Monday, November 19, 2012

Progress report, etc., from the kitchen

When last we encountered our experimenter, she was attempting to make butternut squash soup and a nightshade-free low-fat pasta sauce.  I'm happy to report that my second pot of soup was a resounding success, once I boiled off some of the excess liquid.  But everybody and his/her cousin seems to think that I should roast the squash, apple, and onions first, rather than just cooking them in the pot.  I'll try that next time.  Also, I got some good news--one of my spies on the Upper West Side says that Fairway sells peeled and cut butternut squash marked kosher by a local rabbi.*  We usually get to Fairway at least once a week, since we go to the UWS for Israeli folk dancing and/or for shiurim/classes at Mechon Hadar.  So I can save myself at least 15 minutes of hard labor in the future.  Yay!

Regarding my attempt at making a nightshade-free pasta sauce, my husband was kind enough to saute the onions and warm the cannelini beans in them, at which point he handed the pot to me, with his best wishes.  So I took my trusty new immersion blender and had a go at the combo.  I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised that the blenderized beans were much closer in texture to chummus than to a sauce.  So I added water, which helped the texture considerably.  Then I added Italian seasoning.  By the time I was finished trying to make this concoction taste like something, I must have added at least a teaspoon of Italian seasoning, plus some extra basil and oregano, and, following TOTJ Steve's suggestion, even some nutmeg.  After something like an hour on the hot-tray--this was our Shabbat dinner--the sauce had dried out considerably.  I'll need to use more liquid.  I also noticed that the "sauce," such as it was, tasted better when I mixed in some of the zucchini and yellow squash that my husband had cut and cooked while I was playing chef.  So maybe next time, I'll try adding some of the squash combo before applying the immersion blender.  And maybe I'll borrow an idea from this recipe and add some fennel, too (if I feel daring enough to make "licorice"-flavored sauce).  Any other suggestions cheerfully considered.

* Update, Tuesday, November 20, 2012:  Apparently, I was looking in the wrong aisle--the peeled and cut squash to which my "spy" wished to introduce me has an OU parve hechsher!  Unfortunately, the cubed squash is also expensive.  I can compromise by getting the peeled and seeded halves with the OU parve hechsher, rather than the chunked version, and still save myself about half the time and hard labor, but that means I'm still going to have to get a decent knife with which to finish the job.  Sigh.

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


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The skin on the squash is perfectly harmless, might even contain vitamins and nutrients, and really won't hurt you if you eat it. When I cook squash in stewed dishes, I leave the skin on, nobody is hurt by it.

When immersion blendering it, nobody will even see it. Under-cooked squash skin is gross, but fully cooked is totally fine.

Just wash carefully, halve, de-seed (or buy halved and de-seeded) and cut and throw in your soup.

Tue Nov 20, 01:18:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

The cutting part is the problem--I don't currently own a really sharp knife that's long enough to cut something that big. Ah, well, what's another trip to Bed, Bath, and Beyond between friends? Have coupon, will travel. :)

Tue Nov 20, 01:52:00 PM 2012  
Anonymous TOTJSteve said...

Peeling a butternut squash is best done with a safety peeler. But don't use the one that's been sitting in your drawer since 1990 -- it's way too dull. You don't need to go to Bed Bath for them, usually you can find them in the supermarket. Just replace it every year or two and you'll always have a sharp peeler for just such an occasion.

And I am firmly in the peeled squash camp. Like melons, the chance for serious contaminants on the exterior is high.

Wed Nov 21, 10:01:00 AM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

" . . . replace it every year or two . . . "

I never though of that, though it should be obvious. Thanks, TOTJ Steve.

"I am firmly in the peeled squash camp. Like melons, the chance for serious contaminants on the exterior is high."

Wow, I'm always grateful to receive kitchen safety and/or food safety tips. Thanks again, Steve!

Actually, I was talking about the chopping part of the process. I need a knife that's long enough and sharp enough to cut two halves of a butternut squash into chunks without re-breaking my wrists.

Wed Nov 21, 10:43:00 AM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

. . . or, if necessary, to cut a butternut squash in half in the first place.

Wed Nov 21, 10:46:00 AM 2012  
Anonymous TOTJSteve said...

As we've discussed before, properly sharpened cutlery is essential to safe and easy food prep. Here's an easy solution to the butternut squash butchering problem, as long as you are planning to cut it into pieces, rather than cooking two halves --
Quarter the squash. First cut it in half around the "waist", about halfway between top and bottom. Then, cut the lower piece in half vertically, so you can remove the seeds. The other half you can slice in rounds or other small cuts. Peel before or after.

Thu Nov 22, 09:27:00 AM 2012  
Blogger Maya Resnikoff said...

I wonder about using/including red peppers and/or mushrooms in your sauce. They're things that go well with pasta, fit well with sauce, and might also add some flavor, and maybe help dilute the density of the bean paste. I'd probably saute them first. You might also get a little more flavor by using stock as some of the diluting liquid, if you happen to have any. (We don't, since we tend to eat up our soup pretty fast, but it's an idea.)

