24 October 2009

Garlic Soup

Wait, what? I haven't told you about the garlic soup? Oh, my. I've told everyone I know about the garlic soup. The 88-clove garlic soup. It's been a week since we made it and I'm finally uploading photos, now that we've stopped smelling. That's a joke. We really only smelled for like 12 hours after the infamous garlic soup at the infamous garlic party. This is our friends' annual party, 15 years strong, complete with votes and prizes. But this was our first time to attend and to compete with 20 or 30 other - ahem - seasoned competitors, whose dishes ranged from crackers to cheesecake and everything in between.

The cheesecake won first prize and was delicious. I've long been a fan of garlic chocolate chip cookies, so I shouldn't have been surprised that garlic would lend itself so well to other desserts. The garlicky crackers were in the top 3 as well - also a favorite. There were more dishes than you can imagine; and I had a hard time deciding from the vegetarian dishes alone.

I did vote for our fantastic garlic soup, a surprisingly soothing soup given that it has so much garlic in it. But don't worry; it doesn't just have garlic in it. It has onions, too. And cream and thyme. We received many compliments and accolades (coulda been a contender), but we did not manage to win. Which is fine, given that it's our first year. We'll try again next year and in the meantime, we'll welcome a new recipe into our repertoire.

88-clove garlic soup
from Smitten Kitchen

(she calls it a "44-clove ticket to happiness" - we doubled it and dubbed it 88-clove garlic soup - so now it's a ticket to twice as much happiness)

52 garlic cloves (unpeeled)
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter (Use Shatto! Seriously!)
4 1/2 cups sliced onions
3 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
36 garlic cloves, peeled
7 cups vegetable stock
1 cup whipping cream (Shatto!)
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 4 ounces)
8 lemon wedges

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place 52 garlic cloves in small glass baking dish. Add 4 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Cover baking dish tightly with foil and bake until garlic is golden brown and tender, about 45 minutes. Cool. Squeeze garlic between fingertips to release cloves. Transfer cloves to small bowl.

Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and thyme and cook until onions are translucent, about 6 minutes. Add roasted garlic and 36 raw garlic cloves and cook 3 minutes. Add vegetable stock; cover and simmer until garlic is very tender, about 20 minutes. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Return soup to saucepan; add cream and bring to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

Divide grated cheese among 8 bowls and ladle soup over. Squeeze juice of 1 lemon wedge into each bowl and serve.

Serves 8 for dinner; Serves 40 or 50 when competing at a garlic party.

Thanks to Mom for tipping us off to this Smitten Kitchen recipe. Last October it was the Halloween costume; this year the garlic party recipe. Mom has such great ideas.

lucky number 7 - not lucky enough - better luck next year!


blue and red with power line

The colors have exploded this week. And maybe it's because there has been such a deficit of sunshine lately that I have been drawn like a moth to the flaming yellow and orange and red, perhaps in some primal pursuit of the vitamin D missing from an overcast week.

with church steeple (or Brookside pretending to be New England)

But here it is Saturday and the sun is FINALLY out for hours at a time. And still I am drawn to the colors and am staring in awe. I know they will be gone soon. So in the same way that I go to the farmers' market (which is where I was this morning) and buy way more than I need (which is what I was doing this morning) because I know the season will end (which it will soon) - I go through my day with my iPhone in hand and snap picture after picture, more than I 'need,' of every bright color that calls to me.

Take a picture; it'll last longer.


Post Script: Just saw this on NPR's website - "Why Leaves Really Fall Off Trees." It's partly because "leaves are basically the kitchen staff of a tree."

22 October 2009

A weekend in OKC (A Photo Essay)

The zinnias in Mema's yard were in full force, even though it was cold out.

My first time to meet baby Cameron, who is only 4 months old and is already charming.

Minli's birthday, postponed a week due to swine flu, was celebrated at Honey's house on Saturday; Mom (Honey) hosted a tea party for Minli and three friends. Big sister Ling and her buddy helped serve.
Teeny cup cakes for the tea party.

Tyler's birthday was that day, too, and both birthday girls wanted Pound Cake with Butter Sauce (butter sauce not pictured). I haven't had Pound Cake with Butter Sauce in years ... and I have missed it.
For her birthday, Minli got a new bicycle with training wheels; Ling graciously offered to show her how to ride.

