Vaguely Indian Butternut Squash Soup

While we’d all like to pretend it does not exist sometimes, there is most definitely that category of food known as “more effort than it’s worth.” At least, more effort than it’s worth to make at home (ahem, rugelach). This soup (particularly the stock that is it’s foundation), is gingerly teetering on deserving such a title. And yet, look at the colors! And, yay, vegetables and healthy cooking! Wow, flavor combinations I’ve never encountered before!

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You’ve been warned. But if you have a day you are planning on spending sitting around at home anyway, and you don’t mind an hour or so of vegetable prepping and chopping, then consider adding this soup to your agenda. You will be rewarded with amazing smells and tastes, though your heart will sink when you see all the vegetables that get discarded once the stock has been made. I guess these are the sacrifices we make when trying to make a flavorful stock without meat. Though can we acknowledge that just a few chicken bones could accomplish what over a dozen vegetables, herbs, and spices are needed for here? Nonetheless, if you are still full of new year resolve to eat healthy, and willing to put in inordinate effort to fulfill your resolution, then this dish is for you.

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Indian Butternut Squash Soup

Adapted from The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

Makes 6-8 servings

For the Curried Vegetable Stock:

1 large yellow onion

2 large carrots

2 celery ribs

1 bunch green onions, including 2/3 of the greens

2 tablespoons sunflower seed

8 cloves garlic, smashed

8 parsley sprigs

6 thyme sprigs

2 bay leaves

2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

4 whole cloves

2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

2 cardamom pods

skins and seeds of the butternut squash from the soup

trimmings of the lemongrass from the soup

5 pieces dried slices of galangal (you can get these at spice markets)

2 sprigs each of mint, basil, and cilantro

For the Indian Butternut Squash Soup:

Curried vegetable stock from above recipe (about 6-7 cups)

1 tablespoons sunflower seed oil

3 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped

1 lemongrass stalk, the tender middle section minced

1 large yellow onion, diced

2 jalapenos, seeded and diced

2 large cloves of garlic, crushed

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

juice of 2 limes

mint, cilantro, and basil, finely chopped, for garnish

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First, make the stock. Clean and dry all of the vegetables and herbs thoroughly and chop into 1 – 2 inch pieces. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add all of the ingredients except the salt and brown for 10-13 minutes, stirring frequently, until lightly browned. The more fragrant, the more flavorful your stock will be. Add the salt and 8 cups of water and bring to a strong boil. Turn the heat to low and simmer (without a cover) for 40 minutes. Strain out everything and reserve the liquid.

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Next make the soup. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a soup pot. Add the squash, minced lemongrass, onion, half the jalapenos, and the garlic. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 10-13 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the stock, increase heat to high, and bring to a strong boil. Lower the heat, partially cover the pot, and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the squash is quite tender. Remove from heat and use an immersion blender (or an old-school blender) to puree the soup to your desired consistency. Place back on heat, and stir in the coconut milk. Stir in the lime juice. Taste and add salt as needed. Serve garnished with the remaining jalapeno and the chopped herbs.

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Meyer Lemons

Have you ever wondered how you could live so long without knowing something that everyone else seems to know? Until about a year ago, I thought ponies were baby horses. More than a few of my classmates in college thought that one could drive between Alaska and Russia. Quality of public education in New York and Minnesota aside, what perplexes me more is when I discover a food previously unbeknownst to me, and it is so mind-blowingly delicious, that I cannot fathom why no one has previously introduced me to this new-found treat.

Meyer Lemon Curd

Such was the case with Meyer lemons. And I suppose I only have myself to blame for this one, since I have heard their praises sung many times, especially on my favorite canning blog, Food in Jars. But why no one sat me down and made me try one before, I do not know.

Among the pile of cookbooks I received for Christmas was, in fact, Food in Jars. I’ve been eyeing a few recipes for awhile, and finally decided to try out the Meyer lemon curd. And it is heavenly. Meyer lemons have a more orange-yellow skin, that is thinner than a traditional lemon’s, and they are so fragrant. And the curd they make is smooth, sweet, and tangy, though not as lip-puckering as one made with regular lemons. My only complaint is that the yield of this recipe is so low–next time I’ll be doubling or tripling it!

