Category: Lunch

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

 

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I love squash soup.  It’s a wonderful, veggie filled, hearty soup perfect for a cold night (which Chicago has had quite a few of lately . . . ).

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This recipe is a little different than the traditional flavors you may have found in squash soup thanks to the addition of curry powder.  The curry powder adds a spicy element and really balances the sweetness of the squash.

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Because of the curry flavors, I opted to top the soup with some traditional curry accompaniments including toasted sweetened coconut and scallions.  I also decided to roast up the butternut squash seeds, which made for a crunchy, salty topping on the soup.

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The last thing I’ll mention about what makes this soup extra special is that I roasted the veggies (and fruit – there is an apple in this recipe as well!) in the oven for about 45 minutes prior to pureeing them.  The roasting method really extracts extra flavor by allowing the sugars in the veggies to caramelize a bit.

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Curried Butternut Squash Soup – Makes 4-6 entrée size portions (inspired by this recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups chopped butternut squash (about 4 lbs), chopped into one inch pieces
  • 1/2 a medium sized onion, cut into one inch pieces
  • 1 apple, peeled and cored and cut into one inch pieces (use anything but a tart green apple)
  • 2-3 TB olive oil
  • S+P
  • 2-4 cups chicken or veggie broth
  • 1 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 2 TB heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sweetened coconut
  • 1/4 cup scallions, sliced on a bias

Directions:

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Place veggies in a single layer on 1-2 sheet pans.  Drizzle with olive oil to coat veggies and season with salt and pepper. Roast veggies for 40-50 minutes or until veggies are tender.

Place roasted veggies into a food processor and puree until smooth.

Place pureed veggies into a stock pan and add 2-4 cups chicken broth (depending on the consistency you prefer) and the curry powder.  Heat the soup, taste and adjust for seasoning.  Finish with cream and serve with condiments.

For condiments:

To toast the coconut, place in a single layer on a sheet pan.  Cook in a 350 oven for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned.

To make the toasted butternut squash seeds.  Remove them from the squash. Spray a sheet pan with cooking spray. Place the seeds on the sheet and spray with more cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt.  Cook for 10-15 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Greek Night Part 2- Hummus, Whipped Feta Dip and Spiced Labneh

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If you are looking for delicious sauces/dips to eat alongside the flakey pita bread I made last week, then I have some great recipes for you.

Tommy is a firm believer that the sauce makes the dish.  He prefers to have something to top, dip or spread on almost all his food.  So he was THRILLED when he came home to gyros, pita and three delicious dips.

The first recipe I have for you is for a whipped feta dip (as pictured above).  It has four ingredients and couldn’t be easier, or more tasty.  It obviously was delicious alongside the pita bread, but also would work as a fabulous dip for raw veggies as well.

Whipped Feta Dip- makes about 1 1/4 cups

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Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces good feta cheese (imported or domestic is fine- just make sure its good quality)
  • 2 TB finely chopped dill, plus more for topping
  • 2 TB finely chopped cilantro (parsley would work well too)
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • S+P to taste

Directions:

Combine feta and a few tablespoons of water in the bowl of and food processor and blend until you have a whipped consistency.  Stir in dill and cilantro and freshly ground pepper. Taste for seasoning and add more pepper or salt as necessary.

Pour out into a shallow bowl and top with 2-3 tablespoons of EVOO.

Hummus – Makes about 1 1/2 cups

I don’t know about you, but I don’t love very garlic-y hummus.  It tends to overpower the other flavors in the hummus and leaves you with garlic breath for hours on end.  As such, my hummus contains no garlic.  If you think it is a requirement, by all means, add a couple of cloves!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 15 ounce can of garbanzo beans
  • 1/4-1/3 cup tahini (I really like tahini, so I added 1/3 cup. If you prefer a more olive oil flavor, then use 1/4 cup)
  • 2 TB lemon juice
  • 2 TB –1/4 cup olive oil (depending on you prefer the consistency)
  • S+T
  • Paprika for topping
  • Parsley or cilantro for topping
  • Olive Oil for topping

Directions:

Add beans to the bowl of a food processor and blend for 20 seconds to break down the beans. Add the tahini, olive oil and lemon juice and blend until the hummus is creamy adding more olive oil or tahini if you need to thin it out a bit. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour out into a shallow bowl, top with paprika, chopped cilantro or parsley and 2-3 TB of EVOO.

