Butternut Squash Soup with Gorgonzola Crema

62 Comments

Many years ago I was gifted a little book authored by American cheese maven Paula Lambert, who owns the Mozzarella Company in Dallas, Texas.

The book is called “Cheese, Glorious Cheese.” I couldn’t think of a better title for a cheese book myself!

I remember I was almost scared to open the book. I don’t need any help eating and enjoying cheese.

But then, I did. And the recipes are really fun.

Being that I’m dreaming of fall and, my butternut squashes have successfully matured in my garden, I thought what better recipe to make from this book but a butternut squash soup with a dollop of Gorgonzola crema.

It just takes soup to a new level, right? Oh, and there’s also some peppered bacon bits on top as well. Perfect for an almost-fall, wishing-for-fall lunch.

Butternut Squash Bisque with Gorgonzola Crema
Extremely Adapted from, “Cheese, Glorious Cheese”

1 large butternut squash, about 2 pounds
Chicken broth, about 4 cups
8 ounces peppered bacon, diced
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
4 shallots, chopped
8 ounces marscapone
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup crema, or Mexican sour cream
3/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola

Begin the soup by peeling the butternut squash, and removing the seeds. Cut up the squash into fairly uniform-sized pieces and place them in a large pot.

Pour the broth over the top – just enough to cover – and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer, cover the pot, and let the squash cook for about 30 minutes, or until tender. Remove the lid and let the squash cool.

In a skillet, place the bacon and butter. Cook the bacon until to your taste. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon, but keep the skillet with the butter and bacon fat.

Over medium heat, cook the onion and shallots for about 5-6 minutes, or until soft.

When the squash has cooled, remove it from the pot with a slotted spoon and place in a large blender jar. I only begin adding the broth when blending begins, so that I can control the consistency.

Add the onion-shallots, the marscapone, and salt. Blend, adding a little broth as necessary, to make the soup to your desired thickness. I prefer my cream-based soups quite thick.

Stir together the crema and gorgonzola, and have the bacon dice on hand.

Ladle the hot soup into soup bowls.

Place a dollop of the gorgonzola cream in the center, and then sprinkle on the bacon.

The flavor combination is incredible. I could actually do without the bacon.

Personally, I forced myself to follow through on the gorgonzola; I much prefer feta. But it’s wonderful.

It’s good to stir the gorgonzola cream into the soup, but not too much. You want to taste those different flavors.

If you didn’t notice, I like thick, rich, creamy soups. If you didn’t want to make a rich soup, you can use evaporated milk instead of marscapone. But don’t omit the butter! Butter belongs in soups!

Or, you could simply use chicken broth. But that’s no fun. Happy Fall!

Cranberry Aigre Doux

57 Comments

Mr. Paul Virant, author of The Preservation Kitchen, claims that aigre-doux means sweet and sour. He also uses the term mostarda, and there are mostarda recipes in his book as well.

He states that both terms describe “preserves for cheese snobs and wine geeks.” Well that got my attention! They are supposedly not interchangeable terms, but both “frequently mix fruit with wine, vinegar, and spices.” Confusing? Yes, a little.

61hhn4ttxnl-_sx447_bo1204203200_

His book was published in April of 2012. The first recipe that I made from the book that summer was Blueberry Aigre-Doux. It was simply a matter of putting fresh blueberries in canning jars, covering them with a spiced wine “syrup,” then canning the jars. When I was ready to sample the blueberry aigre-doux, I served it with a log of goat cheese and it was fabulous.

He also has recipes for vegetables aigre-doux. I have made and posted on butternut squash aigre-doux; here I used the squash on a salad. The squash was outstanding.

ad11

Being that I made the blueberry aigre-doux a few months before I started my blog, there is no photographic evidence of it. But I knew I would be making the cranberry version.

Now I’m making it again. It’s that good.

When my daughter first tasted this cranberry aigre-doux a few years ago when she was visiting, she claimed that “it tastes like Christmas!” That is a perfect description.

_mg_2652

Cranberry Aigre-Doux

2 cups plus 3 tablespoons red table wine
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
2 vanilla beans, split in half with seeds scraped out
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
4 star anise
7 cups or so fresh cranberries

Rinse the cranberries, remove any bad ones, then let them dry on a clean dish towel.

In a large pot over medium-high heat, bring the wine, honey, vinegar, salt, and vanilla bean pod and seeds to a boil.



