Roasted Vegetable & Goat Cheese Salad

It is either a mark of supreme laziness or supreme awesomeness that with one 35 minute rotation through my oven last night, we now have the basis for a week’s worth of meals sitting pretty in our refrigerator.

Given that I was able to spend Sunday brunching with the Hubs, imbibing with our friends, and snoozing/alternately chowing down on cheese through the Oscars, I think we can all agree that supreme awesomeness is more likely.  Bonus: our grocery bill was kind to us this week, too.

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Roasted Vegetable & Goat Cheese Salad

  • assorted root vegetables, peeled & diced.  Note: you can use any variety you like (obviously).  This is what we roasted here at home:
    • 3 parsnips
    • 4 carrots
    • 1 sweet potato
    • 3 pounds or so butternut squash
    • 1 bulb fennel (quartered, not diced)
    • 1 red onion (quartered, not diced)
  • 1 bag baby spinach
  • dried cranberries
  • crumbled goat cheese
  • homemade dressing (or any dressing you like)
  • optional: nuts, prosciutto, etc.

(Do we even need directions?)

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.  Peel, dice and appropriately chop your vegetables and scatter in large baking dishes.  Toss in olive oil, salt and pepper; feel free to use your favorite spices, as well.  Roast for about 35 minutes.
  2. As the veggies come out of the oven, assemble your salad – the warmth of the vegetables will slightly melt the goat cheese, creating a delicious creaminess, and lightly wilt the spinach.  Spoon a little dressing over the salad and serve immediately.  Preferably with some cheese + charcuterie.

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The Verdict:

The Husband was highly skeptical of a “salad” for dinner.  I sweetened the deal with an accompanying cheese board, and we both went to bed with full & happy stomaches.  I just wish that bedtime had happened a little earlier…too much Oscars!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

I officially became old about three or four Christmases ago, when I received an immersion blender.  When you open a carefully wrapped present and you’re excited to see Cuisinart peeking out at you, you know it’s all downhill from there.

On the positive side, if you own an immersion blender, you can make lots of delicious soups.  Which in my opinion, almost outweighs the fact that I now wear sneakers when I walk to work, knee braces when I run, and ear plugs when I go to the gym (that music is so LOUD!).

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Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

  • olive oil
  • 1-2 pounds diced & cubed butternut squash
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, cored and roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • fresh sage (about 8-10 leaves)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • about 3-4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy or sour cream
  • optional toppings: scallions, sour cream, pomegranate seeds, pumpkin seeds
  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  On a large baking pan, toss the squash with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast for about 35-40 minutes.  Midway through the roasting, take the squash out and give them another quick toss before sticking them back in the oven.
  2. In a Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat and add the apple, onion and sage.  Cook these down gently, about 10 minutes.  Add a dash of apple cider vinegar and cook off before removing the mixture from the heat.
  3. When the squash is done roasting, add to the Dutch oven, pour the broth over the mixture and bring to a boil.  After it boils, reduce heat, cover and simmer 5-10 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, and blend using an immersion blender (or in a food processor or regular blender; just be careful to do it in batches).  Add the cream or sour cream and mix thoroughly.  Serve with your choice of topping – I love this with a little addition of sour cream.

Note: You can certainly make this healthier (and/or vegan) by swapping the butter for olive oil and using milk instead of cream or even coconut/almond/soy milk.  I’ll stick with the butter and cream, myself.

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The Verdict:

This soup has been a staple in our house for a while now and was inspired by my very first cookbook, which my mom bought for me before I ever owned a pot, much less an immersion blender, and way before I even thought to judge the people walking to work in sneakers, because they were just so OLD.  We’ve come full circle here.  Also, the Husband pronounced this particular version (there are so many!) the best he’s had.  That’s saying something – we’ve eaten this soup A LOT, so I’m bringing it to the party.

Ri[ff]ing Off Martha: Hearty, Healthy Winter Vegetable Soup

While most of my kitchen gadgets bow down to Ina, I reserve a few for queen Martha.  Tonight, after a week full of (quite literally) stuffing ourselves with stuffing, pie, casserole, ice cream, turkey, and more pie,  I was ready for something a little more lenient on the arteries.  I’m also feeling a bit run-down, and with a lot going on at work this week, I can’t quite afford to succumb to a cold.  Tonight, inspiration by Martha, substitution by Varina (basically, whatever we had on hand).

Hearty, Healthy Winter Vegetable Soup

  • olive oil
  • 4 leeks (white and green parts only), thoroughly washed, halved lengthwise and then sliced thinly
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2-3 celery stalks, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • crushed red pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed and loosely chopped
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes (again, highly recommend the pre-cut box at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 potato, peeled and diced
  • 4-5 stalks baby bok choy
  • 1/2 bag baby spinach
  • 1 can Northern White beans, rinsed and drained
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 2-3 stalks fresh rosemary (or whatever fresh herbs you have)
  • salt, pepper
  1. Heat 2-3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan or Dutch oven.  Cook leeks, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, a good handful of red pepper flakes, and a good dash of salt for about 5-8 minutes, or until the veggies are cooked down and translucent.
  2. Add stock and water.  Mix through and bring to a boil (will take a few minutes).
  3. Add squash and potatoes, mix through, and return to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, partially uncovered for about 15 minutes, or until potatoes and squash are tender.
  4. Stir in bok choy, spinach, and beans; bring back to a boil.  Add the lemon juice and rosemary and cook a few more minutes.
  5. Season with salt and freshly cracked pepper and serve with crusty bread.
veggies to the rescue
veggies to the rescue
straight from the oven
straight from the oven

(Cutting board a gift of the gifted Taylor Mardis Katz of Free Verse Farm.)

