I need a cooking- or food-related icon. Inigo with his face in the soup would be pretty good. *g*
I have been experimenting with various kinds of ingredients, scouring recipes online and in books and synthesizing them in odd ways. I recently made an impulse purchase while out shopping: a butternut squash. Butternut squashes are way too big to do anything with them that makes less than four servings. So this evening I subjected my aunt and cousin to the idea of taking a typical squash soup recipe and infusing it with Asian flavors. Without further ado...
one medium butternut squash.
four cups stock. (I used two 16 oz cans of store-bought Swanson's stock, one chicken and one veggie.)
butter and cooking oil (canola, safflower, whatever).
one medium yellow onion.
two medium-to-large cloves garlic.
two small (or one quite large) apples, preferably a very tart variety (e.g. granny smith). (If you wanted to make this even more Asian, you could use Asian pear instead of apple; they have a quite similar taste and texture.)
two fluid ounces (one quarter cup) coconut milk.
Asian spice mix: lemongrass, ginger, szechuan peppercorns. (Galanga would probably be good, too; it's like ginger, but more pungent. Kaffir lime leaf would be excellent. In terms of amount, I just repeatedly ground some in, stirred, and tasted, until I decided it was spicy enough. Oh, and that spice grinder I linked to? May be my favorite kitchen toy. If you get an extra jar, you can then mill all kinds of things like nutmeg, or you can even grow and dry herbs to run through it.)</a>
one small to medium lime
Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut squash in half lengthwise -- this will probably require a very large knife and some careful work. Scoop out seeds and pulp. Place face down in large baking dish. Pour water into dish until it "seals" the cut portion of the squash. Place in oven for ~45 minutes. Remove, pour out water, and allow to cool. This step can be done a day or two ahead if necessary. (I did it yesterday evening.)
Slice squash perpendicular to axis, peel or slice off skin, cut into smaller chunks, and puree in food mill or food processor. Set aside.
Peel, quarter, and decore apples. Grate using cheese grater or food processor. Set aside.
Chop onion. Finely chop garlic (or you could run it through a garlic press).
In large pot / kettle / whatever, heat a mix of half butter half cooking oil til it starts to sizzle. Saute onion and garlic til onion turns golden / translucent.
Add stock, then squash puree. Stir til even. Add apple and stir some more. Add coconut milk and stir. Add salt and spice to taste. Keep on heat til steaming.
Serve with lime wedge garnish.
The squash is naturally quite sweet, and I found squeezing in some lime juice reduced that taste and brought out everything else -- the other, more earthy flavors of the squash, the tartness of the apple, the onion and garlic, etc. Very nice.
In addition to the soup, my aunt contributed a nice salad of spring greens, hard boiled egg, toasted pecans, and crumbled bacon (plus some olive oil and my Alessi White Balsamic Raspberry Blush vinegar, which is probably the best vinegar I've ever encountered; though their straight White Balsamic is awfully good too), and her son brought chocolate pudding for dessert. All in all a very satisfying meal. And I have leftover soup, plus some coconut milk; I'll have to see if it can substitute for coconut cream in the sticky rice recipe... (Update: Yep, it turns out that the coconut milk makes OK sticky rice, though with a less rich flavor than if you use the real coconut cream.)