Thursday, October 25, 2007

Fall dinner

I know it seems like Alice Waters and Girl Scout cookies have nothing in common, but they both inspired a really fantastic Fall dinner. Seriously.

When I was in elementary school I decided that I hated peanut butter. Sometime in high school I ate peanut butter again (we didn't eat this stuff at home as it's not staple of Russian food), and guess what? I loved it. This seems to be a pattern with me, in which I decide I hate a food and don't eat it for years and then realize I love it. The most recent food this has happened with is coconut, and now I am sad about all the years I missed eating Girl Scout cookies and Anthony's mom's homemade chocolate fudge with coconut. The way I realized that I actually like coconut is through an act that at first was completely altruistic - on Celine's blog she made a vegan version of samoas using a recipe from yet another blog. Knowing that these were Anthony's favorite Girl Scout cookies, and that he'd be psyched if I made them, I figured I'd give them a shot. So I made them last night, along with a fantastic butternut squash soup, and figured I might as well try one. Well, I tried four. And the two I packed with me for lunch? Ate them for breakfast.

* Recipe notes - The samoas recipe is pretty right on. I spooned and leveled the flour (whole wheat pastry) and my cookies spread out a lot. I'm not sure if this is why mine did and Celine's didn't. Otherwise I pretty much followed the original recipe w/the comments (added chocolate, less pecans, etc...). The dough is incredibly sticky - I used my hands to mix and had to wet them a little bit so I didn't have 40% dough on my hands, 60% in the bowl. Also, the cookies will look under baked! I was a little nervous when I took them out of the oven, but they are supposed to be sticky and look a little undone. They will set more as they cool.

The fantastic butternut squash soup that I made also includes something that Anthony loves - sage. There is an amazing Italian restaurant near our house called A Tavola, which is known for their gnocchi with sage. They serve it with the leaves fried in butter until they are crunchy, and it really is fantastic. I thought of this when I saw a recipe for butternut squash and sage risotto, but I didn't feel like making risotto. The weather in Chicago is pure 'curl up with a big bowl of soup' weather, so I was looking for a good butternut squash soup recipe instead. I wound up combining two soup recipes - one I had made before and love, but it's a bit sweet, and the other was a butternut squash and white bean soup recipe from Alice Water's new cookbook. The original risotto recipe was from Chez Panisse, so I guess the soup is 2/3 Alice Water's inspired. Since both butternut squash and apples work well with sage, I made a butternut squash, apple and sage soup. It's lovely. Especially with a few fried sage leaves sprinkled on top.

Butternut squash, apple and sage soup

3 T olive oil
2 lb butternut squash, chopped up in little pieces
1 onion, diced
2 apples, seeded and diced
6 sage leaves, chopped (plus more left whole for frying)
2 cups apple cider
4 cups veg. stock
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in a dutch oven or other large stock pot over medium heat.
When it's hot add the onion, apple and sage and let cook for about 5 min, until the apples begin to get soft.
Add the butternut squash and continue to cook until the onion is soft and translucent, about 10 more minutes.
Add the apple cider and stir. Let it come to a boil.
Add the stock, let boil, cover and simmer until the squash is soft, about 20 - 30 minutes.
Using an immersion blender, or by transferring batches to a blender, puree the soup until you get a consistency that you like.
Continue to heat the soup and let it reduce until it thickens - here you can make it thicker if you over did it with the blender.
Season with salt and pepper as needed.

To fry the sage leaves - put a pat of butter (about 1 T) into a small frying pan over medium heat. Once melted and the butter is hot, add sage leaves and watch carefully - they quickly go from dark green and crunchy to brown and burnt.

Top the soup with the sage leaves and enjoy!


Celine said...

I'll definitely give them a try with the spoon and level method again, they are so good!

tal said...

I know! I want to try to make them into the normal samoas shape next time and drizzle them with chocolate instead of including it into the batter.

Todd said...

Oh man those sound so good. Now that it's fall I'm actually starting to bake.

But I did make some pumpkin soup myself the other day.

So good!


tal said...

i know! i am so happy for you and julie!!!