Spiced Labneh – makes approx. 1 cup:

Labneh is actually Lebanese strained yogurt.  I had Greek yogurt on hand and so used that instead of the traditional lebanese style and it worked great.  The dip using aleppo, which is a slightly spicy pepper that has great depth of flavor. This sauce worked particularly well alongside the gyros.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Greek or Lebanese strained yogurt
  • 2 tsp aleppo pepper, plus more for topping
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice.
  • S+P
  • EVOO for topping

Directions:

Whisk the yogurt with the aleppo pepper and ground allspice in a medium bowl until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a shallow bowl and top with 2-3 TB of EVOO and more Aleppo.

Beet Salad with Goat Cheese, Hazelnuts, Fresh Basil and Arugula

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Tommy celebrated a birthday this past Saturday – the big 29!  Because we were going to be in Cape Cod on his actual birthday, I wanted to make him a special dinner prior to our departure.

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The appetizer portion of our dinner featured one of Tommy’s favorite foods – beets.  The guy just can’t get enough of the variety of colors and sizes available at the farmers’ market.  As such, I have been making lots of beet salads this summer.

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My favorite beet salad preparation involves using creamy goat cheese, crunchy hazelnuts (sometimes called filbert nuts at the grocery store) and fresh basil.  I then drizzle everything with a homemade balsamic mustard vinaigrette.

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Now don’t be intimidated by the “homemade” vinaigrette.  It is literally the easiest dressing one could possibly make as it involves olive oil, balsamic, dijon mustard and salt and pepper shaken up in a mason jar.  And it is so good, you would never even consider using the bottled stuff again.

For Tommy’s birthday, I also added some farm fresh arugula to the mix because the peppery lettuce really makes everything better.

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If you are concerned that your family and friends might not love beets that much, I would suggest buying light colored ones.  The lighter the beet, the more mild the flavor (think white, yellow or light red.  The deep purple ones definitely have the strongest flavor).  I have served this salad to self proclaimed non-beet lovers and have gotten rave reviews! So I really encourage you to try this yourself, even if you aren’t sure about this sweet root veggie.

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Beet Salad with Goat Cheese, Hazelnuts, Basil and Arugula – Serves 4 as an Appetizer

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium sized beets, any color, sliced
  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil, chopped
  • 4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
  • 4 cups arugula
  • 1/2 cup balsamic
  • 2 TB dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • S+P

Directions:

To cook the beets, place them in a large sauce pan and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil.  Once at a boil, add a small handful of salt, cover and cook on low heat for 30-45 minutes (depending on size of the beets) until they are fork tender.  Drain, cool, and peel the beets.

To make the dressing, add the olive oil, balsamic, mustard and salt and pepper to a small jar and shake vigorously to combine.  You can also whisk everything in a bowl, but I find the jar method to be more fun!

To toast the hazelnuts, add them to a dry sauté pan and cook on medium high heat until they are slightly toasted (make sure not to burn!).  Allow to cool slightly and then peel.  Hazelnuts have a very thin skin on them that comes off easily once they are toasted.  Carefully give them a medium chop.

Once the beets have cooled, slice them into 1/3 inch slices.  For a nice presentation, I like to overlap different colors of beets on top of each other.  If serving on individual salad plates, it looks nice to arrange them in a circle. If serving on one large platter, I arrange the overlapping beets up in long straight lines.

Season the beets with salt and pepper and drizzle with the enough dressing so that there is a bit on each bite.  Top with the chopped hazelnuts, crumbled goat cheese and fresh chopped basil.

In a separate bowl, mix the arugula with enough dressing to coat, but not over dress! Toss together and then add on top of the beets.

Arugula, Goat Cheese and Beets Two Ways

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The combination of goat cheese, beets and arugula is one of my absolute favorites.  The most common way I see these ingredients put together is in a salad.  Which is a great way to enjoy them!

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Because beets come sold in bunches, I often times am left with a few extras and never know what to do with them except for repeating the whole salad process over again. But, lets face it, one can only eat so many salads.  Enter a variation of the this amazing combination – beet and goat cheese stuffed ravioli served with sautéed, buttery arugula.

