Tag Archives: onions

Making Concessions. And soup.

This is my one concession to Thanksgiving.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m as excited about the food as everyone else—in fact, the traditional Thanksgiving dinner just might be one of my favorite meals of the year. And, I’m sure that it will come as no surprise that I’d be happy to make whole meals for the rest of the week out of stuffing.

But, the thing is….


How to say this?

Ok, out with it then.

My family’s Thanksgiving meal is traditionally in a restaurant. Or, at least it has been for the past several years.

There are lots of reasons for this, but mainly, it’s simply that it works for us. We’re all coming from different places and have different dietary restrictions. And, this way we can all sit and relax. Which is really, I think, the point of the holiday.

The problem, of course, is that I really don’t have a stable of recipes. I do, however, have an address book filled with suggestions for Prix Fixe dinners.

And, that said, my immediate family typically does have a smaller version of the meal at some point over the weekend—after all there’s something to be said about having the left overs for days on end. So, in some ways, I get the best of both worlds. And, I’m not constrained by the traditions when I cook.

With that in mind, and following the longest introduction ever, I present you the pumpkin soup that I’ve been eating as of late. This version isn’t for you purists—frankly, I’m a little bored with the classic combinations and find things like pumpkin and maple syrup or brown sugar or apples or you name it a little too sweet for a soup. This one’s got kick. Lots of onions, lots of chili. I’m enjoying it so much, I’m planning the left overs already.

Until the next time, Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Spiced Pumpkin Soup

1 2-pound sugar pumpkin
3 TBS olive oil, divided
6-8 cups vegetable stock (recipe follows)
1 onion, diced
1 shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
2 tsps ancho chili powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the pumpkin in half and scrape the center, setting the seeds aside. Brush the pumpkin with 1 TBS oil and sprinkle with 1 tsp paprika and salt. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour until the pumpkin is soft and can easily be scraped from the skin.

Once the pumpkin seeds are dry, sprinkle 1 TBS of oil on them and season with salt. Roast for approximately 30 minutes, until they are golden brown.

While the pumpkin is roasting, make the vegetable stock (recipe follows).

When the pumpkin is roasted, allow it to cool and scoop out the roasted flesh. Set it aside.

In a large dutch oven, heat 1 TBS of olive oil. Saute the onion, garlic and shallot for approximately 10 minutes on a low heat, until they start to brown. Add the pumpkin, ancho chili powder, cumin, cinnamon and a dash of salt. Cover with the vegetable broth and simmer for 30 minutes. Taste, adding salt if necessary.

Using an immersion blender, puree the soup. If the soup is too thick, add more water.

Garnish with pumpkin seeds.

Serves 6 as an appetizer

Vegetable Stock
1 TBS olive oil
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp peppercorns
1 bay leaf
3 ribs celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
8 cups cold water
1 TBS lemon juice

In a large stock pot, saute the vegetables, onion, and garlic for approximately 5 minutes on a low heat until everything starts to brown. Add in the red pepper flakes and saute for another minute. Then, add in the water, peppercorns, bay leaf and add salt to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for an hour. Strain out the vegetables, add in the lemon juice and season with salt.

Set aside.

Makes 8 cups


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Filed under Meatless, Soup, Uncategorized, Vegetables

We’re problem solvers here

By now, my love of brunch has been well documented as have my not quite disasters.*

*hangs head in shame

Which is all to say that, while I have the starch part of brunch mastered, I’ve been struggling a bit with serving eggs—there’s the whole business of keeping them warm without overcooking them (no small task when you like your eggs as runny as I do). My poached eggs come out, well, disappointingly, to put it mildly. And, that’s when they come out at all. Although I’ve masted the art of the Frittata, my omelettes always end up as scrambled eggs with stuff in them. My fried eggs? I can cook great ones just for me. When there’s company, it’s all pear shaped.

Now you know.

But, I have a solution: Shakshua, which aside from having a hard to pronounce name, has the selling point of being flavorful and easy to prepare. The eggs poach gently, in a sauce base, so there’s no worry about fishing them out at the end. And, it comes together fairly quickly. Really, it’s a matter of simmering and a little bit of patience. In other words, you can prepare it while enjoying your mimosas and your guests.

Now you have no excuse not to make eggs.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1/4 cup olive oil
2-3 jalapeno peppers, diced with ribs and seeds removed
1 small yellow onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, crushed then sliced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes, undrained
1/2 water
Kosher salt, to taste
6 eggs
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley

Warmed bread, for serving

Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chiles, red pepper flakes, and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, and paprika, and cook another 2 minutes, until the garlic has softened.

