Thursday, October 30, 2008

I always miss the midwest in the deep fall. It's the most extraordinary time of the year and good enough reason to stay there as anywhere in my opinion. But I didn't stay there. I pioneered to the west coast, my family following several years later. And now I hardly ever experience the brilliant warmth of fall colors.

But don't feel too badly for me. I just bring it home in a basket from the market every sunday!

A suggestion for these bloody beets:

steam whole for 20 min. Run the soft beets under cool water and rub the skin off with your thumb. Slice paper thin and sprinkle with Maldon salt (large flakes of sea salt). Chiffinod fresh basil and dab each slice with fresh raw milk ricotta (yet another market jewel sold by a group of suspiciously pretty boys who are far too friendly to be farmers). Run the whole lot over with a stream of your very best olive oil and serve. Moj gets credit for this delight. We had a version of it somewhere but I think she improved it greatly with the basil.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

soup for sister

I love to cook for family. I especially like cooking for my sis who is a very good eater and a great appreciator of the mystical kitchen beast called "the cook". Simple food is best, no fuss, no show. I just really want the people I love to be well fed. I’m a believer in whole ingredients, organics, locally grown and seasonal food. Go to your local farmer's market people! It makes a difference.

I was a chef for a short time and I enjoyed learning new things, running a kitchen and designing balanced menus. But there is something so eternal and edifying about making a meal for the folks you love. And because they're family you can futz around in the kitchen for hours experimenting and trying new things without the pressure of looking good. I was enjoying just such a day of futzing recently making soup in my sister’s kitchen while she worked in her studio designing these beautiful dolls.

This butternut chickpea soup would pair nicely with a large Parmesan crouton or toasted Asiago bread from Acme Bakery. But if you're wheat free like me then roast the pumpkin seeds in a spicy cumin blend and add just a tiny kick of heat as well as a seasonal garnish.

And of course, a crisp dry white wine wouldn't hurt.

Butterpea Chicnut Velvet Soup

1 large butternut squash (look for thick necks)
1 med pumpkin (sugar pumpkin works fine but any will do)
1 lg sweet onion
¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (use the good one at the end for flavor an inexpensive organic blend will do nicely)
1 12oz can organic chickpeas (AKA garbonzo beans)
2 leeks
1 qt water or veg broth (fresh or store bought but avoid a bullion they’re so salty)
soymilk/almond milk/milk

  • Preheat the oven to 375.
  • Chop onions & leeks and toss them into a large pot with the olive oil. Simmer over a low/med heat. Sweat onions with some salt. Stir occasionally.
  • Take a very sharp knife and cut the pumpkin & squash in half. Gut seeds from pumpkin and toss in to a strainer. Toss guts from butternut squash.
  • Spray or rub pumpkin halves with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and put into oven face down to roast for 15 minutes. Turn halves over and roast another 15. More or less…
  • Cut butternut squash into large chunks. Now a word about peeling squash, I hear from Jamie Oliver that you don’t have to peel butternut. That, in fact the peel just softens and can be pureed into the soup never to be noticed again. I take a vegetable peeler and peel. But I’m like that. Feel free to experiment.
  • Toss butternut in with onions. Add a little salt and pepper.
  • Open can of chickpeas and drain in strainer. Rinse, rinse, rinse! Any time you open a can of beans rinse them under running water several times. This is how you get the gas out before you end up letting it out at inopportune times.
  • Toss in with onions and butternut and stir over heat for 5 min.
  • Add broth or water. Bring to a boil over a high heat. Keep a steam lid on it or cover mostly with a little room to breath. Keep the flavor in without letting the pot explode is the point.
  • Boil it until everything gets soft enough to smoosh with a fork.
  • Turn heat down to slow simmer.
  • When pumpkin is soft enough to pierce with a fork easily, pull it out and scoop it out of its skin. Dump pumpkin into pot with other ingredients and remove from the heat.
  • Puree soup in a blender or food processor. Use every bit of liquid and add more if it seems more like sauce than soup.
  • Return blended soup to the stove. Simmer over low heat. Add nutmeg, salt, pepper and whatever milk and stir. Don’t boil it again.
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Clean and rinse seeds. Dry with dish towel (not paper). Toss in bowl with olive oil, sea salt, pepper, cumin, cayenne, garlic or onion powder and dried herbs like oregano, thyme or parsley. Spread onto baking pan and bake for 10-15 minutes. Shake seeds occasionally to flip them over so they don’t burn.
  • Serve soup with pear and aged mild goat cheddar. The combination is lovely.

Monday, October 27, 2008

mom says eat more chocolate

Mom and I met at the Farmer's Market this Sunday as we often do. She's been in good spirits lately despite a long year of health bothers that have taken a toll on her energy. In fact she said she's had a burst of energy lately and she's really been enjoying herself.
Wonderful, I said, what have you been doing, do you think, to have more energy?

Eating more chocolate! she said.

Singing to the choir mom. Singing to the choir.