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.

Holiday granola

Margaux says…

This time of year, when peaches are extra, super delicious at the farmer’s market (and those 4 lb boxes at Trader Joe’s! Yum!) my favorite breakfast is yogurt, granola and peaches. It’s really like a heavenly dessert for breakfast. Juicy, sweet peaches. Creamy, rich (whole milk, of course) yogurt. And crunchy granola, with tons of nuts and a hint of salty-sweet. I also have it for dessert sometimes, too (it’s great on ice cream!) And for a mid-day snack. We walk through one of those 4 lb boxes of peaches in about a half a week!

Holiday Granola - Sweet & Savory Kitchens

The granola is just as an important ingredient as the peaches. It can’t be too sweet, too chewy, or too hard. Supermarket granola, even the best kind, always has a weird aftertaste to me, almost like a coating is left in my mouth. I really don’t like it. Thankfully, making your own granola is really easy. I have two recipes that I use, both from my Aunt Judy. I’ve already posted one, the original “crunchy granola,” that I make on a regular basis. It’s very cheap, quick and easy. I also use this recipe, which Aunt Judy calls “Holiday Granola.” It has a few more ingredients (more nuts!), and uses real maple syrup instead of honey and maple flavoring like the other one. My aunt makes it for friends and family members as Christmas gifts, which is how I first tasted it. It makes a perfect Christmas gift because of the pumpkin seeds (or pepitas) and dried cranberries: it’s red and green. I prefer it to the “Crunchy Granola” recipe, but don’t make it as often because it’s quite a bit more expensive. But it is totally worth it!

Maple Pecan Granola - Sweet & Savory Kitchens

Holiday Granola

4 cups rolled oats (not instant)
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup large flake, unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup raw sesame seeds
1/2 cup wheat germ, preferably untoasted*
1 cup maple syrup
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp canola oil
1 cup dried cranberries, or other dried fruit blend (optional)**

* I’ve made this gluten-free by substituting flax meal for the wheat germ and had great results.

**I leave out the dried fruit during the summer because I don’t want it competing with my delicious in-season fruits. Totally your call, though. 

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Mix all dry ingredients in large bowl. Heat maple syrup, oil and salt together, stirring to dissolve salt. Pour over dry ingredients and mix well. Spread in large flat pan (I use a large baking sheet and it fits perfectly).  Bake in oven for 45 minutes or more, until golden brown, stirring every 15 minutes. Sprinkle dried fruit over granola and allow to cool to room temperature. Store in airtight containers.

Note: I have subbed all sorts of nuts for the ones suggested, just sticking to the same measurements. In this last batch I swapped half the pecans for cashews, and in the past I have used chopped walnuts in place of pecans, pistachios in place of pumpkin seeds and an additional 1/2 cup of sunflower seeds in place of sesame seeds. Just make sure all the nuts are raw and unsalted!

multigrain sandwich bread - Sweet & Savory Kitchens

Margaux says…

Yesterday was a total flop in the kitchen. I started out making this bread, got to step two and couldn’t find the honey ANYWHERE. I asked my 2-year-old daughter, who is notorious for hiding things, where she put it. “Ummmmmmm….in there,” she said uncertainly, and halfheartedly pointed towards the living room. My multigrain cereal was quickly cooling, soon going to drop below the 100 degree mark, and I frantically searched the house, to no avail. I gave up, and scrapped the now very cool cereal, and made granola. (Which turned out great, so I suppose the day wasn’t a total failure. And while I was at my hair appointment, which was also a success, my husband found the honey where Stella squirreled it away in a shopping bag in the kitchen. Sigh.)

weighing ingredients

dough ball

Homemade pasta was on the menu for that night, which I got started on immediately after my haircut. I’d made it only once before, but it was pretty easy and seamless, so I thought it would be no problem to make starting at 3:30 pm. Ha. I mistakenly used a different recipe, and after 2 hours of work had to throw out the whole thing. Of course, I cried. And the kids, bored with TV and with me being in the kitchen, started going bonkers. I turned just in time to see my daughter playing in the bowl of flours that I was saving for the bread I wanted to start on again the next day. When my husband came home from work, I was at my wits end, and said I was never going in the kitchen again. Ok, end of rant.

