Wingin’ It Wednesday: Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup 17

I had a craving for a roasted vegetable soup, and my parents picked up a variety of squashes from the local farmer’s market, so I grabbed the nearest butternut and I got started.  I love any excuse to roast vegetables, so preheat your oven to 450°F and get some pans ready.

I sliced up a butternut squash and set it on a baking sheet.  Actually, it took two baking sheets (butternut squashes have a lot on them).  I also cut the tops off 4 heads garlic and chucked them on a sheet as well.

Butternut Squash Soup 1

I had about 4 or 5 parsnips that I scrubbed and cut up as well to be roasted. They’ll add sweetness to the mix. This is gonna be a sweet soup.

Butternut Squash Soup 2

Drizzle all yo’ roasty goodness with olive oil and salt and pepper and roast everything for about 45 minutes, or until they’re nice and crusty on the outside and you can jab a fork in them easily.

Butternut Squash Soup 7

The parsnips should be squishy in their innards as well.

Butternut Squash Soup 8

Told you there was a lot to a butternut squash.

Butternut Squash Soup 9

You’re going to want to wait until the garlic has cooled before you pop the sticky cloves out with your fingers.

Butternut Squash Soup 6

While that’s roasting or cooling or whatever, chop up about 2 large onions and plop them in a frying pan with some butter and some olive oil and cook them on medium low until they start to caramelize.  This will make them lovely and sweet.

Butternut Squash Soup 3

Butternut Squash Soup 4

Butternut Squash Soup 5

Peel the roasted squash (or use a big metal spoon to scoop it out of the skin, like I did) and plop it in a big mother of a pot, together with your caramelized onions, your roasted parsnips, and your roasted garlic.

Butternut Squash Soup 10

Top the pot up with some stock.  I ended up using 3 cartons (at 900mL each) of chicken stock.

Butternut Squash Soup 11

Bring that to a simmer, stirring to break up the squash a bit.  Season with salt and pepper while you’re waiting for it to bubble.

Butternut Squash Soup 13

Once it starts to bubble, leave it for a few minutes, then remove it from the heat and have a go at it with the immersion blender.  BRRRRRRRZZZZZZZZZHT! Season with a bit of nutmeg to taste.

Butternut Squash Soup 15

Serve with more sprinkled nutmeg, a dash of plain yogurt or sour cream, some chives, or just plain Jane like this!

Butternut Squash Soup 16

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup

Here is yet another Martha Stewart soup and I think I like this the best of the three I’ve made recently.  I made all three over one weekend, so I got a chance to taste them all at the same time.  In this soup, the vegetables are roasted beforehand to bring out the flavour, and man oh man is it some flavour!

Preheat your oven to 425°F and position your oven racks so one is at the very top and one is at the very bottom.

On the bottom tray you’re going to have your eggplant and your chickpeas.

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup

On the top tray will be your tomatoes, carrots, and garlic.

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup

Peel about 12 cloves garlic and peel and chop up about 1/2lb carrots.  This equaled 2 large carrots, for me.

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup

Then you need to halve and core about 3lbs plum (Roma) tomatoes.  The recipe says that this is about 12 tomatoes, but I ended up with 18 to make that weight.  I found the tomato huller tool worked great for this.  It took out the top stem bit, and then after I halved them it was great at scooping out the innards.

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup

Toss the tomatoes with the garlic and tomatoes and 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Garnish liberally with fresh ground pepper and pinches of sea salt.  Spread them in a single layer (if you can) on a rimmed baking sheet with the cut sides of the tomatoes facing downwards.

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup

Chop up 1 large eggplant (about 1 1/2lb) into 3/4″ pieces.  Of course our grocery store never has the same kind of eggplant two days in a row, so I got 4 baby eggplants instead.

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup

Rinse and drain 1 can of chickpeas.  Toss those in with the eggplant, together with 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 teaspoons curry powder.

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup

Spread that out on a rimmed baking sheet as well.

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup

Roast your vegetables, tomatoes on the top rack, eggplant on the bottom, for 45 minutes.  Toss your vegetables halfway through.

