Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pumpkin Bisque with Toppings

I made pumpkin bisque last night, and happily cheated by using canned pumpkin instead of roasting the little guy in the pic above. It's an extremely simple soup (basically two ingredients) and the topping below make it killer delicious.  The concept of taking building a soup like this is from one of my favorite food writers, M.F.K. Fisher, writing about borscht.

1 15-oz can pure pumpkin purée (not pie filling)
3-4 cups chicken or veggie stock
pinch of curry powder
salt & pepper to season
In a pot, whisk together the pumpkin, stock, and curry powder, adding the stock a little at a time so that the soup doesn't get too thin. Simmer 10-15 minutes, until heated through. Season well with salt & pepper. 

You could also add cream at the end if you wanted too, but once you add the stuff below you won't miss it. 

Toasted walnuts
Homemade croutons, made with olive oil and seasoned with salt, pepper and fresh sage
Goat cheese
Sautéed onions

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Black Bean Soup

When I was a student, there was a dive of a bar where I'd sometimes go for lunch with friends. They weren't known for their food, but it was cheap and filling---both essential for the student budget. Usually, it tasted pretty good too. The only particular dish I can remember from there is black bean soup. It was thick, tasty, and served so that when you dug your spoon into the bowl you'd find fluffy white rice at the bottom. Add some Tabasco sauce and it was oh-so-good. 

That pub is gone now, but when I make this I always think of finding the rice at the bottom of the bowl. I use ham in this recipe, but have used bacon with success as well. If you are vegetarian, I strongly suggest using a vegetarian ham or bacon (or liquid smoke) to give it a good smokey flavor. Tabasco is essential!

This can be made in a slow cooker, or on the stove. For best results, use black beans you've cooked at home; I'm no stranger to using canned, but I think it really does make a difference.

2 T oil
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed
4 c black beans (cooked or canned)
4 c chicken or veggie stock
1 T chili powder
2-3 tsp taco seasoning
juice of 1 lime
salt & pepper
1/2 to 3/4 c cooked ham, bacon, etc., cubed
cooked white rice for serving

Cook the onion and garlic in oil (if making on the stove, do this in a big soup pot; if using a slow cooker, cook in a pan and then transfer to cooker). Add beans, stock, seasoning, and ham. Bring to a boil and simmer 15-20 minutes (if using slow cooker, let it go 6-8 hours, and longer won't hurt). 

At this point you can do one of three things:
(1) leave as is (beans whole)
(2) purée half the soup, to thicken (this is what I usually do)
(3) purée all the soup, it'll be very thick & creamy

Add lime juice before serving, and adjust seasonings. Serve over cooked white rice and garnish with toppings such as avocado, shredded cheese, chopped green onion and/or Tabasco.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Pan-fried Farfalle Pasta with Butternut Squash, Sage, Walnuts, and Goat Cheese

Photo from

We've finally entered the realm of cold weather, watching small bits of snow whirl around us as we bike around the city. This makes me realize a couple things: (A) I need better gloves for biking in cold weather and (B) it's time to get the oven going. My kitchen is now in full swing with warming comfort food.

I found this recipe (and the above image) on AT's The Kitchn, and have found a new earthly delight. It, um, rivals mashed potatoes as "feel good" food. I changed up just a couple things, so here is my version of the recipe. 

1 medium butternut squash, diced
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
olive oil
salt & pepper
1/2 cut fresh sage leaves
1 lb farfalle (bowtie) pasta
3/4-1 c. chopped walnuts, toasted
goat cheese to serve

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine the squash, onion, garlic, olive oil, half of the sage, salt, and pepper on a baking sheet and roast approx. 45 minutes.

Near the end of the roasting time, cook pasta according to package directions. When the squash mixture is done, toss it with the cooked pasta and remaining sage. Pan-fry in olive oil until slightly browned and crisp. I originally did this in two batches in my cast iron skillet, but am thinking I could do it all at once in the wok if needed.

To serve, top with toasted walnuts and bits of goat cheese.