rolled out dough
rolled out dough
dough log

Here I am, the next day, making the bread. I can say it’s because I’m saving us money, but that would only be part of the truth (good bread is expensive!). But it’s mostly because it’s been a month since I made this last, and I have been dreaming about it. I don’t think I can eat another supermarket loaf again, at least not for awhile. This bread is amazing. It takes my family about 4 days to walk through two loaves. I wouldn’t say it’s SUPER easy to make, but so worth it. This winter, when we didn’t have much to do but sit around and read and play games and make food, I kept us stocked with this bread. So, here I am, back in the kitchen, making this bread, while my crazy daughter is doing who-knows-what. This time I will at least make sure I have the honey, and that she keeps her hands out of the flour.

loaves, before rise
loaves, after rise

 

Multigrain Sandwich Bread - Sweet & Savory Kitchens

 

Easy Multigrain Sandwich Bread - Sweet & Savory Kitchens

Easy Multigrain Sandwich Bread

adapted from Cook’s Illustrated (of course)

Tools you will need in order to make this:
-Stand mixer with dough hook attachment
-Two 9×5″ loaf pans (I have made this with 8×4″ pans, and it turned out okay, but I would recommend the bigger size)
-Kitchen thermometer (preferably instant-read)

Tools that really really come in handy when making this:
-Water sprayer/spritzer bottle
-Bench scraper (like this one)
-Kitchen scale (I like this one because it comes in a rainbow of colors, and it slides nicely in with my cookbooks on the shelf because it’s nice and flat.)

A note on ingredients: You will need to get a 7-grain hot cereal mix, like the ones from Bob’s Red Mill and Arrowhead Mills. You will find it in the cereal aisle, with the hot cereals, but I’ve found that it’s not in all grocery stores. I have bought it on Amazon a few times; it’s a good idea if you’re going to use it often because it’s a bigger package. It’s also really delicious as actual breakfast cereal. 🙂

6 1/4 ounces (1 1/4 cups) 7-grain hot cereal mix
20 ounces (2 1/2 cups) boiling water
15 ounces (3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour (plus extra for dusting work surface)
7 1/2 ounces (1 1/2 cups) whole wheat flour
4 tbsp honey *(see below for vegan option)
4 tbsp unsalted butter, *(see below for vegan option)
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon table salt
3/4 cup unsalted pumpkin or sunflower seeds (I do half and half if I have both)
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1. Place cereal mix in bowl of standing mixer and pour boiling water over it; let stand, stirring occasionally, until mixture cools to 100 degrees and resembles thick porridge, about 1 hour. Whisk flours in medium bowl.**
2. Once grain mixture has cooled, add honey, melted butter, and yeast and stir to combine. Attach bowl to standing mixer fitted with dough hook. With mixer running on low speed, add flours, 1/2 cup at a time, and knead until dough forms ball, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes; cover bowl with plastic and let dough rest 20 minutes. Add salt and knead on medium-low speed until dough clears sides of bowl, 3 to 4 minutes (if it does not clear sides, add 2 to 3 tablespoons additional flour and continue mixing); continue to knead dough for 5 more minutes on low (on my Kitchenmaid, it’s speed level 2). Add seeds and knead for another 15 seconds. Transfer dough to floured work surface and knead by hand until seeds are dispersed evenly and dough forms smooth, taut ball. Place dough into greased container with 4-quart capacity; cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled, 45 to 60 minutes.***
3. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray two 9×5-inch loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and pant into 12×9-inch rectangle ****(see note below); cut dough in half crosswise with knife or bench scraper. With short side facing you, starting at farthest end, roll one dough piece into a log. Pinch seam together gently. Spritz with water all over, then roll in the oats so that they completely cover the loaf. Drop loaf into prepared pan, then repeat process for second loaf. Cover loaves lightly with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled in size, 30 to 40 minutes (in the winter, when my kitchen is chilly, I rise the loaves on my stovetop while the oven is preheating). Dough should barely spring back when poked with your knuckle when it is ready to go in the oven. Bake until internal temperature registers 200 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 35-40 minutes. (I start checking at 30 minutes). Remove loaves from pans and cool on wire rack before slicing, about 3 hours.

