Saturday, October 22, 2011

squash and tomatillo soup with nacho garnish

This soup (from one of the many Moosewood cookbooks) is DYNOMITE*.  Rich, a little sweet and creamy from the squash, bright flavor from the tomatillos, and warmly spicy from chipotles.  I stole an idea from Nigella Lawson (from her corn chowder recipe) to top it with what are basically nachos, and my only regret was not having a ripe avocado in the house.

You can use any kind of winter squash (mine was one of those ufo squashes, but butternut would be great, sugar pumpkin, delicata, kabocha, hubbard, etc).

 I was lucky enough to get 2 pounds of home grown tomatillos for my very own from my friends Felicia and David.  They had so many tomatillos from their garden that when I went over to their house for dinner, they had enough for us to make a double batch of this soup, as well as a batch of enchiladas verdes, in addition to the 2 pounds they sent me home with.  Don't worry if you aren't so lucky - according to the original recipe, you can substitute canned tomatillos no problem, just drain a 26 oz. can and add it along with the canned tomatoes later on, skipping the roasting step.

Squash and Tomatillo Soup
slightly adapted from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics
serves 8

for the soup:
tomatillos (about 2 pounds)
onions (4-5 cups chopped, which usually means 4-5 onions)
garlic (8 cloves, smashed and chopped)
squash (6 cups, peeled, seeded and diced, about 3 pounds)
olive oil
salt and pepper
stock (6 cups, vegetable or chicken)
tomatoes (a 28 oz can of either whole plum tomatoes or diced tomatoes, with their juice)
chipotles in adobo (2 teaspoons minced, or more to taste)

for the nacho topping:
corn tortillas (12)
cheddar cheese (2 cups shredded)
pickled jalapenos (whole or chopped)

other awesome toppings you might like to have:
sour cream
chopped cilantro
sliced scallions
diced avocado
more chipotle in adobo
shredded cheese and crumbled tortilla chips (if you want to skip making the nachos)

to make the soup:

Turn your broiler on high. 

Remove the husks from the tomatillos, rinse them and slice them in half.  Throw them on a sheet pan or cookie sheet with a rim, drizzle with a little olive oil, and place under the broiler for about 5 minutes, or until they soften, their bright green color turns pale, and some get some black spots.  (Note: the original recipe says to roast them at 450 for 30 to 35 minutes... you should do it this way if your tomatillos are large, but the broiler method worked great for me because most of my tomatillos were apricot sized or smaller).

In a large heavy soup pot, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil and add the onions.  Sprinkle on some salt, stir around and turn the heat to medium.  Stir often, till they soften and turn a bit golden.  Add the chopped garlic and fry till you can smell it.  Stir in the squash chunks, the stock and the can of tomatoes with their juice (if you're using canned tomatillos, add them now).  Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 or so minutes, until the squash is very soft.  Add the chipotles and the roasted tomatillos, and simmer it all together briefly.

In a blender** (or with a stick blender), puree the soup until smooth.  I tried my stick blender first, and it just didn't cut it, so I resorted to doing it in batches in my blender, which was totally up to the task.   This soup freezes and reheats great.  You can serve it right away, of course.

to make the nacho topping (enough for 8 servings):

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Have two sheet pans ready.  Using a pastry brush (or your fingers if you don't mind getting messy), lightly oil both sides of each tortilla, then stack them and cut them first in half, then each half in thirds.  Arrange the triangles on your cookie sheets, sprinkle on some salt, and bake them near the bottom of the oven (rotate your pans halfway through) for 20 minutes, until light golden and crisp.

Sprinkle cheese onto each nacho (I get ridiculously particular about this... you don't have to.  But I really like EACH. NACHO. to have enough cheese on it).  Sprinkle on finely chopped diced pickled jalapenos, if you like (or do like we did and just throw a whole pickled jalapeno in your bowl later).  Return to the oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese.

*if you are a soup lover, you will love this.  if you aren't, well, I'm sorry.

**Remember to be really careful when blendering hot soup - take the little clear plastic thingie out of the top of the blender and put a dishtowel folded into quarters over the hole, this lets the hot air out when you start the blender, instead of the whole thing exploding napalm-y soup all over you and your kitchen.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Corn Chowder and Country Style Ribs

One thing about CSA corn is that it is the most fabulous thing you’ve ever eaten on the day it is picked and deteriorates quickly after that. A hectic few weeks at work meant that I had had 5 ears of corn languishing in the fridge and I knew that eating them boiled on the cob wasn’t going to cut it. Enter the serendipitous finding of a corn chowder recipe in a sample edition of Cook’s Country that Elaine had given me. I adjusted for having one less ear of corn that the recipe called for, but of course mucked it up a little along the way because I wasn’t fully paying attention (oops!). I paired the chowder with some slow cooked, dry rubbed country style pork ribs, recipe also below.

