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.

Forbidden Rice with Brussels Sprouts, Squash and Pecans

Aunt Suzy says . . .

When I saw this recipe, I knew I had to make it – after all, I had the exact amount of Forbidden Black Rice sitting in my cupboard from a whirl with a so-so recipe this summer.  Even though I didn’t like the previous dish, I was introduced to the unusual floral flavor and wonderful mouth appeal of this new-to-me rice variety.  This blend of favorite ingredients and flavors looked like a can’t-miss.  In addition to the squash and pecans, I added another seasonal favorite, good old Brussels.  It only occurred to me after making it, that it’s perfect for Halloween with it’s black and orange color scheme.  Whether you make this as part of a Halloween spread or for dinner as a side to roast something (we served with roast chicken), I know you’ll enjoy.

Ingredients

1 small butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 2 cups)

1 pound small Brussels sprouts, bottoms removed and cut in half (about 3 cups)

Olive oil for roasting

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil or a combo

2 shallots, peeled and minced

1 1/2 cups forbidden black rice

2 1/2 cups water

Zest of 1 orange

1 heaping tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or 2 teaspoons dried)

1 cup pecan halves, toasted and chopped

Salt and Pepper

Instructions

Roast the vegetables:

Preheat the oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with foil and drizzle with olive oil. Place the squash cubes on the foil and toss to coat with the oil. Roast for 15 min, stir and roast for another 5-10 min.  Remove from oven and turn out onto a platter.  Do the same for the Brussels sprouts, but roast for 10 min, stir and roast for another 5-10 min.  Turn out onto a platter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cook the rice:

Rinse the rice thoroughly in a mesh sieve and set aside to drain. Set a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter and/or olive oil and heat till bubbling or shimmering if using oil.  Add the shallot and saute for 2 minutes. Add the rice, stir and saute for another 2-3 minutes, until fragrant. Add the water and 1 teaspoon salt,.  Bring to a boil, stir, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30-40 minutes until water is completely absorbed.  Let stand for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

Assemble the dish:

In a large bowl, combine the cooked rice, the roasted vegetables, the orange zest and thyme.  Stir to combine.  Add the pecans and stir again until just combined. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.

NOTES ON INGREDIENTS:  The original recipe did not call for the Brussels sprouts, so if these aren’t a favorite for you, they can be omitted. Black rice is available in both bulk and packaged at our local co-op, so if you have a co-op or health food store locally you can check there. I highly recommend seeking it out. It’s available online directly from Lotus Foods. Short grain brown rice or one of the black or rice blends from Lundberg could be a good substitute.