Winter Squash Soup

Winter Squash SoupYou ever spy a bunch of beautiful squash and end up buying them even though you have no idea what you’re going to make with them? No? Just me?

Well, that’s exactly what I did the other day. The winter squash had just been stocked, and it looked lovely. There was my favorite — red kuri squash, but while I was at it, the acorn and delicata looked good too, so…

Once I got them home, I thought the savory flavors of the kuri paired with the sweeter delicata and acorn would make a tasty soup. My instincts were right on. This is honestly in my top five recipe creations of all time. It was so good, rich and creamy and full of flavor. It will definitely be a regular player on the dinner table this winter. I paired it with a Paris Valley Road Chardonnay. While not usually a big Chardonnay fan, this wine was absolutely transformed by the soup, complimenting the sweetness and supporting the creaminess beautifully.

Winter Squash Soup


Serves 4-6

1 acorn squash
1 delicata squash
1 red kuri squash
2 Tablespoons butter
5 sage leaves
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
salt, pepper, and garam masala to taste
4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock to make this vegetarian.)
sriracha to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut squash in half and remove strings and seeds. (I kept some seeds for next year’s garden.) Place cut-side down onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and cook until a fork can slide into it, about 20 minutes.
Let cool. Scoop out the squash flesh from the skin. (I did this the night before and kept the squash in a reclosable bag in the fridge until I was ready for the next step.)

On the stove top, heat a saute pan over medium-low. Add the butter and sage and swirl around the pan until butter begins to turn a light brown. Remove from heat and pour into a bowl.

Return pan to stove, turn heat up a bit, and cook onion, garlic, salt, pepper, and garam masala until onions begin to turn translucent. Turn off heat.

In a blender or food processor, mix squash, butter and sage, onion mixture, and stock a little at a time (Probably around two cups each try) until everything is blended smooth. Pour blended mixture into a large pot and continue until everything has gone through the cycle.

Place pot back on the stove and reheat on low until soup begins to slowly bubble. Stir in a squeeze or so of sriracha for a bit of heat, and taste to see if any other spices need to be adjusted.

Spoon into bowls and serve with some crusty sourdough bread.

Cream of Asparagus Soup

asparagus soupAbout a gabillion years ago (okay, maybe closer to 10) I worked in a coffee house. We baristas also served food, things like toasted bagels and cream cheese, blueberry granola, and soup. I fell in love with the cream of asparagus soup we served. It was an interpretation of the Moosewood Cookbook recipe and was made in large batches by my boss. This was my first introduction to, “Hey, vegetables can taste amazing as soup!” Before that, I was mostly about salads, and as a starving college student, I honestly saw most veggies as something above my income level.

But here we were. This soup was amazing, and I wanted more! I had graduated from college (again) and was working two jobs, one at the coffee shop and one at a grocery store. Not only was I able to afford creating something I considered fancy, I worked at a place where I could get part of it for free. The perks of working in grocery mean that you never starve. Keep that in mind, college students! I got a bunch of asparagus that was too old and ugly for the buying public, as well as an onion that had seen better days, and was on my way to making my first batch. Full disclosure — this soup was part of the first meal I ever made for Charles, and my first attempt at making it, so it has a very special place in my cook’s heart.

These days, I only work in grocery, and my position is a bit higher up the ladder. The coffee shop, though I still miss being a barista, is long gone. While the shop may be a thing of the past, I continue to think this soup is all that. It’s tasty and filling, and it’s a great first course or even a good meal, depending on how hungry you are. Serve it with a Sauvignon Blanc, though in my opinion, it’s best to stay away from the gooseberry characteristics of a New Zealand style. Oh, and even though I no longer take advantage of the free for staff as often as I used to, that doesn’t mean I’m not still frugal. This batch was made with the leftover asparagus after my naan pizza creation. The best way to save money when buying food is to eat all of it.

Cream of Asparagus


Serves 4-6

2 cups stock
1 onion, chopped
6 Tablespoons of butter
6 Tablespoons of flour
1 teaspoon dill weed
1 bunch of fresh asparagus, chopped
4 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
pinch of white pepper

In a pot over medium heat, cook asparagus with onions and butter.
When the onions are clear, about eight minutes or so, sprinkle in the flour.
Lower the heat to low and continue to cook for five to eight more minutes, stirring often.
Add stock, salt, dill, and white pepper and cook about ten more minutes or until thickened, stirring frequently.
Puree the mixture bit by bit with the milk in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth.
Return soup to low heat until it begins to bubble.

