Monday, November 12, 2012

Ms. Kitchen Klutz experiments with a recipe

I'll write the post promised here when I'm awake.  That's what I get for going Israeli folk dancing until 10:45 on a Sunday night.  On the plus side, I may be tired, but at least I enjoyed getting that way.  :)

In the meantime, here's a story for your entertainment and amusement:   Ms. Barely-Boils-Water Tries to Boil Up a Pot of Soup.

Sure, that organic butternut squash soup from a box is delicious.  But the fourth ingredient is rice syrup, which is a form of sugar, and who needs sugar in soup?!  Worse yet, each serving contains a wopping 19% of an individual's sodium requirement for the day, which is way too much sodium for Mr. and Mrs. Kidney Stones to eat in a single serving of anything. 

So I thought I'd try my hand at cooking up my own.

First, I found this recipe online:


1 (2 to 3 pound) butternut squash, peeled and seeded

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium onion, chopped

6 cups chicken stock


Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Cut squash into 1-inch chunks. In large pot melt butter. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add squash and stock. Bring to a simmer and cook until squash is tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove squash chunks with slotted spoon and place in a blender and puree. Return blended squash to pot. Stir and season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Serve.

Serves 6
Calories: 125
Total Fat: 5 grams
Saturated Fat: 2.5 grams
Protein: 3 grams
Total carbohydrates: 19 grams
Sugar: 4 grams
Fiber: 3.5 grams
Cholesterol: 10 milligrams
Sodium: 1044 milligrams

By fortunate coincidence, I got this one (along with other squash recipes) in my inbox a few days later from the Orthodox Union:


Roasting squash and apples intensifies their flavors. Use a mixture of winter squash varieties for a more complex taste.


3 pounds winter squash such as butternut, kabocha, acorn or delicata, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks (about 8 cups)

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks

1 yellow onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, sliced

1 teaspoon ground ginger

3 cups vegetable broth

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley


Preheat oven to 400. Line two rimmed baking sheets or shallow roasting pans with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, toss squash, apples, onion, garlic and ginger until mixed well. Spread mixture on baking sheets in a single layer. Roast squash mixture until tender and beginning to brown, about 45 to 50 minutes, rotating pans between oven racks halfway through baking.

Remove from oven and purée squash mixture with broth and 1 cup water in a blender or food processor in 2 batches until smooth. Transfer to a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add more water if needed to thin soup to desired consistency. Serve garnished with parsley.

Modified from

So, of course, I decided to take a little from one recipe and a little from the other.  I ditched the salt (see above), the pepper (which my tummy can't tolerate), the butter and the chicken stock (because I wanted the soup to be pareve--I used olive oil and low-sodium kosher parve vegetable broth instead) from recipe #1, and the garlic (another thing that my tummy doesn't like) and fresh parsley (I didn't see any point in adding a "grassy" taste to a sweet soup) from recipe #2.  And I decided to cook the soup directly in the pot, rather than baking the ingredients first--why take twice as long and get the apartment twice as hot?

Thus far, I've made my version twice.  The first version came out too thick because I used only one box of veggie broth.  The second came out a tad too thin because (a) I ran out of broth and so did the local supermarket, so I add 2 cups of water to the 4 cups of broth, and (b) the squash may have been smaller.  Note to self:  When working with a squash that weighs closer to 2 1/2 pounds rather than 3, try using less liquid.  Meanwhile, bring yesterday's batch back to the boiling point and leave the lid off for about 5 minutes to evaporate since of the excess liquid and thicken the soup.

Also, trying using at least one Granny Smith apple instead of 2 sweet apples next time--the hint of tartness may be refreshing. 

Other things that I've learned:
  • Use 2 small-medium yellow onions (yes, I increased the quantity of onion to compensate for the lack of garlic) rather than 1 giant Spanish onion--smaller onions are easier to cut.
  • If you like your onions well cooked (which we do), your first step should be to cut the onions and put them in olive oil (or another healthy oil--enough to coat the bottom of the pot) to brown, because it takes a while to get onions thoroughly cooked.
  • If you use fresh ginger--I used 1 thin slice--and don't like the taste of a piece of ginger (as opposite to the taste that it imparts), be sure to remove the ginger from among the onions before adding the veggie broth, squash, and apples.
  • Unless you have a fairly large food processor, which we don't, it really pays to invest in an immersion blender/blender stick/hand blender (whatever)--after spending something like 20 minutes transferring small quantities of cooked squash and apples to the food processor and then back to the pot, I went out the very next week and bought an immersion blender, and saved something like 15 minutes pureeing yesterday's batch of squash and apples directly in the pot.  Hurray for current kitchen tech!  I will offer one note of caution, though:  When making this particularly recipe, ignore the instructions suggesting that you move the blender up and down in the pot, because the level of liquid for this recipe is not deep enough, and you don't want to get splashed with hot soup when the blade accidentally exits the liquid--by moving the blender back and forth across the pot, you can more easily keep the blade submerged and avoid getting yourself boiled along with the soup.
My next project:  Learning to cook a tomato-free pasta sauce, now that cooked tomatoes have been added to my aggravates-my-gout list.  Any low-fat suggestions cheerfully accepted.

