cartoon kitteh holding a knife and fork, ready to nom!

Okay, here’s the final – all polished up – version of what was served at the Cooking with Cat Ladies dinner to benefit City Kitties.

General Condiments

Appetizers

Soup

  • Coconut Chutney Butternut Squash Soup (to improve on the first version, I swapped 2 cans of full fat coconut milk for 1 can of full fat, 1 lowfat, and a quart of vegetable stock. I also ended up adding several kabocha squash (which I’d roasted to make peeling easier for the winter squash vindaloo but found that made them too soft and went back to try that one starting from raw) and the proportions were about 2 butternut : 1 kabocha by volume. I did not add any chutney or garlic. Huh… and no brown sugar. Oh, and there was lime juice because I’m on a kick where lime juice makes everything better. But other than that, it was exactly the same. And I debated between blending it smooth and leaving it chunky and decided that while smooth might feel more ‘professional’ that I really did prefer it chunky)

Mains

  • Vegetable Biryani (link to sauce base) (Only changes I made were using brown basmati rice instead of white and omitting the saffron… and I think I’d completely run out of ginger by the assembly of the dish but the sauce base had ginger since I’d made that the night before)
  • Winter Squash Vindaloo (made with Kabocha and a packet of vindaloo mix from Parampara – which turned out to be a very pleasing mix that made a paste from whole spices)
  • Chana Masala
  • Parippu (I used the recipe from The Food of India by Priya Wickramasinghe, but the recipe I’m linking is almost verbatim as you’ll see if you compare with the recipe I wrote out in the last post – followed faithfully except for the lack of curry leaves)
  • Did I mention the Baked Achari Baingan?
  • Hazelnut Tamarind Rice

Salad – Another year when people were too stuffed for a salad course. I count that as a win.

Dessert

  • Vegan Carrot Cake (to which my father said, when I took him leftovers, “That’s not carrot cake; I don’t like carrot cake.”) (So this was an amazingly resilient recipe in which many things went wrong but I never doubted it would be delicious. The batter was delicious. I used a 9″ round cake pan, instead of a 9″ square one and didn’t think of increasing the cooking time until the middle fell out in unmolding even though the toothpick had come out clean. Well, only some of the middles (so they ended up a bit concave). And I didn’t unmold until after they’d cooled a bit, so I ended up cooking them for another 10 minutes after they’d quit cooking… and yet they were still moist and compliant. So changes I made on account of ingredient supply – I used 3/2 cups of all purpose and 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour; 1/4 cup of almond oil and 1/2 cup of olive oil; and I used pecans instead of walnuts. And then I had already made candied blood orange slices, and I had found some pretty Tangelos and candied them, too, and was a little worried since they ended up pretty bitter despite the sugar coating. But I took them to friends to sample, and they all approved me using them. So to tie in the citrus, I made a lime syrup to drizzle on the cakes before making an artistic citrus slice arrangement on top. Hopefully, someone will send me pictures.)
  • Nutty Buttered Applesauce (and for the person with celiacs, I just whipped out a selection of my home canned applesauces (huh – which I’ve never blogged about.), and felt all swank offering to just whip up something easy. We went with the one with chai-themed seasonings. Put that in a ramekin, put some broken pecans on top, and a pat of butter to melt in – and that went in the over for as long as it took me to get everything else out and coffee started.)

Monday, March 5
morning:
set coconut milk for truffle ganache to steep (lime&coconut, Orchid Oolong tea)

evening:
empty dishwasher
reheat coconut milk
make ganache for truffles
coat candied tangelo slices in sugar and leave to dry longer
set yogurt to drain

clean downstairs bathroom
sweep front room
open tables and start setting up chairs

dinner:
onion, ravioli, meatballs, asparagus with pasta sauce

Tuesday, March 6
morning:

Shopping:
eggplant
butternut squash
1 lb of carrots
jalapenos
red bell peppers
chocolate chips
low fat coconut milk
whole milk (not ultra pasteurized)
soda water
vindaloo seasoning
2 packages of pita bread
paneer

empty compost into compost bin

breakfast:
last of the kale, tomato,

evening:
shape lime & coconut truffles
second sugar coat for tangelo slices and put up for storage – consider candying lime or lemon next
Make 1 cup of brown basmati rice
Make tzatziki
Roast butternut squash and bell peppers
Make raita (started)
Make black bean dip
Make matbucha

vacuum LiLi’s room

dinner:
chili

Wednesday, March 7th
morning:
coat truffles
Make paneer
wash dishes

breakfast:
nibblies?

evening:
unload dishes
Make Chana Masala
Make Biryani Sauce Base
First attempt vegan naan vs dairy naan
Make 1 cup brown basmati rice
thaw frozen spinach in a container

dinner: product test the chana masala

Thursday, March 8th
Gah! 7am yoga?
early day at work

get supplemental dishware from friend?

