Jeanette - Off The Cuff

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My name is Jeanette, and I was born in Sweden, but unlike the famous Muppet, I am not a professional Swedish Chef. I actually went to school for art, design, and photography. Beyond that, I worked as a freelance indie-rock critic for several magazines in the late 90s and early 2000s. I even took a crack at running a PR company for a while. However, cooking has always been in my DNA--my dad's brother was a chef and culinary arts instructor, my dad's father was a pastry chef, and my mom's mother was a caterer, and at the age of 92, she published a cookbook of traditional Finnish breads and pastries. Everyone else in my family loves to cook, too, and we're not afraid to experiment. Usually I end up inventing dishes (with or without outside inspiration) with whatever I have on hand, hence "Off the Cuff." I might make very Scandinavian dishes (meatballs, and salmon with dill-potatoes) or ethnic like Thai, Japanese, Mexican, Italian or Spanish. By the way, you can put bell peppers in almost all cuisine! (Drop me a line, at o f f t h e c u f f c o o k i n g "at" g m a i l followed by the dot-com. :)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Apple-Butternut Squash soup with lemon zest



TWO recipes in less than THREE days.  That's just craziness.  Can you guys take it? And this one is also gluten-free, since it's pretty much just made with vegetables and a little bit of dairy.

It's been kind of foggy and cold here the last few days so a soup sounded good.

I have made another acorn squash soup in the past, and also a roasted eggplant soup which borrows some of the same principles of oven-roasting the main vegetables first before making the soup.  If you read the acorn squash soup recipe, you'll see that I stole the whole-squash roasting technique from The Pioneer Woman, Rhee Drummond, who instructed her readers that a squash or gourd does not need to be cut up or peeled prior to roasting and that it in fact is much easier to do it after the fact.  Not only that, but the result is caramelized and savory and sweet, and far more pleasantly textured than a steamy, water-logged squash might be.  Now where *she* got that method from, I have no idea, but at least it saves me from any future trips to the emergency room because I can't think of very many kitchen-related tasks that are more dangerous than trying to cut open a squash or water melon.

Now then, let's get to this soup, shall we? As with all my recipes, the flavors, seasonings and amounts are in the tastebuds of the taster, so adjust as necessary!


INGREDIENTS:

1 large butternut squash (although other squash might suffice, as well.)
3 apples, cored, peeled, and roughly chopped up (a tangy, crisp variety works well here -- Fuji, Gala, Fiesta, Jonagold, Pink Lady... you get the drill...)
2 stalks celery
1/2 onion (white or yellow), chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 lemon rind, zested/grated

1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup Half & Half
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp all-spice
1/2 tbsp salt (start with that, but you'll probably add more-- I ended up salting extra because I wanted that contrast to the sweet, and tart flavors)
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp ground coriander


DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and place squash in a baking dish.  Bake the squash for 45 minutes or so, flipping it over half way through.  Use a long grilling fork to poke holes in it at the half-way point of the baking time to let steam out, and to check tenderness.   The squash is done when all sides can be pierced without effort. You may also roast the carrots and apples separately, but they'll roast significantly faster, so take them out of the oven after just 10 or 15 minutes.   I did not bother roasting my other vegetables for this soup, but I might next time.

After the squash has been roasted, cut it in half and let it sit for a while to cool off.  Then scoop out the seeds and stringy 'guts', and then scoop out the flesh.  The skin should peel off quite easily on a roasted squash as it has crisped up and pulled away from the insides.




When the other vegetables are peeled, diced, chopped and prepped, sautee them in a large soup pot, with some coconut oil or olive oil or butter until softened up. 


Add the squash to the top of the sauteed vegetables, sprinkle in seasonings, spices and lemon zest and add enough water to cover everything.  Let it simmer for five or ten minutes on low to medium.   Stir occasionally.



When all vegetables have become soft, puree them with a stick-blender or by ladling it a bit at a time into a blender / food processor. Return to the pot (if you used a separate blender), and simmer on low, with a lid so it does not create the bubbling geyser effect and splatter all over your stove.



Remove from heat, and stir in half and half, and yogurt, and top with an extra dollop of yogurt and cracked pepper, and cilantro or parsley for garnish if you have some. I didn't but hey, this is Off The Cuff cooking so just go ahead and improvise as needed.  If you use high-protein Greek yogurt it has the tendency to curdle and clump up from the heat, so it's better to use a full-fat creamy yogurt.

And since this is a gluten free thing, I have to lament that I still have not found a perfectly amazing loaf of gluten-free artisan bread to compliment a bowl of soup.  I have found some decent sandwich bread, but I'm still in the 'whiny stage' of this experimental diet so the bread was amiss last night.  Still, a very yummy, tangy and savory soup on a cold night.  In fact, I had some for lunch again today.

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