Slow Cooker Vegetable Bean Soup

Vegetable Bean SoupWell, hello there! Things were a little quiet on the blog last week because I was on a short vacation, enjoying the wildflowers in Death Valley. Charles and I don’t do complicated camp food. Our cooler is reserved for beer, so everything else is just boil-in-a-bag. After a few days of eating Tasty Bites Jaipur Vegetables for dinner, I was in the mood for anything different.

It was a busy week for us after our break, as the reality after trips often is. I wanted something healthy and inexpensive, and I didn’t want to spend a great deal of time in the kitchen, since I didn’t have a great deal of time. That’s where my favorite kitchen tool — other than my Japanese chef’s knife, the slow cooker came into play. After a night of soaking beans, it was a day of slowly cooking a mishmash of ingredients, and by the time I got home from work, soup was on!

One of the best things about soup is it’s not an exact science. I tend to eyeball the amounts when I’m making it, so don’t feel freaked if you only have 30 ounces of tomatoes or vegetables. It will still be tasty.

What’s even better, there are plenty of leftovers. We’ll have more soup tonight, probably paired with a Zinfandel or Sangiovese, and I’ll freeze the rest in two-serving containers for more easy, soup-filled evenings in the future.

Vegetable Bean Soup

  • Difficulty: super easy
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Serves 10

1 cup dried Orca beans (Black turtle beans or little navy beans would also work.)
water
32 oz canned, fire-roasted tomatoes
32 oz (2 bags) of frozen, assorted vegetables (Buy these while they’re on sale and hoard them for whenever you need a veggie addition to a meal.)
2 cups of stock (You know I always have plenty in my freezer.)
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried parsley
roasted red pepper flakes to taste
salt and black pepper to taste

In an eight quart slow cooker, soak the beans in water overnight.
The next morning, drain the beans in a colander. Return them to the slow cooker and add the rest of the ingredients. Add water to the pot until it’s 3/4 of the way full. Put on the lid, turn the slow cooker onto low, and let cook eight to ten hours.
Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
Serve with some crusty bread, if you’re into that.

Pork Udon

Pork Udon

Soup’s been on the menu quite a bit this week. Maybe it’s because of the change of the seasons. Maybe because it can be a complete meal contained in a bowl. Maybe just because it’s delicious.

In Japanese culture, udon noodles are served chilled in summer and hot in winter. There’s starting to be a nip in the air come evening, so creating a hot soup was a no-brainer, though during the day, summer’s been reminding us here that it’s not done until Monday. We paired our soup with what could be considered an interesting choice — Curtis Winery 2011 Heritage Cuvée. However, Rhone blends are very versatile when it comes to pairing, and this was excellent with the meal, picking up the earthy flavors of the shitakes and Tamari while highlighting the caramelized sweetness of the carrots. It made for a hearty supper and a lovely glass of wine.

Pork Udon


Serves 4

1 Tablespoon sesame oil, plus more for Panko crumbs
1 pound of pork shoulder, sliced thinly
pinch of salt
1 cup chopped carrots
1 teaspoon coconut sugar
1/2 cup Panko crumbs
3 teaspoons grated ginger
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 Tablespoons chopped chives or scallions
8 cups of chicken broth
1 ounce package of dried shitake mushrooms or eight fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 Tablespoon light sodium Tamari
1 8 ounce package udon noodles (I used Koyo Round Noodles)
1 cup Napa cabbage, chopped
Sriracha to taste

In a large skillet or stove top wok, heat the sesame oil over high heat. Add the pork and pinch of salt, letting each side cook until browned, usually about three minutes per side. Remove pork and set aside.
Toss in carrots and sugar and stir until carrots have caramelized. Remove carrots and set aside.
Throw in the Panko. You may need a bit more oil. Stir crumbs until they turn golden-brown. Drain on a paper towel.
Turn heat down to medium and place ginger, garlic, and chives in the skillet. Stir until the aromas are released, then pour in stock. Toss in the mushrooms, and pour in the Tamari. Add pork and carrots and let simmer 30-45 minutes.
Add noodles and cook another six minutes.
Add cabbage and cook two minutes more.
Place in bowls. Add sriracha if wanted and sprinkle with crunchy Panko.

