Winter Vegetable Soup

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sat·ur·day night

/ˈsatərˌdā / nīt/

Noun
1. Falling asleep with a book on your lap and a glass of wine half full on the coffee table.
2. The inability to replace wool socks with boots and a quilt with a coat.
3. Waking up before midnight, brushing those pearly whites and calling it.

I let Saturday night have her way with me. And I was pretty OK with it.

Because on Sunday morning, the two inches of snow were all I needed to throw the rest of my vegetables into a pan and call it a soup.

_MG_1457What do we have here? Celery, sweet potatoes, carrots, leeks and red potatoes.

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I might get married with a bouquet of herbs instead of flowers. The basil will be gone by the time I make it down the aisle.

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Leeks, bless their hearts, are dirty jerks. All sorts of little granules nestle themselves between the layers of leaves and there’s only one good way to get rid of them – a submersive rinse.

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When you roast everything together, the flavor’s like whaaaaaaaat?

Wait, where did all these vegetables and dried herbs come from? I joined a CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) this winter and once a month was bombarded with root vegetables, pears apples, rutabaga and the occasional bundle of kale and broccoli. It was worth every penny.

Summer CSA with blueberries, tomatoes and fresh herbs, here I come.

_MG_1501Winter Vegetable Soup.

1lbs red potatoes, chopped into 1-1/1/2 inch chunks
3-4 large carrots, chopped like the potatoes
2-3 sweet potatoes, ditto
2 large leeks, sliced into 1/4in. pieces and submersed in a cold water bath
5-6 stalks celery, sliced into 1/4in. pieces
3-4 cloves garlic, skin still on
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
5 cups vegetable stock

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wash all the vegetables (use a rough sponge when necessary). Toss with olive oil and herbs in a 9x13in baking pan. Place in the oven and roast for about 45 minutes, until the carrots are soft (they take the longest).

In a blender or food processor, pulse the roasted vegetables with the vegetable stock until smooth. Place pureed soup into a large pot as you work your way through the rest of the vegetables, being sure to not overload the blender. If it’s too full, the heat and pressure will make the lid explode, no matter how much you try to hold it down. (Seriously.).

Once everything is pureed, either sieve the contents through a cheese cloth or leave it chunky (I like my soups thick). Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer until the soup is nice and hot.

Makes about 6-8 servings.

Enough to melt the rest of the snow.

Spicy Vegetarian Chili with Goat Cheese Biscuits

It’s one of those cut-myself-shaving because I haven’t-touched-a-razor-in-months kind of days. You know, the good-lord-am-I-really-that-white morning. Wow-I-need-to-work-out afternoon.

And an ice cream evening.

Blissful denial gets me through the toughest times.

Especially butter denial. After years of no meat, some evil warlock in the back of my head tells me during just about every meal that I deserve butter. That butter has a lot of calcium. Butter is good for you.

It’s really not.

But don’t tell the biscuits I told you.

What’s the harm in butter when complimented with a platter of vegetables, right? says the evil, high-cholesterol dude in my brain.

Black beans, chickpeas and kidney beans. A lethal combination. They really are a magical fruit.

I get apartment-smell envy. It happens when I come home from work around 6:30pm and my vegan neighbors are cooking something divine that I know is good for them. So I demolish a bag of Triscuits seconds after entering the kitchen.

But then I spend a few hours chopping, sautéing, stewing and simmering and feel loads better. Because then the entire neighborhood smells like chili and buttered biscuits and no one but my friends can have ’em.

I’m not sure if that’s the dude talking or just me.

Oh. Hot. Damn.

The cast iron skillet gets preheated in the oven and slathered in a load of butter. Then more butter gets drizzled onto the raw biscuits.

I know. Cardiac arrest. It might be worth it?

True Life: I over-mix sometimes and things come out flat. But still amazingly stupendously onolicious.

You + me = us.

Spicy Vegetarian Chili with Goat Cheese Biscuits

For the chili:

1 yellow onion, diced
4-5 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 habañero pepper, de-seeded and minced
1 zucchini, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
15oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
15oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
28oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup vegetable stock (or cheap beer)
2 heaping tablespoons chili powder
1 heaping teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon cumin
1/3 cup barbeque sauce
2 more cups vegetable stock

Heat about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot. Add the onions and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the peppers and zucchini and saute for another few minutes until they are slightly soft. Add the garlic, habañero and all of the spices and cook for a few minutes before adding 1 cup of stock or beer for a rapid searing. Make sure you scrape off all the spices from the bottom of the pan.

As soon as the liquid stops simmering, add the canned tomatoes, barbeque sauce and additional vegetable stock and let simmer for about 15 minutes. Top with cheddar or Monterey jack cheese.

Serves six.

For the biscuits:

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, for the pan
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted for a glaze
4 tablespoons goat cheese, crumbled
1 cup buttermilk (or regular milk)

Preheat the oven and cast iron skillet to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Cut in 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter and goat cheese, making sure not to over-mix. It should resemble coarse meal.