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup

Now your tomato skins will be all lovely and wrinkly.

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup

You can just pick them off with a set of tongs.  Be careful not to burn yourself.

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup

Once your tomatoes are peeled, dump the contents of the tomato tray (carrots, garlic, skinless tomatoes and juices) into a large saucepan.

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup

Purée the tomato mixture and then add 3-4 cups water.

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup

Stir in the eggplant mixture and bring the whole thing to a simmer.

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup

Serve garnished with fresh cilantro and crusty bread.  You can also freeze this soup for later on down the road.

Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup

Tofu Feature Month: Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

Tofu Lasagna

Today we are going to use tofu to replace ricotta cheese in a healthy and hearty lasagna.  This recipe makes for 2 dishes of pasta, so you can freeze one and then thaw it for cooking at a later date.

Start with your roasting vegetables.  Preheat your oven to 450°F.

Slice up 2 Italian eggplants (or one small regular one), 1 zucchini, and 2 red peppers.

Tofu Lasagna

Make the pieces relatively small so you don’t have to cut them up too much when you eat them.

Tofu Lasagna

Plop those in a roasting pan and drizzle lightly with olive oil.  Toss thoroughly and roast for about 20-30 minutes, stirring about halfway through, until everything is tender and fragrant.  Reduce the heat of the oven to 350°F if you are planning on cooking your lasagna right away.

Tofu Lasagna

Next, chop up about half a large yellow onion, and about a dozen mushrooms.  Sauté those suckers in a large saucepan with a wee bit of olive oil until they are tender as well.

Tofu Lasagna

Add the roasted vegetables and stir them around.

Tofu Lasagna

Pour in 2 jars tomato-based pasta sauce and mix that around to warm everything up.  I only used one jar of sauce in this recipe and didn’t have quite enough sauce to cover everything, so I definitely recommend two jars.  Add in a bit of fresh basil, too,  if you’ve got it.

Tofu Lasagna

Thaw 1 500g package of frozen spinach.

Tofu Lasagna

Add to that 2 packages soft tofu (or firm silken tofu) and squish it around.

Tofu Lasagna

I puréed about half of it in a blender for a creamier texture.

Tofu Lasagna

Season with salt and pepper. Shoulda used a bigger bowl …

Tofu Lasagna

Now, line the bottom of your oblong casserole dishes with noodles.  I use the no-cook lasagna because it’s less of a pain in the butt, and with the size of my dishes, each casserole will take 9 noodles.  Spread on a generous layer of the roasted vegetables in tomato sauce (I had to be sparing, because I only used the one jar of sauce).

Tofu Lasagna

Add another layer of noodles, then a heaping of the tofu/spinach mixture. Use half the stuff for each casserole.

Tofu Lasagna

More noodles.  The rest of your tomato sauce.  Try to cover all the noodles so they don’t dry out while baking.  Obviously, that’s not what happened here.  But what can you do?  I learned from my mistakes.

Tofu Lasagna

For a little extra flavour, feel free to top the lasagna with a handful of crumbled feta cheese.

Tofu Lasagna

Bake at 350°F for about 30-40 minutes, or until the top of the lasagna is all nice and bubbly.  Some lasagna advocates recommend covering the casserole and then uncovering it in the last ten minutes to crispen it up, but I’ve found that’s only helpful if you are working from a frozen casserole.  If you plan to freeze this lasagna and eat it later, I suggest you let it thaw completely before cooking.

Tofu Lasagna

Now you can eat it.  Comfort food that won’t kill you.  Genius. Though it probably would have been a better choice NOT to eat it with garlic bread.

Tofu Lasagna

Garbage Stew with Roasted Vegetables, Pork AND Bacon

So I have me here some leftover roasted vegetables.

And I have me here a slab of bacon I deemed too fatty to continue to fry up and eat for breakfast.

And I also have me here half a pork tenderloin the Pie and ate for dinner with the aforementioned roasted vegetables.  It wasn’t the tastiest of beasts.

Sounds like we have a soup in the making, folks.

I wrapped the bacon in cheesecloth to prevent me from losing it in the soup, as I intended to remove it once I was done my simmering.

