PROBLEM: No creative title

April 29th, 2008

Sometimes, I wonder where I left my brain…how can I forget all I know about cooking and blogging all in one evening? Come on, Ginny, you are so much better than this…but I am still going to share…

Yesterday was a crazy hectic day at work and during my lunch 15 minutes, I tried to decide what to make for dinner. You know, the normal…devouring my black bean salad while browsing through tastespotting and searching for some inspiration. Given the rainy weather, all I could think of was soup…yummy butternut squash soup! A couple months ago I tried Jen of Use Real Butter‘s Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. It was simple, easy, and delicious. I ate it for days and never got tired of it. So after work, I went to the store to get the ingredients.

PROBLEM #1: Butternut Squash is out of season.

Oh, maybe that is why I cannot find any butternut squash anywhere. Well, my mom always talks about frozen butternut squash and that would work, right?

PROBLEM #2: I forgot the shallots.

No problem, I’ll add more onion.

PROBLEM #3: The soup tasted very bland.

Well, I have a ton of leftover thyme that may make it more interesting.

PROBLEM #4: Butternut squash does not photograph well!

Who cares, I’m hungry!

Verdict: My roommates liked it but, always very critical of my own work, I think I can do better. The good part is it was very fast to make since butternut squash takes so long to roast and this cuts out that step. Jen’s recipe is excellent so please check it out and her wonderful blog!

Thyme Butternut Squash Soup
(adapted from Jen of Use Real Butter)

2 12 oz frozen butternut squash purée
1 green apples, peeled, cored, diced
1 red onion, chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 qts chicken broth
2 oz. butter

1. Defrost butternut squash purée in a saucepan over medium heat for about 20 minutes.
2. Boil onions and apples in broth and simmer for 30 minutes or until soft.
3. Strain the apples and onions from the broth and reserve the liquid.
4. Purée the solids.
5. Add both purées to the broth and mix well.
6. Mix in thyme.
7. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
8. Add the butter and heat the soup until it just begins to simmer. Serve hot.

P.S. Other butternut squash soup recipes I want to try:

Butternut Squash with Chestnuts and Chillies from Kevin of Closet Cooking
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Ginger and Spices from Warda of 64th sq ft kitchen
Ginger-Orange Butternut Squash Soup from Karen of Family Style Food
Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Milk from Myriam of Once Upon a Tart

An Ode to Joy!

April 17th, 2008

Growing up, our kitchen held two main reference cookbooks: the Betty Crocker Cookbook and the Joy of Cooking. My mother’s Betty Crocker is falling apart. The cover is completely ripped off but it still precariously rests on top of the tattered and food stained pages struggling to keep the book together. My mother has inserted many other recipes through the years among the pages. I love this book because it represents the history of my mother’s cooking. One year for Christmas, my mother gave me a copy in order to begin my own cookbook collection. It is an excellent cookbook for a budding chef. It has good recipes, great tips and beautiful pictures!!!

On the other hand, I never liked the Joy of Cooking when I was younger. It was long, boring and had no pictures! Often, I would ask my mother a cooking question and she would point me in the direction of the Joy of Cooking. I would scowl looking at the distasteful book. I just never understood the point of having a cookbook without pictures. But the Joy of Cooking almost always had the answer to my cooking questions. Slowly, this book grew on me until it has become my favorite cookbook. If you have never picked it up, I highly recommend it. It is written in a way that really helps you learn how to cook. The recipes show you how the ingredients fit together to create the dish and thus, at least for me, help me go off the recipe fairly easily. My quiches are often like this. I make up a new one every time depending on what we have in the fridge. With the Joy of Cooking by my side, I often pull off a very inventive and delicious dish. Tonight, I created a Goat Cheese-Balsamic Caramelized Onions- Artichoke Hearts Quiche. It turned out really well and both of my roommates gave their stamp of approval.

Goat Cheese-Balsamic Caramelized Onions-Artichoke Hearts Quiche
(adapted from the Joy of Cooking)

1 prepared crust (I often cheat on weekdays and buy a store bought crust…saves me time!)
1 6 oz. log of goat cheese
1 7 oz. (or close to it) marinated artichoke hearts, chopped
Balsamic Caramelized Onions (see my previous post)
4 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup whipped cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Crumble the goat cheese on the bottom of the crust.
3. Whisk the eggs, milk and whipped cream together until well mixed.
4. Stir in onions and artichoke hearts.
5. Mix in salt and pepper.
6. Pour in prepared crust.
7. Bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

P.S. Do not forget to enter my Dollar Dish Duel!!!! More details here.

