Sunday, November 22, 2009

Butternut Squash and White Bean Soup

Purchases from the market this week: butternut squash, sweet potatoes, shallots, a huge bunch of sage, several sprigs of rosemary, and a bag of broccoli florets.

I thumbed through my binder of collected recipes and found, sitting right near the top, a loose piece of paper from the farmer's market with this soup recipe. Given the big old bag of dry white beans sitting in my legume drawer just waiting to be cooked, it was a perfect fit.

Butternut Squash and White Bean Soup

1 1/2 cups chopped onion
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups low-salt chicken broth (I used veggie broth from boullion cubes)
2 1/2 lbs of beans (I guesstimated here using beans I'd made in the slow cooker - I put in about 6 cups all together)
1 cup diced tomatoes (I used some crushed tomatoes I had leftover)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

Saute chopped onion and garlic in olive oil until golden, about 10 minutes.

Add broth; bring to boil. Stir in butternut squash, 1 lb beans with liquid, tomatoes, and fresh rosemary.

Puree (or mash) remaining beans with liquid in processor until smooth. Add to soup. Cover and simmer until butternut squash is tender and flavors blend, about 15 minutes.

Season soup with salt and pepper.

Really good soup. Fresh herbs make all the difference.

Morning Glory Muffins

I've had muffins on the mind over the last week or so. I finally decided to give in to the craving and got one very disappointing, stale muffin Dunkin' Donuts (remember never to do that again). The next day, craving still in high gear, I had a mediocre pumpkin muffin from a deli near my office. Finally, I had a pretty satisfying morning glory muffin from Connecticut Muffins in Park Slope this past Saturday morning while on my way to the market. This ultimate purchase inspired me to make some of my own.

I found this recipe just from Googling it, but it's most definitely a winner. There's absolutely tons of fruit and veggie action in this muffin, even more than the standard carrot and raisin combo I expect in a morning glory muffin, and it bakes up beautifully.

The Original Morning Glory Muffins from Earthbound Farm

1 1/4 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shredded, sweetened coconut
3/4 cup raisins
1 large apple, peeled and grated
1 cup (8 oz) crushed pineapple, drained
2 cups grated carrots
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts (I used pecans)
3 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Sift or whisk together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl.

Add the coconut, raisins, apple, pineapple, carrots, and nuts, and stir to combine.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs with the oil and vanilla. Pour into the bowl with the dry ingredients and blend well.

Spoon the batter into muffin tins lined with muffin cups, filling each to the brim. Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool muffins in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to finish cooling.

I brought a batch to my grandma when I visited her this afternoon, and she gave them a big thumbs up too. And we all know that when it comes to baked goods, Grandma's tend to know best.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Butternut Squash and Cheddar Bread Pudding. Possibly the best thing ever.

This dish is, quite possibly, the best thing ever. Or maybe it's the best thing I've ever made. Either way, it's damn good.

I saw the recipe for this butternut squash and cheddar bread pudding in the Thanksgiving issue of Bon Appetit magazine. The accompanying article (written by Orangette's Molly Wizenberg) describes how the dish can replace the turkey at a vegetarian Thanksgiving. Count me in! Still too early for a true Thanksgiving meal, I made this delightful main course for a dinner party held at my apartment last weekend. It has quite a few steps (seeing as the dish itself is composed of four layered parts) and though a bit time consuming, nothing was particularly difficult about it. Plus, whisking seven (7!) eggs in a big metal bowl really made me feel like a chef!

Butternut Squash and Cheddar Bread Pudding from Bon Appetit, November 2009

pounds peeled seeded butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 6 cups)
tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2
teaspoons coarse kosher salt plus additional for sprinkling
7 large eggs
2 1/4 cups half and half (I used whole milk here.)
6 tablespoons dry white wine
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 day-old baguette (do not remove crust), torn into 1-inch pieces (about 10 cups)
1 cup chopped shallots (about 4 large)
2 bunches Tuscan kale (about 1 pound), ribs removed, kale coarsely chopped
8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated

Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss squash with 1 tablespoon oil on rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt; bake until squash is tender, turning with spatula occasionally, 20 to 25 minutes.

Whisk eggs in large bowl. Add half and half, wine, mustard, and 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt; whisk to blend. Add baguette pieces; fold gently into egg mixture. Let soak 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add shallots and sauté until soft, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add kale; cover and cook 2 minutes. Uncover and stir until kale is wilted but still bright green, about 5 minutes (kale will be a bit crunchy).

Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Generously butter 13x9x2-inch baking dish. Using slotted spoon, transfer half of bread from egg mixture to prepared baking dish, arranging to cover most of dish. Spoon half of kale over bread. Spoon half of squash over bread and kale; sprinkle with half of cheese. Repeat with remaining bread, kale, squash, and cheese. Pour remaining egg mixture over bread pudding.

Cover bread pudding with foil. Bake 20 minutes. Remove foil; bake uncovered until custard is set and bread feels springy to touch, about 20 minutes longer.

Preheat broiler; broil pudding until cheese browns slightly, about 2 minutes. Cool 5 minutes and serve.

This dish is beautiful and extraordinarily good. All the elements just melt into each other.

It tastes soft but also crisp, full of veggies and still completely substantive. Undoubtedly better than most Thanksgiving turkeys I've had.

And look how nicely it fit in with the rest of our dinner party fare!

Despite the time involved in making this dish, I'm already planning several upcoming occasions worthy of making it again.