8pm play?
Make 2nd batch of chana masala
Make Spicy white bean dip
Slice and oil pita bread
set 1 pt lentils to soak
Drain thawed spinach (and reserve liquid)

Friday, March 9th
Bake dessert – either carrot cake or Lemon or Lime Cake (which would be better topped with candied tangelo and blood orange slices?)
Peel winter squash, cube, and marinate in vindaloo seasoning
buy, chop, and prep vegetables for the vegetable biryani (cauliflower?, string beans?, bell pepper, zucchini? – also more string beans and a bag of potatoes. Oh, and the lettuce for salads.)
Make naan dough
Make chapati / roti dough
Make first iteration of

lentil dish – Parippu

225g masoor dal (red lentils)
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 ripe tomato, roughly chopped
50g creamed coconut, mixed with 250ml water (or 250 ml coconut milk)
2 green chillies, chopped
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander

2 Tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1 onion, very finely chopped
10 curry leaves

Put the lentils in a heavy-based saucepan with 500ml water. Add the roughly chopped onion, tomato, creamed coconut or coconut milk, green chilli, turmeric, ground cumin and coriander, and bring to a boil. Simmer and cook, stirring occasionally until the lentils are cooked to a soft mush (masoor dal does not hold its shape when it cooks). This will take about 25 minutes. If all the water has evaporated before the lentils are cooked, add 125 ml boiling water.

For the final seasoning (tarka), heat the oil in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the cumin and mustard seeds, cover and allow the seeds to pop. Add the finely chopped onion and curry leaves and fry over low heat until the onion is golden brown. Pour the seasoned onions into the simmering lentils. Season with salt to taste, and cook for another 5 minutes.

– source The Food of India by Priya Wickramasinghe

Peel and boil potatoes

Make

Make pita chips!

soak more lentils
soak hazelnuts

Saturday, March 10th
remove dough from refrigerator and bring to room temperature
Put white wine in the refrigerator

make salad dressing
toast nuts for salad

Cut up crudite

put vegetable biryani in a dutch oven and cook it.
Make soup (rosted butternut squash or carrots – coconut chutney esque)
Make more lentils

Take a break and buy fresh herbs: cilantro, parsley, methi, and curry leaves (if you can find them). Also buy some pre-made breads so you can quit worrying. They’ll freeze. Anything else pretty for crudite?

knead doughs

Assemble all components of saag paneer – cook and puree spinach, brown paneer

Puree soup smooth

When you panic about there being too little food – make some string beans with mustard seed and some methi potatoes

Roll out bread.

35 minutes til – Make tamarind rice with hazelnuts, pine nuts, and mustard seeds

20 minutes til – Put chips, dips, and crudite on the table; put as many condiments as you can wrangle on the table; pull white wines from the refrigerator; open a bottle of red;
Clear any surfaces possible in the kitchen; start oven preheating to 500F for bread optimism; Make plain basmati (burner 1); cook the Squash vindaloo! (burner 2) (soup = burner 3)

10 minutes til – (assemble saag in a pan ready to go on the stove)

Start: remove rice from burner, set squash to simmer, start cooking the saag paneer. Act social; offer beverages; (have place to stash coats!!); tell people to go visit your foster cat

Start + 10 minutes: Assemble the tarka for the soup; first batch of bread?

Start +20 minutes: Serve soup; Second batch of bread

Start +30 minutes: Add paneer to saag; Is the bread plan doomed?

Start +35 minutes: Serve dinner (if bread is awesome, cook a few more rounds of it)

An hour later – offer a salad course and see if people blanch

Boil water and make tea; offer scotch
Serve dessert

1 load of dishes before bed

Sunday, March 11
sleep
load of dishes in the morning

Mail truffles to recipient?

