Butternut Squash Soup – with a Mediterranean twist

At this time of year the butternut squash is coming out of the gardens and so fresh that when you cut into it beads of moisture appear – yum yum! Butternut squash soup is a favorite of mine, but this time I felt like a little twist.

Butternut Squash Soup with a Mediterranean twist

Butternut Squash Soup with a Mediterranean twist

You will need:

roasted butternut squash
chicken stock
onions
garlic

Seasonings: Ras al Hanout, cinnamon stick, salt and pepper

Garnishes: Grated feta cheese, minced chives, crispy bacon pieces

In a soup pot cook bacon pieces (I like to cut my bacon slices in thin slivers). Remove bacon as soon as it gets crispy. Remove some bacon fat, but leave enough to sauté your cinnamon stick, onions and garlic until soft. Add chicken stock and roasted butternut squash. Remove cinnamon stick as soon as you get a hint of it in the broth, but not overwhelming. Cook until everything is steaming hot – puree with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender (if using a blender take care to leave an opening for the steam to escape – you do not want to end up wearing this hot soup). Season to taste with salt and pepper.

The portions on this will vary greatly on the size of your squash, and the amount of soup you want! For tonight there were only 2 of us so I used 1/2 a squash (about 2 cups) to 4 cups of chicken stock.

Serve once the soup has been pureed – garnish with the chives, bacon bits and grated feta.

For a vegetarian option, leave out the bacon and use vegetable stock.

Either way – a delicious soup!

Torn and Tossed Garlic Bread

Everybody loves the crunchy crust and soft tender bits of garlic bread – why not get more of it?

Torn garlic bread is crunchy and soft all at the same time.

Torn garlic bread is crunchy and soft all at the same time.

I had a loaf of sourdough bread and half a loaf of French bread – rather than tear it I cut it all into approximately 2 inch pieces.

Melt 1/2 cup butter, stir in 2 garlic cloves and 1 small shallot – both chopped fine. Naturally, use more garlic if you feel so inclined (and everybody is eating it…).

In a large bowl combine the melted butter, garlic and shallot mixture – add in the cubed bread, season with salt and pepper and toss well.

This is great made earlier in the day too, just let it sit and absorb all those flavours.

When you are ready to serve, spread cubes on baking sheet – take care not to overcrowd the pieces. Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes just until the outside is nice and crispy, golden brown.

Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve – everybody will love it!

Serve this with as any side dish, or with your favorite soup or salad.

Roasted Squash Soup with Chipotle & Chorizo

It is squash season and soup is the best way to enjoy those cool fall nights.

Chipotle Chorizo Squash Soup
1 butternut squash

1 red onion

6 cups chicken or vegetable stock

2 chorizo sausage

2 tsp chipotle chile in adobo sauce

cilantro, roughly chopped

green onion, sliced

 

Quarter a whole squash lengthwise, quarter the onion, & drizzle with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Roast at 375 until fork tender.

While the squash and onion are roasting, remove chorizo from casing, and crumble into soup pot.  Fry until sausage is crispy, and allow to drain on a paper towel. Drain any residual grease from pot, but do not clean.

In same soup pot heat up chicken or vegetable stock.  When squash and onions are fork tender take them out of the oven and remove skins and put the pulp into the pot.  Simmer until quite tender.

Using an immersion blender puree until smooth.  (Alternatively you could use a blender and blend in small batches, but always remember to leave room for the steam to escape out the lid or it will explode and you and your kitchen will be covered in hot, steamy soup …. NOT a good thing).  

Return to simmer, and taste – adjust for seasonings with salt, pepper and if you like it spicy, add a bit more chipotle.

Garnish with cilantro, green onion and crispy chorizo.

Serve as a starter course or a whole meal with fresh hot baking powder biscuits.

Use your imagination – all soup recipes are just a starting point.  Tonight’s version of this soup included some leftovers …. in this case I had some leftover stewed yellow heirloom tomatoes with squash (yum yum), and a little bit of chipotle chicken leftover, so they went into the pot before using the immersion blender.  

Roasted Root Vegetable Soup

Fall is a great time for getting a few meals out of a roasted chicken …. the house smells great 2 days in a row.

Roasted Root Vegetable Soup
 

In a roasting dish combine:

beets – quartered

turnips (optional!) – quartered

onion – halved and cut into wedges

carrots – thick slices

squash – peeled and cut into wedges

leeks – cut into pieces

garlic cloves – whole

Season everything with olive oil, crumbled dry basil, oregano and parsley.  Toss well and season with salt and pepper.

Place cut pieces of chicken into a bowl, along with the same herb blend, salt, pepper, olive oil, juice of 1 lemon and 1 tbsp of dijon mustard – this can be pretty versatile so if you prefer feel free to use boneless, skinless chicken breasts, or if you would rather use a vegetable stock for the soup just roast vegetables on their own.  

Roast in a moderate oven (375) until all vegetables are fork tender and ready for dinner, and the chicken is cooked through.  

This is a great fall or winter weather dish – fill up your roasting pan with as many fresh vegetables as you can find and roast away.  It does take quite a while for the vegetables to soften, so just keep testing them.

For a complete dinner, whip up some mashed potatoes and you are good to go!

The next day, take all the leftover vegetables (of which I hope there are lots) and simmer in either chicken or vegetable stock.  Taste, and adjust seasonings if necessary.  If you want a little more flavour in there, simmer a parmesan cheese rind or drop in a little tomato sauce.

