Sunday, November 25, 2007

Autumn Leaves.

Autumn is my favorite season. I love the colors nature makes, the smells, and the buzz of energy that something wonderful is about to happen. For myself, that something wonderful is so many things: Being able to buy hot apple cider from the farmers market... the excitement of the nearing holiday season... seeing my family... Christmas presents. Putting aside the thought of being spoiled, I am truly moved by one type of something wonderful that has occurred in NY. The trees have transformed spectacularly. The brilliant blue sky is the perfect back drop to all of the colors the leaves are making. Pale yellowy greens, golden yellows, brilliant reds, rich oranges and all the colors in between. I could not resist adorning myself with the maple leaves from Karen's yard.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Reecie: A Sandwich.

The Reecie is a grilled sandwich inspired by my friend Charisse's Brie Bake which was a big hit at my Winter Social. Ah, the days of hosting dessert parties. This sandwich is such an easy way to treat yourself to a 1 person party on those cold hectic days when you need to decompress from the holiday stress.

2 slices of Honey Oat Bread
Raspberry Jam

Butter each bread slice on one side. Place them butter side down. Spread the raspberry jam on 1 bread slice. Be sure to cover the whole slice so you get raspberry in every bite. Next, place 1/4 inch brie slices* on the bread slice with the raspberry jam. The brie does not have to cover the entire surface of the bread since it will melt and ooze out while heating. I recommend leaving a 1/4 inch of "seam allowance" from the edge of the bread to the cheese, and 1/4 inch in between the cheese pieces. Cover with the 2nd piece of bread, butter side up.

Place the sandwich in a skillet that has been preheated over a low-medium temperature. After about 4 minutes, flip and cook the other side for about 4 to 5 minutes. The sandwich is done when both sides are golden and the brie has melted. Note: If the temperature is too high, the bread will brown before the cheese melts so monitor the flame carefully.

Enjoy with a glass of Moscato d'Asti while listening to Ravi Shankar's Raag Bihag (Late Evening Raag).

happy cooking. xoxo

*I leave the rind on, but for those who don't like it, feel free to remove it.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Kabocha Soup

Ok. Kabocha soup is easy. You can use any other pumpkin type vege. Acorn squash may be good too since it is sweet.

You Will Need:
1/2 a Kabocha or 1 whole acorn squash
1 medium onion
2 stalks of celery
2 medium carrots.

You will also need a bit of oil, a can of evaporated milk or regular milk, water, nutmeg, sugar or brown sugar, tarragon, a bit of butter, and bouillon.

Chop the kabocha into manageable pieces; about 1/2 an inch to a 1/4 inch thick or so. This will be labor intensive because pumpkins are hard. Chop up the onions, celery, and the carrots too. They don't have to be minced to a pulp.

Heat up 2 skillets with a bit of oil (and butter if you like). In 1 skillet sauté the onions; once they are translucent and start to brown add the carrots and celery. Lightly salt and pepper. Let these go for about 10 mins or so on a medium-low heat. You don't want these to go black.
In another skillet sauté the kabocha pieces. You may have to cook these in batches depending on size of your skillet. Make sure you cook both sides. They may start to turn a golden brown. You know the kabocha is cooked when you can bite into it and it is a fluffy texture. Not hard or grainy.

Put everything you just sautéed in a pot. If there are bits stuck to the skillet, deglaze with water and put that in the pot too. Fill the rest of the pot with enough water just to cover all of the veges. Add some sort of bouillon. I used a vege bouillon cube last time. Beef or chicken bouillon will add another level of depth to the flavour. Add a bay leaf. Simmer over for about 45 mins or so. You don't want to make the “soup” very salty at this point because you can always adjust saltiness at the end. Since everything is cooked already, this step just combines all the flavors together and softens the vegetables even further.

Now all the ingredients are cooked and soft. You can throw everything into a blender* (probably in batches), then strain it through a wire mesh sieve. Straining will get rid of the celery fibers and left over kabocha peel peices. (*If you like a chunky soup, you may consider mashing it up with a potato masher instead of blender-ing and straining.) Viola, now you have a beautiful kabocha + vege puree.

At this point, you can divide and freeze what you're not going to use.

For the soup, over a low heat, thin the puree with milk (or evaporated milk for a richer flavor) until it is a consistency that you like. Add a dash of nutmeg to taste, a pinch or two of dried tarragon, and a touch of brown sugar. If you’re making enough for about 2-3 people, you would use about 1 1/2 c of puree, then about a teaspoon of sugar. Stir in a drop of butter for richness.

It is done! Make sure you taste everything through the whole process and adjust ingredients to match your own preference.

Serving suggestions: a dollop of sour cream, serve with parmesan cheese toast.

Happy cooking.