Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Butternut Squash and Pear Soup

From The New Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas
serves four, with additional helpings, or six with single servings

This is a fantastic soup and I practically memorized the recipe after cooking it once*, it's that easy. I served it with a green salad and little open-faced cheddar cheese toasts on a baguette.

10 ounce butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, cubed (about 1 pound before preparing)
10 ounce yam or sweet potato, peeled, cubed
2 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth (as you like)
1 1/2 cups water
1 stick cinnamon
3/4 t salt
2 T butter
2 onions, thinly sliced
3 pears, peeled and thinly sliced
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup half and half

Combine the squash, yams, and stock, water, cinnamon stick and salt in an adequately-sized pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to maintain a healthy simmer until the vegetables are mushy, about 30-40 minutes depending on your simmer setting preferences. Discard the cinnamon stick.

Meanwhile, slowly caramelize the onions in the butter. (If you like onions, as I do, you will know what I mean when I say I wanted to lick the pan during this phase. Of course I didn't, so I fortunately still have tastebuds.) When the onions sweetly, gently, have browned, add the pears and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Add the wine and simmer for 10 minutes.

Mix all aforementioned ingredients in one pot and pulverize with a stick blender, or puree (as needed, in multiple increments) in a traditional standing blender. Mix in creme. Serve, eat, and be transported into a very happy gastronomical place.

Add seasonings or edible accessories to your liking, for example:
  • a splash of orange juice
  • a dash of ground white pepper
  • a sprinkle of curry powder
  • a garnish of minced chives or green onions
  • a crumble of toasted nuts
*I should say I actually have cooked it twice. The first time I didn't have, like, half of the proper ingredients, so it turned out to be a butternut squash puree akin to the baby food I used to make for Claire. Not bad, but also not this recipe. The items I would have left out of or messed up in the transcription above without consulting the recipe were the amounts of liquids, the cinnamon stick, and salt, hence "practically memorized" but not "actually memorized."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Apartment Living, NYC

The baby started throwing up at around 5pm, right before I arrived to pick her up from daycare.  The stroller ride home was, fortunately, uneventful, though once we got here, the requested handful of crackers quickly resurfaced.  I could tell this would probably be a long night.  I wasn't prepared for the half of it.

Because she fell and hit her head the night before, and because we weren't sure she didn't have a concussion, though we were pretty sure she had been exposed to another vomitty kid at daycare, we went to the ER for the doctor to tell us what we already knew.  A few hours and a failed CT scan later (I can't imagine how we failed to keep a toddler prone and immobile for 3 minutes), we came back home to "wait and see."  The baby quickly fell asleep.  That's when the bass started thumping from above.  And then from below.

Two-and-a-half hours later, our daughter is the only one sleeping, perhaps in the entire building.  In fact, she might be the only one who routinely goes to bed before 10pm.  Two floors up, the young man - student? - is playing host to probably 75 people standing around pouring juice into cups half filled with some clear alcohol.  I know, because I went upstairs to ask them to turn down the bass. (It hasn't happened.)  Downstairs, our other neighbors have started smoking a bong on their balcony directly below our window.  Fortunately it's winter, so our windows are tightly closed, though that hasn't blocked the sound of their exuberant and persistent and emphatic declarations, now keeping me from falling asleep.

And - amazingly! blessedly! - the baby, so far, has slept through it all.  Her father and I are not so lucky.  He went into the bathroom to come up with his own proof for the Pythagorean Theorem.  I decided to bitch on my blog.

I can't help but thinking how unoriginal this behavior is, and I don't even have the luxury of thinking back fondly to when my roommates and I threw parties like this in college.  We were infinitely more likely to be listening to Louis Prima or Simon & Garfunkel, playing charades, than toking with Shakira blaring from the stereo (regardless of the fact that Shakira didn't release her first cross-over album until I was in graduate school, and I wasn't cool enough to have any of her previous albums).  In daylight, these neighbors are mild-mannered, often smiling at the baby, maybe even a little shy.  What is it about being in college that inspires this madness?  What is the attraction in bleary-eyed, slurry-worded people you don't even know drinking in the apartment your parents are paying for?  Part of me wants to find out how to contact these parents to clue them into their children's behavior.  The other part of me dreads the day when I become the parent to a college-aged child who might be pissing off neighbors like me.

For the time being, I am consoled by the thought that only four months remain until we return to Vermont, where we don't share walls or ceilings or floors with other dwellings, and our neighbors are almost uniformly over 30 years old, friendly, and quiet.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Banana Bread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
Grease a standard bread pan (approximately 8.5" x 4.5")

1 & 1/3 C all-purpose flour (whole wheat can be substituted for up to 1/3 C)
3/4 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t baking powder
5 & 1/3 T unsalted butter, softened
2/3 C sugar
2 eggs
1 C mashed ripe bananas (~ 2 large bananas)
Optional: 1/2 C chocolate chips or nuts; cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg

Mix dry ingredients, set aside
Beat butter and sugar together
Add flour mixture
Add eggs
Mix in bananas

Pour into prepared pan.  Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan 5 minutes, then turn out to cool completely on a wire rack.
- From the Joy of Cooking -

Some of my earliest memories are of baking cookies with my mother in our kitchen in the house on Cedar Ridge.  Chocolate chip cookies, and I got to lick the whisks.  During my teenage years I made my way through Mrs. Fields cookie recipes, much to the delight of my family and friends.  In college I started experimenting with pizza dough, though it would take a few years and a powerful stand mixer to achieve proficiency with yeasted bread.  

One of my favorite recipes of all-time is for banana bread from The Joy of Cooking.  It's simple, the list of ingredients is short, and it's perfect for breakfast, a snack, or dessert.  One loaf rarely lasts a week in our house.