Thursday, October 31, 2013

Festive Squash Bowls with Sausage Minestrone Soup

Happy Halloween everyone! Hope you're at least getting a little festive by wearing those skeleton socks stuffed at the back of your drawer today. I pulled out my once-a-year sparkly pumpkin earrings for the occasion.

I do feel bad for the little kids this Halloween though, because a) it's a weekday and b) the forecast is for it to be cold and rainy -- not the best trick-or-treating weather. Since you'll probably want to stay inside this evening too, I thought I'd tell you about one of my favorite soups, and give you a fancy (and easy) way to serve it.

First, the soup. This recipe is from the New England Soup Factory cookbook. Yes, that is an unfortunate name but let me tell you this is a restaurant, it's in Newton, and it is AMAZING. All of their soups are made from scratch and delicious -- DELICIOUS. They will let you try as many as you want when you go there, and by the time you do you'll be practically full of the best soup you ever tasted already. My favorite to make at home for a large crowd (or to keep some soup in the freezer for later when I don't have to cook) is Sausage Minestrone Soup. Before I had this soup I would have minestrone soups and just think to myself, eh, this is kind of bland, like something's missing. Well something was. Sausage. And orzo.

Here's the recipe my friends, adapted a bit to what I think makes it a bit easier for a home cook. Really, you can sub in different vegetables if you choose (I threw in some kale to get rid of it). Such a great way to get some veggies in your diet and feel like you ate a full meal.

Sausage Minestrone Soup with Orzo

1 pound sweet Italian sausage

1 pound hot Italian sausage (if you like spicy)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large Spanish onion, peeled and diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 ribs celery, sliced

5 carrots, peeled and sliced

1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, cut into pieces

12 cups chicken or veggie stock, plus additional as needed

4 cups tomato juice (like V8 or some knock off brand)

2 bay leaves

1 16-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2 16-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 large turnip, diced (or if it is summer, 1 zucchini and 1 yellow squash)

1/2 cup dried orzo (you can omit if you want something GF)

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Add a little bit of olive oil to a medium skillet. Turn the burner onto medium, and remove the sausage from the casing and put in the pan (either squeeze it out or cut down along the side of the casing with scissors). Saute this until it is cooked through (no longer pink), and browned a bit. Scoop the sausage with a slotted spoon (to drain grease) onto a plate lined with paper towels. Let this cool there while you do the other steps.

Heat a stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, onion, garlic, celery and carrots. Saute for 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes, stock, tomato juice, bay leaves, chickpeas, cannellini beans and cooked sausage. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover the pot, and simmer for 40 minutes, adding more stock or water if too much liquid evaporates. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Add the turnips, and cook for five more minutes. Then, before serving add orzo.* When it is ready, so is the soup (test it to make sure it's aldente and not overcooked). Stir in the basil, salt and pepper to taste, and you're done. *NOTE: If you are going to freeze some, cook the orzo separately and then add a bit of cooked pasta into each individual bowl of soup before serving. Freezing and thawing this pasta will make it mushy and gross in your soup.

You can eat this in regular bowls, but while the soup is simmering, you might as well get festive. I give you, Acorn Squash Bowls. Super easy and super fancy (and you can use with other soups as well).

Acorn Squash Bowls

Buy half as many acorn squash as you have mouths to feed. Preheat your oven to 375. Cut each squash in half longitudinally (so you are cutting the stem in half when you do it). Scrape out the seeds. Slice a little sliver off the bottom of each half of squash. This will help the bowls to stand still instead of tilting everywhere since they are rounded. (See photo). Set these on a cookie sheet with just a little space in between them so they don't stick together.

In a small bowl combine (this is for two bowls) 1tsp dijon mustard, 1/2 tsp salt, 3 TBSP maple syrup, 1TBSP brown sugar, and a few grinds of pepper. Mix this up until it is all incorporated together, and drizzle half of it on the squash, making sure to get it on the top edges too, not just the bowl portion (Don't get too much on the cookie sheet or it will burn since it is mostly sugar. Not the end of the world but might make your oven smell a bit). Cook for 20 minutes. Then drizzle the remaining glaze on the cooked squash, and cook another 20 minutes, or until squash is very soft (outsides will look wrinkly and darker than before). Take squash out of the oven, and using oven mitts, carefully remove the squash from the pan, and dump any liquid that's collected in the centers in the sink. Place bowls on a larger plate (to catch any spills) and ladle in your soup.

Don't forget you can reuse the bowls for seconds (and thirds) before eating it (Noah made this crucial error so I want to remind you all).

Have a very spooky and delicious Halloween everyone!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Curried Farro Salad

I didn't have Indian food until I was 22. You see, my mom does not like curry; just can't stomach it, or its smell. Also, as many Indian dishes are pretty darn spicy, and my mom is a real spice wimp (that's where I inherited it from -- although I am trying to train myself to handle a little more spice than what's in "mild" jarred salsa), any dish that resembled Indian cooking was just not happening.

It turns out that curry is actually delicious, not always spicy, and even if you're initially averse I have found you can wean yourself onto it and really love it. Enter: Curried Farro Salad. This dish is a great "entry level" guide to trying curry powder. It takes the flavor of the salad up three notches from most "pasta" salads, without adding anything bad for you, and is not spicy in the least. And if you have had curry and love it, this dish is definitely for you because it will give you a new technique for using it.  Bonus for everyone, this recipe makes a big batch so you can whip it up for an easy dinner (can be served cold or room temp) and can use the leftovers for brown bagging it.

I found this base recipe in Bon Appetit a few years back, and since I made it then (with a few modifications aka eliminate cilantro, etc.), Noah asks for it all the time. ALL THE TIME. No matter what the season. Luckily, this can be made in any season really, but this past week I got carrots, red onions, and arugula in my farm share, so all the stars aligned for Noah to get his wish.

Curried Farro Salad

2 cups semi-pearled farro (if you get regular farro you'll just have to cook it longer)
1 teaspoon salt plus more for seasoning
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or whatever you have, I used olive)
3 teaspoons curry powder (such as Madras)
1 teaspoon ground mustard
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
6 small carrots, peeled, cut into 1/4" dice
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup thinly sliced red onion (about 1/2 large onion)
1/2 lemon
3 cups shredded cooked chicken (from 1 rotisserie chicken or just simply bake two chicken breast halves and shred; optional)
2 cups arugula
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

The first thing you want to do is cook the farro, because it needs to cool down somewhat before you add the other things in. Use the package directions, or if you lost them, just put the farro in the bottom of a pot, cover with water, add a little salt, and boil for 12-15 minutes. The farro should still be a little chewy. Drain it and let it sit in the large bowl to cool. If you have never had farro before I am really excited for you to try this because it is delicious and you'll want it all the time after this.

Meanwhile, heat vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add curry, ground mustard, and cardamom; cook, stirring often, until spices are fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Stir in carrots and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until carrots are crisp-tender (try one), 5-6 minutes.

Add vinegar and stir until evaporated, 1-2 minutes. Stir in onion and the juice from your half a lemon. Remove pan from heat and stir until onion is wilted, 1-2 minutes (this is magic!). Add vegetable mixture to bowl with farro. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let cool to room temp. Then add chicken (if using), arugula, and olive oil to spelt mixture; toss to combine. And serve! Either room temperature (my favorite) or chilled. Enjoy!