I also tossed in two beef bouillon cubes for extra flavour.

I chucked everything in the pot and filled it with water until things were just covered.

Brought it to a boil, then took the lid off and let it simmer down.  Then I chucked in some pearl barley for extra heartiness.

I scooped out a bit of the broth and added a tablespoon of flour to it for thickening.  

Stir that up real good, now, and squish out all the lumps before you add it to the soup.

Stir that floury goodness in and let it bubble a bit with the lid off for about an hour.

Take out the bacon before you serve.

Risotto Cakes with Roasted Vegetables in Rose Sauce

I went to lunch last Saturday with Kª (of KK fame, otherwise known as The Lady Downstairs) at The Rooms, St. John’s only museum/archives/art gallery/restaurant.

One of the few vegetarian options on the menu was risotto cakes with roasted vegetables in a rosé sauce, so I ordered it, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

The Pie and I kind of have a policy where we won’t order it in a restaurant if we can make it ourselves, and I think this is one of those things that I could easily re-create.

I had to think about this for a bit, and do some research.  I haven’t made risotto in years and the last time I did so things ended badly.  Not only did this risotto have to be well-done, but I had to figure out how to bake it into wedges.

I also had to think about the sauce I was going to use.  I could just buy some rosé sauce in a jar from the store, but I figure if I was going to take the time and have the patience to make risotto that turned out right, then I was going to make the effort to create an original sauce to put it in.

Also, I was on a quest for the right kind of roasting vegetables.  The vegetables I had at the restaurant were red, yellow, and green peppers, with eggplant and I believe zucchini.  I was going to do it with red peppers only, onions, zucchini, and butternut squash because I couldn’t find any eggplant anywhere (you make do with what you have, right?).

The nice thing about this recipe, I think, is you can do all three parts separately and ahead of time, and then heat the whole thing up later on.

Toss in a bowl with pepper and salt.
Oiled up like a Turkish oil wrestler.

So let’s start with the vegetables.  Preheat your oven to 400°F. Cut one large onion into eighths and chuck in a large baking pan.  Chop 2 small zucchini into thick discs and add it to the pan, along with a red pepper, cut into long thick strips, and one butternut squash, seeds and stringy bits removed, cut into wedges.  Season with salt and pepper, and toss with olive oil until all the vegetables are coated.  It’s easiest to do the tossing in a bowl, actually.  Cover tightly with foil and bake until golden and aromatically soft, about 30 minutes or so.  I then uncovered them and baked them for a further 30 minutes so they crispened up a tad.  Use your judgment.  Leave the vegetables to cool for a bit while you do other things, but leave the oven on.

Roasty toasty.

While the vegetables are doing their thing you can start on your sauce.

Finely chop about 6 or 7 regular-sized mushrooms.  Sauté them in a large pan with a bit of butter and a bit of olive oil (the oil keeps the butter from burning) until brown and tender.   Add 3 or 4 teaspoons of minced garlic (from a jar, because that’s how I roll) and reduce the heat.

Sautee with butter.
Spice it up.
Add cream and stir carefully.

Add a 28oz can (about 800mL) of crushed tomatoes to the pan.  Add a 5oz (150mL) can of tomato paste and mix evenly over medium heat.  Sprinkle in generous amounts of dried parsley, dried basil, and dried oregano.  Let this simmer for about 15 minutes, then add 1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream (whipping cream).  Alternately, you can use plain yogurt or coconut milk.  Stir carefully until fully integrated, then reduce heat to low and leave it like that, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

Now we can work on that risotto of ours.  In a medium saucepan, melt some butter with some olive oil (again, to prevent the butter from burning), and chuck in one whole onion, diced.  Sauté that sucker for a little while until translucent.

Saute until translucent

Add in one cup arborio rice (that’s right, it’s not actually called risotto — risotto is what you make out of it), one cup of dry white wine, and a heaping tablespoon of powdered vegetable broth.  Stir at high heat and allow the liquid to evaporate.

Add wine and rice.