Thu Nov 22, 09:42:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Maya, I'm still trying to figure out whether bell (sweet) peppers, which are in the nightshade family, aggravate my gout. As for stock, the low-sodium stuff that we've been using is so bland that it's not much of an improvement over water. But thanks for suggesting mushrooms--my husband would probably prefer mushrooms anyway. :) Oh well, he likes them and I can tolerate them.

Mon Nov 26, 03:03:00 PM 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look @ the ingredient list on ANY of the Kosher stocks, and you'll never buy one again.

Once every few months I throw a ton of vegetables in a big parve stock pot, and let it simmer for a few hours. I then grab freezer ziplock bags, label them, and fill them with 1 cup of vegetable stock. I put an aluminum tray in the freezer, and fill it with the bags. Within a day they are frozen and usable anywhere in the freezer.

They defrost in 1 minute in the microwave, are FAR more flavorful than any instant stock, and the flavor comes from boiling vegetables (skin on, no need to peel), and not filled with the chemicals that the commercial stocks are filled with.

I mention Kosher because I'm sure the high end stores carry some lines of good dehydrated vegetables or liquid broths, but the Kosher brands are an atrocious mess of chemicals.

Home Depot had a Black Friday special of $19.99 for a 5 Qt Crockpot. Even if the veges fill 1 Qt, that's still 4 Qts of stock that you could let simmer on its own for 24 hours or so.

Your food will taste 1000% better.

Mon Nov 26, 05:52:00 PM 2012  
Anonymous TOTJSteve said...

Make sure the package your using actually says "stock". I find it rare to come across "stock", as opposed to "broth", particularly of the kosher variety. Al has the right idea. In all likelihood, you're using chicken or vegetable broth, which is not the same thing as "stock", which is much more intense and undiluted. Using a variety of mushrooms will give you a much closer to "stock" experience. And beefier, too.

Mon Nov 26, 10:18:00 PM 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Buy dehydrated mushrooms. Throw them in water. When they rehydrate you can even throw the mushrooms away, but the water will be a rich "beefy" stock.

That's a bit more expensive, but it's certainly easy.

I bet if you got rid of a lot of this garbage from your diet your gout would reduce considerably.

Tue Nov 27, 11:55:00 AM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Miami Al, good idea. I'll have to try making my own veggie stock. I'll try using the dehydrated mushrooms.

TOTJ Steve, you're right--I'm probably using broth.

I'm pretty sure that the broth we're using is organic, so it's probaby not harming our health. We've been making a concerted effort to reduce the artificial ingredients in our food, precisely because of health concerns.

Tue Nov 27, 02:30:00 PM 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Organic MSG seems to muck up my system just fine... Organic means no pesticides, it doesn't mean that the food is inherently healthy.

Learning how easy Vegetable/Chicken stocks are to make with a crock pot was stunning, and never touching to chemical laden messes again.

And my food taste SO MUCH better.

Sun Dec 02, 02:08:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"Organic means no pesticides, it doesn't mean that the food is inherently healthy."

Okay, so I'll grant you that there are plenty of organic tortilla chips on the market. I just think that the old "chicken soup" theory applies pretty well to the growing of food without pesticides--it can't hurt.

Hmm, wonder whether I can get kosher dehydrated mushrooms at Fairway?

I've been reading vegetable stock recipes online, so let me try one of my own: 3-6 carrots (depending on size of pot, 2-3 stalks celery, 1 onion, 1 parsnip, 1 leek (Mom always used parsnips and leeks in soup), 1/4 cup dehydrated mushrooms. 4 quarts water if I buy a crock pot, maybe six if I use my parve 8-qt. soup pot. Maybe a bay leaf and some parsley, which Mom also used. "Sweat" the veggies by letting them cook for a few minutes before adding the water. Then add water, bring to a boil, and simmer for several hours of a Sunday afternoon (or cook overnight if using crockpot). How does that sound?

Mon Dec 03, 12:58:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Roasted-squash soup attempt report.

Mon Dec 03, 01:52:00 PM 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just remember to strain out the spent veges, they are pretty worthless. Trying to get something out of them is very Jewish, but very useless. :)

I generally throw whatever vegetables are lying around when making vegetable stock, but always carrots/parsnips as the core, celery is great (I don't always have it lying around).

Leeks would always be a great addition, I just never have them lying around, I grab them when I want to make something with them.

Pour through colander/strainer when you are done, and wallah, vegetable stock.

I do occasionally make chicken stock as well, but to be honest, it's often easier to just have one stock lying around, and vegetable is just fine. The difference between real stock and dehydrated nonsense is much more significant than between chicken and vegetable.

Tue Dec 04, 05:37:00 PM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Miami Al, my mother used to strain out all the veggies and throw out all of them except for the carrots, which she would squeeze back through the strainer to give her chicken soup some all-natural "golden" color.

Thu Dec 06, 12:40:00 PM 2012  

Post a Comment

<< Home

<< List
Jewish Bloggers
Join >>