17 October 2009

A Very Big Squash

this was the smallest pink banana squash they had

The Badseeds, Brooke and Dan, have been growing some winter squash like you wouldn't believe. Some are funky, some are gnarly, some are mammoth - they are all at once formidable and enticing. These squashes called to me for a few weeks, but I resisted, thinking that a two-person household with a maxed-out freezer couldn't possible address the entirety of a squash of that size. Until two weeks ago when just one taste of a Pink Banana squash finally caused me to cave. So I picked the smallest Pink Banana squash there was (huge though it may be) and came home to hunt for recipes. Several recipes.

Brooke and Dan suggested treating this squash like a pumpkin so I headed straight for the "squashes, winter" section of Chez Panisse Vegetables. I found an ultra simple Pumpkin Soup recipe that welcomed the Pink Banana substitution perfectly.

under each hunk of squash: thyme and unpeeled garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper

croutons to garnish

The Pink Banana is sweet, like pumpkin, and so a plain old pumpkin pie seemed like a natural fit. Using this Pumpkin Pie recipe from the Rolling Prairie Cookbook, Sergio made a lovely pie - it was a low fat version that was pretty good as is. But we also slathered it with whipped Shatto cream (not low fat). So we're thinking, next time we make it we might try making the pie full fat. It is a pie after all - in for a penny, in for a pound.

Sergio serving the pie

Days later I still had what seemed like two pumpkins' worth of squash. I was home alone that week, while Sergio was out of town and so it was up to me to finish the remainder of this squash alone. I was pretty sure I was up to the task. I had kept the remaining squash in the refrigerator, the open end covered in plastic wrap for preservation. I pulled it out and started chopping, intending to make another a soup. Or a stew, rather, this one hardier than the pure pumpkin soup.

almost there: just an entire pumpkin's worth of squash left to go

While my stew was stewing I realized I still had a significant portion of Pink Banana squash left and I decided to tackle it in another dessert form, an ultra simple treatment this time. I just chopped what was left and roasted it for a short eternity in a hot oven with honey, brown sugar, and cinnamon.

the last of the Pink Banana

It occurs to me now that I never should have been so intimidated by the enormity of the pink banana squash given that it's such a versatile and flexible food. Savory or sweet, it lends itself to so many possibilities.


Roasted Pumpkin Soup
from Chez Panisse Vegetables

1 sugar pumpkin (about 3 pounds) ... or 1/3 or 1/4 of a pink banana squash
olive oil
salt and pepper
2 sprigs thyme
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
optional: unsalted butter
4 slices bread
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Split the pumpkin and scrape out the seeds and pith, oil the cut surfaces with olive oil, and season generously with salt and pepper. Place the halves cut side down on a baking sheet, with a sprig of thyme and 2 unpeeled cloves of garlic tucked underneath each seed cavity. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes, or until completely tender. When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh (or peel off the skins) and add the pulp to a soup pot along with the roasted garlic, squeezed out of its skin. Mash them together with a heavy wire whisk or a wooden spoon, add the stock, and heat to a simmer. Taste and correct the seasoning. For a richer soup, add a little butter at this point.
While the pumpkin is baking, make black pepper croutons: cut the slices of bread into 1/2 inch cubes and toss them in the melted butter; salt, spread on a baking sheet, and roast in a medium oven until brown and crisp; generously grind black pepper over them as soon as you take them out of the oven.
Serves 4.

Pumpkin Pie
from Rolling Prairie Cookbook, by Nancy O'Connor (from the Rolling Prairie Farmers Alliance in Lawrence, KS)
In this particular recipe, the pumpkin pie filling is completely fat free; all of the fat is found in the crust. There are those times when you really want to splurge with a crust, but consider baking this pumpkin pie filling directly in a baking dish. You'll have a really nutritious dessert that you can serve up as a pudding ... and you may not even miss the crust.

2 cups cooked pumpkin, winter squash, or sweet potatoes
1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
3 egg whites
1 1/2 cups evaporated skimmed milk or regular lowfat milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 9-inch unbaked whole wheat pie crust.

Preheat oven to 425 F. Place all filling ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Pour into 9-inch unbaked pie crust and bake for 15 minutes at 425 F. Reduce temperature to 350 F and bake another 45 minutes or until set. Makes one 9-inch pie.

Nutrition Information per serving, 8 servings per pie, baked in a crust: Calories - 232; Protein - 7g; Total Fat - 6.2g; Carbohydrates - 36g; Cholesterol - 1.5mg; Sodium - 410 mg; Vitamin A - 12% DV; Vitamin C - 5% DV.

