Zesty Winter Squash Soup

December 20, 2015

Zesty Winter Squash SoupAunt Suzy says . . .

It’s winter! Time for soups and stews. This one from our local newspaper caught my eye because Beth Dooley, creator the this recipe, is one of our local food/cooking gems here in the Twin Cities. Also, this looked so different from the soups I’ve been making with a mirepoix base. While some ingredients are familiar – squash, beans, tomatoes and kale – others sounded exotic in a soup – za’atar, orange zest and juice. Randy and I both loved this – we could hardly stop eating it! The recipe says it serves 4-6, but honestly after one meal we only had a tiny portion left for my lunch the next day. I will probably double the ingredients next time I make it.  I was excited that I met Beth yesterday at one of our local indoor winter farmers markets and was able to tell her how much we liked this soup.

Here’s Beth’s note from the article in the Strib: “Note: Think of this recipe as a series of suggestions; you can add other vegetables you have on hand, substitute chickpeas for white beans, try winter squash in lieu of pumpkin. Toss in leftover turkey or chicken and call it stew. The za’atar blend of spices can be found in the spice aisle of many grocery stores, culinary shops and food co-ops. From Beth Dooley.”  Check out Beth’s website for more about her and see all the great cookbooks she’s authored. A new book, a memoir, has just come out!

And here’s my note: I’ve been obsessed with using dried beans in soups these days following the Cook’s Illustrated brining method, so I’ve made some adaptations to Beth’s original which uses canned. If you want to take the quick and easy route, you can do so with Beth’s approach in her recipe. I won’t judge 🙂  (This makes me laugh because when making this soup, I texted my blog partner “I’m kicking myself for using dried beans instead of canned!”) Actually, this was pretty quick and easy using the dried beans, it just took the extra step to brine/soak them.

Serves 4 to 6.

Ingredients

2 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2-4 garlic cloves (to taste), minced

1 to 2 tablespoons za’atar (see Beth’s note)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Generous pinch red pepper flakes

4 cups chicken, turkey or vegetable stock

1 cup brined dried cannelinni or red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes with their juices (1 1/2 cups)

3 cups roasted kabocha or butternut squash or pumpkin, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 cup chopped parsley

grated orange zest from 1 medium orange (or to taste)

juice from half the medium orange (or to taste)

2 cups thinly sliced kale

Instructions

Brine the beans: Dissolve 3 tablespoons salt in 4 quarts of cold water.  Add the beans and soak overnight or up to 24 hours. Alternatively, you can bring the beans, salt and water to a boil, turn off the heat and let sit for 1 hour. In either case, drain the beans and rinse well.

Prepare the squash: Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F. I used Kabocha squash of the orange variety, but green Kabocha, butternut or pumpkin would be excellent in this recipe. Whichever you use, cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. Slice into 1-inch slices. Line a baking sheet with foil and then put a skim of vegetable oil on the foil. Place the squash slices on the foil and turn to coat both sides with the oil. Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees, turn the squash over using tongs and bake for another 8-10 minutes. Let cool. Remove the skin with a knife and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Set aside. (This step can be done up to 2 days ahead of making the soup.)

Make the soup: In a deep stockpot or dutch oven over medium heat, heat the oil and sauté the onion until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for about a minute till fragrant. Add the Za’atar, red pepper, salt and black pepper. Stir for a minute or two till fragrant.

Add the stock and the dried beans. Bring to a boil, turn down heat to low and simmer, covered, until the beans are done. This can vary depending on type and freshness of the beans you use from 30-60 minutes. I checked after 30 minutes and the cranberry beans I used were cooked through.

Stir in the squash and the tomatoes with their juices and continue simmering for about 10 minutes to blend the flavors.

Stir in the orange zest and juice, and parsley and continue simmering another 5 minutes until the flavors meld. Adjust the seasonings and add the kale before serving hot.

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Corn Meal Pound Cake - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

Cornmeal Pound Cake with Orange and Dried Cranberries

Aunt Suzy says . . .

I’ve wanted to make a cornmeal-based cake for a while, with my eye on one made with olive oil.  But this cake, featured in our local newspaper’s Taste section, looked good and was just what was needed to get me in gear.  We really enjoyed it for breakfast with tea and coffee, feeling that tea was the better complement.  I also toasted and buttered a slice the second day – delish!  One of the things we really liked about this cake is that it’s not very sweet, making it perfect for breakfast.  The original recipe suggested berries and/or whipped cream when serving the cake as a dessert.

Corn Meal Pound Cake with orange and dried cranberries - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

Margaux says…

I’m really glad Aunt Suzy shared this recipe with me!  I made it for our Saturday morning breakfast (baked the night before), and it was really fantastic with our over-easy eggs and yogurt with strawberries.  I love the orange flavor and the texture the corn meal gives to the cake.  My son pointed out that it would also be good with frosting (of course), and I agree, as a dessert it would be great with an orange glaze (2 tbsp fresh orange juice, 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tbsp orange zest).

Corn Meal Pound Cake with Orange and Dried Cranberries - Sweet and Savory Kitchens

Cornmeal Pound Cake with Orange and Dried Cranberries

Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
Generous pinch salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
5 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter or grease a 5 x 9-inch loaf pan.

Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until very light and fluffy.  Next, beat in the egg yolks one at a time, continuing to mix at high speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, orange rind and orange juice and dried cranberries.

Gently fold the dry ingredients into the butter mixture and stir until combined.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.  Gently fold the egg whites into the batter using a spatula until combined. Scoop into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  This will take 1 to 1 1/4 hours depending on your oven.

When done, remove and allow to cool in the pan.  Remove from the pan and turn the cake right side up. Cool completely before slicing.

Cornmeal Pound Cake with Orange and Dried Cranberries

AS COOK’S NOTES:  The original recipe called for 1/4 cup dried cranberries, but each slice had only 2-3 pieces per!  We’ve increased the amount of cranberries to 1/2 cup – they provide a nice contrast in taste and texture to the cake.  I used the organic dried cranberries from Trader Joe’s, which are large, round and plump. The baking time was specified at 1 hour 15 minutes, but I was glad I checked at 65 minutes, because the cake was definitely done – maybe slight too done!  I recommend setting a timer for 1 hour and checking from there until done.

Cornmeal Pound Cake with dried cranberries

M COOK’S NOTES: I agree about the baking time…I checked it at 55 minutes and found mine to be too done, too…It probably could have come out at 52 minutes.  I would actually recommend starting to check at 50 minutes.