Notes:

This bread is called easy, and it is. The 7-grain cereal replaces a whole bunch of different flours, so the ingredient list is pretty minimal for a multigrain bread. I’ve never been much of a bread-baker; baking with yeast seemed daunting to me. This was one of the first bread recipes I ever tried, and it turned out great the first time! However, it is time consuming. It takes almost 4 hours to make this, from start to finish, including resting and rising times. The nice part is that you can get the hot cereal mix going, and get all your other ingredients ready while it’s cooling. But for me, the rest and rise times just aren’t quite long enough for me to go anywhere, so it has to be made on a day that I’ll be sticking around the house.

*Vegan options: For the butter, you can probably substitute Earth Balance, but my trusted vegan source says that what’s way way better is making your own vegan butter from scratch. She uses this recipe. For the honey, my source recommends “Honee”, which is a vegan honey substitute made from apples and lemon. Agave syrup would probably be too sweet, and I think maple syrup is too strong of a flavor, although if you can’t find Honee and don’t want to order on Amazon, maple syrup is probably your best bet.

**Having a digital kitchen scale is so very helpful when baking. I just started doing this, and wish I would have started years ago! It’s a more accurate way to measure flour and other dry ingredients, and it is super fast and easy. I just put my bowl on the scale, hit “tare”, add the first ingredient, then hit “tare” again, and add the next ingredient. “Tare” clears the scale, so you are weighing just what you’re putting in after pushing it. I recommended a scale above, but you can find ones even cheaper on Amazon that get good reviews.

***An easy way to get your dough to the perfect 12×9″ size before making into loaves, spread your flour out on the counter, and then draw a 12×9″ rectangle in the flour with your finger. Then plop your dough in the middle of the rectangle and gently press it to the edges of the drawn rectangle. (See photos)

quick tip
rolled out dough

 

****Today while baking the bread, I ended up running out of time before it would be ready to go in the oven, so I tried slowing down the final rise process by putting the prepared loaves in the refrigerator. They ended up still really great, so if you are short on time for some reason, I recommend putting your prepared loaves in the fridge until you can bake them. I’m not sure exactly how long you can do this for…the recommended rise time for the loaves is 35-40 minutes at room temperature. I put them in the fridge right after preparing them, and took them out to bake about 3.5 hours later and they had doubled in size in the fridge. I let them get back to room temperature (set them on the stovetop while the oven preheated) before baking. I don’t think you could let them sit in the fridge for much longer than that since they doubled already in that amount of time…definitely not overnight. But this is a quick fix if you somehow run short on time and need to come back to it later!

 

Late Summer Veggie Saute - Sweet & Savory Kitchens

Aunt Suzy says . . . 

I’ve been making these sautés for a while now, using veggies that are in abundance this time of year.  The source of my idea was this sweet corn sauté from a couple of years ago. I thought it would be delicious with other vegetables and maybe some pasta. And maybe a little Parmesan . . . what’s not to like when Parmesan cheese is part of the equation?!! This is ultra flexible and the “3-Ways” reference is that it can be served as a side with a couple of variations and as a vegetarian main dish with small pasta shapes added. I made it last night in about 45 minutes, including chopping and cooking the pasta. Pretty fast, I would say!

Late Summer Veggie Saute - Sweet & Savory Kitchens

Margaux says…

When Aunt Suzy mentioned a new easy pasta dish for dinner, I was all for it! I love the sweet corn saute dish that she mentioned, and make it pretty often in the summer. I loved the idea of adding pasta to it, along with the kale, zucchini and tomatoes. And it’s beautiful when you add the tomatoes! We were all oohing and aaahing about it while I was taking photos.  I will definitely be making this again before summer is over. It’s delicious with the pasta and Parmesan!