2:30 – Latin translation group?

24
Feb

Chocolate Studies

   Posted by: Livia   in chocolate

So I have a friend who is serious about Chocolate, who for the last 15 years has been taking a week off to make chocolate things. Many things. Amazing things.

Since I started making truffles, the possibility of making desserts has seemed slightly less intimidating and I’ve started exploring baking.

This year, I took a couple days off work to help/apprentice with the chocolate making. Confectionery was the first half of the week, and I’m here for the baking portion.

Things I have learned so far:

  • I had an impression that both egg whites and cream were similarly fussy when whipped. I was wrong. They’re both fussy, but differently. Egg whites want a completely clean and dry bowl (no water or fat) and room temperature eggs. Cream is not so fussy about water or fat (since that’s what it’s made of anyway), but everything should be cool/cold.
  • lozenges of baking chocolate are not so awkward to use/store as I’d thought they’d be, so I’ll probably buy that form next time
  • Michel Cluizel processes their chocolate more than most and so they don’t use soy lecithin as an emulsifier
  • Using coconut fat in the vegan truffles as a brilliant idea because professionals pick coconut fat to create meltaway centers (from Chocolates & Confections by the CIA) – keyword: lauric fat
  • it’s no so hard to spot soft peaks of whipped cream
  • double boilers are for suckers. Melting chocolate in the microwave is where it’s at.
  • I should get some larger smooth glass bowls
  • the weird transfer of stuff between containers before folding in whipped stuff is not so much about temperatures (since they should probably both be cool) but about making the heavier stuff light enough to mix all fluffy-like
  • jelly-rolls – you can wait 5 min after making, roll them up, and then let them finish cooling rolled up.
  • you really should buy superfine sugar sometimes
  • it’s awesomely helpful to have cooling racks that fit inside your jelly roll pans
  • I’m not sure I could duplicate it, but I saw two gorgeous textbook perfect demonstrations of pouring ganache over cake to make a mirror-shiny coating. – proportions came from Cocolat by Alice Medrich
  • I used a disposable (brand = Wilton) pastry tube for the first time. To make white chocolate drizzles. Easier than expected. All pastry tips come in 2 sizes. There are universal screw couplers to keep them on the bag. Used a pastry bag again to frost cupcakes. Think that went well, too. Kept worrying my hands would be warm enough to melt the frosting.
  • I’d forgotten, but this household is where I picked up the knack of wrapping teabag tags around the mug handle to keep them from slipping into the cup when you pour hot water.
  • I had not forgotten, but this is also where I picked up the strong opinion that am important step toward sharing food accessibly is to just fucking label everything with the ingredients. It takes a little time and thought, but it’s not that hard.
  • bread pudding out of stale croissants!
  • If you have fresh croissants and a bowl of excellent mousse (Saturday is going to be yummy), you should scrape up that mousse with the croissant. I will be every bit as good as you think it will.
  • Cakes and cupcakes iced with cream cheese frosting should not be packed away in plastic right away. They need to sit out until the frosting has a slight crust, lest moisture condense and they become all melty and not pretty inside the container
  • there’s a(n avoidable) reason dried milk tastes nasty. Look for ones without lipase “a fat-degrading enzyme, resulting in a sort of controlled rancidity… done to increase the buttery flavor… to obtain the signature flavor profile the manufacturer seeks.” (Also from the CIA book)

I think I’ve separated about 3 dozen eggs. With only 1 broken yolk among them.

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22
Feb

Food swapping

   Posted by: Livia   in Events/Promotions, Philly Food Swap

Went to the 3rd Philly Food Swap this evening.

I traded some packets of my amazing pita chips, quarts of vegetable stock, and the last three half pints of uninspiring sour cherry sauce (that refused to be jam) from last season.

In return, I got

  • 6oz homemade dried linguini in 3 flavors
  • homemade frozen spinach ravioli
  • (let’s just assume homemade for everything and be gleeful) pasta soup
  • spicy mustard
  • caramelized onion confit with balsamic vinegar, honey, brandy, and rosemary
  • cranberry chutney
  • blackberry infused vinegar
  • a pint of pickled peaches with a cinnamon stick
  • 2 frozen babka loaves to be baked at my leisure
  • a loaf of yogurt cake with orange zest
  • vegan spicy chocolate cookies that are nothing like the ones I know how to make
  • vegan chai cookies
  • orange ginger curd
  • chocolate covered potato chips that aren’t particularly good
  • chocolate dipped cookie dough balls, which are
  • candied walnuts, which I gave to my neighbors hanging out on their steps as I came home

I love food swapping!