_mg_2607
_mg_2613

I decided to add a cinnamon stick to the wine mixture, even though it’s not in the recipe.
_mg_2616

Scald 4 pint jars in a large pot of simmering water fitted with a rack – you will use this pot to process the jars. Right before filling, put the jars on the counter.

Add 1/2 teaspoon peppercorns and 1 star anise to each jar. Extract the vanilla bean haves from the wine-honey liquid and place one in each jar.

Pack in the cranberries, using about 6 ounces per jar. Meanwhile, soak the lids in a pan of hot water to soften the rubber seal.

Transfer the wine-honey liquid to a heat-proof pitcher and pour over the cranberries, leaving a 1/2″ space from the rim of the jar. Check the jars for air pockets, adding more liquid if necessary to fill in gaps. Wipe the rims with a clean towel, seal with the lids, then screw on the bands until snug but not tight.
_mg_2622
_mg_2621
Place the jars in the pot with the rack and add enough water to cover by about 1 inch. Bring the water to a boil and process the jars for 15 minutes (start the timer when the water reaches a boil). Turn off the heat and leave the jars in the water for a few minutes. Remove the jars from the water and let cool completely.

The aigre-doux is quite liquid. Mr. Virant suggests that one “strain the liquid and set aside the cranberries. In a small pot over medium heat, reduce the liquid by half. Stir in the cranberries and serve warm.”

_mg_2644

He calls it an “ideal holiday condiment.”
_mg_2658
I served the cranberry aigre-doux over softened cream cheese.
_mg_2649
It is very good with goat cheese as well.
_mg_2655

Serve with croissant toasts, as I did, or water crackers.

Pesto-Roasted Squash

33 Comments

There are two varieties of winter squash I can depend on being available where I live. These are acorn squash and butternut squash. I discovered too late last fall that my local store quits selling pumpkin soon after Halloween. Lesson learned for this year.

I would love to be able to try all of the fabulous squashes I see in food bloggers’ photos from farmer’s markets, but because of my living in a more rural area of the United States, I must be satisfied with what I can get my hands on.

If I plan on roasting peeled chunks of squash, I always reach for the butternut. I mean, would you ever even consider peeling an acorn squash with all of those ridges?
bs99
Alternatively, If I want to roast squash for a dip, a puree, or as vessels for stuffing, I reach for acorns.

Today, I’m roasting chunks of butternut squash, but using pesto instead of tossing the chunks simply in olive oil. It just adds so much flavor, and pesto is especially handy flavoring ingredient during the months when fresh herbs aren’t growing outside.

When I make large batches of pesto to freeze every summer, I always omit the cheese. First of all, it reduces the volume of pesto, and thus, the number of jars, and secondly, I prefer to add my own amount of freshly grated cheese when preparing a dish – such as, for example, pasta with pesto.
FullSizeRender
So the pesto I’m using on this squash contains basil, parsley, garlic, pumpkin seeds, and olive oil. The flavor is condensed, without the dilution of cheese. I actually think the inclusion of cheese in the pesto might cause some burning and sticking during the roasting process. If you really want cheese on the squash, wait till the roasting is over, and sprinkle some on right before serving. I did not add cheese.

Pesto-Roasted Butternut Squash

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.

Place 1/3 – 1/2 cup of pesto (without cheese) in a large bowl. Add a little olive oil, if necessary, to make a nice slurry. Set aside.
bs55
Meanwhile, trim and peel a large butternut squash. Remove the seeds, then chop up the squash into uniform-sized pieces. Obviously, the smaller the pieces, the less the cooking time, so it’s really up to you and how well you know your oven. Just try to get the pieces similar in size.

Toss the squash pieces in the pesto mixture. Add a little more pesto if you think it’s necessary.

bs44

Add a little salt only if you don’t include salt when you make pesto, which I don’t. Toss, and gently pour the squash into a large roasting pan. Just so you know, I happen to love my 15-year old Mauviel roasting pan, and highly recommend the brand. It’s non-stick and heavy duty.

Place the pan in the preheated oven. The squash should be tender within about 30 minutes, but it depends on your oven, and how small you cut up the squash. Test the squash at some point to make sure you don’t overcook it, or else you’ll end up with pesto-flavored squash mash!
bs
Today I served the butternut squash with some grilled filet mignon.

