Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Labor of Love

I find that cutting up a butternut squash is a labor of love.

First it takes a huge knife and some serious upper arm strength to cut one in half, much patience with a vegetable peeler, especially around the bulb, and a final burst of wherewithal to scrape out the seeds. But after I have skinned and chopped up the squash into little pieces (that sounds so gory), I feel like I am home free, even though I am just getting started.

After a moment to appreciate the vibrant color, it is time to roast. This takes 1 1/2 hours, if you follow the recipe that I did, and another 20 minutes on the stove top.

Have you figured out what we're making yet?

It looks so harmless, doesn't it?

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (adapted from seriouseats.com)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 onion, sliced or chopped
1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and separated
3 1/2 cups of chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss squash with olive oil, onions, garlic, salt, and 1 cup of broth. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, checking occasionally to turn mixture. Mix in a large pot with 2 1/2 cups of broth on low-medium heat for 20 minutes. I used an immersion blender to mix and added salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, October 12, 2009


Except for root beer floats and ginger ale on airplanes, I don't drink much soda.

But this past weekend I came down with the flu, and now I have a new occasion to drink carbonated beverages - when I get really, really sick.

I started coughing on Friday and by Saturday, I had a splitting headache and the need to sleep. I'll spare you the details, but one of the more tragic symptoms that I experienced was a loss of appetite.

My taste buds went numb (although this might have been a good thing considering how painful it would have felt to swallow food down my raw throat), and I barely craved my go-to food when I am sick - egg drop soup from the neighborhood Chinese restaurant.

When Ryan asked if he could get me anything, I surprised myself by asking for ginger ale. Something about it sounded soothing, and it delivered.

The cans felt cool on my feverish cheeks, and the sweet drink gave me the little burst of energy that I needed to get out of bed and lay on the couch for three days straight.

Ginger ale is not just for airplanes anymore!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Same Blog, New Look

I work as an editor for a living, so it is in my nature to see things on this blog that I want to change. In fact, I have compulsively tinkered with the look of this blog several times since I started it two years ago. This time, I thought I'd point out some of the new features before I change it again.

- Banner with new photo. I'd like to change the banner seasonally to reflect the different produce that I get, and it's pear season now. These are dessert pears, "luscious and rare" according to Simply Wisconsin, my CSA. I would add "small and sweet." The other thing that I love about these pears is the imperfect look of their skin, because this is often what real food looks like when it comes out of the ground or picked off a tree. Grocery stores often feature the best looking produce but its not necessarily the best tasting. I intentionally positioned the pears on the right side of the screen so they will not compete with the photos that I put in blog posts. Finally this photo also captures a glimpse of my blog's namesake, the wooden table in my kitchen.

- New Wooden Table font. I love the cursive. Who writes in cursive any more? Let's bring cursive back. Who's with me?

- Tag cloud. This is a different way of featuring the tags. Instead of a long list, they appear more condensed and sized according to how often I use each label. I also edited the list to include only the items that came in one of my CSA boxes. You can find the tag cloud under the heading In the CSA Box in the right column under Blog Archive.

- Flickr feed. I fnally broke down and bought a new and better camera, so I really want to improve the photography on the blog. Right now, most of the photos on the feed already appear in the blog but I plan to add Flickr-exclusive images soon. The Flickr feed is under Inside the CSA Box in the right column.

Well, that's it. Take a look around. It might look different soon enough.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Smokin' Hot

Roasting has become a favorite way to cook vegetables like broccoli, potatoes, and cauliflower. Just toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic, bake on high heat and the veggies come out crisp with a smoky garlicky flavor. (Last week I squeezed lemon over the broccoli after it came out of the oven and grated Parmesan cheese at this suggestion - so good!)

That's why I was excited to find this recipe for roasted tomato and red bell pepper soup today. It's gotten much more fall-like in Chicago. Granted we've had a cooler summer than usual but suddenly the temps are more 40s and 50s than 60s and 70s. All I want to do is turn on the oven and eat hot food.

Fresh off Wednesday's colorful box of CSA produce, I wanted to use up the tomatoes and red bell peppers as soon as possible because of dinner plans tonight and tomorrow night. This easy recipe calls for roasting (yay!) those two ingredients plus several cloves of garlic and sliced onions.

Aside from my smoke detector going off mid-roast and having to haul out the ladder to unplug the battery (bad, I know, but I couldn't make it stop and worried that my neighbors would call the fire department) and having to open windows to let out some of the smokiness (also bad, now that the heat is on), the veggies charred beautifully.

They might have charred a little too much, actually, because when I pureed all of this in the blender, there were bits of what looked like huge black pepper flakes everywhere. If I was more concerned about the appearance of the soup, I might have strained those out. But to me, it didn't affect the flavor, which had a nice balance between the peppers and tomatoes.

That reminds me, I better go plug that battery back in.

Roasted Tomato and Red Bell Pepper Soup (adapted from Bon Appetit)

2 T olive oil
3 tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise
2 red bell peppers, deseeded and sliced in wide strips
1 onion, sliced in thin wedges
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 t dried thyme
2 cups water
1/4 c crumbled goat cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Arrange tomatoes, peppers, onion, and garlic on baking sheet (even though this creates an extra dish to wash, I like to toss all the veggies with olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl before placing on the baking sheet, or you can sprinkle it on after they are arranged). Roast for 40 minutes. Afterwards, place roasted veggies in the blender with thyme and water and puree to your consistency of choice. This soup can be chilled for a few hours and served cold or hot with crumbled goat cheese and fresh sprigs of thyme.


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