But! Let me tell you!

It didn’t fully register at the time, but someone looked at my labels on the pita chips and said, “Oh! You’re Nocounterspace.”

As in recognizing, not just reading the label.

From someone who doesn’t know me at all.

Wheee!

So it is the time of birthdays among my friends.

One weekend there was a joint birthday party for three of my friends, and one of them received three beautiful blocks of cookware grade Himalayan salt from a boyfriend.

if google+ displays the pictures, this is an assembly of all three blocks, two small and one large

(Oh, yes, there is a possibility of photos on this post! That’s because my friend took pictures and posted them to Google+. Is there aren’t photos, blame google for not displaying them. Wooo!)

The next weekend, for my birthday, we cooked on salt.

salt block on a big, sexy gas range

So I’d spent all of the past year pondering the Charcutepalooza challenges, participating in one, and looking all over the D’Artagnan catalogue to use the challenge’s discount code. And all year, no purchases from them. I sigh over the missed discount.

But that meant that when it was time to grill meat, I was ready. What’s more, I was grilling meat with someone who only eats fowl or swine for meat. But that was perfect since the one thing I’d really been pining after in the D’Artagnan catalogue was the wild boar.

And since I wanted the most forgiving cut possible, I went with the wild boar tenderloin. And then just to hedge my bets, I also selected a chicken sausage.

the styrofoam shipping container with the wild boar and chicken sausage all propped up and looking eager to be cooked

We started with the wild boar, and we sliced it into three thicknesses – thin (about 2-3mm), medium (4-6mm) , and thick (10-15mm).

one intact tenderloin, and below it the one we were slicing into the thicknesses

We started with the thin ones – and they were delightful. All salty on the outside, but with the salt taste very distinctly on the outside. The people who rarely eat red meat thought it tasted like steak. I thought the wild boar had a delightful funk of liver. But there wasn’t any flavor I’d call gamey. And they just melted on the tongue delightfully. Sadly, thought, the block had not yet reached a temperature to give the meat a good sear.

meat. cooking on salt. it's kind of beige in the picture.

The middle thickness was not as pleasing. It ended up being a bit chewy. But then once it cooled, it developed a graininess that made it tender again.

By the thickest ones, we were getting a lovely caramelization while still retaining the juicy center. Also, we threw some asparagus on the salt, too.
just what the text says

Of everything we made, the asparagus was the most delicious! The outside could blister while the inside still hadn’t lost its crisp. The saltiness was perfect, and it needed no other seasoning.

Oh, right – other seasoning. We also tried some thick boar slices rubbed in Penzey’s Galena Street rub. Meh. Not only did the rub already contain salt (so not necessary with this cooking method – imparts mild saltiness, my ass (luckily, I love salt)), but also the pepper and paprika powders were not happy with the high heat and turned a little bitter. Don’t get me wrong – I still ate the meat and loved it, just not as much as the plain slices.

You can also see that we’re building up meat residue on the salt block. If we’d cooked much longer, it could have grown a bit off putting. Here’s what it looked like scraping the salt down after we’d finished with the boar.

Ewww meat crud

And then we moved on to chicken sausages, sliced mushrooms, and slices of onions (a brilliant last minute addition). Slicing the sausages into rounds proved to be a mistake because that was just too salty. But grilling intact ones was delicious. Even more delicious was wrapping them in dinner rolls and adding mushrooms and onions and a bit of mustard and calling it a hot dog.

foreground: sausage sandwich. My friend has also added ketchup, but I'm trying not to judge her for that. background: chicken sausages and mushroom slices grilling on the salt block

The mushroom slices were more exciting that expected. We didn’t cook them to a point where the were releasing a lot of liquid, but the outside got firm while the inside puffed a bit, and it was like biting into a tiny mushroom pillow.

And the onions were beautiful grilled onion slices, pulling up the meat juices from the previous grillings.

