Friday, October 4, 2013

Creamy Delicata Squash and Vegetable Soup, and Esalen Kale Salad

I am going to take a risk at sounding like a snob, but I am sooooo OVER Butternut Squash Soup in restaurants, especially when it's the "special" soup of the day.  Butternut squash soup is the easiest of the easiest ever soups so it's just not that "special"!  I even include an easy of the easiest Butternut Squash Soup recipe in my book, The Swing.  Butternut squash and stock (or water), period, that's it.  Can it get any easier?

Sure you can make it fancy smancy, like roasting the squash first, or adding apple, ginger, garlic, spices, etc., but it's not a big deal.  I think it just sounds like a big deal!  One more rant....I especially do not care for the offering of it out of season!  I mean in spring or summer, what the heck?  Okay...let's move on....

I made THE best vegetable soup two days ago!  I only wanted a thick, maybe chunky, basic vegetable soup.  I really think the magic to my soups is my stock.  Ever since I've been pressure cooking my stocks I can (and do) use tons of bones and veg scraps to make the most concentrated stocks ever.  Even if I never used the PC, I would still use tons of bones and scraps in a stock pot, for up to 8 hours, to make a nutritious and flavorful soup base....why not?  It's easy.  "Fast" has nothing to do with it because making stock requires no energy, just time.  Throw a bunch of stuff in a pot, bring to a boil, turn the heat down and let it go.  The pressure cooker does it quickly, but a large pot does the same job.  Really the biggest investment of time is when it comes to straining the liquid.  Personally I like to strain it through a flour sack kitchen towel to get all the crazy icky bits out, but really, at the end of the day, would anybody notice?  (trust me, I've had those few times of pouring it through a large strainer only!)

I confess.  I will buy, cook, and eat most any kind of chicken from most any kind of market.  Sure, I would LOVE to prepare and eat only pasture fed and raised chicken, but I'm just not going to pay $30-35 for a chicken.  I'm not convinced I'm going to die if I don't.  (I know I'm going to die some day, but I refuse to believe I'll die sooner because of a Foster Farms chicken....but that's just me).  I will also confess that I have fallen victim to the threat of being less healthy by extracting "health" from the remains of the animals I consume.  Am I making some sort of crazy sense?

I can feel fine about eating the meat from a various "quality" of animals, but I do feel a deeper emotion when it comes to making stock.  Animal soup stock, to me, is more than the meat, it's the essence of the animal.  In this particular post I won't go further, only to say that for whatever reason, at this point in my life, if I can afford to buy "better" stock ingredients, then I do.

Back to the soup!

I bought two Delicata squashes at Trader Joe's (crazy I should preach about quality and then admit I shop at TJ's!), they are the first of the season.  I didn't have a plan for them, I just couldn't resist my favorite squash for $.99 each, so they sat on my kitchen counter for a couple of days.  I had some super rich chicken stock that I knew I wanted to make soup with, but what kind of soup?  A basic vegetable soup, onion, celery, carrot, with some fresh thyme maybe?  The rich stock could carry the flavor but somehow it was still a bit plain and unexciting.  At the last minute I peeled and diced one of the Delicata squashes and threw it into the PC along with the other ingredients, knowing it would add thickness, depth and flavor (I also made it "carrot heavy").  I cooked it on high pressure for about 15 minutes because I had decided to blend it, with my immersion blender, to a creamy thick consistency, instead of leaving the veggies chunky, surrounded by broth.  The squash also helped to make the soup thick (and extra carrots).

Viola!  Perfection....almost!  Should I actually add some real cream?  You know, the heavy stuff?  Sure, why not?  1/4 c. was all I used and it turned out glorious!  Butternut Squash Soup has nothing on this recipe!  Mark loved it so much it looks as if I'll be making more this weekend!

1 tbl olive oil
1 lg onion, lg dice
2 celery stalks, lg dice
3-4 lg carrots, lg dice (normally I would use only 1-2)
chicken stock (to cover veggies)
fresh thyme
1 Delicata squash, peeled and diced
S & P
1/4 c. heavy whipping cream (optional!)

You can saute onion and celery, along with fresh thyme leaves, until soft and translucent, add carrots, saute for another 3-5 min.  Cover with stock, add diced squash and cook until all ingredients are soft.  Use an immersion blender to make smooth, and add cream.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

I predict that butternut squash soup will be replaced with other squash soup options, mark my words!  It's just not fancy enough anymore!  Try Delicata!  OR, do you have a favorite squash for soup?

Enough about soup!  What about salad?  This recipe and story deserves an entire post itself, but I've got to get to bed some time tonight!  My trip to Big Sur was the most fabulous!  New friends, new experiences, new foods!  Well, new to me!  Where the heck have I been?

One of my hostesses, Meredith Gafill, made me the pretty well known Esalen Kale Salad!  How did I NOT know about this salad?  Here is the link to an interpretation of the original, if you know of a better one please share!

If you make it once or twice you will find yourself making adjustments to suite your tastes anyway!  Personally I'm heavy on the seeds and avocado! 

And for instance, Meredith uses pea shoots instead of alfalfa sprouts, and adds currants for a bit of sweet.  I like both of those additions, but I was perfectly happy with today's salad with alfalfa because my market didn't have pea shoots!  I've also heard of people adding sliced mushrooms, red bell, etc.  The key, the secret, is to "massage" the sliced kale with either Bragg's amino acids, soy sauce, lemon, OR a combination of all three.  I personally used lemon and Bragg's.  Using a salty acid is really the only way to soften the kale and season it (with salt) at the same time.  For some reason using salt and lemon for instance never gets into the kale leaves, and unseasoned kale is just not nice!

Will you try it?  Have you tried it?  What changes or additions have you made?  I can see tons of possibilities and I've only just begun!

1 comment:

Mark Reifkind said...

I LOOOOOVE this soup! It's delicious and seriously nutritious.I could eat/drink this and the variations everyday. Big medicine here :)
thanks Love.