Food in Jars, an Inspiration

Meyer Lemon Curd

Adapted from Food in Jars

Makes about 2 half-pint jars

Zest of 4 medium to large Meyer lemons

1/2 cup fresh squeezed Meyer lemon juice

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

4 egg yolks

2 eggs

6 1/2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed

The Meyerest of Lemons

Combine the lemon zest and sugar, mixing them together well. Set aside.

Lemon Zesty

Put 1-2 inches of water in a small pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Find a heatproof bowl that fits over the small pot without touching the boiling water. Keep the bowl off of the pot for now.

Yolky

In the bowl, whisk the egg yolks and eggs together. Whisk in the zest and sugar. Mix in the lemon juice until all components are blended. Add the butter and place the bowl on the simmering pot of water.

Curd All Mixed Up

Using a silicone spatula, stir constantly as the lemon curd cooks. The curd will gradually thicken, and is done when it does not drip off of the spatula when it is lifted. The book suggested it would take about 6 to 9 minutes, but it took me closer to 25.

When the curd has reached a good consistency, press it through a sieve to remove the lemon zest and any bits of scrambled egg that may have developed.

Curding on the Double Boiler

Fill the jars with the lemon curd, leaving a generous half inch of space at the top of the jars.

Lemon Curd for the Licking

This recipe can be canned and preserved for up to 3 months. If you choose to can, the jars should be placed in a boiling water bath for 25 minutes, and then allowed to stay in the water for an additional five minutes after they have been processed, before being removed and stored.

Lemon Curd, Canned and Ready

This curd can be enjoyed in a pie crust, on shortbread cookies, with pancakes, mixed with yogurt, or, my favorite way, straight from the jar.

Chili Fit for a Puppy Bowl

Okay, so maybe that doesn’t sound particularly appetizing. I suppose puppies are not the most picky chili connoisseurs. But this chili is fit for the best of the best puppies–the Puppy Bowl MVP’s. Don’t fret, there’s no cocoa powder in this recipe.

All Topped Out

It’s only a matter of hours until the winner of the show is announced. Who will it be? Aurora seems to be an early favorite, but my vote is for Sally, the basset hound/dachshund mix, duh.

Tomatoey Juices

Oh and this chili is also great for humans, whether they be watching the Puppy Bowl, or that other thing that’s on today (I was raised by immigrants and cannot be held liable for being ignorant about your so-called football). I, personally, would rather be watching this than this.

Many a Man's Cooking Secret

Turkey Chili

Adapted from Jimmy Fallon

Makes 8 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 1/2 pounds ground turkey (I like using 93 percent lean turkey for this recipe.)

1 large white onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 dried chipotles, chopped/crumbled

1/4 cup chili powder

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon (it should be heaping) ground cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 28 ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes, chopped coarsely with juices

1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1 12 ounce bottle of amber or brown beer

2 15 ounce cans of kidney beans, rinsed and drained

tortilla chips, for serving

shredded cheddar cheese, for serving

sour cream, for serving

lime wedges, for serving

avocado, for serving

Turkey Chili Mniam Mniam

In a large skillet coated with some of the olive oil, working in batches, cook the turkey until it is no longer pink. Drain of excess fat in a colander, and place turkey in slow cooker.

Lean Mean Turkey

Remove excess fat from pan, and put remaining olive oil on pan. Cook onion, garlic, and chipotles on pan until translucent. This should take about 5 minutes. Put cooked onion mixture into slow cooker.

Translucent and Tasty

Add all spices, tomato, cilantro, and beer to slow cooker. Stir very well to distribute spices. Cover, and cook on high for 5 hours, stirring occasionally.

Ready for Slow Cooking

Add kidney beans, and continue to cook for 30 to 45 minutes, uncovered, until chili has thickened.

Ready for Chip Scooping

Serve with tortilla chips, cheddar cheese, sour cream, and lime, or whatever your favorite chili toppings may be.