The Verdict:

The Husband put it best: “Just what the doctor ordered.”  Only we’re hoping for no doctors around here.  This is a soup for the rotation – really, it just gives me confidence that if you throw all good ingredients into a pot, you’ll get a good meal on your plate (or bowl).  Bonus: plenty of leftovers for the week ahead.

Crockpot Time: Coconut and Red Curry Butternut Squash Soup

A few years ago, I received one of the best Christmas gifts ever: an immersion blender.  (Oh, boy.  I am definitely getting older.)  No longer did I have to transfer batches of boiling hot vegetables into a blender; no longer did I have to sully yet another pot or tool.  Soon after that, I embarked on a winter of pureed soups – broccoli, butternut squash, even cauliflower and asparagus.

I particularly like the heartiness of butternut squash soup.  I’ve made it with apples, with onions, with sour cream…but never with coconut milk, as the November issue of Cooking Light suggests.  So, this past Saturday, when the Husband and I ran into a friend (the husband, actually, of the amazing chef who put together the Diwali feast) who was flying solo for the evening, we invited him to dinner and hoped the crockpot – and the coconut – would turn on some magic.  I served this up with a cauliflower side, coming in a separate post.

Crockpot Coconut and Red Curry Butternut Squash Soup

  • olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.5 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced (tip: I keep a fresh ginger root in the freezer and just grate it as I need.  Nice and easy!)
  • 1-2 tablespoons red curry paste (I used Sambal Oelek)
  • 8 cups peeled and diced butternut squash (tip: buy the pre-diced at Trader Joe’s, if there’s one near you)
  • 3-4 cups chicken (or veggie) stock
  • 1 potato, peeled and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • salt and pepper
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 13.5 oz can light coconut milk
  • cilantro (obviously!)
  1. Heat oil and butter in a small saute pan over medium heat.  Add the onion, ginger, garlic and curry paste and cook about 8 minutes, until the onion is softened.
  2. Combine onion mixture, squash, stock, potato, brown sugar and salt and pepper in your crockpot.  Cover and cook and low for 6-8 hours.
  3. With your immersion blender, blend the mixture together in the crockpot until smooth (alternatively, use a regular blender, working in batches).  Stir in the lime juice and the coconut milk until the soup turns a nice light orange color.  Top with cilantro and serve.
#AWC (always with cilantro)
#AWC (always with cilantro)

The Verdict:

The Husband was very skeptical about the coconut milk, not being a coconut fan.  But I’m here to say: it works!  (And he and our guest both had seconds.)  The creaminess of the butternut combined with the coconut milk definitely requires the kick of the pepper (although the curry definitely lends it some heat) and the acidity of the lime, but this is a squash soup for the rotation.

Barefoot with Ina: Prosciutto Roasted Bass with Autumn Vegetables

This weekend has been a busy one in the kitchen.  Part of that it is due to our effort to save “mo’ money” in November, and part of that is the pure joy of having a kitchen and the ability to cook again.  Sometimes, there comes a point  – usually when you’re traveling – when you just cannot order one more meal out.  (Did I really just write that?)

While, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, weeknight meals tend to be quick or one-pot affairs, the weekend allows me a bit more time.  Enter our girl Ina.  As my sister talked about a couple weeks ago, there is a serious love for Ina in our households, that began with my mom and trickled down to both of us.  With a little more time on my hands to cook, I chose this particular recipe as part of my ongoing bid to get the Husband to enjoy fish (um, it has prosciutto!).  Because if Ina can’t get the husband to tolerate it, who can?

Prosciutto Roasted Bass with Autumn Vegetables, adapted for 2

  • 2-3 cups peeled & diced butternut squash (tip: the pre-diced at Trader Joe’s will save you loads of time)
  • 3 parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • optional: 1 potato, peeled and diced (unless they’re fried or mashed, I am generally not interested in potatoes, so I skipped this part)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 8 oz. fish skinless white fish fillet (recipe calls for bass, I used snapper, which was on sale…and forgot to ask for skinless)
  • 2-4 slices prosciutto
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • juice of 1 lemon, plus wedges for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  On a jelly roll pan, toss the diced vegetables (except for the garlic) together and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Ensure everything is nice and coated; spread out in a single layer and roast for 30 minutes.
  2. While vegetables roast, line another sheet put with aluminum foil and place a baking rack on top of the foil (I don’t have one of these, so I skipped this step.)  Brush the fish fillets with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Wrap the fish in prosciutto, all the way around.  Roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Back to our roasting vegetables.  After the 30 minutes or so, toss the garlic in with the rest of the vegetables, stir them around a bit, and roast for about 10 minutes more.
  4. While the vegetables and fish finish up, melt the butter over medium heat  in a saute pan and add the rosemary sprigs.  Cook over low heat until the rosemary is crisp and the butter browns a bit.  Stir in some lemon juice and set aside.
  5. Depending on your oven, and whether you used skinless fillets or not, your fish will be done at about the 12 minute mark.  Plate it with roasted vegetables and spoon the rosemary butter over the fish.  Garnish with lemon wedges and serve immediately.
crispy prosciutto, melted butter, delicious veggies...yum.
crispy prosciutto, melted butter, delicious veggies…yum.

The Verdict:

The recipe clearly calls for skinless fillets, which I neglected to buy.  I also have a strong suspicion the baking rack roasting method is designed to keep an even flow of heat around the fish, so that it cooks quickly without being overdone.  That being said, the fish still turned out beautifully, if potentially slightly overdone. The prosciutto was crispy and added both a texture and a saltiness to the sweet, roasted vegetables.  The best compliment was the Husband’s empty plate, and his pronouncement that he’d “definitely” eat this again.

Also – I’m going on record now: parsnips are to 2015 the way kale was to 2014.  I’m going to start a parsnip watch.  Join me?