Kale and Chickpea Soup

Kale and chickpea soupI have one of those recipes that I go back to again and again. It’s one of those dishes that makes you feel better after eating it, and it’s chock full of good-for-you ingredients. You know, all that stuff you’re supposed to eat on a regular basis like kale and tomatoes and legumes.

Because it’s a soup, the flavors meld into a savory, sweet, and slightly earthy experience that’s even better the second day. The recipe was given to me by one of our local farmers, and then I changed it up a bit, i.e., I dumped a bunch of wine into the dish. The extra wine gives the soup an amazing tang, and you can use what’s leftover to drink with your meal. I mean — what a win-win! For the leftovers, I’d recommend pairing with a Sauvignon Blanc. The acidity and citrus flavors go really well with my favorite soup.

This recipe is going to be two-fold. The first recipe is the way I’ve been making it for years, and the second is what I did this past week — utilizing a crock pot so a delicious, wholesome soup was ready and waiting when I got back from my afternoon run.

Kale and Chickpea (Garbanzo Bean) Soup


serves 8

2 onions or shallots, diced small
1 1/2 teaspoons of fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon of dried
3-4 Tablespoons of olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ t. pepper flakes
4 large tomatoes, fresh
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/3 cup white wine
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 bunch kale, stems removed, leaves torn small
1 ½ cups dry garbanzo beans, cooked, or two 15 oz. cans of chickpeas
Salt and pepper

If using dry chickpeas, soak overnight. Cook them in at least four cups of water for three hours until soft. Be sure not to put salt in until peas are fully cooked. Cook the onions and thyme in the olive oil over medium until soft. Increase the heat and add the garlic, pepper flakes, tomatoes, bay leaf, salt and 1/3 cup wine. Stew for 15 minutes. Add the cooked chickpeas and the 8 cups of liquid. Simmer for 20-30 minutes to let the peas absorb the flavors. Add the kale leaves and cook ten more minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Slow Cooker Kale and Chickpea Soup

Slow Cooker Kale and Chickpea (Garbanzo Bean) Soup


serves 8

2 onions or shallots, diced small
1 1/2 teaspoons of fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon of dried
3 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ t. pepper flakes
4 large tomatoes, fresh
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/3 cup white wine
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 bunch kale, stems removed, leaves torn small
Two 15 oz. cans of chickpeas
Salt and pepper to taste

Layer all ingredients into a slow cooker except the kale, salt, and pepper. Place onions and garlic on the bottom, followed by the tomatoes, and then the chickpeas. Sprinkle herbs over everything and pour liquids in. Turn the slow cooker on to low, and let it cook eight to nine hours. Put in the kale and continue to cook on the low setting for another 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Kuri Squash and Bacon Soup

red-kuri-squash-soupFlu season is here, and I’ve already fallen prey to a strain that had me bedridden for most of a week. When I could eat again, I wanted something rich, filling, warm, and easy, as my stamina wasn’t back yet. Using my fab new technique to cook squash, I plopped in a couple of my favorite variety, Red Kuri, and took a nap.

Nap achieved, I had some beautifully cooked squash and no recipe bubbling up into my consciousness, so I did what every cook does when they want something but can’t find anything that quite satisfies the craving — I made it up. What was produced in my soup pot will be a dish I replicate quite often, as it was tasty with a capital T, and it was exactly what my recovering body needed.

Kuri Squash and Bacon Soup

serves four

2 Red Kuris, cooked, seeds and skin removed (If Kuris aren’t available, other winter squash, like sugar pie pumpkins or butternut, will work just fine.)
10 slices of bacon, cooked crispy and chopped
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup half and half
1 cup white wine (I used Chardonnay.)
Sriracha to taste (I used two healthy squeezes.)
2 teaspoons dried sage
salt and pepper to taste

Using a food processor, blend the squash and stock until smooth. You will need to do several batches so as not to overload the processor.
Dump in a soup pot and cook on medium heat until it begins to bubble. Add bacon, Sriracha, and sage. Stir well. Taste to see how much salt and pepper is needed and if you need to add more sage or Sriracha. Add wine and bring back to a slow simmer.
Pour in half and half and stir well. Taste once more to check and see if any final adjustments are needed. If all is to your liking, pour into bowls and enjoy.

Pairing notes: As I was recovering from the flu, I paired my soup with water. Another option would be using the wine that you used in the soup. Charles paired his bowl with a Pinot Noir and enjoyed it immensely.