Sunday, October 18, 2015

You butternut skip THIS recipe!

Fall is here! (Despite the fact that there was FROST on the ground yesterday morning, and about four inches of snow four hours north of here.....) But fall means squash,warm spices, hearty herbs, and most importantly, soup! Butternut squash soup basically is the quintessential fall soup - am I right? And sage is the quintessential fall herb. Obviously this is why these two are a match made in heaven. And not only does this soup TASTE delicious, but it also makes your kitchen smell like Thanksgiving, which in my book is a win.  Yes, yes, I know, it's not even Halloween yet, but I'm just sayin'.  One other note - a lot of people make this kind of soup as a "bisque".  Frankly, I think that is SACRILEGE.   If you do it right, this really needs no dairy whatsoever - no butter, no cream, no nothing.  Which in turn makes this absolutely the most delicious healthy soup in the universe.  And maybe the easiest. That being said, get off your bum and make some!

Butternut Squash Soup
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and coarsely chopped (about 4 cups)
1 medium sweet onion, roughly chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 stems rosemary
3 sprigs thyme
16 sage leaves
1/2 t red chili flakes
3 T olive oil
2 t salt
1 t fresh ground pepper
2 C chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Take 5 sage leaves and roughly chop them - set aside the rest.  Place all ingredients (minus the chicken stock) into a large roasting pan, and toss with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and the chopped sage leaves.  Place into the oven and roast for about 45 minutes, or until the squash is fork tender.   Remove the rosemary and thyme.

While the vegetables are roasting, fry up the remaining sage leaves.  In a small frying pan, heat up 1/4 cup olive oil over medium-high heat.  Get the oil heated, but NOT smoking.  When hot, place sage leaves in the oil, in batches - about 4 at a time.  Fry until crisp, about 8 seconds (depends on the size of the leaves) - remove with a fork and place on a paper towel.  You'll know the leaves are done when they stay stiff when picked up with a fork.  Sprinkle the leaves with salt and set aside. 

Let's hope you have a VitaMix - really, no other blender holds a candle to this bad boy - it makes soups the consistency of velvet.  If you don't have one, it'll still taste just as delicious.  Place your roasted ingredients into a blender or food processor - with the motor running, slowly pour in the chicken stock until smooth.  If you have an immersion blender, you can also use that - just place the ingredients into a sauce pan.  Once the soup is smooth, taste for seasoning.  Add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Dependent on what temperature you like your soup, you may want to heat it up a bit more before serving - otherwise you can just plate away!   Place about a ladle full in each bowl, and crush some fried sage over top.  Grab a spoon and you're good to go! 

Let me tell you - this is fall soup in its perfect form.   Hearty, warm, and delicious! The fried sage adds the perfect texture to this soup.  If you want, you can serve with a crisp slice of baguette that has been toasted with a bit of parmesan on top.  The color of this soup is stunning - once again, HELLO FALL! It's the color of the changing leaves, the color of HALLOWEEN, and quite frankly, the color of deliciousness.  (Also, beta-carotene, Vitamin A and Vitamin C, but let's not get all scientific here). Oh, and for all you vegetarians out there, you can make this with vegetable stock, NO problem!

No excuses, get these ingredients and make this soup immediately.  You will thank me, I promise.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Viva Cuba!

So if you know me, you probably know my obsession with Cuban sandwiches.  To the point of I-can't-resist-this-when-I-see-it-on-a-menu kind of situation.   Yellow mustard? Check. Pickles? Check. CHEESE? Check. I'm fairly convinced that you could make this sandwich with basically any type of meat and have it still be delicious, but the standard pork and ham generally takes the cake.  But if you don't eat pork, have no fear! You don't have to miss out on this delectable concoction - use turkey! Or chicken. Or just bread, probably. Anyway, enough of this nonsense, let's get down business - I decided to make a deconstructed Cubano. At first though, it seemed kind of crazy, but why not give it a shot? 