And then there were birthday cupcakes. (Using Nigella Lawson’s Victoria Sponge Cake recipe from How to Be a Domestic Goddess, topped with King Arthur Flour’s lemon pastry filling whisked with whipped cream). Not only a good dessert, but they also made a good breakfast the next day.

a while cooking rack full of cupcakes, with one special chosen one bearing a lit birthday candle

I have some wonderful friends.

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Upcoming Event: Cooking with Cat Ladies

Cooking with Cat Ladies logo - cute cartoon grey/white cat with a pint nose holding an knife and fork and all ready to eat tasty food

After a long hiatus, one of City Kitties’ favorite fundraising events is back! Cooking with Cat Ladies is a delicious way to show your support for stray cats and kittens. This fine dining experience will be held the evening of Saturday, March 10th at a volunteer’s West Philadelphia home.

How It Works
I am preparing a mouth-watering menu for Cooking with Cat Ladies guests. A $50 ticket purchase reserves your seat at the table, where you will enjoy a five-course vegetarian feast and the company of other cat lovers and City Kitties volunteers. The menu is not yet set in stone, but it will be vegetarian with vegan and gluten-free options (see below).

Seats are limited, so don’t delay in purchasing your ticket! All proceeds benefit City Kitties. (And it goes without saying that this event is open to anyone — not just ladies as the title may imply!) NOTE: If you are unable to attend but would still like to support this event, you may purchase seats to the event and we will offer it to our dedicated foster homes to go as your guest. Just note your intention to donate your seat to a foster parent in the paypal notes section when you purchase the tickets.

rough menu (with recipes to follow)

Appetizers
tzatziki (dairy)
red wine and ginger black bean dip (vegan)
pita chips (vegan, gluten)
carrots and cauliflower (vegan)

Soup
Coconut Chutney Butternut Squash Soup (vegan)

Entree
vegetable biryani (vegan, gluten free)
hazelnut tamarind brown rice (vegan, gluten free)
Winter Squash Vindaloo (vegan, gluten free, spicy)
Chana Masala (vegan, gluten free, moderate spice)
Palak Paneer (dairy, vegetarian, gluten free, mild; possibility of home made paneer) or something else mild and vegan
assorted chutney (vegan) and raita (dairy)

Salad
Arugula and/or baby spinach
Nuts and cheeses
Lemon dressing

Dessert — to be announced

Go to the main event page for purchasing details

I love having greens for breakfast, and I’m glad any morning I have the time to cook and fresh greens in the fridge.

This was actually almost dinner, but I’d gotten everything cut up and then decided I was too tired to actually eat it – so everything was prepped and ready in the morning.

Oh, and I have a rant about poached eggs. You know how they’re pretty difficult for many cooks, with the whites all turning whispy and unruly? And you know how some authors are tempted to try to sell you gadgets that promise to make everything simpler? And other authors just whip up delicious poached egg dishes?

Well, that’s making things too hard and getting all of your dishes dirty. Just make food with a little liquid to it, crack the egg into the food, and then cover it so that the egg poaches in steam and/or the liquid in your dish. Not only is this easier, requires fewer dishes, and gorgeous, but also the end result is more delicious because your egg whites get to absorb the flavor of your dish.

I clean out and keep those takeaway containers made out of foil for this, but you can use any kind of bowl or lid (that is high enough not to touch the egg while it’s steaming), if you don’t compulsively reuse containers or if you’re worried about cooking with aluminum.

Kale for Breakfast with a Poached Egg on Top

I melted 2 teaspoons of butter into the bottom of my skillet and tossed in a sliced (young enough that it hadn’t developed a bulb) vidalia onion, a cubed red bell pepper, and the flesh (only) of 1 habanero pepper, having been sliced into tiny slivers.

While that sauteed, I washed 4 young curly kale leaves. I just shook them dry, leaving a decent amount of moisture still in the leaves as I cut the leaf off of the tough rib and then sliced the pile of leaves across into short ribbons.

I got my egg ready.

Once the cooking vegetables were decently wilted, I added the kale and stirred it all up just until the kale turned bright.

But on tasting it, I realized I needed a bit more saltiness, so I went back to my Roman kale recipe for methodology and tipped in 1 teaspoon each of fish sauce and sweet red wine.

A quick stir to distribute the liquids, and I piled the greens into a nest.

