Sunday, January 25, 2009

In the kitchen again.

I had foot surgery on Jan. 12, and have been off my tootsies or on crutches since then. Cooking was pretty  much out of the question. But this morning I felt well enough, and could put enough weight on my right foot, to hobble around for short periods on just one crutch. That meant I had one arm free. And that meant I could cook again. What to make? One of my favorite Sunday breakfasts, a "Dutch baby" pancake. These are easy and so delicious. Here's the recipe:

1/4 cup butter
3 eggs
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup flour

1 shallow 3- or 4-quart baking dish or No. 12 cast-iron skillet (I use the skillet)
A countertop blender, hand mixer or stick blender
1 large mixing bowl (if you're not using a countertop blender)

Heat your oven to 425 degrees F. Once it's at temperature, put the butter into your baking vessel of choice and put it in the oven. Then break your eggs into the mixing bowl or blender and whip at high speed until quite frothy. Add the milk in a thin stream while still blending. Then add flour, 1/4 cup at a time and mixing thoroughly after each addition. Blend 30 seconds or so longer to be sure ingredients are thoroughly incorporated and your batter is foamy. Check the pan in the oven. When the butter is melted and a little foamy, pull the pan out and tilt it around so the butter coats the entire bottom of the pan. Then pour the batter into the pan, and return it to the oven. Bake for 20 or 25 minutes (check at 20), until the pancake is puffy and golden on top. Serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as breakfast, and 1 if you're a pancake piggy like me and do not plan to eat again until dinner anyway. Here are some topping ideas: dust with powdered sugar and then squeeze a lemon over all; good ol' maple sugar; stewed fruit; fresh fruit and honey. For a brunchier pancake, here's another idea: Just before the pancake is done, place very thinly sliced apples over the top, then sprinkle cheese over that, and lay strips of ham over all. Continue baking until cheese is melted. For a dessert pancake, dot with chopped chocolate (which should semi-melt on contact), then drizzle with some creme anglaise. Sorry there's no photo; I ate the pancake before I thought to post. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Squash soup and a formula for success

My husband and I have come up with a can't-fail squash soup recipe that's tweakable, simple, and a joy at the dinner table. You can use any kind of winter squash, and any onion in the onion family (we tend toward leeks). Here's how we do it:

1 medium winter squash
4 medium leeks
4-6 cups chicken or veggie stock
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Spices you prefer (we use curry sometimes, star anise at other times. Experiment!)
Toasted nuts of choice, chopped (we've used toasted almonds, toasted spiced pecans, etc.)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Halve the squash and scoop out the innards. Cut each half into quarters, and peel them with a paring knife or veggie peeler. Cut into 1-inch cubes and place in a large bowl. Drizzle with 1 Tablespoon olive oil and toss to coat well. Arrange in a single layer on 1 or 2 baking sheets. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place baking sheets in oven and roast squash until it is very tender, turning once or twice with spatula. Remove from oven and set aside.

While the squash is roasting, clean leeks, then chop coarsely. Put 2 tablespoons olive oil into a soup pot and heat. Add leeks and saute them until they are golden and tender. Add roasted squash to the sauteed leeks in the soup pot. Cover with chicken broth and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Blend the soup with a stick blender or in a regular blender (in small batches so you don't blow the blender lid off) until it is smooth. If you used a regular counter-top blender, return soup to pot and season with spices you've chosen. Simmer 10 minutes longer. Taste and adjust seasoning. Ladle into mugs or bowls, top with chopped nuts, and serve.