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All I had to do to repurpose these ingredients was blend the beets and goat cheese together into a magical whipped concoction (which would have been delicious just served with crackers!) and stuff it into some very easy to make dough.

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I know.  You are probably thinking – there is nothing easy about making ravioli.  But actually, this was not a difficult process! I actually have a pasta dough attachment for my KitchenAid, but you could easily roll the pasta dough out using a rolling pin.

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Once you have rolled the pasta out, all you have to do is plop a tablespoon or so of the beet and goat cheese puree onto it, seal the ravioli up and drop them in a big pot of boiling water.

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To serve them, I sautéed a big container of arugula in butter and olive oil and plated everything together. The dish, thanks in large part to these delicious ingredients, came out wonderfully!

Beet, Arugula and Goat Cheese Salad with Toasted Almonds – Serve 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 head butter/Boston lettuce, torn or cut into large pieces
  • 1 5 ounce container of Arugula
  • 2 medium boiled or roasted beets*, sliced
  • 5 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup balsamic
  • 2 TB Dijon mustard
  • S+P to taste

I prefer to boil my beets because roasting takes longer and, in my option, doesn’t add anything in terms of flavor.  To boil, place beets in a sauce pot big enough to hold the beets covered completely with water.  Place the beets in the water, bring it to a boil, season with salt and pepper, cover the pot, turn the heat down and allow to cook for 30-45 minutes until the beets are tender.

Directions:

To toast the nuts, place them in a dry sauté pan and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes until they are lightly browned and smell toasted.  Keep a close eye on them because they can burn quickly!

To assemble the salad, place the arugula and lettuce in a large salad bowl, add the sliced beets followed by the goat cheese and tasted slivered almonds.

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To mix the dressing together, I place the balsamic, oil and Dijon mustard and salt and pepper into a small Tupperware container and shake it until it is incorporated.  Taste and adjust for seasoning.  Use enough dressing to lightly coat the lettuce and beets.  Mix together and serve!

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Beet and Goat Cheese Ravioli with Wilted Arugula – Serve 4

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt
  • 1 large beet
  • 4-5 ounce goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese (I used the mascarpone to cut the tartness of the goat cheese. If you like a lot of goat cheese flavor, feel free to use all goat cheese)
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 5 ounces arugula
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • S+P to taste

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Cover and set aside so that it is ready for the ravioli.

Meanwhile, to make the ravioli, place the flour on your countertop or a cutting board and make a well. Crack the eggs into the well and gently use your fingers to incorporate the flour into the egg.

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Keep incorporating the flour into the eggs until it becomes a smooth ball.  At this point, allow the dough to rest for 10 –15 minutes while you make the filling.

To make the filling, add the beat, goat cheese, mascarpone, parmesan and salt and pepper to the bowl of a food processor.  Combine everything together until it forms a smooth puree. Taste the puree and adjust for seasoning.

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Now, it’s time to roll out the dough! Cut your ball of dough in half, setting aside one half.  If you are using a rolling pin, make sure you use a lot of flour so the dough doesn’t stick to your counter and roll it out as thin as you can get it.

If you are rolling out the dough using a pasta machine, dust a bit of flour on the counter.  Then press the dough into a rectangle and place it in the pasta machine, using the widest setting.  Once you have run it through the machine, fold the dough in half.  Repeat the process 2-3 times.  Reduce the setting on the machine and run the dough through, and fold in half after each time, 2-3 more times.  Continue running it through until you crack the dough through the narrowest setting and you have a paper-thin long sheet of pasta dough (about 1/8 inch thick).  Place the dough onto a floured board and repeat with remaining half.

Once you have rolled out both pieces of dough, it is time to fill it with the beet and goat cheese puree.

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Add about a tablespoon of filling every two inches or so all the way down one piece of the dough.  Place the other piece on top and seal the dough together around the puree.

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Cut the dough into raviolis using a ravioli cutter or a pizza cutter.  Once cut, seal the ravioli by pushing the edges down with a fork.