Late Summer Veggie Saute with Pasta - Sweet & Savory Kitchens

 

Late Summer Veggie Saute

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 medium yellow onion, cut in thick slices then in quarter rounds

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried

2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried

4-5 small garlic cloves, or to taste

2-3 ears of sweet corn, husked and kernels cut from the cobs

1 bunch Lacinato (Tuscan) kale, tough stems removed and cut in 1/4-inch slices cross-wise

1 zucchini, small dice (optional)

10-12 large cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise

1/2 pound pasta, small shapes of your choice, regular or whole wheat, cooked al dente, 1/4 cup pasta water reserved

1/4 cup basil leaves, cut in chiffonade

Grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Prepare all veggies before starting cooking because there is no time to chop once the cooking is started!  Place a large saute pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Once it is shimmering, add the butter. When butter is melted and bubbling, add the onions and turn up heat slightly. Cook the onions for about 5 minutes till they become translucent. Add the thyme, oregano and garlic and stir/cook for about a minute. Add the sweet corn and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add the kale ( and optional zucchini if using) and cook stirring for about 3 minutes. Put a lid on the pan and cook another 2-3 minutes. You can serve this as a side dish – way #1.

However, if you want to keep going, add the tomatoes. Cook for 2-3 minutes stirring then place a lid on the pan and cook another minute or two. This is way #2 – an awesome side dish as well! Maybe add the fresh basil or serve as is.  To make the main dish with pasta, add the pasta to the veggies with a little of the reserved water. Stir to combine completely and add the fresh basil. Once served pass the Parmesan!

 

 

 

Greek-style Green Beans - Fassolakia Ladera

Aunt Suzy says . . .

I made this dish a year ago after seeing Romano green beans at the farmers market and fully intended to post this recipe then. But time got away from me it seems. Just last weekend, we were in Vermont to visit Randy’s brother and his professional gardener partner, Bill, for their wedding. It was non-stop eating and cooking out of the garden. Bill had an abundance of runner beans he wanted to find a use for and, shazam, it just so happens that I had a recipe.  Plus, he had almost all of the ingredients right outside.

Greek-Style Green Beans - Fasolakia Ladera

This is a delicious vegetarian “stew” that can be served as a side dish or as a main, as we did on the last night of our visit. It was a treat to have this lighter supper after feasting for three days although, speaking for myself, I sorta stuffed myself on this meal as well. 🙂 I’m sorry I didn’t get a photo of this year’s version.  In looking around at the various recipes, I learned that “ladera” means braised in olive oil, hence a larger quantity of oil than you might expect in a recipe like this. With all those recipes in mind and some advice from a Greek friend, I decided to make this dish as follows. It is HIGHLY adaptable, however, so have at it! Once finished, serve with slices of feta cheese and a nice crusty bread. A dry rose on the darker, richer side goes really well.

Margaux says . . . 

I’ve been wanting to make this since my friend Beth from Tasty Yummies told me about it a few years ago.  She even wrote a blog post about it after we talked about it, and I just completely forgot to make it!  I’m kicking myself now for forgetting, and I’m very happy that Aunt Suzy brought it up again, because I TOTALLY love it.  This is like comfort food, for summer.  I will be making this often, I think.  Beth’s recipe has beef or lamb in it, and I think that would be a nice way to try it when the weather gets cooler.  Speaking of the weather, it worked out perfectly that I planned to make this when I did, because it got unseasonably cool here in Chicago, perfect weather for eating stew.  I actually had to wear a lightweight sweater today!  In August!  So weird.

Ingredients

1 to 1 1/2 pounds runner beans (also called pole or Romano), ends snapped off and snapped in half if especially long

2-3 carrots, cut in half length-wise then sliced in 1/2-inch chunks

1/2 cup olive oil

1-2 onions, sliced then each slice cut in quarters

5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1 1/2 cups of chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/2 cup of chopped fresh mint

2 tablespoons of chopped fresh oregano

3-4 large round ripe red tomatoes, cored and chopped (or 1 large can diced tomatoes)

4-5 whole allspice berries, optional

1 cup of water

3 large potatoes, cut in 2-inch chunks (if using russets, peel, if using white or gold, no need to peel)

1 garlic clove, minced

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Warm the olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. When shimmering turn heat up to medium high and add the onions. Sauté for 5 or so minutes, till translucent, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, stir and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes. Add most of the parsley and mint and all of the oregano. Stir to combine and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the beans, the carrots, the tomatoes and allspice berries, if using, and stir to thoroughly combine. Add the water and press all ingredients down into the juices so they are just covered. Cover the pot, bring to a bubble, reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Add the potatoes and press all ingredients down into the juices again. Bring back to a bubble, reduce heat and simmer 30-45 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through. While the potatoes are cooking combine a few tablespoons of parsley, 2 tablespoons of mint and the minced garlic. When the dish is finished, stir this herb/garlic mixture into the pot. Turn into a serving bowl or just serve right out of the pot!

