Phyllis' Kitchen... & All Around the House
Each new season leaves me excited to taste old favorites that I put away when spring and summer come along. Even though we still have some melons and tomatoes, I am ready to move on to winter squash, pumpkins, greens, apples and pears. And I am also ready to get back to my very favorite food: soup. Much like its menu-partner—salad—soup can be made a million ways, most of them good. You hardly need a recipe!
Here’s the recipe/technique I used with my first soup of the season: Acorn Squash Soup. Most folks don’t think of making a soup from this squash; they usually bake it, upside down on a cookie sheet, then fill with butter. That’s hard to beat, but I was in the mood for soup, and had several acorn squash. To be honest, I could have used butternut, delicta, hubbard, cushaw, or any winter squash, though I’m not sure spaghetti squash would work as well. This week on NPR (National Public Radio) there was a feature on winter squash. They mentioned that most of the winter squash had loads of Vitamins A, C, D, and some traces of B Vitamins, not to mention anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Anyone with arthritis should be happy about that!
I usually make my squash soup into a cream soup, and have a few suggestions on how to do “cream” soups, as well as the kinds of flavorings to use. Here are some ideas, though I’ll give you the actual recipe I used, and you can adapt according to your tastes:
For the “cream, you can use a skinny skim milk, whole milk, or half & half. (As they say in the plan, Kismet, “Virtue is its own reward!”) If you don’t use dairy, try coconut milk for the “cream.” Another option is to use pureed silken tofu, soy milk, or even a “cream” made from cashews or almonds, ground finely in the blender to give a creamy finish.
There are a couple of flavorings that make winter squash soups unique: chipotle powder (or chipotle in adobo sauce--a little goes a long way!) or fruit, such as apples, orange juice, apple juice, or frozen juice concentrate for more pungency. You can also flavor with cinnamon or nutmeg. And onions! Don’t forget the onions!
Acorn Squash Soup
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 ½ cups chicken broth (if unsalted, add ½ teaspoon salt)
2-3 cups roasted acorn squash pulp, or 2-3 pounds winter squash, peeled and cubed
2 cups milk, half & half, coconut milk, soy, etc.
½ to 1 teaspoon chipotle powder
Cut 2-3 acorn squash in half; remove seeds, and place face down on a baking pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes at 400 degrees. Cool slightly, and scoop out the pulp for use in the recipe. (If using a different winter squash, you may roast them, or peel, remove seeds, and cook the cubed squash for 15-20 minutes in the broth.)
In a large heavy saucepan, melt the butter, and sauté the onion and garlic until transparent. Add the pepper, broth, and salt, if desired, and bring to a boil. Add the squash, reduce heat, cover the pan, and simmer the soup for about 10 minutes, or until the squash is tender. Remove the soup from the heat, and stir in the milk or cream and chipotle powder.
Puree the soup in a blender or food processor, and return it to the pan. Heat it before serving, but do not boil. Serves 4-6. This makes great leftovers!
Pears: Byrnside Orchard had some wonderful pears, and I have enjoyed them tremendously the last couple of weeks. One of the ways I preserve pears and apples is to dry/dehydrate them to use as snacks while I’m driving grandchildren to their events. To dry them in a dehydrator, simply core and slice very thin—peel if you wish—and lay them out on the trays to dry. I use my old gas oven with pilot light, which is just perfect for dehydrating food—and for drying tennis shoes! I spread nylon net over the racks and lay out the sliced pears (or apples) side by side on the net, and put them in the oven with pilot light. That will be enough heat to dry them in 24-48 hours, depending on how many are in the oven at a time. You could use a regular oven with the light on, and dehydrate a small quantity, but that’s slow and not as successful.
To use pears for dessert, you might enjoy this delicious Upside-Down Pear Gingerbread, adapted from “Simply in Season,” by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert. It’s not overly sweet, and the pears meld beautifully with ginger. If you’re trying to imagine this dessert, think of a pineapple upside down cake, but darker and spicy!
Upside-Down Pear Gingerbread
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon water.