Add the tomatoes and water to the skillet, and reduce the heat to medium. Stir occasionally, and simmer until the sauce has thickened slightly. This should take about 15 minutes. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper as necessary.

Crack the eggs, one by one, into a small bowl or cup and pour them over the sauce, taking care to distribute them evenly across the sauce’s surface. Cover the skillet and cook the eggs until the yolks are just set, approximately 5 minutes. Uncover and baste the egg whites with the tomato sauce to ensure they are fully cooked.

Sprinkle with parsley and serve with bread for dipping.

Serves 4 to 6

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Filed under Brunch, Meatless, Uncategorized

Yankee Gumbo

Food has long been a source of nostalgia for me.

There’s something about the sensory experience that brings forth a powerful sense of time and place.

Of course, I’m not alone in this. I have my sundried tomato bread, among other things. Proust, famously, had his madelines. And, my friend Lauren who originally hails from New Orleans, has her gumbo.

Lucky for me, she decided to have some friends over for a huge pot, teaching us how to make it in the process. We helped in our own ways—in my case, making Pimm’s Cups, catching up until we we distracted by the smells coming from the kitchen. It’s safe to say that everyone there went back for a second helping when the gumbo was ready.

I left inspired, ready to tackle my own version. I incorporated andouille (made with chicken, no not quite authentic, I’m afraid) for added flavor and vinegar for an acidic punch at the end. Far from traditional, I’m sure, but filling and delicious all the same. Call it a Yankee version, if you will.

It’s funny, the way nostalgia works. As I started making the roux, I was suddenly back in my mother’s kitchen on a snowy day, much like the ones that seem to be happening so often this winter, alongside her while she made her potato soup. Her roux was blonder, and the soup was much lighter, but it was still the perfect thing for a cold day, much like this one.

Yankee Gumbo

2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces andouille sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 chicken breasts, diced
1/2 cup flour
2 medium onions, diced
1/4 cup chopped leeks (white part only)
1 cup chopped celery
2 bay leaves
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 TSB paprika
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
6 to 8 cups chicken stock (optional. water would work here, too)
1 can whole diced tomatoes, with their juice
1 TBS red wine vinegar
1 tsp Tabasco sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the chicken with a tsp of flour, dash of paprika, salt and pepper.

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the oil and all it to reach a high heat. Add the red pepper flakes and heat for 1 minute. Add the andouille sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and much of the fat is rendered. Add the chicken and sautee until the chicken has browned. Remove the sausage and chicken to a seperate dish with a slotted spoon. Set aside.

Add the remainder of the flour and paprika to the Dutch oven and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, in order to form a roux. Continue stirring until the roux is a dark golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.

Add the onions, celery, and leeks to the Dutch oven and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook about 2 minutes.

At this point, add your stock, bay leaves, diced tomatoes and accompanying juice. Stir and add salt and pepper to taste. Return the chicken and sausage to the point, bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer uncovered 25 to 30 minutes, until the soup has thickened and the chicken is fully cooked.

Add red wine vinegar and Tabasco and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over rice.

Serves 6-8

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For the Cold Days

Admittedly kale isn’t an easy sell.

In fact, I almost didn’t include a picture of the finished product here. Scroll down and you won’t need me to explain why. It’s certainly not glamorous to say the least.

But—stay with me here—I think of kale as an unsung hero. Hearty and earthy in flavor, I crave it, particularly as the days get colder.

This preparation is one of my favorites. The slow braising allows the flavors develop and becoming richer with the introduction of the stocks. The acid of the lemon juice serves as a nice counter balance, making the flavor really pop.

It’s just the thing for a cold winter’s day.

Braised Kale
Recipe adapted from Emeril Lagasse

1 TBS olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 TBS minced garlic
8 cups kale (stemmed and torn)
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a skillet over a high flame for at least a minute. Add the onions, salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes and saute for 2 minutes.

Add the garlic, kale, and stock to the pan and cook for 8-10 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Add the lemon juice and stir. Remove from the heat and serve.

Serves four as a side

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Laziness Wins the Day

Honestly, I had big plans.

I wanted my cocktail party to be classy. I was going to wow my friends with a riff on Ina Garten’s savory palmiers inspired by some of my favorite flavors.

And then—famous last words here.

And then I realized several things. Namely, that I am not good with time management. There were chicken skewers and an accompanying sauce to be made and cookies and dishes to be washed and I still needed a shower before my guests arrived. Plus there was the fact that I actually wanted to enjoy the cooking process.

So, the palmiers got deconstructed. And, my guests ate squares of butternut squash tart instead.