COOKS’ NOTES:

Aunt Suzy: The quantities of ingredients are what I would call guidelines. I’ve seen many recipes that use dill in addition to other herbs and many that use solely parsley. The oregano is my addition. I saw a couple of recipes that said “DO NOT forget to add 1 teaspoon cinnamon at the end”. I asked a Greek friend for advice, and he suggested the carrots and said he adds zucchini when he adds the potatoes (but had not heard of the cinnamon :-)).  If you cannot find the flat, longer type of beans called for here, you can use “regular” green beans. I see runner beans occasionally here in the farmers markets, but have not seen in supermarkets in Minnesota. There are versions of this dish that include meat – beef, veal or lamb – but I really like this as a vegetarian meal.

Margaux: I added about a teaspoon of salt when I added the potatoes, because I really don’t like potatoes cooked without salt.  Then I added pepper at the end with the herb/garlic mixture.  Also, I used regular beans and it turned out great!

Zucchini and Tomato Frittata

Margaux says…

I love making frittatas for dinner in the summer.  It’s a great way to use up random produce sitting in the fridge, it’s quick and easy, and it is best served at room temperature, which is great in summer.  I got the idea for this one from Skinnytaste.com, except this isn’t the skinny version.

Zucchini and Tomato Frittata

We don’t have tons of tomatoes and zucchinis like some people, because we unfortunately don’t have a garden.  But I know that when you do grow those things, they are plentiful, so this is a great way to use it up.  And the Asiago adds so much delicious flavor to this dish!

Zucchini and Tomato Frittata

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 large onion, diced

2 medium zucchinis, cut into matchsticks

8 large eggs

3/4 cup shredded Asiago cheese

1/4 cup chopped basil

salt and pepper

2 small garden tomatoes, sliced thinly

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Whisk together eggs with 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper and Asiago cheese.  Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a 10″ non-stick pan or cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Add onion, and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add zucchini and turn up heat to medium-high.  Saute until zucchini is soft, about 2 more minutes.  Add egg mixture and let sit for a minute, then tilt the pan and loosen the edges with a spatula, letting uncooked egg slide underneath.  Cook until the underside is golden but the top is still liquid, about 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes to the top of the frittata, sprinkle a little salt on them, and transfer to a center rack of the preheated oven.  Bake until the top is set, about 5 minutes.  If the top doesn’t set in that amount of time, turn the broiler on high, move the rack to the top position, and broil until the top sets, about 1-2 minutes.  Don’t overcook!  Remove pan from oven and let cool to warm.  Remove frittata from pan onto a large serving plate, or cut right in the pan and serve.  I like to serve it at room temperature, but it’s also good warm.

Penne with Herbs, Tomatoes, Olives and Pecorino

Aunt Suzy update May 2020 . . .

I was looking on Pinterest yesterday, desperate for some fresh ideas for dinner! I thought this looked good and when I clicked, I saw it was on OUR BLOG!! Margaux says this is a family favorite and I see why! We added non-marinated artichoke hearts and we think that should be part of the recipe, so I’ve added it to the ingredients as an option. Delicious!

Margaux says…

This pasta salad caught my eye on “Food and Wine” because of the olives and tomatoes…I really love that combo of flavors in a pasta salad.  But what made this excellent is the mixed herb pesto that you toss it with, and the shaved pecorino that you toss in after it’s completely cooled, so that it doesn’t melt.  This dish has a ton of flavor and will be in regular rotation on our “pasta Wednesdays” in the summer!

Penne with Herbs, Tomatoes, Olives and Pecorino

adapted from Food and Wine

1 pound penne or other small pasta shapes

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup basil leaves

1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves

2 garlic cloves, halved

2 teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh thyme

2 teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh marjoram or oregano

Salt

1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes—halved

1 can artichoke hearts, cut in quarters or eighths (optional)

1/3 cup Calamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped

1 cup coarsely grated Tuscan Pecorino Romano cheese (3 ounces)

Freshly ground pepper

Cook the penne or other pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large serving bowl.  Let sit to get to room temperature.