Update, Thursday, December 6, 2012:
Courtesy of TOTJ Steve, here's a link to instructions showing an easier and less messy way to cut cauliflower.


Anonymous TOTJSteve said...

Trust me, I cook a lot. It's my passion.

Take the time to roast the squash first. It will greatly improve the taste of the soup. Good food takes time. But here's how you compensate -- on a separate baking sheet, lay out the sliced onions, they will roast and soften while the squash is cooking, it brings out the sweetness of the onions and saves the mess of sauteing them. Ease off on the olive oil, use an olive oil cooking spray and save a few calories.

There are several brands of hekshered veg broth available in many (particularly larger) supermarkets. They are not in the kosher section. Often, their sodium content is significantly lower. I always make things like this pareve. There is also a "non-chicken" broth you can use as well.

Here's another treat with a different vegetable. Buy a whole cauliflower and break it up (find instructions on the Web) and wash it [I understand you may be stricter on cauliflower than we are in my house]. Preheat oven to 450. Shpritz foil lined baking sheet (because in a kosher kitchen, all baking sheets are foil-lined, right!)with olive oil cooking spray. Place cauliflower florets on sheet, shpritz with olive oil spray. Sprinkle a little salt on it (buy a box of kosher salt, don't use table salt). Since you're not a black pepper person (have you tried white pepper? it's milder) sprinkle a little garlic powder (not garlic salt) and, if you want a real taste treat, peel and cut a red onion into wedges and put them on the sheet with the florets and spray everything together. Roast about 40 minutes, until the florets start to brown. Give them a jiggle once in a while as they roast. The cauliflower and sweet and nutty and wonderful, the onions add even more flavor. Serve with pasta, dressed with a little olive oil and some parmesan cheese if you're in a dairy mood (several brands of kosher parmesan available).

By the way, you can roast almost any vegetable. Try it with carrots.

Happy cooking!

Mon Nov 12, 07:16:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Back to the store I go
this time, to buy a Misto. :)

Actually, my late mother was delighted when I started using more olive oil in my cooking--she'd been saying for years that I wasn't getting enough healthy fat in my diet. But using an oil sprayer might make it easier to control the amount of oil I use to make different dishes. I'm sorry to say that the roasted veggies often served at one of our shul's sponsored kiddushim are usually way too greasy. Methinks that, in making roasted veggies with olive oil, I'd prefer a spritz to a drizzle.

"Take the time to roast the squash first. It will greatly improve the taste of the soup. Good food takes time."

Sigh. Time? What's that? Well, I suppose I can always do some apartment cleaning while the squash is roasting.

Maybe we'll get ambitious and trying baking our fish for Shabbat this Friday instead of zapping it in the microwave, as usual. Our usual recipe--whatever fish is in the freezer, defrosted, rinsed, and sprinkled liberally with dried dill and/or dried basil.

Hmm, I should probably try cutting up a whole cauliflower, misting it with olive oil, and roasting it with a red onion, as you suggested. TOTJSteve, you would probably know: What kind of knife is that, in the linked instructions? We'll need one of those, too. I'm having a lot of trouble cut large and hard foods with the knive that we currently own.

Tue Nov 13, 01:14:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

And I guess it's time I took the suggestion you made in the comments to my "Barely-Boils-Water" post and buy How to Cook Everything, too. Sooner or later, one and/or the other of us is going to have to learn to cook. Better late than never. :) (That's the story of my life, anyway. :) )

Tue Nov 13, 01:22:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"They are not in the kosher section."

*What* kosher section?! Where do think I live?! :)

Tue Nov 13, 01:45:00 PM 2012  
Anonymous TOTJSteve said...

It has nothing to do with where you live, but I don't know where you shop. I seem to recall your mentioning Fairway on more than one occasion (yummm). They do have a "kosher" section (actually, several sections)but the carry many heckshered products in the other sections.

While microwaving fish is not unreasonable, and I understand the frozen fish situation, try to get some fresh fish. Sadly, it may ruin the frozen fillets for you. Something as simple as tilapia, baked in an over, can be great. Generally, you can put any firm white fish or a piece of salmon in the over at 450 and in 15 minutes have a restaurant quality meal.