Cracking the egg into the center, I covered the egg nest of greens with another container.

And it took about as long to poach as it took me to toast a frozen bagel.

You can peek under the lid – you are looking for no visible liquid white and an amazing rosy blush to the top of the yolk (which you don’t get from regular poaching).

Then eat!

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I was very excited when I saw that the Lai family was opening up a new restaurant close to me. I was excited because it was named Grill Fish.

Now there were dreams and fantasies in my head about the coming restaurant. In my head, this would finally be a convenient local source of exquisitely fresh fish (which is rather rare to come by in Philadelphia). Possibly, it would even be affordable. But just the name – Grill Fish – evoked images of the freshest fish, being treated very minimally, grilled all luscious and healthy.

Honestly, there’s no way I was going to get my wish.

But City Paper reviewed their opening, and it sounded like things would possibly be pretty close to my dreams. So exciting!

So I went there this weekend. And I’ll say right now that the food was very good.

But my dreams were shattered. For one thing, the chalkboard with the fresh special of the day? Had not been changed in the five days since the review.

And I realized that I hadn’t read the menu closely enough, and while I thought that under each protein there was a list of 5 or 6 ways it could be prepared, instead they were all ingredients in one dish.

And the two dishes we ordered were fried, not grilled. And so, not showcasing the freshness of the fish.

Right, but how was what we ate? Excellent.

We started off with the Grilled Squid appetizer. And it was exactly what I wanted the rest of the restaurant to be. Tender, mild squid melted with no resistance – and there was a strong note of char from the superficial seared grill marks. The citrus sauce was excellent, and it was a delightful start.

I ordered the Tilapia, which came with a tomato sauce. My dining companion’s comment on the sauce was that this would make an excellent stew, and she was not wrong. Having the sauce over the fish, did soggy the bottom of the light breading, but the taste was excellent and the overall texture mixing crisp crumb coating with a thin layer of mild fish. As much as I enjoyed it, I loved the side of greens even more – but then, I’m a sucker for greens, and these were very tasty.

My dining companion ordered the fluke. Hers was presented with the sauce on the side, so she had a nice, crisp coating all the way through.

We skipped dessert – because I would have liked some of the Vietnamese desserts from their restaurant next door, and caked just seemed off. (and unpriced. If your desserts and daily fish aren’t going to have a price in the menu, then my opinion is that it should be on the board, too)

I should go back and order the whole grilled fish, but since it isn’t giving me the amazing freshness I wanted, then I’m not comfortable compromising on ecological impact (though I am willing to do so for amazingness near me that I can afford).

More about ecological impact.

Tilapia: From the Monterey Bay Aquarium, who publish seafood watch and provide seafood pocket guides:

Most tilapia [Glossary] consumed in the U.S. comes from China/Taiwan (frozen) or Central and South America (fresh). Less than 10 percent of tilapia consumed in the U.S. is farmed domestically.

And from the preparation, I’d guess this was frozen seafood… whose likeliest country practices are listed as avoid because of the high level of pollution and because their systems frequently lead to tilapia spreading to local ecosystems and becoming invasive.

Bronzino: is harder to find data on. It wasn’t listed on the websites for either the Monteray Bay Aquarium nor the Good Fish Guide of the Marine Conservation Society – and that was after I found the scientific name on the Food52 message boards, Dicentrarchus labrax. Having gained prominence starting in the 1990s, I had first heard of it as a fairly green fish. Apparently these fish are suited to wide-ranging aquaculture practices, and people have been trying to make them greener because standard practice isn’t all that good. As far as I can tell with 20 minutes on google…

To end on a happy note, I’ll leave you with a TED talk in which Dan Barber talks about falling in love with a fish. (note: I don’t necessarily agree with his objections to the counter-example’s feed)

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Okay, so if you’ll remember from the last soup, I had leftover the liquid drained from a can of tomatoes.

Well, at that enchilada dinner, one of the participants made a pot of rice (with a seasoning packet) and heated up some kidney beans. Her rice came out perfectly, and I took home what leftovers there were.

And reheated them. All classy-like. But I’m telling you about it anyway because I’m proud of having essentially made dinner for free.

Leftover Beans & Rice

First, I wanted to soften the beans a bit more, so I put them in a small pot with just enough tomato liquid to cover, and cooked that for five or so minutes.

