Thursday, September 30, 2010

Curried Butternut Squash Bisque

Summer in New York City has a kind of charmed quality, and come every autumn, I mourn the passing of another magical season of sun, strappy dresses, and (cold, gray, polluted) surf. But there are a few things making their annual debut in September that console me for the loss of summer: squashes, soups, the new season of 30 Rock, pies, and—ever since The Rob entered my life—New York Rangers hockey. This post concerns the first two, though future ones may touch upon the fourth…and possibly even the fifth, since God knows Alyce uses every excuse she can to gratuitously mention the Celtics. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

But I digress. On a recent evening, the aforementioned The Rob’s dinner suggestion was squash soup, which struck me as a perfect choice to put a positive spin on the fact that the temperature had just dropped 20 degrees from the day before. (Obviously, we have soup on the brain lately at BGC.)

The ingredients for a big quantity of this bisque are really cheap; it freezes very well (you’ll want to wait to add cream until defrosting the soup). I like to use chicken stock, but you can make this recipe vegetarian with vegetable stock.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hey! Don't Throw That Away! Part 2: Potato Leek Soup

Hey all,

If you had a chance to read my last post about chicken stock, you know it was the start to a fun weekend of cooking.

So it was the end of the week, and I had all this lovely chicken stock. We were coming up on labor day weekend, and holiday weekends in New York tend to be a great time when enough people leave that it seems like the city is empty. This empty city led to a text from a friend, asking if i was in town, and if so, i could go and pick up their CSA I happily agreed, not being a member of a CSA myself, to partake in fresh veggies. So on Saturday morning I headed down the block and picked up: 4 carrots, a bunch of beets, 2 leeks, a bunch of kale, 4 heads of garlic, a bunch of yellow wax beans, 4 ears of corn, and two onions.

It was such a wonderful experience, to get to the park and take the allotted veggies from the containers full of freshly harvested, organically farmed beautiful vegetables. When i got home I assessed the bounty and decided (among other things) to make a potato leek soup.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Red Chard with Bacon and Cannellini Beans

I once attended this awesome lecture class at the Natural Gourmet cooking school, taught by Annemarie Colbin, whom I admire very much for proving that it’s possible to believe in holistic health and nutrition without being pretentious or preachy. To wit: At one point she said something like, “I just know there’s something medicinal about bacon. I haven’t figured it out yet, but it’s just so delicious, there has to be!”

That quip came to my mind while making Red Chard with Bacon and Cannellini Beans (above left), since if you operate with the assumption that bacon is indeed somehow medicinal, this would be, like, the healthiest dish ever. You could, of course, omit the bacon and just use olive oil to sauté your veggies, but bacon is a great complement to bitter greens and really just brings all these flavors together.

(Also, you could use kale instead of chard, though I might discard the stems and use solely the leaves, and also cook it about 10 minutes longer. But I love red chard [above right], because it cooks into such a pretty pink color.)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Hey! Don't Throw That Away! Part 1: Chicken Stock

Hi all,
I had such a great weekend of cooking, that I wanted to share some of it with you. To tell you about it, i have to go back about two weeks, on a Sunday afternoon when i decided to roast a chicken in order to have some food options for the coming week (which just happened to be my first week of work at a new job!). This decision to roast a chicken, combined with a few other happenings, led me to a fun cascade of cooking decisions.

First, and it's pretty exciting, so it bears repeating- I got a new job! When i spend my days in the office, I try to pack a lunch as frequently as possible. This preference is a combination of my dissatisfaction at the lunch choices available to me on a regular basis, and my cheapness. I don't always manage to pack, and I definitely enjoy a dose of Chipotle every once in a while, but this particular week being my first week, I enjoyed chicken for lunch in a few different forms. When all that was left was a carcass, it was the end of the week, and I decided to make some chicken stock.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

How-to: Cutting Butternut Squash / Toasting Squash Seeds

Fall—a.k.a. squash season—is just about here! A recipe for curried butternut squash bisque is forthcoming on BGC…but for now, I thought I'd get everyone in the squash spirit with a quick how-to on cutting butternut squash, which can be daunting since it's so dense. As you may have learned from experience, randomly hacking away with a kitchen knife is likely to result in a frustrating "Sword in the Stone"-type moment.

(Plus, below is a bonus how-to on toasting seasoned squash seeds, which make a great healthy munchie or a sophisticated garnish—throwing the raw seeds out is such a waste!)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Grilled Flatbread

Despite dire hurricane predictions, I went to Provincetown, on the very farthest tip of Cape Cod, with my cousin over Labor Day. The whole weekend turned out gorgeously sunny and cloudless, with the exception of a rainy Friday night…which we made the most of by grilling out on the deck.

Now, since I have no outdoor cooking options at home in Brooklyn, when I am near a grill, I want to use it as many ways as I can. This dinner involved grilled pork loin with marmalade glaze, grilled asparagus, grilled corn on the cob, mashed potatoes with shallots and sour cream (not on the grill—not everything can be on the grill), and grilled flatbread.

I’ve loved making bread on the grill for years, but always consulted a recipe. In the “rainy day” spirit that ultimately anticlimactic Hurricane Earl begat, I decided to wing it by making up my own, all seat-of-pants-like. Gentle reader, it turned out awesome. The process does take a couple hours, although 75% of that time is spent waiting for the dough to rise. (It has to rise twice; I strongly suggest reading through this whole recipe before you start so you can time-manage.)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Beef and Noodle Soup

There is a category of my cooking I refer to as “Ignorant American Fusion”: basically, it involves dilettante-y co-opting of other cultures’ cuisines much as Madonna does to their fashion, religion, and dancing styles. This dish (much like the Hoisin Pork with Scallion Crepes) falls into that category, since it derives inspiration from American Chinese food but in no way is an attempt to reproduce it authentically. Hell, that would involve actual research, as opposed to just throwing something together!

This noodle soup came to mind as a cheap way to eat beef, because you can get a tough cut that will tenderize in the broth. (I ended up spending about $2 on the chuck beef, which was $3.99 a pound at my Met Foods. You could also slice up leftover steak to do this.) I also had half a package of mushrooms that were on track to go bad, plus it occurred to me that The Rob’s favorite meals are steak with mushrooms, spaghetti, and soup, so he would probably be really excited if all those things became as one.

This dish is a one-pot stovetop meal/one-bowl dinner and can be done in 30-45 minutes. It’s pretty balanced and pretty healthy, more so if you want to use buckwheat (soba) or whole wheat noodles. These proportions served two very generously (all we had on the side was diced cucumber and diced red onion in a rice-vinegar vinaigrette), but this would easily multiply, and would freeze and/or microwave well if you want to make extra. Though I don’t have rugrats, I would think this would make for a pretty good family meal for all ages.