Winter Vegetable Soup

_MG_1493

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.

_MG_1479

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.

_MG_1467

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.

_MG_1485

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.

Advertisements

Giving Thanks

Today is that one day of the year when you wake up at 7 a.m. to make a pie.

It’s the day when you set a timer at least 12 times so you don’t burn the bread. It consists of at least three separate moments when you think everything is going to go wrong. The kitchen is filled with smoke. You don’t know which wine is yours. A baby keeps on opening the oven, you’ve made way too much mashed potatoes and, woops, you’ve run out of plastic wrap and the aluminum foil is running low.

“Are we out of butter?!”

“The pie has to set for at least five hours!”

“Wait, you don’t have a potato masher?”

“WHO DRANK ALL THE WINE?!”

But then you set up the dining table with the special napkins your mom brought all the way from Hawaii and somehow the stuffed acorn squash is still warm, the pickled carrots didn’t come out too spicy (despite the jalapeños) and you’re eating just in time for the sun to dip below the San Francisco horizon.

And the Patriots are demolishing the Jets.

I’m thankful for it all.

Let’s start with the quinoa stuffing. It would’ve been vegan if not for my sautéing everything in butter. Lots and lots of butter.

A touch of cranberry sweetness and spritz of nutmeg.

While the quinoa is soaking up flavors like parsley and sage in a big ol’ pot, it’s time to half roast some acorn squash.

Roast them face-down in a shallow bath of vegetable broth. The meat will soak up the juice and get super soft and yummy.

Then you flip ’em over and roast them with the stuffing inside. I put more butter on top. It was a good idea.

And then I got to thinking about a serious pie.

Pie crust starts with butter and flour. And ends with sugar.

My brother said that for Thanksgiving, the house should have at least three pounds of butter. Good thing, because there were a few moments when we thought we were out. But we weren’t. There was so much butter. There’s still so much butter.

Boston doesn’t have Okinawan sweet potatoes. And in Berkeley, California, the grocery store calls them “Hawaiian.” I just call them delicious.

So. Purple.

The filling tastes like marshmallows. Not even joking. Be careful.

Oh. Let me talk about haupia for second. It’s a Hawaii staple. It’s coconut. Coconut jell-o. Coconut custard. It’s good. That’s all that matters. And it’s going on top of this pie.

Thanksgiving just got so real.

Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash.

2 cups quinoa, cooked with 2 cups water and 2 cups vegetable broth
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup dried cranberries, soaked in hot water and drained
2/3 cup carrot, chopped
1 1/2 cups mushrooms, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
4 acorn squash
1 cup vegetable stock
lots of butter

In a large and deep skillet, preferably a pot, sauté the onions and garlic in about 2 tablespoons of butter until just translucent – don’t let it brown. Add the carrots and mushrooms and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add the quinoa, cranberries, herbs, salt and pepper and cook for another 10 minutes, until the quinoa has absorbed all of the flavors.

Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Lay them face down on a baking sheet and pour about 1 cup of vegetable broth so that the entire pan has a thin layer of stock. Roast uncovered for about 15 minutes. Pour out the vegetable stock (I’d save it for some soup later on) and flip over the squash. Stuff with the quinoa mixture and top with a thin slice of butter (told you there’s a lot of butter). Cover everything tightly with tin foil and throw into the oven for another 30 minutes, until the squash is fully cooked.

Makes 8 halves.

Okinawan Sweet Potato and Haupia Pie.

For the crust:
1/2 cup butter, cold and chopped into small squares
1 1/2 cups flour
1/8 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor, chop the butter with the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Press into a 9-inch pie pan and bake for about 12 minutes, until just slightly browned. Set aside (you can even make this the night before you need it).

For the Okinawan sweet potato filling:
1 1/2 cups Okinawan sweet potatoes, boiled and whipped or mashed
6 tablespoons cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons evaporated milk
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In an electric mixer, whip the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix until fully incorporated. Add half of the sweet potato and mix completely before adding the rest. Toss in the evaporated milk, vanilla extract and salt before whipping to a nice and creamy filling.

