Monday, November 10, 2008

A favorite and a not-so-favorite

So, I've taken to cooking more lately. This is mostly motivated by budgeting, but also motivated by the need for some creativity. So, I thought I'd include 2 recipes, one that we all really liked, and one that everyone else seemed to like, but I didn't.

Here's the not-so-favorite first.

Pumpkin or (Winter Squash) Soup

3 tablespoons butter or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn
3 pounds sugar pumpkin, or any winter squash (1 medium squash), like acorn, butternut, calabaza, Hubbard, kabocha, or turban, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-to-2-inch cubes
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
5 cups any vegetable stock or water
1 cup cream or half-and-half

  1. Put the butter or oil in a deep skillet or medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted or the oil is hot, add the pumpkin and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens, about 5 minutes. Add the herb, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and continue cooking until fragrant, another minute or so. Add the stock and bring to a boil, then lower the heat so the soup bubbles gently. Partially cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pumpkin starts to fall apart, about 30 minutes.
  2. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup in the pan. Or cool the mixture slightly (hot soup is dangerous), pass it though a food mill or pour it into a blender container, and puree carefully. (The soup may be made ahead to this point, cooled, and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Serve cold or reheat it gently).
  3. Heat the pureed soup until almost boiling. Stir in the cream and heat through, but do not boil. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve garnished with an extra grinding of black pepper if you like.
In the middle of it, I realized we didn't have any half and half, so I used lots more butter. Maybe that is what it was missing, but it seemed like it needed something else.

Beans & Greens Risotto

1 quart vegetable broth
1 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 15 oz. can of small red beans or pinto beans, drained
1 small head escarole, chopped (about 3 cups)
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
lemon wedges (optional)

In a saucepan, bring the broth and tomatoes to a boil and the reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer.

Meanwhile, in a large, heavy saucepan on medium-high heat, cook the garlic in the oil until just golden, a few seconds. Add the rice and stir until the grains are well coated with oil. Ladle in the hot broth and tomatoes a cup at a time, stirring often. After each addition, let the rice absorb most of the broth before adding more. Add the beans with the last cup of broth.

When most of the broth is absorbed and the rice is tender but still al dente, stir in the escarole, in batches if necessary, until it wilts but is still bright green. Stir in the cheese and season with salt and pepper. Serve hot, with wedges of lemon if you wish.

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