Sunday, April 13, 2014

Roasted squash soup with potato and apple

I swirled in some sour cream for the photo, but it's delicious unadorned as well. 
Saturday morning I spent a good hour peeling a big squash (a job in itself), a potato and an apple, then mixed them in spices and oil in a large casserole dish, and roasted them in the oven. Then, 20 minutes away from doneness, after feeding the babies, putting them down for a nap, cleaning up, and making and eating our own lunch, tiredness overcame me and I succumbed to a three-hour nap. (My body is now programmed to nap when the babies do — it's the only way I get through the weekend!). I woke up with a start and rushed to the oven, only to find black lava cakes, which were the remnants of my lovely squash cubes. The next day I tried again despite feeling discouraged. I used the much easier method outlined below and came to realization that the weekend is too darn short to spend peeling squashes, especially if it's likely you are going to burn them. Much quicker and easier to bake them in their skins. Anyway, this soup was worth the effort, trust me!

Roasted squash soup with potato and apple

1 butternut squash, halved, seeded and stringy bits removed
1 apple, peeled and diced
1 russet potato, peeled and diced
1 onion, diced
1 large shallot, diced
1 sprig fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 bay leaf
4 cups chicken stock
3 cups water (optional)
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper

Preheat the oven to 425.

Melt the butter and olive oil in a small saucepan. Add the allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Arrange the squash halves cut side up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. With a basting brush, brush the butter mixture all over the tops and insides of the squash. Reserve the remaining butter mixture for later.

Put the squash in the oven for 40-50 minutes or until tender and golden. Take it out of the oven and set it aside to cool for five minutes. Scoop out the flesh and put it in a bowl. Discard the skins.

In a stock pot, heat the remaining butter mixture. Saute the onion, shallot and apple in the pot for six minutes, or until softened. Add the garlic and thyme and cook, stirring constantly, for one more minute. Add the diced potato and the cooked squash. Pour in the chicken stock and enough water to cover. (I add more water than necessary to increase the volume of soup so it lasts through several lunches.) Add the bay leaf. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until the potato is cooked. Remove the bay leaf.

Blend the soup with an immersion blender until silky and smooth.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Instant ramen all dressed up

Our favourite instant ramen is Sapporo Ichiban. For lunch, I sometimes "dress it up" with toppings similar to those you'd find in the authentic ramen shops in Japan.

I cook the ramen noodles, which takes three minutes, and ladle the cooked noodles and broth evenly among two bowls. Then I add toppings, such as chopped fresh spring onion, nori strips, hard boiled egg, peas, corn or shredded roasted chicken.

There is a wonderful movie about ramen called Tampopo. It's a Japanese movie about a woman's struggle to turn her downtrodden roadside ramen shop into the best in the business. It's really funny, a "ramen western" as the director describes it. It's also full of delightful subplots of the different ways people enjoy food. For example, a grocery store owner tormented by a customer who loves to squeeze food (especially in the soft cheese aisle). I highly recommend this movie, and so do others — it rates 100 on the tomatometer at Rotten Tomatoes.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Spaghetti carbonara

I made spaghetti carbonara for the first time ever and everybody loved it, even my toddler twins, despite me using whole wheat pasta and adding some peas to make it healthy. I make pasta once a week, and this will be making a regular appearance at our dinner table from now on!

Spaghetti carbonara
(recipe adapted from Tyler's Ultimate)

1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
8 bacon slices, cut into thin strips
1 onion, minced
4 eggs
6 Tbsp heavy cream
1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup frozen peas
salt and cracked black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp olive oil for frying

Boil a large pot of salted water for the spaghetti. Cook it according to package directions, about 12 minutes. While it's cooking, reserve a 1/4 cup of the pasta water and set it aside for adding to the sauce later.

Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil for the peas. Add the frozen peas and cook them for three minutes until they are bright green, plump and tender. Drain the peas and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and saute the bacon and onion for seven to eight minutes, until the onion is soft and the bacon crunchy. 

Crack the eggs into a large bowl and whisk them together with the cream and cheese. Add the onion and bacon mixture, including the pan drippings, to the bowl. Add the reserved pasta water. Then drain the spaghetti and add it too. 

Toss everything well and then invert a plate on top of the bowl. Let everything rest for five minutes. Remove the plate and mix in the peas, salt, pepper and parsley. You are ready to eat!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Lemony chicken, orzo and dill soup

This is a great take on chicken noodle soup from Bon Appétit. The leek, lemon and dill are really refreshing and I love the use of orzo because it makes the recipe very baby-friendly. It inspired me to add some of these flavours to my own chicken noodle soup recipe.

I'll blog about that later, but in brief I saute a mirepoix (a mixture of chopped onion, celery and carrot), sear some chicken thighs, simmer them in stock with bay leaves and parmesan rind, and add cooked orzo, fresh dill, lemon juice and chopped celery leaves at the end.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Roasted cauliflower soup

The crispy topping of roasted cauliflower and croutons really makes this velvety soup unique. This is Tyler Florence's recipe for roasted cauliflower soup from his cookbook Tyler's Ultimate, which has a lot of great classics. Tyler calls for copious amounts of butter (3/4 cup!) and I'm sure that tastes lovely and very restaurant-like. To lighten things up, I reduced the butter content to four tablespoons in total and I thought the soup still tasted nice and creamy. I used two tablespoons of butter in the soup (instead of the recommended half cup/one stick!). For the topping, I used two tablespoons each of olive oil and butter instead of four tablespoons of butter. Lastly, I made my topping with baguette instead of brioche because that's what I had on hand.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Cheesy any-time-of-the-day hash with fried egg

This is a great breakfast but I've enjoyed it for lunch and dinner too. It satisfies my urge for the holy trinity of potatoes, melted cheese and runny eggs that can strike at any time of the day!

Cheesy hash with fried egg
(serves two)

4 eggs
2 cups frozen traditional breakfast-style hash browns (McCain or Cavendish)
half an onion, diced
half a red pepper, diced
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp herbes de Provence (or substitute chopped fresh thyme if you have it)
olive oil for frying
salt and pepper for seasoning
half a cup of grated cheddar cheese

Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium-low heat. Add the onion and red pepper and fry for five minutes until softened. Add the frozen hash browns and mix well. Add the paprika, herbes de Provence or fresh thyme, and salt and pepper. Stir well to combine all the ingredients. Then let sit and allow to brown for a few minutes without stirring. Stir and repeat. Stir and repeat again if needed. The idea is to get a nice brown crispy crust on at least two sides of the potato cube.

In the meantime, fry the four eggs in olive oil sunnyside up in a separate skillet.

Once the hash has browned to your liking, take the skillet off the heat and set aside on a cold element. Scatter the cheese over the hash browns and cover the skillet with a tight-fitting lid for two minutes or until the cheese has melted. Then remove the cover so that the potatoes don't get soggy.

Scoop some potato hash on a plate and top with two fried eggs.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Dad's turkey soup

This is my dad's turkey soup, made with homemade turkey stock and lots of veggies. I didn't take down the recipe, but it's a delicious mixture of celery (stalks and tops), carrot, red pepper, kale, onion, garlic and herbs, and of course turkey :)

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