First thought - cheese.  What do I do with this cheese situation to make it into an actual DISH, not a sandwich? Cheese sauce....Mornay! But no.  The Cubano is not a delicate sandwich - therefore, one cannot use such a refined kind of sauce.  I mean, if you're really going to try to get the flavors of the Cubano full-force, they're pretty aggressive, and a mornay would probably be overshadowed by the other ingredients.  Next, please.  Fondue? YES PLEASE!  I have never made fondue in my life, and quite frankly, I don't think I have ever actually even had legitimate cheese fondue.  I know, it sounds crazy, but alas I was not alive in the 1970s when fondue was all the rage.  Literally....all of the rage.  Okay, let's get this party started.

Deconstructed Cubano
1 spice-rubbed pork tenderloin

For spice rub:
1 t ground cumin
1 t ground cinnamon
2 t salt
1/2 t ground pepper
1 t ancho chili powder

Mix together the spices and coat the entire tenderloin with it.  You can double or triple this spice rub, because really it's good on anything! Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  If you're strapped on time, it doesn't need to rest, although it gives a little more kick if you do so. 

While the pork is chillin', go ahead and make the remaining components.  The fondue doesn't take long so that should be started around the same time that you grill/saute the tenderloin.  When it comes time to cook the pork, decide whether you want to grill or sauce/roast.  I always pick grilling over the latter because I think it lends a nice flavor to it, but we don't always have that option! To grill, cook the pork over high heat, 10 minutes a side, and let rest for ten minutes before slicing. 

To saute/roast, preheat the oven to 350F.  Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in an oven-proof sauce pan over medium heat.  Sear all sides of the pork, about 4 minutes, and place in the oven to finish, about 20 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes.  Right before plating, slice the tenderloin into about 1/2 inch slices. 

Remember! For both of these, you want the interior or the tenderloin to be a little "blush" colored, not hard-cooked and the consistency of shoe leather.  The meat should be tender and juicy, not dry! 

Cornichon Relish
1/4 c chopped cornichon
1 T chopped capers (rinsed and drained)
1 T chopped parlsey
1 T chopped chives
1 T olive oil

Mix all components, and drizzle with olive oil.  Stir to combine and set aside. 

2 slices of bread - I used Ezekial Sprouted Grain this time around, but pumpernickel would be fabulous! Any type of bread works, really.

Preheat oven to 350F.   Place bread slices in a food processor and pulse until it has the consistency of fine crumbs.  Spread on a baking sheet, and bake for about 5 minutes until brown and crisp.  Set aside to cool.

Green Beans in a Mustard Vinaigrette
1/2 lb green beans, stems trimmed
2 T olive oil
1 T apple cider vinegar
1 t whole grain mustard
Ground pepper

In a jar, mix the oil, vinegar, mustard and season to taste with salt and pepper. Shake until emulsified. Set aside.  Boil water in a heavy bottomed saucepan with a steaming attachment.  When the water is boiling, place the green beans in the steamer and cover.  Cook until al dente.   When finished, toss with the mustard vinaigrette and set aside.

Neuenburg Fondue
1/2 lb emmental swiss cheese, cubed
1/2 lb gruyere cheese, cubed
2 T cornstarch
1 garlic clove, peeled and halved
1 C dry white wine
1 T lemon juice
1 T cherry brandy
1/2 t dry mustard
Pinch ground nutmeg

In a small bowl, toss the cubed cheeses with cornstarch and set aside.   Rub the bottom and sides of a heavy-bottomed saucepan with the halved garlic cloves. Next, pour in the white wine and lemon juice  and bring to a simmer.  

Toss in the cheese, and stir.  These are very meltable cheeses, so it won't take too long.  Continue stirring until the mixture is smooth, then add the remaining components. Keep warm until ready for plating. 

Now we're ready to plate! In a shallow bowl or plate, place a good amount of fondue on the bottom - enough to get enough cheese with each bite of pork.  On top of the cheese, place a bundle of green beans, and about 5 slices of pork.  Sprinkle the relish and breadcrumbs on top, and get ready to dig in!

As odd as this dish sounded initially (fondue? what?), it turned out DELICIOUS!! A refined version of a classic, every day dish that can be presented at any dinner in town.  And great flavors!  As much as there are multiple components to this dish, it really is easy to make, and doesn't involve TOO much time management and coordination.  Definitely give this a try!