Saturday, October 31, 2009

butternut squash w/ italian sausage soup

ah, squash. i used to wrinkle my nose and shake my head as my mom pulled the roasted squash from the oven as part of dinner. now, as an adult, i recognize it's tastiness--and it's healthy too! you just can't beat that.

and though the butternut squash and sausage combo may give you the same reaction i had to squash in childhood, trust me, this is a keeper! now, i have made this with italian sausage or plain, fresh onion or dried minced, fresh garlic or pre-minced, roasted squash or frozen squash, chicken stock or bullion or soup base, heavy cream or milk--any way you shake it, it's still good! below are instructions for how i made it today.

butternut squash w/ italian sausage soup
heavily adapted from emeril

1 pound italian sausage
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 1/2 Tbsp dried minced onions
5 Tbsp cold water
2 rounded Tbsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp ground sage
3 ten-ounce packages frozen cooked squash
6 cups water
2 1/2 Tbsp "organic better than bullion reduced sodium chicken base"
1 tsp cider vinegar
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

heat olive oil in large skillet. when the oil is not-yet-smokin' hot, add the sausage and brown it. meanwhile, put dried minced onions in a small bowl or mug and add the 5 Tbsp cold water--allow to sit 10 minutes to reconstitute. when sausage is browned, add reconstituted onions to the pan. cook several minutes until the onions begin to brown. add garlic and cook a minute or so, stirring to brown the garlic. add sage and stir.

in a large stock pot, add frozen cooked squash, 6 cups water and chicken soup base. turn the heat on high and allow to warm as you are finish cooking sausage mixture. add sausage mixture to squash mixture in the large stock pot. bring to a boil, stirring occasionally as you break up the frozen squash. once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

in batches, use a blender to pulse-puree the soup, dumping it in a different pot after each blend. REMEMBER: hot liquid spews all over the place!! AND you have to let the steam release--so use the lid, but pull out that middle plug first! in my 6-cup blender, i only put in 2-cups of hot soup at a time and pulse several times until the larger sausage chunks become small sausage chunks.

once pureed, add cider vinegar and cream. stir until blended. serve and enjoy!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

spinach cream sauce

over time, you will notice my obsession with warehouse shopping results in some interesting pantry-cleaning cooking adventures.

such is this recipe. first, if you ever, EVER take fresh spinach (not that i bought the three pound bag for $3 or anything, nooooo) and try to wilt it and freeze it, chop it first before the steaming begins...else you will wind up with long strands of spinachy goodness that may be nutritious, however slurping up your spinach like a spaghetti noodle may be just enough to turn off your eaters.

that said, here's my adventure in spinach cream sauce.

yep, that's a big frozen chunk of (should've been chopped) spinach. feel free to use the 10-oz container you can get in the freezer section. i toss the frozen in the pan on low and allow it to thaw there. yes, it will add extra moisture, but because the sauce eventually simmers and reduces, it's not that big of deal.

once the spinach is warmed, toss in a couple teaspoons of minced garlic. i would love to say that i use fresh garlic all the time, and i used to do exactly that. but this time, it's the jarred stuff. (and yes, there is a larger warehouse-sized container in my fridge--the lil' guy was purchased in a pinch). and the stuff lasts forever!

this is after adding about a cup and a half of chicken broth, then toss in about 2/3 cup of your favorite sour cream (this is fat free stuff here). stir it around and get....

...creamy goodness. as one who find béchamel a bit, well, boring, the sour cream melts into a creamy sauce. now, because there's broth in there, the tang of the sour cream is lessened. let the loveliness simmer a bit then add parmesan.

yep, terrible picture (and sideways to boot), but this amazingly tasty sauce goes great over your favorite pasta. i chose chicken/pancetta whole wheat ravioli. if you want more cream than spinach, add more sour cream and broth. i like my rife with veggies.

spinach cream sauce
original recipe

10-ounces frozen spinach
2 tsp minced garlic
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
salt and pepper to taste (remember, parm is saaaalty!)
favorite pasta, prepared in your favorite way

very veggie tomato sauce

i admit it. i am obsessed with my local warehouse store. my shopping cart and i, flit around, perusing the aisles of way-too-much-for-my-household packages. but i just cannot resist two things: a good deal and great food.