Pulverize everything with an immersion blender, or a standing blender.  If using a standing blender, PLEASE MAKE SURE TO HAVE A SPACE FOR THE STEAM TO VENT – OTHERWISE YOU RUN THE RISK OF BURNING YOURSELF AND MAKING A DISASTER OF YOUR KITCHEN!!!.  

Taste again and adjust for salt and pepper.  Serve with some freshly baked biscuits for a great fall dinner.

Chicken Chile Soup

Chicken Chile Soup

I’m not sure what is going on with the weather, but we are having an unseasonal amount of rain and grey skies.  Today just felt like soup and biscuits.  After a look into the freezer, I discovered some chicken stock, and chicken breast – perfect – I had lots of vegetables in the fridge so a hearty, warm soup was exactly what we needed.

6 – 8 cups chicken stock

3 chicken breasts, thinly sliced

1 tin (14 oz) tomato

1 dried ancho chile

1 dried guajillo chile

1 onion, minced

1 each red, green, yellow and orange pepper, roughly chopped

3 stalks celery, sliced

1 tsp ancho chile powder

1 tbsp regular chile powder

2 tbsp masa (corn flour)

Throw it all into a pot – leaving the ancho and guajillo chiles whole, and allow it to simmer – taste and adjust for seasoning – add a little salt and pepper.  If you like it spicy add more chile.

To dress the soup up a bit, garnish with chives, avocado and fresh herbs.

Doukhobor Borscht

We spent 2 years living in Castlegar, BC – Doukhobor territory – and I was determined to leave there with the best authentic borsch recipe I could.  Here it is – written out in this format so that you follow each step exactly.   This is a very rich, creamy and delicious version of Borscht – nothing at all like the beet borscht. 

It is a labour of love to make, but you will be so glad you did it.  Perfect for a rainy or cold day when you are going to be inside anyway!

Boil 2 ½ quarts of water in large stock pot.  Add ½ can tomatoes.  When water is boiling, add 1 tbsp salt, drop in 5 or 6 medium potatoes, peeled and cut in half.  Add ½ cup each of grated carrot and beet, and 1 medium onion, finely chopped.

While this is cooking, get yourself another large pot or cast iron pan – melt 3 tbsp butter and add ¾ cup finely chopped onion and let sauté for a few minutes until very soft and translucent – but DO NOT brown.  Add 3 cups of canned tomatoes, and let simmer until it becomes a thick sauce.  (Cooking this well removes the acid from the tomatoes so your cream won’t curdle)

Into yet another frying pan melt 3 tbsp butter and add 2 cups shredded cabbage.  Saute but do not brown.  Allow to cook until cabbage is soft and tender.  Shred another 2 cups of cabbage to add (raw) to the borscht later.

When potatoes are tender, remove them to a large bowl, add 2 tbsp butter and mash well until they are nice and creamy – slowly adding 1 small carton of cream.  Mix well and set aside.

Add 1 1/2 cup diced raw potatoes to stockpot and ½ of the tomato sauce mixture along with 2 tbsp butter.  When diced potatoes are tender add the uncooked shredded cabbage and bring to boiling point, but DO NOT BOIL!!  When cabbage is tender, add the fried cabbage, the rest of the tomato sauce and mashed potatoes.  Add ½ cup chopped fresh green pepper and black pepper to taste.

The finishing touch is stirring in some chopped fresh dill.

Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream and a dill sprig for garnish.  We like this with piping hot biscuits right out of the oven.

Tan Tan Noodles

This has been one of our family favorites for years, and one the girls always request when coming home – I hope you like it just as much!

Cooking with Asian ingredients may look intimidating at first, mainly because the ingredient list is so lengthy, but once you have all the supplies it is quick and easy to do so many different dishes.  I always recommend having all the ingredients chopped, and at hand before you start cooking.  Wok cookery is quick!

 

BROTH

2 tbsp peanut oil

6 tbsp fresh ginger, minced

8 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp chile oil

8 tbsp chinese black beans (in the jar)

6 scallions (green onions) chopped finely

2 tbsp Chinese chile paste

5 tbsp LOW SODIUM soy sauce

6 tbsp peanut butter

4 tbsp tahini paste

6 cups chicken or vegetable broth

For Tan Tan deluxe – 1 pound extra lean ground beef

ASSEMBLY

thin asian noodles, cooked and drained

green onions – sliced thin

cilantro – chopped

peanuts – chopped and toasted

bean sprouts – rinsed well

In a medium saucepan, with heavy bottom, heat the oil over moderate heat.  Add the ginger and garlic and cook for about 3 minutes – or until they begin to turn golden brown – watch carefully so they don’t overcook.  Add sesame oil, chili oil and the black beans.  Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add green onions and cook 2 minutes.  Stir in the chile paste and soy sauce – stir to create a smooth sauce.  Add the peanut butter and tahini, again stirring to create a smooth paste.  Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Add the broth slowly and reduce the heat to medium low.  Let the sauce simmer for at least 15 minutes to allow flavours to blend and the broth to thicken.  Taste, taste, taste!!  You should have a rich broth, full of flavour and layers of tastes.  If you like it richer, play  with all the broth ingredients until you get the balance you personally prefer – you may like it spicier so go ahead and add more chili oil or even some chili flakes.  If you like more of a peanut flavour, add more peanut butter – all so easy to do and get your preferred flavour balance.

To serve place noodles in bowl, add broth.  Scatter green onions, cilantro, bean sprouts and peanuts over top.

If you like the Deluxe Version – brown the ground beef and drain off any fat – add 1 or 2 ladles of the broth and allow the beef to soak up the liquid.  When serving, sprinkle the beef on top of the noodles before adding the broth.