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At this point the ravioli are ready to go!  Salt the pot of boiling water and drop the ravioli carefully into the water. Cook for approximately 5 minutes, or until they begin to float.

While the ravioli are cooking, add the butter to a large sauté pan and add the arugula.  Cook until wilted and season with salt and pepper.  Add the sautéed arugula to a platter, reserving the butter in the pan. When the ravioli are finished cooking, add them to the pan and coat with butter.  Add the cooked and buttery ravioli to the plate of arugula and serve warm! Enjoy!

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Cream of Asparagus Soup with Saffron Croutons

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A few weeks ago, my beloved Green City Market opened for the season.  Granted, the market didn’t feature the bounty of summer, but it did still have a great selection of farm fresh items.  One of my favorite spring time vegetables is asparagus and I was happy to see that many of the vendors were selling a number of varieties – thin and thick, purple and green.  I opted to buy the thick cut (more flavor in my opinion) green variety.

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These babies were so beautiful!  While I contemplated just steaming them up and serving them alongside a piece of fish, I decided to get a bit more creative and turn them into the base of a cream of asparagus soup.

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This proved to be an excellent decision.  The soup had the perfect amount of creaminess, slight tang from fresh lemon juice, and a wonderful crunch thanks to homemade saffron flavored croutons.

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This recipe was actually a slightly adapted version of an asparagus soup recipe of my mom’s that I have made many times.  Hers is a “healthified” version of cream of asparagus soup which replaces the cream for potatoes to thicken the soup and add the right texture.  And while I love that soup, I wanted an option that was a little bit more refined and truly allowed the asparagus to shine.

Speaking of asparagus – did you notice that the asparagus were sitting in water glasses in the above picture?

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This is how I store asparagus!  I find that, like fresh flowers, asparagus responds really well to being stored in water.  They stay tender and maintain their vibrant color for at 3-5 days in the fridge (but of course, the earlier you use the asparagus, the fresher it will taste!).

Anyway, back to the soup.  This would be the perfect starter to a fancy dinner party, but works equally well alongside a big salad on a busy weeknight because the whole thing comes together in 30 minutes.

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However you enjoy it, just make sure you give it a try when the asparagus is at its freshest – a.k.a RIGHT NOW!

Cream of Asparagus Soup with Saffron Croutons – Serves 4-6 as an appetizer

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs asparagus
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 3 large shallots, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups water
  • S+P to taste
  • Fresh lemon juice (approximately the juice of one lemon is what I used)
  • 3-4 slices of any variety of bread (I chose a multigrain variety), crusts removed and cut into small cubes
  • 2 TB EVOO
  • 1/3 tsp saffron threads

Directions:

In order to remove the tough bottoms of the asparagus, I simply take the asparagus and bend lightly.  Wherever the asparagus bends is the place where the tough meets the tender.  Discard the tough pieces (keep if you make your own veggie stock!).

In a large stock pot, add the butter and melt over medium low heat.  Once melted, add the chopped shallots and cook until they are soft, but not browned, about five minutes.

Add the cream, water, salt (start with 2 tsp) and pepper to the pot.  Increase the heat to high and bring liquid to a boil.  Add the asparagus, lower to a simmer, and cook until the asparagus is tender, but still has a bright green color, about five minutes.

Now it is time to puree the soup.  Working in batches, add the contents of the pot into a blender and puree until smooth.

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I found that the texture of the soup was perfect for me.  Slightly thick, but very smooth.  If you prefer a finer texture, you can push the contents of the soup through a fine mesh sieve.

Add the soup back to the pot and keep warm until you are ready to serve.  Taste and adjust for seasonings as necessary.  Right before serving, add enough lemon juice to taste.  You certainly don’t want the overwhelming flavor of lemon to come through on the soup, but you want enough to know that it is there.  I think 1/2 to a full lemon’s worth of juice is perfect, but let your palate guide you!

While the soup is staying warm, you can make the croutons, which is very easy!  In a large sauté pan, add the EVOO and heat over medium-low heat.  Add the saffron shreds and cook in the olive oil for 1 minute to infuse the oil.  Add the bread and toss to coat in the saffron oil.  Spring with salt and pepper and cook until the croutons are golden and toasted.

Serve the soup topped with croutons and one more spray of lemon juice!

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