And then I went to look around for other flavors to jazz things up.

Oh, yeah, I have a jar of pipian, so I melted about half a teaspoon into the liquid.

And I have some Lime Cilantro salad dressing, which is more like a pesto than a salad dressing, from a local restaurant – so I added a dollop of that, too.

And then I added the rice.

And as everything came to temperature, I crumbled some dried oregano in it as well.

End result – delicious and filling dinner

I also still had about a third of the roasted butternut squash lingering in my fridge. What was I going to do?

So, again, I went poking for inspiration in the other bits and bobs in there. Aha! I had a small container of coconut chutney from take out dosas a friend had brought to my house. I can play with those flavors.

Coconut Chutney Butternut Squash Soup

I diced a yellow onion fairly small, and I cooked it in coconut milk (6.5oz).

I added some asafoetida and a fairly large amount of garam masala – somewhere around a rounded teaspoon. Oh, and 3 cloves of roasted garlic because it was there.

Once everything was aromatic, I added the butternut squash. I also put a Tablespoon of mustard seeds in a dry skillet to heat.

And about a quarter cup of finely shredded, unsweetened coconut.

Like the previous soup, this one also needed some kick, so I added some cayenne pepper. And some black pepper. And a little bit of cilantro. And adding about a teaspoon of brown sugar really made it sing.

Then I thinned the soup out with some vegetable stock.

Once the mustard seeds started to pop, stirred them into the soup as well.

Done! Rich, tasty, and a bit out of the ordinary.

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Would this soup be made in Mexico? I have no idea. No people or cookbooks provided any support for this claim. But its seasonings and flavor went well with the enchiladas my friends made.

So there I was at my farmers’ market this weekend near the end of the market – and one of the farmers had a box of butternut squash seconds for $1/lb. The tops were going mushy. And I asked the guy how many he thought I could get for $5… and walked away with 6 decent sized squash.

I scrubbed the outsides, trimmed the tops as necessary, split them in half lengthwise with my big knife, scooped out the seeds, and set them to roasting cut side down. It took 2 half sheet pans to roast them all.

Once they were tender, I let them cool a little, and then I peeled them and put the flesh all together in a container in the fridge – purpose to come soon.

Then this week I had 1 friend request vegetarian soups and another invite me over for enchilada dinner. Woo!

Mexican Butternut Squash Soup

Start off with about 4-5 cups of roasted butternut squash and a roasted head of garlic.

I began building the soup with a roux base, so I poured… oh, about 2 Tablespoons… olive oil into my soup pot and heated that up.

Since I wasn’t sure whether I would want to blend the soup smooth, I diced the (1 medium) onion fairly small. Toss that in and cook until translucent.

Once the onions were soft, I sprinkled flour on top until the onions were coated with flour, but none was still dry in the pan (about 2 Tablespoons – if it’s too dry, add more oil)

Then I opened up a jar of vegetable stock and added until everything went smooth and liquid (it took about 1 cup, but I’d been expecting to use more stock).

I added the roasted squash (2/3 of my total… somewhere around 4-6 cups) and I poured in the liquid the squash had released overnight in the fridge.

Cook that a bit until everything is hot and the squash is starting to break down. Meanwhile – drain a 24oz can of diced tomatoes (and reserve the liquid to use either if the soup becomes too dry during cooking or to use in making rice later in the week) and grind 1 tsp cumin, 2 tsp coriander, and 2 tsp ground oregano (or use ground herbs and spices).

And dices tomatoes to the squash. Stir. Break up the squash more every time you stir.

Sift the ground spices into the soup (because whole coriander is ornery in a mortar & pestle YMMV). Add salt and pepper. I added some ground savory, too. If the color isn’t pleasing, you could go for some paprika, but I was pleased with things without.

I added about half of the cloves from the roasted garlic.

Stir, mash, stir.

This soup really came together quickly – about 20 minutes – so I also added the juice of half a lime to encourage it to stay the pretty color it had hit. And I was pleased with the amount the squash had broken down (mostly smooth, with some chunks, no pieces larger than half a teaspoon), so I left it chunky.

What this soup was really missing was spice, but that was a deliberate choice based on its audience, so I took a chipotle hot sauce with me instead.

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