You can really mix and match the pestos to the proteins included in a meal. For example, a cilantro pesto would lend itself well to an adobo-rubbed filet. Alternatively, a lemongrass pesto would pair beautifully with an Asian-marinated filet.

bs3
note: If you don’t have any leftover pesto to use simply blend up a slurry of any herbs you can find at the grocery store, such as basil, parsley, and cilantro. Add garlic and olive oil and make a thick marinade of sorts; nuts are not necessary.

Acorn Squash Dip

25 Comments

Of late, my schedule has been erratic for one lovely reason. A grand daughter. So I’m re-posting from last fall – one of my favorite autumnal dips.

Forget chicken wings and nachos! This is what you want to feast on during a football game! Polish sausage dipped into a curried acorn squash dip!!!

If curry scares you, don’t worry, because there are so many ways to flavor this dip. In fact, if you don’t have an acorn squash, you can always use a can of pumpkin or sweet potato!

So here’s my recipe for this dip:

Curried Acorn Squash Dip

1 acorn squash, halved, cleaned of seeds, or a small butternut squash
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
1/2 onion, very finely chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon or so curry powder, or 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon coriander, 1/4 teaspoon turmeric, and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon

First of all, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the acorn squash halves in a pan filled with a little water. Bake them uncovered for at least one hour; poke them to make sure they’re cooked through.

dip

Set them aside to cool. Once they’re cool, remove the squash from the peel and coarsely chop it.

Meanwhile, heat the butter in a saucepan. Add the onion and cook over fairly low heat until it’s practically translucent. Add the garlic and stir it in for a few seconds. Then add the squash. Beat it down with your wooden spoon to mix with the onion and garlic, and let it cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. We don’t want “wet” squash.

dip6

Place the cream cheese in a large bowl and warm it up if necessary. Place a ricer over the bowl with the cream cheese, and rice the squash mixture using the disc with fairly small holes.

dip7

When you’re done, whisk the cream cheese and squash together. Add the salt and curry powder. Taste and check for seasoning.

dip4

The dip is delicious served with pieces of Polska Kielbasa, or with blue corn chips. Serve the dip warm.

dip3

note: Like I said, this dip is also good made with pumpkin puree – add a pinch of allspice to it if you prefer it over the curry powder. If you prefer, keep the dip plain with salt and pepper, or add a little dried thyme to taste. Also, you could substitute a creamy goat cheese in this dip. And for my last suggestion, use my white bean dip recipe for a combination white beans and pumpkin dip. Another deliciously easy fall dip!

Lemongrass Garden Soup

50 Comments

Because of where I live, I have never been able to buy fresh lemongrass. I could probably live without it, but being a fan of Thai cuisine, in which it plays a significant role, I was determined this year to grow lemongrass. Problem solved.

p

The plant itself, here in September, is almost as tall as I am – at about 5′ tall. If the long leaves stood straight on end the plant would probably reach 8 feet tall. It’s a pretty grass, but doesn’t have a strong smell, say, like lemon balm.

When it came around to harvesting some lemongrass bulbs, which is the only part of the plant that’s used for culinary purposes, as far as I know, I had to watch some you-tube videos. I really had no idea what to do with the gigantic grass. I actually have three of these monstrous plants in my garden.

Well, it’s terribly simple. You simple pull one of the individual bulbs out of the dirt. One whole plant of mine must be made up of approximately 30 small bulbs.

I imagine the harvesting is much simpler if your dirt is soft; mine is not. In the process of attempting to pull a few bulbs out, I actually fell over onto the lemongrass leaves. They’re very sharp. I’d even used a small shovel to help me. But I managed to get four out of the ground without killing myself.

lemon77

Then you rinse off the lemongrass, trim the roots, and cut the bulbs into approximately 6″ lengths. Trim off the outside leaves until there are no loose leaves left. And there’s your bulb.

lemon88

So, I finally have lemongrass. The reason this soup is called lemongrass garden soup, is that everything in this soup is from the garden, except for the onion and garlic. I wanted to use my garden vegetables, and also see what lemongrass really does flavor-wise. So here’s what I did:
lemon6
Lemongrass Garden Soup

1 onion, coarsely chopped
4 small bulbs lemongrass, sliced in half
4 cloves garlic
5 red nardello chile peppers, coarsely chopped
4 ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
Sprig of basil
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
Chicken broth

Begin by placing the lemongrass, garlic and chile peppers in a stock pot.
lemon66

Add the chopped tomatoes and sprig of basil.

lemon55

Add the butternut squash on top and sprinkle on some salt. I use a chicken broth powder along with water to make my broth; you can see the powder in the photo. Alternatively, pour chicken broth (or vegetable broth) just until it reaches the top of the squash.
lemon44

Bring everything to a boil, and simmer gently with the lid on, for approximately 30 minutes.
lemon33

Then remove the lid and reduce the broth until there’s just enough for blending the vegetables.
lemon22

Let the mixture cool, then blend in the blender.

lemon11

Reheat the soup before serving.