Make a well in the mixture and pour in the buttermilk. Using a fork, lightly fluff until no pockets of flour remain.

Take the cast iron out of the oven and melt one tablespoon of unsalted butter until the pan is completely coated. Spoon about 1/4 cup worth of batter dollops into the pan, leaving about half an inch of space between every piece. They will bake into each other. It’s okay.

Bake for about 17 minutes or until the top turns golden brown.

Makes about 9 biscuits.

Autumnal Vegetable Soup

Exercise and I go way back.  We’re like the friends I had in elementary school.  You know, hanging out everyday for the summer (because we’re neighbors), then pretending we don’t even know each other during the year.  Or like in high school, when we hung out way to much and our relationship exploded with a hip fracture.

I can always rekindle my bond with exercise.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to treat my friendships with great care.  I have to take my friends on dates.  We have to pencil each other in.  I have to pay the bill.

Unless my workouts are blocked into my calendar, we probably won’t hang out.  I’m too cheap to pay for the gym.  Exercise is pretty reluctant to get back into my life right now.

But I did 60 squats the other day.  And stretched for half an hour.  I still won’t buy a gym membership, but as soon as I create a workout calendar, we’ll be biffles once again.  I hope.

It might go without saying, but working out won’t work out unless I’ve got the diet to go along with it.  Aside from the occasional cobbler, cookie, and cake, my diet is outrageously healthy.  Whole wheats.  Ryes.  Teas.  Beets.  Sweet potatoes.  Greens, greens, greens.

And sometimes the-pumpkin-I-carved-into-an-owl-turned-vegetable-soup.

Demolished.  Is it weird that I just pulled the pumpkin from its outdoor refrigerator, chopped it up, and threw it in a soup?  Am I going to get botulism?

To be perfectly honest, there was little to no measuring for this soup.  I also don’t really remember what I threw in.  I hope that doesn’t make you nervous.

Autumnal Vegetable Soup.

1 1/2 cups dry white beans
6 cups of water
1lb pumpkin meat, cubed
bunch of beet greens, chopped into 1in pieces
3 celery stalks, chopped into 1in pieces
5 medium carrots, chopped into 1in pieces
4 cloves of garlic, minced
4 vegetable bouillon cubes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard seed
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of ground sage
pepper, to taste

Soak the beans in water in a large pot overnight, or at least 8 hours.  Once soaked, drain the water and replenish with another 6 cups.  Bring the water to a boil and add the bouillon cubes.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 45 minutes, until the beans are al dente (slightly firm).  Add the spices, garlic, celery, and pumpkin and cook for 20 minutes, until the pumpkin is soft.  Turn off the heat and add the beet greens (just to blanch).

Wait for it to rain and it’ll warm at least 8 pairs of cold hands.  And fill as many bellies.

Butternut Squash Soup

Let me tell you a little something about seasons in Hawaii:

We don’t have any.

So when the temperature in Boston drops below, say, 75 degrees fahrenheit, I’m wearing long sleeves and bringing out the quilts.  If I can see my breath, it’s time for wool socks.

Yeah, all right, whatever, it’s barely September and the air is balmy and cicadas are still chirping into the late afternoon.  The point is, I made butternut squash soup for the first time and learned that, hot damn, butternut squash is DELICIOUS on its own (boiled and lightly salted, of course).

A friend handed over a bunch of vegetables from his garden before mah man and I headed out here, one of them being this massive squash.  It oozed clear liquid that I hoped and prayed wasn’t sap.  I’m pretty sure it was just excess water. . .maybe.

The super nice thing about this recipe is that the seeds and filling are put to good use.  My new apartment has composting, but still, I wanted that filling to be part of the fun.

Butternut Squash Soup.

1 large butternut squash, peeled, chopped into cubes, with seeds and filling separated and set aside
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 cups water, plus 6 more to boil the squash
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon honey
dash of nutmeg

Heat the butter in a large pot or dutch oven on medium heat until it’s just started to sizzle.  Add the onions and saute until translucent.  Add the seed/filling mixture and saute until the butter is a nice shade of orange.  Add water and salt and set to a low simmer.  Keep the lid off so the liquid steams and reduces for about 30 minutes.

As the soup base simmers, boil the other 6 cups of water in another pot and add the squash, letting it cook until just turned soft, about 7 minutes.  Drain water and set aside.

Once the base has reduced (should be about 3 cups of liquid left), strain it into another pot.  Now you can chuck out the filling and onions.

Stick the softened butternut squash into a food processor with a good amount of the base and puree until smooth and creamy.  Add this mixture along with the cream to the rest of the soup base and let it warm up for 5 minutes.  Throw in a dash of nutmeg.

Serves about six people.  Or one plus leftovers for a week.