Add one cup boiling (or very hot) water to rice and stir occasionally to release the stuff that sticks to the bottom.  After about 3 or 4 minutes, the water will have been absorbed by the rice.  Repeat this step twice more, so the total amount of liquid you will have added will be 3 cups of water and one cup of wine.  It will take about 20 minutes for the risotto to achieve its signature creamy consistency.  While it’s doing that, carefully butter a springform pan and set it aside.

Creamy risotto

Add 2 tablespoons butter to the rice as well as 3 tablespoons grated romano cheese.  Remove from heat and beat in 2 eggs.

Quickly stir in the eggs.
Level the top.
Bake until set and golden.

Pour the risotto mixture into the buttered springform pan and level the top.  Pop the pan in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the ‘cake’ is firm and golden.  Allow to cool for about 15 minutes.

Run a soft spatula around the edges of the ‘cake’ and pop it from the springform pan.  Allow to cool a bit more, then cut into wedges.

Cool and cut into wedges.

While the risotto cake is cooling, go back to your vegetables.  Peel the skin from the roasted squash and roughly cut the vegetables into bite-sized pieces.

Add the vegetables to the rose sauce and heat the whole thing up until it starts to bubble a bit.

Heat up the vegetables and sauce.

Arrange one or two wedges in a bowl and surround with vegetables and sauce.  Sprinkle with more grated romano cheese.  Serves 4-6.

I hope you're hungry.

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Herbs

me: have you ever made anything with spaghetti squash before?

Cait: since i don’t know what you’re talking about, no

Cait: i think it looks so much like spaghetti that i’d be disappointed when it didn’t taste like spaghetti

me: it tastes like squash

Cait: of course it tastes like squash it’s a freaking squash

The card from my magic book.

The mysterious and elusive spaghetti squash.

I have always been intrigued about the physical properties of spaghetti squash, although until the other day I had never tried it.  We found a squash sale at Sobeys and decided to give it a whirl.  I wrangled up a recipe I had been keeping for yonks out of my magic book of recipes, and I went at it.

The recipe called for 4lbs of spaghetti squash.  My scale only goes up to 500g so I had to give it my best estimate.  It was supposed to serve 4, so I did some mental math and came up with two squash about the size of my feet (while this may not be a standard measurement for you, it works pretty well for me).

I may need a bigger scale.

Cut the squash in half lengthwise.  The recipe said nothing to me about removing the seeds and stringy bits so I left them in and I regretted it later.  I would recommend digging those suckers out with a grapefruit spoon or serrated knife.

Cut side up.

Brush the open squash halves with olive oil, then sprinkle with brown sugar, coarse salt, and ground pepper.

Cut side down. Don't worry about spraying the pan - the oil on the squash is enough.

Flip the squash halves face down on a rimmed baking sheet and chuck them in the oven at 400°F for 45 minutes.  Cool them, in the pan and on a rack, for 10 minutes after that.

Using a table fork, dig out the contents of the squash in stringy little bits – it really is amazing how much this resembles spaghetti – and put the contents in a large bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil, then add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of roasted chopped hazelnuts (fun fact: also known as filberts), 1/4 to 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese, and 1/4 to 1/2 cup of chopped herbs (the recipe called for fresh cilantro, but I only had a tiny bit of frozen stuff, so I mixed it with some frozen pesto I had made and that was that).  I can assume that you would use any herb you had on hand, really.

Hazelnuts, Pesto, and Parmesan Cheese - my three favourite things.
The leftover squash shells.
Fork the crap out of that thing.

Toss and serve immediately.

I actually wasn’t too happy with this recipe.  The first negative was, of course, the left-in seeds, which, had they been properly roasted like pumpkin seeds, would have been awesome, but because they were still pretty raw, were actually kind of nasty.  I also didn’t feel that the hazelnuts added anything special to this recipe.  Next time, I would go with slivered almonds or pecan bits, for a milder, sweeter taste.  The pesto was excellent of course, but that’s because I have mad skills.  The leftovers were better the next day, but I think I will just chuck the remainder in some sort of minestrone and be done with it.  Recipe to follow, I guess.

Toss and serve.