Smooth into crusted pie pan and bake for about 30 minutes.

Set aside and let cool completely before adding the haupia.

For the haupia:
1 can (13.5 ounces) full fat coconut milk
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup corn starch
1/4 cup sugar

Whisk the dry ingredients in a small bowl before adding the water.

In a saucepan, heat up the coconut milk and slowly add the sugar mixture, continually whisking until it thickens into a custard-like consistency. Pour on top of the sweet potato layer (there should be about 1/2 inch of room) and smooth over with a spatula.

Let cool completely before covering with a plate or plastic wrap and chilling in the fridge. Let the haupia set for at least five hours before serving.

Makes enough for 12 slices. Surprisingly, there are leftovers.

Deep Dish Pizza with Sweet Potato Sauce

Sweet tea and 70 degrees. Shorts. Sunshine for the seedlings. Listening to Ira Glass get super mad.

Dinner parties and St. Patrick’s Day recovery.

And best of all, sitting on the porch for the first time in months.

Hello, Spring. I’ve missed you.

I had my first deep dish pizza in Berkeley. It changed my entire pizza-world-view. Long gone are the days of thin crust. Welcome to the time of sweet corn.

I never liked tomato sauce. Sage and sweet potato have replaced the red stuff for this pizza. It’s not weird. It’s still a pizza.

Two pieces are better than one.

Deep Dish Pizza with Sweet Potato Sauce

Dough recipe

For the pizza:

1 large sweet potato
1 tablespoon milk
Bunch of sage, coarsely chopped
1 small onion, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced
1 cup frozen sweet corn, thawed
1 cup mozarella cheese, shredded
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Prepare the dough by rolling it out and placing in a 9-inch pie dish. Fill with dried beans and bake for about 10 minutes. This is called “blind” baking, which will prevent the heavy pizza filling from weighing down the crust.

Stab the sweet potato with a fork and microwave for about 10 minutes, or until very soft. Let cool slightly and peel the skin off. Add the milk and mash until smooth.

Sauté the onions and sage in butter until the onion is just turning translucent.

Add the onions and sage to the sweet potato along with the sweet corn. Mix until evenly distributed.

Line the bottom of the pie crust with the mozzarella cheese. Scoop in the sweet potato mixture and spread evenly. Top with sliced zucchini and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Bake uncovered for about 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is fully melted and zucchini is slightly browned.

Makes 6 massive slices. Should feed three people.

Quinoa Risotto with Sweet Potato

I have the habit stomping my feet when a fiddle and mandolin player strut their stuff on a tiny black stage. I haven’t an ounce of embarrassment when I’m the only one clapping amidst a sea of 60-year-olds who remain glued to their seats even though the music begs for dancers.

I love me a good bluegrass show.

I also love me some protein-rich, cheesy globs of mmm, yum.

Sweet potatoes are cubed and par-boiled for about 3 minutes.

I’m also a sucker for sauteed onions. And more bluegrass shows. I might’ve bought tickets for another one in April, what?

Making risotto with quinoa minimizes guilt. It’s also much fluffier and lighter than its arborio rice counterpart, which is usually so dense that I’m done after four bites.

Instead of using heavy cream or exorbitant amounts of parmesan, I threw in about half a cup of coconut milk into the mix. Super amazing.

I mean, I still used a lot of parmesan. Because what’s risotto without parmesan? It’s not risotto.

Quinoa Risotto with Sweet Potato.

2 1/2 cups quinoa, dry
5 1/2 cups water
4 ounces coconut milk
1 chopped onion
4 large cloves (about 2 tablespoons) minced garlic
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground sage
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried basil

slices of lemon and lime to garnish

Bring about 5 cups of lightly salted water to a boil in a large pot. Add the sweet potato and boil for about 3 minutes (they should be al dente). Drain and set aside.