which brings us to my recent purchase. i just couldn't pass up spending less than three dollars for a ginormous (gigantic + enormous = ginormous) can of already crushed tomatoes begging for transformation into yummy goodness.

warning: this is a "hmm, that might be good" kind of recipe. if you're looking for traditional marinara, this is not your gig. but if you're looking for a little different twist on an old classic, you may find this enjoyable. oh yeah, and i have a terrible time getting veggies in my diet, so tossing them in a pot kills two birds with one stone for this girl.

drizzle some olive oil in a pan and bring up the heat. chop, in fairly equal sizes, carrots, celery and onion. i used about 1 cup of each. saute until veggies are tender. add tomatoes and simmer:

oooh, simmery goodness. it will simmer and reduce 45 minutes to an hour. now, if i weren't such an amateur, i would have remembered to take a picture of this after it was done simmering and gently spread over my favorite thin spaghetti--Ronzoni Whole Wheat Pasta Blend--all the health of whole wheat pasta without ANY of that nasty wet-cardboard texture. I have even served it to those who "hate" all things whole wheat and they couldn't tell the difference. Get some. Try it. Tasty, tasty goodness. (Just make sure it is the "blend".)

Very Veggie Tomato Sauce
original recipe

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrot
1 tsp minced garlic
6 cups crushed tomatoes
1 Tbsp dried basil
1 Tbsp dried oregano
2 Tbsp sugar (or more if you like a sweet tomato sauce)
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp dried parsley

Drizzle olive oil in large pan. When heated, add onion, celery, and carrots. saute until veggies are tender and onions are translucent--depending on the diameter of the pot, this could take 10-15 minutes. Add garlic and saute a couple of minutes (babysit this closely as you do not want the garlic burn.) Add tomatoes, basil, oregano, sugar, salt and pepper. simmer 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add parsley and stir again.

Serve over your favorite pasta.

Makes approximately 8 cups of sauce.

Friday, October 9, 2009

14 layer cake

oh, the coveting.
oh, the drooling.

i regularly click in to several different food blogs to see what's cooking in others' kitchens. and oh, did this one catch my eye.

14 layers of vanilla cake,
draped in chocolate ganache.

14 layers!
i had to try it.
i had to go on this quest,
learning the joy (or pain?) of making such a masterpiece.

it was glorious! and so imposing, with its drizzly goodness i had to invite eight people over to help eat it. not only did we all enjoy a healthy slice, everyone got one to-go as well.

oh the humanity! the purchase of individual cakepans saved much hand-washing of my two cake pans between layers--and let's face it, i despise the hand-washing of dishes!

the layers in the foreground represent the moment i realized that four cooling racks for fourteen layers may present a problem. but these layers are so thin, the cooling ones are cooled by the time the resting ones are ready to cool. it worked out great! bakes for 12 minutes, then rests in the pan for a few minutes before being turned out to cool completely.

now, i love a new kitchen gadget as much, or even more, than the next fanatical baker. but grease & flour in a can?!? you've got to be kidding me! i never wanted to "waste" my money on something that was sure to clog the spray and render itself useless. oh my, was i soooo wrong! especially with the crinkly sides of aluminum cake pans, this stuff was priceless! i still use it for things like bundt pans (which are oh-so-tough to really get good and grease/floured). it's kind-of spendy to use for simple things, but it is so worth it when those more intricate pans need a good grease/flour.

ooh. as the last layers were cooling, i began the ganaching process. the cardboard cake round makes this so easy to prop up on a cooking rack in a baking sheet to catch the extra drizzles (which may or may not been swiped by a finger every so often--i'm just saying).

the fully ganached beauty. the cardboard round, cut to just a smidge wider than the cake, made for moving the fully ganached cake from the drizzle-catching set up.... its final presentation spot atop great-grandma josie's cake plate.

and just to remind you of the final, magnificent product:

this recipe was designed for 12 layers, but the previous blogger's 14 looked more manageable (i know, i don't understand why either). the pictures reflect using 14 layers. the pans i used were 8.5" aluminum pans (which i washed and re-use for other things).

by Art Smith

click on recipe title to go to the original recipe.