Corn Chowder
5 ears corn, kernels removed, cobs reserved
1 onion, chopped
1 can corn, drained
4 cups chicken stock
3 slices bacon, thinly sliced
1 lb red bliss potatoes, cut into ½ inch dice
1 cup heavy cream
2 leeks, cleaned and sliced thinly crossways
1 tbs flour
½ cup water

Cook bacon in a soup pot over medium heat until nice and crispy. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and leave about 2 Tbs of bacon grease in your pot. Add the chopped onions, corn and s&p to taste and sautee until cooked, about 8 minutes. In the meantime, puree canned corn with chicken stock – this is where I went wrong. I didn’t reduce the liquid from the original recipe, but I only used 1 can of corn, instead of two.* This mixture acts as a thickener for the chowder, so I sort of, ahem, screwed myself. Not really, it was easily fixable, we’ll get to that later.

Once your veggies have cooked, add potatoes, corn/stock puree and corn cobs and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until potatoes are cooked, about 15 minutes.  Throw away the coms and stir in the cream, leeks and reserved bacon.  At this point I realized my mistake above and knew the chowder wouldn't thicken the way it was supposed to.  To remedy this, I made a slurry from 1 tbs flour and half a cup of water and added that to the pot.  I cooked the soup an additional 10-15 minutes to allow the raw flour to cook.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

*The original recipe (sorry, can't link to it since I don't subscribe to Cook's Country) calls for 6 ears of corn, 2 cans of corn and 5 cups of chicken stock.  Feel free to follow my instructions as my chowder was delicious and a great consistency.  But, if you want to do it the original way, puree 2 cans corn with 4 cups stock and add the last cup of stock when you add the potatoes.  Then you shouldn't have to use the flour/water slurry.

Country-Style Ribs
Country style pork ribs are cut from the rib end of the pork loin and are generally boneless, although mine did have a few small bones. Mine were quite long, probably about a foot each, so I did cut them in half before cooking them. They are their most delicious when you can cook them low and slow – you’ll have a super tender piece of meat that is literally falling apart. I did a combination of high heat to get a head start (useful to speed up a week night meal) and low heat.

2 lb Country Style Pork Ribs
2 tbs paprika
2 tbs fresh ground black pepper
2 tbs dry mustard
2 tbs kosher salt
2 tbs Italian seasoning
1 tbs cumin
Canola oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Combine all spices above for your rub. Rub ribs with oil and then thoroughly coat them with your rub. Place ribs on a tin foil lined baking sheet and place in the oven for 20 minutes. At that point, turn the oven down to 250 degrees and let the ribs cook for another hour to hour and half. You want the ribs to reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees and for the to be falling apart tender.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Moroccan Spice Lamb Riblets and Other Super Spiced Stuff

I had lamb riblets from our CSA - and I asked myself, what the heck do I do with a lamb riblet?  It doesn't even seem like a real cut of meat, it sounds like a mini rib from a mini hobbit-type lamb.  But they exist.  Riblets are cut from the breast and look like ribs but are layered with both fat and meat.  Because of this layering, you cannot cook these quickly - braising is pretty much the only option.  I did mine with a morroccan spice alongside some acorn squash rings with a apple curry filling.  In retrospect, this was probably too much spice on one plate, but Elaine didn't mind so that's all that matters - you can do as you like.

Moroccan Spiced Braised Lamb Riblets
*adapted from this Cook's Illustrated Recipe

1/2 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbs ground nutmeg
1 tbs ground ginger
2 lb lamb riblets (about 6, or 6 lamb shanks would work as well)
Kosher salt
Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large or 2 small jalepenos, minced
2 tbs tomato paste
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup red wine (the recipe calls for 3 cups stock and 2 cups wine, but I wanted to save my wine for drinking)
1 1/2 cups quinoa

To do:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix spices together and set aside.

Sprinkle riblets with salt. Add oil to a large pot (one that has a lid and can go in the oven) and sear riblets until brown on all sides. Remove from pan.  Add onions, celery, bell pepper and garlic, jalepenos, tomato paste and spice mixture to pot and saute 3-4 minutes, until veggies are soft.  Add liquid and stir to make sure all of the brown bits off the bottom of the pan are scraped up (that's flavor country).  Bring liquid to a simmer, add riblets back to the pot, cover and put in preheated oven for about an hour.  When 15 minutes remain, add 1 1/2 cups quinoa to pot and cook until quinoa is done.  The riblets should be falling off the bone and super tender by the time you are done. 

Apple Filled Acorn Squash Rings with Curry Butter
*apparently from Bon Appetit but it was in our CSA newletter - how did they KNOW I would have a glut of acorn squash and apples??

6 tbs butter
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
2/3 cup apple juice (I used 2 tbs apple juice concentrate and a splash of water)
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped (original recipe calls for currants, yuck)
2 acorn squash, cut into 1 inch rings and seeded

To do:
Melt 1 tbs butter in a skillet, add onion and sautee until tender about 2 minutes.  Add 1 tbs curry powder and stir, then add apples, apple juice and cranberries.  Cook until liquid evaporates about 6-8 minutes.  Season filling to taste with salt and pepper.

Melt 5 tbs butter in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add 1/2 tablespoon curry powder and stir until fragrant about 1 minute. 

Brush a large baking sheet with curry butter and lay your squash rounds down on the baking sheet.  Scoop filling into the center of the rings and drizzle the remaining curry butter over the squash.  Bake until squash is tender about 30 minutes.  Use a spatula to transfer rings to plates when serving, so filling isn't left behind.