In a medium pot, bring the water, coconut milk and salt to a light simmer. This will be added by the spoonful to the quinoa.

In a large pot, heat the olive oil and add the chopped onion and sautee until it becomes soft and translucent. Add the garlic, herbs and dried quinoa and fry until the grains are lightly toasted, about 5 minutes.

Add about half of the simmering water-coconut-milk mixture and stir continuously. As soon as the liquid is just absorbed, add a ladle-full of additional water-coconut-milk and let it be completely absorbed before adding another ladle-full. Continue to do this until all of the liquid has been added.

As soon as the last of the liquid has been absorbed, add the grated parmesan and stir until melted.

Serve with lemon and lime.

Makes about a week’s worth of leftovers for a gourmet lunch.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

As a child reared in the 21st century, I have taken extreme pride in my tech-savvy nature.  Web design?  Pshaw.  System troubleshooting?  Easier than key lime pie.  Camera glitches?  I’m your lady.

I’ve got the MacBook, the Canon 40D with a few great lenses, a handful of iPods thanks to a partner in crime that finds all of our possessions for free, and mostly on the ground, and other audio gizmos that tend to make me quiver with their amazing treble.  I read photo catalogues on the toilet.  Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, beware.

Nerd to the max.  I know it and love it.

But let me be real with you.  I sport a tiny, egg-shaped Samsung cell phone that I once flaunted in high school.  It doesn’t have a camera.  The front screen is busted.  It has BubbleSmile for a game.  I kind of love it because it forces me to look up while I’m walking down the street or driving.  I make eye contact with people on the train (er, well, with the ones that aren’t giggling on their smart phones).  And you know, there’s a sort of adventure in finding a restaurant in the city by walking around.

But friends! I’m getting an iPhone.  I might get sucked into it, Tron style.  If I disappear for twenty years, you know where to look.

I’ll welcome myself into the 21st century by shaping gnocchi pasta with the back of a fork and giggling furiously because each piece looks like a chubby, squashed face.

I’m nervous about the A.I. feature on the new iPhone.  Just yesterday I got a phantom call from my dad.  He said he didn’t even have his phone on him.  Siri wants me.

Also, I’m admittedly archaic in the kitchen.  I don’t have a mixer.  Just hands.  Once, I whipped egg whites into stiff peaks with a potato masher.  It took me an hour.  I may have carpal tunnel syndrome.

I’m going to start giggling soon.

Gary Larson has a perfect comic to describe these.

Hi-lar-i-ous.

Listen, I was pretty skeptical about this gnocchi business.  It seemed really hard.  I’d been meaning to make them for weeks, and when my sweet potato started screaming at me to do something with it, I caved.  But these were surprisingly easy.  And, more importantly, they worked.  So don’t listen to the little voice in your head telling you they’ll fall apart in boiling water.  They won’t.  They’ll float up to the surface with their little pudgy faces.

And you will eat the little faces with parmesan cheese.

If you don’t want to eat these munchkins to your face all at once, they’re freezable.  So you can have them for a midnight snack.  Or breakfast.  All food can be breakfast.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi.

1 large sweet potato (about 1lb or more)
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 large egg
1 teaspoon salt

Stab the sweet potato all over with a fork and microwave for about 15 minutes, flipping it over every 5.  If you want to use the oven, still stab the potato, but bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about 45 minutes.  Once the potato has cooled, scoop out the meat and mash until smooth.  Add the flour, egg, parmesan cheese and salt, and mix until a dough starts to form.  Knead with plenty of extra flour (it will be sticky) until you can shape the dough into a ball.

Divide the dough into four equal parts and roll out into thin ropes.  Cut little pieces off the rope and shape each by indenting with the backside of a fork.

To cook the gnocchi, bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil and carefully add the dumplings.  Let them cook until they float to the surface, about 3-5 minutes.

Sauté the gnocchi in a pan with olive oil, butter, and a pinch of ground sage until slightly browned.

Top with parmesan cheese and Italian parsley.

A feast for 4-5 people.