Butternut Bisque

Butternut Bisque

I’m not the biggest soup fan (I prefer to drink my hot liquids), but I’m starting to acquire a taste for them.  I’m especially fond of blended soups (because then it’s like a savoury pudding and I’m less likely to burn my tongue on the hot broth).  This one comes from Martha Stewart and is a good match for a nice late-summer lunch or a good accompaniment to a fall comfort meal.  It’s quick and easy, which I like in a soup.  You can also freeze it and enjoy it at any time.

First, do your chopping.  In this case, chop up 1 medium onion, 2 cloves garlic, and 1 large butternut squash.  Peel the squash, cut it open and remove the seeds, and then hack it into smallish cubes.

Butternut Bisque

Then, get your spices ready to go.  You’ll need 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper.  Also, not shown, is a pinch or two of coarse sea salt.  Feel free to add more or less, according to your own taste.  It’s only soup, after all.

Butternut Bisque

Melt about 3 tablespoons butter into the bottom of a large saucepan.  Add in the onion, garlic, and the spices and cook until the onion is tender and translucent, about 7 minutes.

Butternut Bisque

Dump in the squash cubes, as well as about 15oz chicken broth and 1 cup half-and-half (you could use plain milk if you wanted to be healthier, but do you really want to do that?), and then about 3 cups water.  Bring that whole thing to a boil and reduce it to a simmer for about 20 minutes.  Your squash should be squishy at this point.  You should be able to squish your squash with the back of a spoon.

Butternut Bisque

Remove the pot from the heat and use your immersion blender to squish — er, purée — your squash and onions and all that stuff.

Butternut Bisque

Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of cayenne, if desired.

Butternut Bisque

Spicy Spring Carrot Soup

Happy Easter!

Spicy Spring Carrot Soup

It’s spring.  Well, I shouldn’t say that.  It’s spring in some parts of Canada.  Here in Newfoundland we are still clearing up snow from our blizzard last week.  In most parts of the country the markets are full to bursting with new spring vegetables: tender carrots, tiny potatoes, fresh peas.  Here in St. John’s it’s time to clean out the dregs of our winter supply, and most produce around here is either flaccid or unripe.  So we make soup.

This soup will be served as a starter at our Easter dinner on Sunday.  If a soup could be considered to be light and fluffy, it would be this one.  In fact (and I may have texted this to the Pie when I made it), I bet if you put the Easter Bunny in a blender and heated him up he would taste a lot like this soup: sweet, a little bit spicy, a hint of ginger, and chock-full of carrots.

Spicy Spring Carrot Soup
This recipe is simple, and takes very little time.

I have here 2 bunches of “new” carrots (which in reality were bendy and dried-out), 4 Bosc pears (which I unsuccessfully tried to ripen for three days), a handful of mildly hot peppers, and 2 onions.

Spicy Spring Carrot Soup

Chop those puppies up and toss them in a pot.  Add a whole carton of chicken broth (about 4 cups, or a litre), and top the rest up with water.

Spicy Spring Carrot Soup

Chuck in as well a few teaspoons of minced ginger (two will probably do it, as the minced stuff is wicked strong) and a healthy dollop of dijon mustard.

Spicy Spring Carrot Soup

Add in a few tablespoons of sweet chili sauce as well.

Spicy Spring Carrot Soup

Simmer that like crazy until all the vegetables are tender.

Spicy Spring Carrot Soup

Remove it from the heat and use an immersion blender (or a regular blender) to turn it all into an orange pulp.

Spicy Spring Carrot Soup

If you’ve picked a really hot pepper for your soup, you might want to serve it with a dollop of sour cream, or maybe some green onions for garnish.  It’s also lovely just as it is.  You can freeze it easily and bring it out whenever you need a taste of spring.

Spicy Spring Carrot Soup

Barbecue in a Bottle

This recipe has been adapted with thanks from PickYourOwn.org, who set out all the steps for this delicious tangy tomato goo, including the entire canning process.  For other tips on canning, check out some previous posts here.  I doubled the batch laid out below (of course) and ended up with about 8L of sauce.

In a very large pot, start simmering 5 14oz (796mL) cans diced tomatoes.  This is roughly equivalent to 16 cups or 4 quarts (I did the math).  In one of my batches I substituted one can of crushed tomatoes for diced.  It didn’t seem to make much difference, save I had less seeds in that one.

Once those are going strong, chop and chuck in 4 stalks celery, 2 onions, 3 red peppers, 2 jalapeno peppers, and 2 cloves crushed garlic (or garlic-in-a-jar).

In addition to that, add in 2 teaspoons ground black pepper, 1 tablespoon dry mustard, 1 tablespoon paprika, 1 tablespoon sea salt, and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper.

THEN add in 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco, 1 cup brown sugar and 1 1/2 cups 5% (white) vinegar.

Remember you can adjust any of these flavourings to suit your own tastes.  I added extra cayenne and brown sugar, as well as a few dobbles of sweet chilli sauce and a can of tomato paste.

Simmer everything for about 30 minutes or until it’s all softened.

Now here you have two options.  If you have tremendous patience, you can run the cooked sauce through a food mill, which will remove the seeds and give you a lovely velvety smooth sauce.

If you’re me, you can use an immersion blender

Tomato sauce will end up everywhere, and you will still have seeds in your slightly chunkier sauce, but you will end up with more sauce for preserving.

All you have to do at this point is cook down your processed sauce until it’s the consistency that you like.  Just keep an eye on it and stir frequently to avoid burning.  Remember that the sauce at this point is thick enough to interfere with proper convection so stirring is essential.