And everyone was happy.

Needless to say, this is going to make it into my aresnal of go to appetizers and quick weeknight dinners. It should be in yours, too.

Butternut Squash Tart

I use Peppridge Farm Pastry dough for this recipe, which contains 2 sheets and simply freeze the second for later use.

1 sheet of puff pastry, defrosted
1 cup butternut squash, cubed
1/4 cup water, plus more as needed
1/2 cup smoked mozzarella, grated
1 cups chopped onions
1 TBS herbes de provence
1 tsp red pepper flakes
3 TBS olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the over to 350 degrees F.

Coat the butternut squash with 1 TBS oil, season with salt and pepper and then roast for 30 minutes, until the squash is tender. Puree with 1/4 water or more as needed. You want the puree to have a thick sauce-like texture. Set puree aside.

In the meantime, carmelize the onions in 2 TBS of olive oil, using a low flame. Season the onions with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and herbes de provence. When the onions are ready, they should be about 1/4 of the size they were originally and a deep brown color. Set aside.

To assemble the tart, place the pastry dough on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover the pastry dough with the butternut squash puree, leaving a 1/4″ border around the edge. Place the sauteed onions on top of the butternut squash puree layer and sprinkle the whole thing with the smoked mozzarella.

Create a crust by folding over the border of pastry dough and crimping.

Bake the tart for 25-30 minutes, until the edges of the pastry are golden brown.

Makes 1 tart.

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Filed under Etc., Meatless, Vegetables

It’s All Been Done Before

Yes, I’ve already posted a recipe for a version of Chana Masala. But, this one’s far more authentic. And, even easier than the first.

And, as if the Chana Masala wasn’t enough, the pickled onions are guaranteed to be your go-to condiment for any meal, Indian or otherwise.

Authentic Chana Masala
Courtesy of Rajni and that Indian dinner from so long ago

1 TBS butter
1 large onion, diced
1/2 seranno chili
2 tomatoes, diced with seeds
1 TBS chana masala
1 TBS salt
2 cans chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup water
3 TBS cilantro, chopped

Over a medium flame, heat the butter and saute the onions and serrano chili, along with 1/2 TBS salt, about 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Then, add the tomatoes, with seeds and juice into the onions. Stir and add in the rest of the salt and chana masala and cook 2 minutes. Add water and chickpeas and bring the mixture to a simmer, heating for 15 minutes. Garnish with cilantro and pickled onions (recipe follows).

Serves 6 as a main dish

Pickled Onions
2 red onions, cut into slivers
Juice of 1 lemon
3 TBS white vinegar
1 TBS salt

Combine all of the ingredients and marinate at least 30 minutes prior to serving. Serve at room temperature.

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Filed under Beans, Meatless

Important Life Lessons, These

I’ve been known to start a kitchen fire or two. It’s not my fault, really. It’s usually just that I’m over zealous in keeping my stove top clean and the combination of paper towel and open flame, well, you get the idea.

So, I think it’s only fair that this recipe comes with a warning: paneer is fairly moist and will cause the oil to splatter. Just go with it, accepting that it will be worth it in the end. You can just clean up the stove top later.

But, watch your hands.

I may still have a small burn on my hand from a dinner cooked so very long ago. All the more shameful since I wasn’t really doing the cooking. I know, I know.

And, perhaps, plan on having an extra shirt on hand, so that when you do sit down to eat, you’re not covered in oil.

Of course, as I’m writing this, it occurs to be that, perhaps, I’m a little more OCD and accident prone than most.

In other words: disregard the paragraphs above. Simply get cooking and enjoy! But, remember to keep the paper towels far away from the open flame.

That advice remains universally applicable.

Matter Paneer

1 pound paneer, cubed
Corn Oil (for frying)
2 large tomatoes, diced with seeds
1 large onion, diced
1 TBS butter
1/2 serrano chili, diced
2 TBS Chana Masala
1 TBS garam masala
1 box frozen peas, defrosted
1/2 cup water
Splash Heavy Cream
3 TBS cilantro, chopped finely

In a large fying pan, using corn oil, brown the paneer on all sides. Drain and set aside.

Melt the butter, then add the onions and saute until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add in the serrano chile, chana masala, and garam masala and heat for a minute, stirring constantly. Add the tomatoes to the pan, along with the seeds and juice and heat 5 minutes. Add water and bring to a simmer, heating about 5 minutes. Stir in the peas and heat. Then add the paneer and stir so that it is evenly distributed throughout. Finish with a splash of heavy cream to taste and garnish with cilantro.

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