You can serve with a little butter or a dollop of sour cream.
lemon1

I topped the soup with a simple chiffonade of purple basil.

lemon2
note: You can make a creamier soup by using cream evaporated milk, sour cream, or goat’s milk in place of some of the broth.

verdict: I purposely didn’t add any spices because I really wanted to taste the lemongrass. I did add a few chile peppers, but they’re mild. In the end, I could hardly taste the lemongrass. Either it’s milder than I realized, or my lemongrass plants aren’t the quality that I expected.

Buttternut Squash Aigre Doux

24 Comments

If any of you have been following my blog for a year, and merci for that, you might remember when I made something called cranberry aigre doux. I made three jars of these cranberries essentially cooked in wine and vinegar. The recipe came from a very interesting book on canning called the Preservation Kitchen, by Paul Virant.

61khoQTQoYL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-32,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_

In a follow-up post, I strained the cranberries from the liquid, reduced the liquid, and then poured everything over a room temperature block of cream cheese. My daughter claimed it tasted like Christmas! It was indeed good, and I’d also made the blueberry version of his in the summer before I started blogging so it’s not documented; it was equally delicious.

These posts no longer exist because I need to re-do them.

But I became even more intrigued with whatever Mr. Virant means by his terminology of aigre doux when I saw his recipe for butternut squash aigre doux. Okay, now I get it for cranberries and blueberries. But now for a winter squash? A vegetable? Of course, I had to make it. So here it is.

Butternut Squash Aigre Doux

1 good-sized butternut squash
1 large white onion, peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sherry
1 cup maple syrup

AD3

I used this sherry. It wasn’t good for drinking because I prefer sweeter sherry.

Have all of your canning supplies available and ready to go. I used one large jar that held the whole butternut squash, but you can use smaller jars, of course. make sure everything is sterilized.

Peel the squash, cut off the ends, and then slice it once lengthwise. Remove the seeds. Then cut each half lengthwise again.

AD
Slice 1/4″ slices crosswise and place in a large Dutch oven. Slice the onion crosswise into thin slices and add to the squash in the pot, and add the salt.

AD2

Then pour on the sherry and maple syrup.
AD1

Bring the liquid to a boil, then cover the pot and reduce the heat. Simmer the squash for about 30 minutes, stirring it around one time during the cooking process. You want it tender, but not mush. Let everything cool with the lid off.

AD4

Using a slotted spoon, place the squash and onions in your sterilized jar.

AD5

Add the sherry vinegar to the remaining liquid in the pot. Cook the liquid gently for about 10 minutes. I actually placed all the liquid in a different pan that had a pourable side.

Using a funnel with a strainer at the bottom, pour in the liquid until it comes no more than 1″ from the base of the lid. Cover the lid, but not too tightly.

AD6
Process the jar or jars, under 1″ of water, at the correct temperature according to the thermostat on your canning pot, for 10 minutes. Remove the jar from the water, and let it cool.

AD7

Store it as you would any thing that you’ve canned before, preferably a cool, dark place like a cellar or basement.

So then, what in the world to do with this butternut squash? Well, for me, the answer was simple. A salad! But a hearty salad. I’ve been making lots of bean and lentil salads lately, being that it’s winter time, so I reached for orzo instead.

ad33

I put together a salad of spinach, purple cabbage, tomatoes, purple onion, orzo, butternut squash aigre-doux style, and some toasted pine nuts. Of course, I added a little salt and pepper.
ad22

And the dressing? Simply some delicious balsamic vinegar and olive oil – both of which my daughters had bought me as Christmas presents! The vinegar matched beautifully with the somewhat maple syrup-sweetened butternut squash. I wish I could have shared.

verdict: I’ll probably not make this again. But that’s not to say it isn’t good, because it is. Mostly, the butternut squash slices taste like they were infused with maple syrup, although, fortunately, they’re not too sweet. Honestly, it was a waste of a lot of good sherry, maple syrup, and sherry vinegar. And some time that I’ll never get back. But if you’re feeling adventurous, go for it!