Meanwhile, in a blender, puree the basil, parsley, garlic, thyme, marjoram with 1/3 cup of olive oil.  (You can also use a stick blender to puree the herbs in a bowl.) Add more olive oil if you think it’s necessary…the original recipe called for 1/2 cup, but I felt that was a little much.  Scrape into the bowl with the pasta and season with salt, then toss together.

Then toss in the tomatoes, optional artichoke hearts and olives and let stand at room temperature for at least 10 minutes to develop flavor. Just before serving, add the Pecorino, season with salt and pepper and toss well.

Aunt Suzy’s cooks notes: We used a different type of small pasta and it worked well. The artichoke hearts added a nice tang to the dish. We also used oil cured olives with thyme – I can see a number of different olives working well in this dish. Both Margaux and I agree that Parmigiano Reggiano works as well as Pecorino Romano, although I like the funky salty goodness of the sheep’s milk cheese.

MAKE AHEAD The pasta can be tossed up to 2 hours ahead.

Quinoa with Beets and Sweet Potatoes - Sweet & Savory Kitchens

Margaux says…

We eat quinoa like it’s going out of style in the summer.  Now it’s finally fall (I don’t know about where you live, but in Chicago I thought summer was never going to end!), and I wasn’t ready to give up my go-to dinner starter, but I’m definitely not in the mood for more salads.  So this week I tested out a couple of quinoa side dishes (or in one case we ate it as the main dish with a poached egg on top) that were amazing!  They’re based on a recipe in one of my old Martha Stewart magazines for quinoa hash, which is where I got the idea for the poached egg.  These would be great also as side dishes for Thanksgiving dinner!  Especially if you have vegetarians or vegans in your family, as quinoa has a good amount of protein and can be eaten as a main dish.  I served the beet-sweet potato one with roasted chicken, and it was delicious as a weekend meal.

Quinoa with Roasted Vegetables and Brussels Sprouts - sweet & Savory Kitchens

I see Aunt Suzy and I are on the same wavelength…her latest post is very similar to mine, with forbidden rice instead of quinoa.  Can’t wait to try that one out, too!  There are numerous combinations of things that you can toss with the cooked quinoa; these are just the two that I have made so far.

Aunt Suzy says . . . 

We are on the same wavelength! I almost put in my post that I thought the forbidden rice dish could be made with red or black quinoa! I can’t wait to try these.

Quinoa with Beets and Sweet Potatoes
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living

1 cup dry quinoa
3 tbsp olive oil
1 leek, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, rinsed thoroughly, and sliced thinly
1 sweet potato
2-3 beets with greens, greens rinsed thoroughly and chopped
1 tbsp orange zest
3 sprigs thyme, leaves removed and chopped

Cook quinoa according to package directions.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and chop sweet potato into 1/2″ chunks and toss with 1/2 tbsp olive oil and 1/4 tsp salt. Spread on 1/2 of a rimmed baking sheet lined with tin foil. Peel and chop beets into 1/2 chunks, toss with 1/2 tbsp olive oil and 1/8 tsp salt and spread on other half baking sheet. Roast for about 30 minutes, until tender, stirring halfway through, taking care not to mix beets and potatoes.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté leeks and thyme for about 2 minutes, until they have softened. Add beet greens and sauté until wilted. Turn off heat and set aside until quinoa and veggies are done. Toss quinoa, roasted veggies, and leek mixture together in a large bowl with orange zest. Add salt and pepper if needed.

Quinoa with Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts

1 cup dry quinoa
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
12 oz. shredded Brussels sprouts
1/2 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2″ pieces
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/2″ pieces
2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano

Cook quinoa according to package directions.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss potatoes and squash with 1 tbsp olive oil and 1/2 tsp salt and place on baking sheet lined with foil. Roast for about 25-30 minutes, until tender, stirring about halfway through.

Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in large skillet over medium heat. Sauté onion for about 3 minutes, until softened. Add garlic and sauté about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Increase heat to medium-high and add Brussels sprouts. Sauté for about 2-3 minutes. You may want to add a little more oil to the pan by pushing the veggies to the side and adding it (I found the pan got a bit dry and added another tablespoon). Stir in oregano. Turn off heat. Combine quinoa with roasted veggies and Brussels sprouts mixture in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.