Pour into sterilized jars and can according to your canner’s instructions.  And that’s it!

Jerusalem Artichoke and Carrot Jalapeno Soup

Here we’ve reached the last of our Jerusalem artichokes.  Have you had enough?  I think I have.

This is kind of a garbage soup, but only sorta.

Chop up a large onion.  Or in my case, half an onion and two shallots.  Chuck those in a pot with some olive oil and garlic.

I still had some eggplant leftover from that lasagna I made a little while back.  You can leave that as an option at your discretion.

Chop up three jalapeños and chuck them in as well.

Sauté them for a little bit.

Chop up two carrots and plop those in.

Chop up two pounds of jerusalem artichokes.  Those go in too.

Pour in enough chicken stock (about a litre) to almost cover and bring the liquid to a boil.  Simmer on medium-low for an hour or so, until all the vegetables are tender and you can squish the carrots with a spoon.

Take an immersion blender to it and give ‘er until it’s smooth.

Now take some romano and grate it up.  About three tablespoons.

Put it in a bowl and sprinkle it liberally with black pepper.

Pour in about half a cup whipping cream.  Whip it up good.

When stiff peaks form you’re set.

Plop a dollop of that on your soup with some Italian parsley.

Serve it up!

Presto Pesto

Pesto is a thoroughly un-intimidating and yet awesomely elegant and enjoyable addition to most cooking.

And it’s ridiculously easy to make, believe it or not.

Now that I have my own little basil farm, I no longer have to worry about spending $7 for a box of wilted basil stems at the grocery store, and I no longer have to hoard them jealously in my freezer against spoilage.

My basil is just about to flower, so there is plenty to harvest.  I only hope my basil plants survive the stripping.

So I’m going to go to excesses here and make some simple pesto for freezing.

When cutting basil leaves, make sure you cut them close to a node so the smaller leaves on either side will branch out and grow.

Dump some fresh or frozen basil leaves in a small food processor (or in our case, the food processor attachment of our Braun immersion blender).

Add extra virgin olive oil until it looks like an oil spill hit.  Not too much oil that you could swim in it, but enough that everything is covered.

Tap in a little bit of grated parmesan cheese as well, for flavour.

Maybe some salt and pepper if that suits you.  Normally I don’t bother.  I dislike pine nuts, so they are omitted, as well.  Jerks.

Blend the crap out of that.

Line a greased baking tray or one lined with waxed paper with dobbles of the pesto goo, or fill up ice cube trays with the same and freeze for a few hours before popping them into a resealable freezer bag.

Add defrosted pesto to bread recipes, or use it to cobble together classy antipasti.  Pop frozen basil cubes into soups and sauces.

Hey, presto!  Pesto.

Handy Items Week: Immersion Blender

Cait and her fiancé  iPM will be on a whirlwind tour of St. John’s this week, so the Pie and I will be playing host and tour guide while they’re here.

To keep you entertained until they get out of our hair and I can give you your own personal tour of my city, I’m giving you eight days of gadgets that I cannot live without.

My mother calls this machine a Brzzht, because that’s the noise it makes when you use it.  She has a wee Braun with a pulse action.

Mine is an attachment on a lightweight electric hand-mixer I bought a few years ago, and I much prefer mine for the grip and the boosted power.

It’s so much easier to make a blended soup or hummus straight in the pot than it is to put it in a blender or food processor first. 

All you have to wash in this case is the blending attachment, and it’s a snap to put together.

Save yourself some dishes!

Roasted Garlic and Mushroom Soup

If you know me, you’ll know I don’t like soup.  Seriously.  Considering the number of soups I make I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true. If I wanted to sip hot liquids I would rather have a cup of tea.  Blended soups, however, are a different story.  To me they’re like hot, savoury pudding.  Plus they look uber-fancy when in reality they’re not, which is a good way to easily impress your dinner guests.

I do like mushrooms, however, and I like garlic.  If you like mushrooms as well, perhaps you will enjoy this.

This one I made up, having never made soup with mushrooms before in my life.  But it turned out okay.  The Pie doesn’t like mushrooms all that much, so I don’t have any real objective feedback at the moment, but I will shunt some of this off to The Lady Downstairs (Kª) and see what she and Kº and Il Principe think.

Slice up about a pound or some other ridiculous amount of mushrooms.  Don’t worry about getting them too thin – after you sauté them you’ll be mushing them up anyway.

Visit Massive Mushroom Mountain!

Melt a bit of butter in a pan and add a drop of olive oil to keep the butter from burning.  Sauté up your mushrooms.  I did it in three batches, because if I’ve learned anything from watching Julie & Julia, it’s that butter is one of the greatest innovations known today, and that you don’t crowd the mushrooms.

Always cook butter with a bit of olive oil to prevent burning.

While you’re at it, why don’t you go ahead and sauté up a sliced onion?

In a pot, bring about 4 cups of stock to a boil.  I used chicken broth, but of course you can use vegetable stock as well.

Plop in your mushrooms, onion, and a couple heads’ worth of roasted garlic.  Splash in some red or white wine and leave to simmer for about half an hour.

Wine is optional, yet encouraged.

Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Using an immersion blender, food processor, or stand blender, blend your soup until you have a fine mushy mass.  I love my immersion blender.  My mother calls it the ‘brzzht’, because that’s the noise it makes.  She’s an artist.

Pour in whipped cream or coconut milk as desired and heat to serve.

Stir in the cream if desired.

Then you eat it!

Serve with stuff that goes with soup.

*** EDIT: Kª called it a ‘soup-tasm.’  I’m not sure I want to know. ***