Black Bean and Pumpkin Stew
from Rolling Prairie Cookbook, by Nancy O'Connor

2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 cups pumpkin, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 to 2 hot peppers (to taste), seeded and finely minced
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup dry red wine or vegetable broth
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
4 cups cooked black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups corn kernels, fresh off the cob or frozen
sour cream and fresh cilantro for garnish

Heat 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the pumpkin and sauté until beginning to brown, approximately 10 minutes. Set aside. In a large soup pot, heat remaining oil over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, and hot pepper. Sauté until just beginning to get tender. Add cumin, cinnamon, cloves, chili powder, and salt. Stir to combine. Add tomatoes and their juice, along with the wine and/or broth, and the sautéed pumpkin. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and allow to simmer 20 minutes. Add beans and corn. Simmer for another 20 minutes, adding more broth if necessary to thin the stew. Serve hot, with a spoonful of sour cream and chopped fresh cilantro for garnish. Serves 6 to 8.

Nutritional information per serving, 6 servings per recipe: Calories - 362; Protein - 15g; Total fat - 5.7g (sat. fat - 1.1g); Carbohydrates - 62 g; Cholesterol - <1mg; Sodium - 605mg; Vitamin A - 52% DV; Vitamin C - 84% DV.

Roasted Pink Banana
from the ether

pink banana squash
brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Or 400. Ish. I don't know - try 375 for good measure. Drizzle chopped squash with whatever amount of honey you deem appropriate. That should be enough - maybe add just a little bit more. Sprinkle cinnamon generously and brown sugar sparingly. Roast in the oven for what seems like forever but is actually like an hour. Or until squash is tender. Obviously.

11 October 2009

When I say Pear, you say Butter

A few weeks ago, a friend from church asked me if I wanted some pears from his neighbor's pear tree. I responded with a resounding yes and got ready with my canning jars and pressure canner. From the Ball Blue Book of preserving I found the following recipe. And from the following photo you may see just how well my pear butter turned out and how eagerly it was received and consumed. Not to worry, I have 2 and a half more happy pints in my cabinet to enjoy all winter long. Which will be the perfect time to eat this batch of butter given that the hint of nutmeg and the orange peel make the whole thing taste like Christmas.

pear butter 10-5-09

Pear Butter
6 to 7 pounds pears (about 20 medium)
4 cups of sugar (use less! perhaps 3 cups?)
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup orange juice

To Prepare Pulp: Wash pears. Core, peel and slice pears. Combine pears and 1/2 cup water in a large saucepot. Simmer until pears are soft. Purée using a food processor or food mill, being careful not to liquefy. Measure 2 quarts pear pulp.

To Make Butter: Combine pear pulp and sugar in a large saucepot, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add remaining ingredients. Cook until thick enough to round up on a spoon. As mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking. Ladle hot butter into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner.

Yield: about 4 pints

01 October 2009

Chili Festival with Family

habaneros and lemon bells

My parents came to celebrate their birthdays last month. Well, their birthdays were in June and July. But hectic summer schedules dictated that we postpone a celebratory Kansas City visit until September 12 which, as luck would have it, was the Chili Pepper Festival at Powell Garden's new Heartland Harvest Garden.

ornamental chilis - cute but hot!

just a name, not a flavor

It. Was. Fan. Tastic. I had so much fun I went ahead and counted it as my birthday a little too.

We toured the peppers in the menu garden with Horticulturist Matt who was full of interesting information and was patient with our (my) questions, even after the tour was over. We dared to spin the wheel of fire and sample peppers beyond our comfort zone (Sergio and me - a habanero, dad - a lemon bell). We saw, smelled, and savored a pepper roasting demo and bought some to bring home. We sampled salsa ... and bought some to bring home. We tasted pepper jelly ... and bought some to bring home. We could have had our own delightful mini chili pepper festival with all the goods we brought home.


Powell Gardens is a spectacular place to go, not just because of the Heartland Harvest Garden, which is the nation's largest edible landscape. The amount of plant life to see throughout the garden far exceeds the amount of time given in any one trip. And each visit there's something new as the plants - and the harvests in the edible landscape - change with the seasons.

I can't wait to go back for another visit. And another visit with Mom and Dad again would be the best of all.