Monthly Archives: November 2014
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I LOVE SOUP! This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie was so simple to prepare. The hardest part was finding the right kind of squash: a red kuri squash.
Red kuri squash are not in the typical lineup of butternut, buttercup, delicata and acorn, but is worth seeking out. It is the color of a pumpkin but it has a teardrop shape and no ridges. Red kuri is a variety of the hubbard squash (cucurbita maxima) family. What makes it distinct is the chestnut-y flavor of its flesh. Also, the skin isn’t as thick as many squash varieties, so you can get away with NOT peeling it, a plus in my book.
Sourcing the red kuri squash was a bit of challenge, but, in the end, also amusing. Ever since our November schedule was announced, I was on the lookout to find one as I made the rounds of my usual haunts. Many varieties of squash were available, but never red kuri. As this week approached, I made a trip out to a farm stand in Concord that grows many heirloom varieties. Their squash selection was broad, but I didn’t see red kuri. When I asked if they had any, I was told they sold out for the season the day before. Argh! Onward…
I went to the large farm stand here in Lexington. They grow lots of vegetables, but the varieties tend to be more pedestrian. I saw some squash that looked right, but it was labeled ambercup, so I asked about red kuri. An entertaining conversation ensued.
The farm stand guy said that the squash I was looking at was a red kuri variety. He also said that they were the only farm in the area that grew it (which I knew was wrong because I’d just been somewhere that was out of it). I pointed out the ambercup sign to make sure we were talking about the same squash. He then said the sign was wrong (and proceeded to take it down as we talked). He said the variety on display was called golden nugget. I wasn’t confident in his information, so I asked if the skin was edible and if the squash tasted nutty. He said no. However, a woman standing next to the same squash said she had bought some the week before and really enjoyed it because it had a chestnut-y flavor and the skin was so tender after cooking that she could eat it. That made me sure I was buying the right squash.
I’ll also mention that when the cashier rang me up, she entered it as ambercup, so I think the sign was right all along. When I returned home, I googled red kuri, ambercup, and gold nugget and gold nugget is a completely different squash. I admire his insistent enthusiasm, but he does need to get up to speed on the varieties they sell.
This soup is so easy to make. All the ingredients go into the pot, no preliminary sautéing is required. Thick slices of leeks, chunks of unpeeled squash, and liquid. I used half the liquid knowing that I like my soups thicker than Dorie does. I am also not wild about milk in soup, so I used all water. The soup simmers for about half an hour, until the squash is tender, and then it gets pureed in the blender. That’s it!
The squash was filled with big seeds reminiscent of a Halloween pumpkin’s seeds. While the soup pot simmered, I cleaned up the seeds, tossed them with olive oil and Old Bay seasoning (I am a Maryland girl, after all!), and roasted them in the oven for 20 minutes. The seasoned squash seeds made a perfect garnish for the soup along with a dollop of crème fraîche.
This recipe is a winner! I’ll keep my eye out for red kuri squash and the next time I spot one, I’ll definitely make Béatrix’s soup again. (I actually made this back in 2011. I’d noticed this recipe in the book but had never seen red kuri squash before. When I saw it for sale at a farmers market, I bought one and tried it. I didn’t blog about it then, waiting for it to be in the FFwD lineup. To be honest, I haven’t seen a red kuri squash since.)
I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving! Until next week…
This month for Cottage Cooking Club, I made two more enticing recipes. This is a cook-along group for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall´s “River Cottage Veg”, started in May 2014 by the talented German blogger, Andrea, of Kitchen Lioness. Collectively, this group is making all the recipes in this book in one year. That means the goal is for all the recipes in the book to be cooked by some member of the group, but not for each member to cook every recipe. It’s fun, and much less intense than the multi-year project of French Fridays with Dorie.
The first recipe I made was the chestnut and sage soup. I adore chestnuts. I always add them to my Thanksgiving stuffing. Years ago, I used to roast and peel them myself. What a pain! More recently, they are readily available, already cooked and peeled, in jars or bags. While one might argue these aren’t quite as tasty, they are certainly more convenient. The convenience translates into more frequent appearances in my kitchen.
I also adore soup. In the fall and winter, I typically make a pot of soup every week that we can enjoy for lunch. I repeat “old favorites”, but I’m always excited to try new recipes. With the precooked chestnuts, this soup was simple to prepare. First, chopped onions get sautéed before adding garlic and sage. Then, the chestnuts and stock are added and simmered until the flavors meld. Finally, the mixture is pureed until smooth. Each bowl of soup is garnished with chopped chestnuts, fried sage leaves and a drizzle of the oil used for frying the sage.
The soup worked well for lunch, but if served in smaller cups, it would make an elegant starter. The chestnut and sage soup received high marks at my house. I’ll be making it again. If you want to try it, the recipe can be found on-line here.
(Note: I intended to make the crostini to accompany the soup, but I never quite got around to it. I will eventually make the crostini, but it wasn’t in the stars for November.)
The other recipe I tried was Patatas Bravas. This is a Spanish tapas dish consisting of fried potatoes topped with a spicy tomato sauce. The potatoes were first parboiled in salt water before frying them in oil. Wow! The potatoes were super crispy. The tomato sauce was not all that spicy, but did have some kick.
I followed the directions and tossed the potatoes with tomato sauce before serving. Unfortunately, I found that once covered in sauce, while the flavors were good, the potatoes lost their fabulous crunch. When I’ve ordered patatas bravas in a tapas restaurant, it typically comes with aioli too. Next time, I will serve the potatoes with the tomato sauce AND aioli on the side for dipping each crispy bite.
I served the potatoes as a side dish to accompany roasted chicken thighs with a mushroom-sherry sauce (to keep with the Spanish theme) and roasted Brussels sprouts with shallots, which was among last month’s CCC choices. It would be fun to plan a meal to share these potatoes along with other tapas dishes with friends for a more traditional spread.
I had some of the spicy tomato sauce leftover, which I used as a base for the sauce I used to top storzapretis (Corsican ricotta dumplings) that I made last week.
I’m looking forward to trying a few more recipes next month. River Cottage Veg is filled with simple recipes that combine vegetables with new seasonings or other vegetables, resulting in instant “new favorites” to add to my kitchen’s repertoire. Since I don’t have time to make them all, it’s also fun to read the recipes reviews from the other participants and be inspired about what to try next.