Combine these ingredients in an ovenproof, microwavable casserole dish. Microwave on low until the butter melts. Stir. (This makes a syrup.)
2 ripe pears, peeled, cored, and sliced. Arrange on top of the syrup.
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger (add ½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger, if desired)
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon, each, ground nutmeg, allspice, and salt.
Stir these dry ingredients together and set aside.
1/3 cup butter, softened
½ cup brown sugar
In a mixing bowl beat together butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer, or beat well with a whisk, until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat another minute.
1/3 cup molasses or honey
½ cup buttermilk (plain yogurt will work if you don’t have buttermilk)
Alternately, add molasses and buttermilk with dry ingredients to creamed mixture. Spoon over pears in baking dish. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean, 30-35 minutes. Turn out onto a platter. Serve warm or cold with whipped cream of vanilla yogurt.
Chicken: It’s great to have local chickens available at the market from David Bagshaw’s Valley Acres Farm, especially when you see the disgusting pictures of industrial chicken being raised in tiny cages or houses so crowded that they often cut off their beaks so they don’t peck each other to death. This incredibly easy recipe for chicken pieces is one that I often use for company, and only takes a few minutes to prepare before putting the whole pan of chicken pieces in the oven. Of course you can purchase just breasts or thighs, but the best bargain is whole chickens that you cut up yourself.
1 broiler-fryer, cut in pieces
½ cup honey
1 teaspoon curry powder
¼ cup prepared mustard
Remove skin and visible fat from chicken pieces. Pat the chicken pieces dry with a paper towel.
Mix together honey, curry powder, and mustard. Dip each piece into the honey mixture, then
place in a greased baking dish, about 9” by 13”. Pour remaining sauce over all pieces. Bake,
uncovered in a 350 degree oven for 45-60 minutes, depending on size, turning chicken pieces
twice. Serves 4-6.
Pumpkin Biscuits: This recipe is adapted from “Homemade Bread,” by Nell B. Nichols, Farm Journal Field Food Editor. Back in the 1960’s and 70’s, “Farm Journal” was a magazine that almost all farmers read, and they always included a recipe for the “farm wives.” They also put out a few cookbooks, which were wonderful, but alas, they are out of print. I have a couple of them, and they are treasures. This recipe is a family favorite.
2 cups soft wheat flour such as Weisenberger’s or White Lily (or substitute all-purpose)
3 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup butter
1/3 cup chopped pecans
½ cup half and half
2/3 cup cooked, pureed pumpkin
Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture looks like coarse meal or crumbs. Stir in pecans. Combine cream and pumpkin; stir into flour mixture just enough to moisten dry ingredients. You will have a stiff dough. Turn dough onto a lightly floured board and knead gently a few times. Roll out to ½” thickness. Cut with a 2” cutter and place one inch apart on a greased baking sheet. Bake in a hot oven, 425 degrees until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve at once. Makes about 20 biscuits.
Garlic: A cook without garlic would be a sad cook, indeed, and we still have plenty of garlic at the market. I usually buy lots of garlic to last the winter, but along about February or March, it starts to go bad. Last year I solved that dilemma! I bought 20-30 heads of garlic and put it in a basket on the counter near where it would be needed. When I saw it start to shrivel, I peeled all of it and placed the cloves in a freezer container and froze them so they were ready for the winter, and I never lost a single clove. Be sure to put it in an obvious place, easy to reach. When you take it out, run the cloves under warm water for a few seconds and it can be put right into the garlic press.
Check out our radio show, “La Vida Local” on Crescent Hill Radio:www.crescenthillradio.com, with former Courier-Journal food editor, Sarah Fritschner, Patty Marguet and me. If you know a great cook, please recommend them for an interview. You may stream the show on the CHR website at 1 p.m. Saturdays or find it on the sound cloud or on Facebook under La Vida Local. Bardstown Road Farmers Market vendors Joe and Edna Schwartz (Schwartz Berry Farm), Van Campbell (Kenny’s Cheese) and David Bagshaw (Valley Acres Farm) were recent guests. Check for other recipes on my website, www.phyllisfitzgerald.com, and you may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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