Suggestion 1: rinse 2 non-frozen tilapia fillets. sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, or any other herb or spice combo you like. Top with a very thin coating of mayo. Then, sprinkle bread crumbs or even matzo meal to cover the mayo. Bake for about 15 minutes. Serve with a baked potato and a veggie of your choice.

Suggestion 2: get a salmon fillet, about 1 lb. (you'll have leftovers, a good thing). Rinse and pat dry with a paper towel and transfer to a foil lined baking sheet. If it has the skin on, you don't even need to spray with cooking spray. In a small bowl, mix a few tablespoons of brown sugar with some kosher salt and onion powder. experiment a little until it tastes good. Sprinkle liberally on the top of the salmon, then pat it down gently. in the oven, it will take about 20 minutes until firm. Serve with some steamed brown rice, into which I usually chop up some kind of lightly cooked fresh vegetable. This is a regular entree on my shabbat table (although I use several other spices not on your list).

We also deal with kidney stones in my family. As a result, I learned that salt intake has almost nothing to do with stone formation, at least for the most commonly formed stones. Its more of a potassium insufficency.

Good luck!

Tue Nov 13, 11:56:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

TOTJ Steve, those fish dishes look yummy!

I have found, from sad experience, that frozen salmon (or canned salmon, for that matter) doesn't taste nearly as good as fresh, as you said. But fish, fresh or frozen, is impossible to get in our neighborhood unless we choose to trust the local supermarkets to cut the kosher varieties with separate knives, and we can't get kosher fish at Fairway either--we get all of our fish at kosher stores, none of which is within walking distance. That's why we use frozen fish most of the time--we don't want to trek to the kosher stores too often. Since I don't care for frozen salmon, I usually stick to flounder, sole, or tilapia when buying frozen fish.

Wed Nov 14, 12:30:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

I'm currently working on a nightshade-free, gluten-free, vegan pasta sauce that I can serve to myself and all my friends, 2 of whom can't eat wheat, 1 of whom can't eat any gluten, and 1 of whom is vegan. I was thinking of using cannelini beans to add some body, since they're pretty mushy anyway, and it doesn't hurt that they're also a fairly good source of potassium. I could brown some onion in olive oil, add the beans, add some Italian season, mix and heat everything, then "cream" the whole concoction with my handy-dandy new immersion blender. I could either serve veggies on the side or add them to the "sauce." How does that sound? Any suggestions?

Wed Nov 14, 12:47:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

That recipe, such as it is, gives the term "white sauce" a new meaning, doesn't it? :)

Wed Nov 14, 12:58:00 PM 2012  
Anonymous TOTJSteve said...

On most of the more prominent cooking sites, you'll find variations on a basic recipe for a "light" white sauce. It's dairy, made with 2% milk. You start by making a "roux". This is not a difficult task. I've used this sauce to make a "white" veggie lasagna. It was great.

Your sauce sounds interesting, but remember, every sauce need not be "creamy". One of the best traditional pasta "sauces" from Italy is olive oil in which some garlic is cooked (just until it starts to brown, no further)and then used to dress spaghetti. Since you're not a pepper fan, I would add a pinch or two of nutmeg before I applied the blender. Also, when you're sauteing the onion, throw in some mushrooms and let them cook alongside until they give up most of their moisture -- they'll absorb the onion flavor. Remove some of the mushrooms before you "blend", then put them back in the sauce when you serve it, for some additional texture and flavor.

Wed Nov 14, 05:49:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"One of the best traditional pasta "sauces" from Italy is olive oil in which some garlic is cooked . . ."

Years ago, we had Italian friends who used to make that for us when we came to visit, out of respect for our (Conservative-style) kashrut. It was scrumptious! Unfortunate, I can no longer eat more than a tiny amount of garlic, which, um, sends me to the Ladies Room. I'm a little nervous about using too much olive oil, also, since high-fat foods can have the same effect. I ate hollandaise sauce exactly twice in my life--and got sick as a dog both times. (The really weird part is that I've even gotten sick from eating too much egg salad! In terms of fat content, a yolk is no joke.) That's why I thought that "stretching" the olive oil by using a lot of beans might be easier on my tummy.

My husband is a mushroom fan, and would love your suggestion. I don't much care for them, so he's out of luck, and usually indulges when eating out, especially at Chinese restaurants--I give him most of my mushrooms in exchange for most of his broccoli. :)

Pardon my ignorance, but I'm not quite sure which herbs and spices taste good with which--should I use nutmeg *in addition* to the Italian seasoning or *instead* of it?

Thu Nov 15, 01:25:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Roasted-squash soup attempt report.

Mon Dec 03, 01:52:00 PM 2012  

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