost faith in the Times’s Fitness & Nutrition column. I have a whole host of recipes to try in the new year, and I’m sure I will find a way to make this gratin work as well. I’m considering a stewed lentils and cabbage dish for next week. With recipes like this, I shouldn’t have any problems sticking with my resolution. To be honest, I’m a little more worried about the photography…

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Zucchini Fatigue and a Frittata

I thought I was done with zucchini. As you may remember, a couple of weeks ago I believed I had cooked it in every way possible, even frying up some of its blossoms for an afternoon feast. Well, another shipment of zucchini and yellow squash from my CSA last week had me suffering from a severe case of zucchini fatigue.

(In case you are wondering, zucchini fatigue is a very real, albeit small-scale epidemic. I hear it hits every year around mid-August.)

Lucky for me, the New York Times came to my rescue with Laura Sbrana’s recipe for a zucchini frittata. Reading through the article I wondered why I didn’t make frittatas more often, as they are perfect for quick and healthy weeknight dinners. A frittata is basically an Italian omelet, its ingredients mixed with eggs instead of folded inside. It is cooked in a pan over low heat on the stovetop, and usually finished under the broiler.

I had seen recipes for zucchini frittatas before, but Sbrana’s required a special touch: Zucchini blossoms would be snipped into pieces and sprinkled across the frittata’s surface before it finished cooking. I couldn’t resist using these flowers in such a beautiful way. What can I say, I’m a sucker for artistry.

I made a few adjustments to the recipe based on what I had in my refrigerator, and I also stole some zucchini flowers from our friends’ garden on the way home from work. (They’re on vacation, they’ll never know.) I tossed slices of squash and zucchini with eggs, low-fat milk, green onions, parmesan, and basil, poured everything into a pan, and let it cook over low heat, tilting the pan every now and then to make sure the eggs cooked completely through.

Sbrana’s recipe recommends flipping the frittata on the stovetop instead of finishing it under the broiler, but as I seemed to be flipping-impaired, I stuck with my broiler method. After the frittata was cooked, I cut a few slices and dug into a fluffy and fresh mass of eggy zucchini delight. I loved how the zucchini and squash retained their elasticity after cooking, and I vowed to work frittatas into my dinner rotation more often. So bring it on CSA, throw some more zucchini my way. I dare you.

Recipe for Zucchini and Squash Frittata (Adapted from Laura Sbrana’s recipe in the New York Times)

  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into thin rounds
  • 1 medium yellow squash, cut into thin rounds
  • 2 medium green onions, diced
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup low-fat milk
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped basil leaves
  • 4 zucchini flowers
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

Over medium-high heat, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy 12-inch skillet or 3-quart sauté pan. The oil should just cover the bottom of the pan. When the oil is hot, add the zucchini and squash and season with salt and pepper. Add the onions and season again.

Cook the vegetables until they start to soften, stirring often; this will take about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Whisk in the milk, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, cheese, and half of the basil.

Put the pan with the vegetables back on the stove, over medium-high heat. Add the remaining basil and cook briefly, until the basil wilts and you can smell its perfume. Pour the egg mixture to the pan with the zucchini and squash.

Reduce the heat to medium-low. As the eggs begin to cook, use a spatula to lift them away from the sides of the pan. This will keep the frittata from sticking to the pan. Tilt the pan as you lift the eggs, so that the uncooked egg flows underneath and continues to cook.

When the eggs appear cooked through, remove the pan from the heat. Turn on the broiler. With kitchen scissors, snip the zucchini flowers into small pieces over the frittata. Place the frittata under the broiler until it begins to brown. This will take about 5 to 7 minutes. Check it often, so that it doesn’t burn. Remove from heat.

Cover the frittata and pan with a plate, and turn the pan onto the plate so that the frittata slips from the pan. Use a second plate to flip the frittata again. Let the frittata rest at least 5 minutes before serving. Serves 4 as a main dish. Serve with a green salad if possible. Enjoy!

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