When the moon hits your eye…

January 24th, 2008

So the other day, when two of my good vegetarian friends, Jennifer and Sarah, came over for dinner…I was puzzled by what to make. How do you have a dinner party without meat? Then, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the well loved pizza stone peeking out of the cabinet and it hit me…PIZZA!!!!!!

It is easy and yummy and fun to make with friends. So, I threw together a pizza dough recipe and left it to rise, as I ran to the store. Where I bought half the produce department thinking we would need plenty of options. When Jennifer and Sarah arrived, we blared some music to dance and sing to while we cooked. Before we knew it, we had created Pizza with Garlicky Eggplant and Balsamic Caramelized Onions. It was delicious!!! Not too overpowering with garlic and onion but just the right combination of flavors. I was very happy to have leftovers the next day.

(picture by Jennifer)

Pizza with Garlicky Eggplant and Balsamic Caramelized Onions

(recipe makes one 12 in pizza)

Pizza Dough

I use Tyler Florence’s recipe because the dough for a pizza is ready in about an hour. I only use ½ tablespoon of salt or I think it is sometimes way too salty. In addition, if you don’t have a mixer (I don’t), mix in the flour by hand and then knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elasticity.

If using yeast scares you or making bread is not quite at your skill level, Whole Foods, Trader Joes or other grocery stores make good ready made pizza dough.


½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves

1 ½ cup Mozzarella

¼ cup Parmesan

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tomato sliced

Sautéed Garlicky Eggplant (see below)

Balsamic Caramelized Onions (see below)

  1. Preheat oven to 475º with the pizza stone in the oven for 30 minutes.
  2. Roll out the pizza dough on a flour surface so that it is about â…› inch thick and in your desired shape.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and using your clean hands or a spoon spread the olive oil around the dough.
  4. Once the pizza stone has been heated, open the oven and put the dough on the pizza stone (be careful not to burn yourself- I burnt one finger this time!).
  5. Very quickly without burning yourself or making a huge mess, spread the basil and ½ cup of mozzarella over the pizza (place the basil under the cheese or it will burn)
  6. Then put on the vegetables (depending on the size of your pizza and personal preference you may have too many toppings so put on as much as you desire).
  7. Top the vegetables with the rest of the mozzarella and Parmesan.
  8. Bake for 12 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and the crust browned.
  9. Take out and enjoy! Yummy!!!!

Sautéed Garlicky Eggplant

1 small eggplant

1 garlic clove

1 tablespoon olive oil

  1. Peel the eggplant and chop into ½ inch cubes.
  2. Place the eggplant pieces in a colander and sprinkle heavily with salt. Place a bowl or other heavier object on the eggplant to weigh it down.
  3. Let sit for 30 minutes and then rinse all the salt off the eggplant.
  4. Using your hands squeeze the excess water out of the eggplant.
  5. Peel the garlic clove. Either chop it into very small pieces or crush it with a garlic press.
  6. In a frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the garlic until browned.
  7. Add the chopped eggplant and continue to sauté moving around the eggplant with the spatula.
  8. Once the eggplant has softened and browned, remove it from the heat.

Why salt the eggplant?
My great-grandmother used to say that you have to “sweat the bitterness out.” According to the Joy of Cooking, one must salt the eggplant in order to prevent the highly absorbent vegetable from soaking up a large amount of oil as it cooks. It also gives it a creamier texture, which most people prefer. Jennifer, Sarah, and I were too hungry to salt the eggplant and our pizza was still yummy. However, in the future, I would salt it because it would improve the texture of the toppings.

Balsamic Caramelized Onions (Jennifer’s recipe)

1 Vidalia Onion

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste.

  1. Peel the Onion and cut in half. Slice the onions into strips.
  2. In a frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sautéed the onions moving the onions around with a spatula until they soften and brown.
  3. Drizzle the onions with the balsamic vinegar and mix with a spatula.
  4. Cover the pan and stir occasionally until the onions have caramelized. Season with salt and pepper.

P.S. Have some leftover garlicky eggplant and balsamic caramelized onions? Make some pasta, toss with the eggplant and onions, top with some Parmesan or goat cheese, serve as dinner the next night.