DSC06708

Aunt Suzy says . . .

My friend, Ruth, and I recently read My Life in France by Julia Child and thought it would be fun to cook some things inspired by her.  . . maybe not exactly her recipes from The Art of French Cooking, but similar ones using fresh seasonal ingredients.  We had talked about a souffle, but I’ve always been intimated by them.  Probably should give one a try at some point, but we decided on quiche and chose an asparagus quiche because asparagus is at its peak right now.  I did look in TAOFC to see whether Julia had a recipe using asparagus (no) and to see her methods (interesting and helpful!).  Ultimately, we chose this recipe from Martha Stewart that we modified slightly.   I know the perfect person to buy from at the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market, so we went Saturday morning to buy asparagus and other items for our menu.  I realized that while I enjoy ordering quiche out or having it at other people’s homes, I had never made one myself!  This was very easy and definitely delicious, so I will make quiche again, experimenting with other types and recipes.  It was fun to cook with friends, with everyone diving in and making light work of the tasks. We served this with a beautiful salad and a glass of chardonnay.

Margaux says…

Quiche is kind of a staple in our house.  My dad made quiche a lot when I was a teenager, so it’s like comfort food to me.  And it’s (relatively) easy, inexpensive (especially if you just use leftover stuff like I do a lot), and really delicious.  This recipe is definitely a little fancier than I usually make, with the Gruyere and leeks, and it’s super good.  We usually have a few leftover pieces for breakfast the next day, but this one we totally polished off that night!

When I make quiche, or any baked single-crust pies, for that matter, I use the Joy of Cooking method with the crust, and I find that it always makes for a better finished pie.  In the Joy of Cooking test kitchen, this was the only way they found that didn’t end in a soggy, under done crust.  The edges may get a little brown, but it’s totally worth it.  I’ve included the instructions for this method after the recipe.

Ingredients

Your favorite pie crust for a single crust pie

1 pound asparagus, tough ends removed

2 medium leeks, white and light green part only

1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil

1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

4 large eggs

1 1/4 cups half and half

A pinch of nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Crust: Roll out the dough and place in a 9-inch pie plate.  Crimp or flute the edges.  Bake at 350° for 7-8 minutes.  Remove from the oven and make a few stabs with a fork to deflate any bubbles.  Set aside to cool slightly.  Leave the oven on. (Or follow Margaux’s instructions below for pre-baking the crust).

Asparagus and Leek QuicheVegetables: Wash the asparagus and pat dry.  Cut in roughly 3/4-inch lengths.  Cut the tops off the leeks so only white and light green part remains.  Slice these pieces in half lengthwise and wash thoroughly under running water, fanning out the layers.  Thinly slice in half moons then pat dry with a towel or paper towels.  Heat the oil in a non-reactive skillet over medium heat.  Sauté for about 10 minutes until asparagus is beginning to soften and the leeks show a few browned bits.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Eggs: Whisk the eggs and half and half together and add the nutmeg along with salt and pepper to taste.  Whisk to completely blend and emulsify a little.

DSC06707Assembling and baking the quiche:  Place the slightly cooled pie crust on a jelly roll sheet pan. Scatter the grated Gruyere onto the bottom of crust.  Place the vegetable mixture in a layer over the cheese. Next pour the egg/cream mixture over all.  Place the quiche on the sheet pan in the center of the oven and bake for 45 to 60 minutes.  (check at 45 just in case it’s done. At Ruth’s it took an hour in a gas oven and at my house it took 45 min in an electric oven.)  A knife inserted into the center should come out almost clean.  The quiche will continue to cook slightly as you let it rest for 15 minutes (or more) before serving.  You can serve warm or room temperature.

NOTES ON THE INGREDIENTS: 

Suzy says…None of us had time to make a crust so we used store bought and it was fine! While I swear by homemade, I have friends who swear by store-bought. Today I was convinced that if pressed for time purchased crust is a good option.  On the recommendation of the cheese department manager, I used half local Gruyere and half imported French.  Her idea was that the French is nutty and flavorful, but not very “melty” and the local is very melty, but does not have as much flavor as the French.  If Gruyere isn’t readily available, you can use regular Swiss cheese.

Margaux says…I have used store bought crust before too, and prefer Whole Foods brand by far.  But I have to be REALLY pressed for time to do it…I always make an all-butter crust and it’s way more flavorful.  🙂

Joy of Cooking pre-baked crust method:

Roll out your dough and place in pie dish.  Crimp the edges as desired, and freeze for about 8-10 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and set a rack in the upper third of the oven.  Take the pie dish with crust out of the freezer and smooth a large sheet of aluminum foil, shiny side down, into the pie crust, leaving an overhang all the way around the edges.  Fill the liner with raw beans or rice or metal pie weights, banking the weights along the sides if you don’t have enough to fill the whole shell.  Bake the crust for 20 minutes with the weights in to set the crust.  Take out of the oven, carefully remove the foil by grabbing the corners and pulling it out with the weights, then prick all over with a fork.  Put it back in the oven for 5-10 minutes, until its golden brown.  Check periodically for doneness and if there is any puffing up, prick the puff with a fork and gently push back in place with a spoon. Take out of the oven and fill with the filling and bake (don’t forget to turn the oven down to 350).  If your crust edges start to get too brown during baking with the filling in, carefully cover just the edges with aluminum foil pieces.  Or get a vintage crust saver (aluminum ring that you set on the crust) like I have…it’s great!

Easy Strawberry Tart

June 26, 2013

Easy Strawberry Tart - Sweet & Savory Kitchens

Margaux says…

This was the weekend of getting stuff done.  Actually, every weekend needs to be the weekend of getting stuff done, but somehow that doesn’t happen.  If I haven’t mentioned it before, my husband and I (more my husband, less me) are remodeling our house.  FOREVER remodeling our house.  Right now we’re re-doing our upstairs bedrooms…all three of them.  It’s going slowly, as usual.  Since it’s summer, we’re also trying to make our outdoor spaces more livable so that we go out there more often.  I always feel like we spend more time at Home Depot and Menard’s than we do actually doing any work…but that might just be because I really don’t like those places very much.

IMG_8164

This weekend I got the front yard looking pretty great…mulched, weeded, re-planted a bunch of stuff.  And meanwhile, in the backyard, Jason painted the wicker furniture that I found in the alley a while back.  I love finds like that!  Now all it needs are some cushions and we’re on our way to some outdoor living!

IMG_8167

 

So complicated baking projects were out of the question…but I had two quarts of strawberries that I needed to do something with ASAP.  I saw this recipe on Martha Stewart’s website last week, and thought it would be the perfect quick dessert to use up most of the strawberries with.  I love tarts, but making the pastry cream can be so time consuming and tedious.  This was a great alternative, and who doesn’t like a dessert with cream cheese??  It reminds me of a dessert my Aunt Gigi always made for summer gatherings, especially the Fourth of July, strawberry pizza.  It’s the same idea, with a shortbread-type crust, cream cheese topping and fresh strawberries.  This is even better I think, though, because it has about twice the amount of cream cheese filling…yum!

Easy Strawberry Tart

adapted from Everyday Food

1 bar (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for handling dough
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 to 2 pounds strawberries, hulled and halved
1/4 cup seedless red currant jelly or apple jelly
1/4 teaspoon salt

Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, blend flour, butter, 1/3 cup sugar, and salt until moist crumbs form (this may take up to 1 minute). Transfer dough to a 9-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom. With floured fingers, press dough evenly into pan and up sides. Dip a dry-measuring cup in flour, and use it to press dough firmly into bottom and against sides of pan. Freeze crust until firm, 10 to 15 minutes. Using a fork, prick crust all over. Bake until golden, 25 to 30 minutes, pressing down gently once or twice with a spoon during baking if crust puffs up. Cool completely in pan.

Make the filling: In a medium bowl, mix cream cheese and remaining 1/4 cup sugar until smooth; spread mixture evenly in bottom of baked crust (still in tart pan). Starting from outside edge, arrange strawberry halves, stemmed side down, in tight concentric circles on cream cheese. Microwave jelly in a small bowl until liquified, about 30 seconds (keep a close eye so it doesn’t boil). Gently brush strawberries with jelly; let set at least 20 minutes. Chill in pan at least 1 hour (and up to 6 hours); remove from pan just before serving.