Summer Squash Soup

I started off the summer with a brutal cold. Bummer? Yes. Does this happen more summers than I care to admit? Yes.

The Summer Squash Soup from Thug Kitchen made me feel a lot better in the throes of it. It’s super simple, and it’s a great way to use up extra summer squash that are lying around. It freezes well, and my preschooler actually requests it. Winning all around!

 

The Fennel Problem

Fennel. I never cooked with it before being a CSA member. I’ve only purchased it in a store once. I’ve no overwhelming desire or craving for fennel, yet it comes around a few times a year, every year.

What to do with the fennel?

Years ago, at a women’s meditation retreat, we made a shaved fennel and arugula salad that was delicious. I’m unsure where the recipe came from, but this one is close, if not it.

My primary use for fennel was actually a recipe that I found when looking to use up a surplus of pecans, oddly enough. I give you Sweet Pecan Fennel Soup.

I can’t, for the life of me, find the source for this recipe. I got it off of the internet easily a decade ago, and none of my Google voodoo is bringing it up. If you stumble across this and the recipe is yours, let me know so I can give you credit!

Sweet Pecan Fennel Soup

Serves: 8
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:
2 large fennel bulbs with stalks, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large leeks, chopped
1 large white onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, plus more for topping
1/6 teaspoon sea salt
3 cups green tea, brewed
1 tablespoon honey
3 cups fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt, plus more for topping
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 teaspoon fresh orange juice
1/3 cup pecans, ground

Directions: In a large skillet, sauté white onion and olive oil until caramelized, approximately 5 minutes. Add fennel and leeks; cook for 10 minutes or until soft.

Transfer mixture to a food processor, add remaining ingredients. Pulse until smooth.

Ladle soup into serving bowls. Garnish with additional Greek yogurt and fresh oregano leaves.

And now for my commentary. I’ve made it verbatim in the past, and it’s quite good. This time, I did not have any Greek yogurt in the house, so I used regular, and it came out fine. I also did not have green tea, so I subbed vegetable stock. Also fine. I estimate things like the seasonings (I’ve never seen 1/6 used before, so…) and I use an immersion blender rather than a food processor. It’s much less mess.

This recipe makes quite a bit of soup, and it’s surprisingly filling, so be prepared to package some up for the freezer.

Easter Leftovers III: Soup Time

Leftovers often mean soup. Any time there’s a big portion of meat served, it’s almost a guarantee that soup will be one of the eventual leftovers.

Soup went two ways with this ham.

First, I went with split pea soup. It’s pretty traditional to use ham with split pea. I used ham stock that I made from the ham bone, plus I sauteed pieces of meat that then boiled in with the peas.

The last time I made split pea soup, it came out much thicker than I like. This time? It came out thinner than I like. I’m still learning. To compensate a little, I chunked up the soup by  adding some mixed vegetables near the end.

I’m very proud of the other direction I went with soup leftovers. This was a riff on a “Portugese Kale and Sausage Soup” that I’ve made many times. The soup works well with basically any smoky meat and any dark green. I’ve used sausage, kielbasa, and now ham, and I’ve used kale, spinach, mustard greens, turnip greens, and beet greens.

I sauteed onions and the ham, added spices and broth, and added the greens… and then the secret ingredient that really makes this soup special: brown mustard. If you’re looking for more of a zing, you could add hot sauce, cayenne pepper, or even horseradish. We tend to leave it to the individual servings to spice up.

Both of these soups freeze & reheat well.

Chicken Edamame Chowder

Yesterday, it was in the high seventies. Today…. mid-forties, with rain. This shift back to more seasonally appropriate weather called for some (healthy, but) comfort food.

We had Chicken Edamame Chowder for dinner tonight.  This recipe has been a big hit in my house. I keep out the spicy parts, because I’m also catering to a 3 year old’s taste, and I use fat-free sour cream to trim it down even more. It’s (despite the link) in my Skinny Slow Cooker book.

My son finished his bowl tonight. It’s that good.

I topped mine with Genovese Basil and Purple Kohlrabi microgreens. Served up with a crusty loaf of Italian bread, it made for a satisfying dinner on a damp evening.

Off-season Cooking

I’ve been rather quiet so far this off-season. Frankly, my “day job” has been taking up a lot of my time. It’s midterm season, so it feels like my house has an endless stream of teenagers in and out of it. (I’m a private tutor.)

I’ve been working on an organization project in preparation for next season, but that will get a blog post entirely of its own sometime.

The magic still continues in the kitchen, despite the dormancy of winter, though. I’m always most grateful for the efforts of “July Me” in January or February. I certainly felt that gratitude while prepping dinner two nights ago.

I’ve been sick all week, so I needed low-effort meals that were comforting and nourishing. We had jambalaya (my mom’s recipe, done in the crock pot) on Monday, but what I want to talk about was the delicious Pork, White Bean, and Kale Soup we had on Tuesday. I got the recipe from my Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution cookbook, but thankfully, they made the recipe available online, as well.

I had the pork in my freezer – a previous purchase from Wrong Direction Farm. I also had this beautiful bag of greenery from July:

THANK YOU, JULY ME.

This is what the finished product looked like. Yum.

It was exactly the comfort food I needed on a sick January weeknight.

 

Vegetable Soup Base

You know how people talk about “life hacks?”

Yeah, it kind of makes my skin crawl, too. But if there were a CSA-equivalent of a life-hack this time of year, it’d be the vegetable soup base.

This week, we had carrots, celery, peppers, and onions. I had garlic in the house, and I had weeks worth of potatoes backed up… time to make some soup base.

I made some vegetable stock with some scraps that were sitting in the fridge while I prepped other parts of the share, and then I began sauteing the vegetables for the soup…

Pretty simple – I combined this melange with the vegetable stock, salt, and pepper, and let it simmer for a while before packaging it up and sticking it in the freezer. Over the winter, it will pair well with any combination of: egg noodles, orzo, meatballs, sausage, turkey, or chicken. Every year, prepping this base has been useful… and on a week where I’ve already got meals covered, it’s a relief to have a purpose for this much of the share.

Happy prepping!

Corn Chowder

This week, temperatures have been in the 90s. For Northern New Jersey at the end of September, this is unusual… and incredibly disappointing. I’m eagerly awaiting fall, which appears to finally be willing to creep in sometime later this week, according to my weather app.

Despite this, and thanks to living in the age of central air conditioning, I made chicken corn chowder this evening, and it was delicious. I meant to get a good picture of it in my bowl, but I totally forgot, so the pot will have to suffice.

The basic recipe I followed was from Simple and Delicious and can be found here. I’ve been trying to ease up on dairy in the past few months, so I substituted almond milk for the half and half. To compensate for that adding thinness, I added some flour to the cooking onions, to do a half-roux at the beginning of the soup.

I skipped the final step of mixing flour and more cream to thicken the soup, as well, and it came out just fine. I also added some leftover chopped cooked chicken, and served the soup with a nice loaf of Italian bread from the little meat market around the corner from my house. Easy, hearty, pretty healthy, and quick. I’ll be making it again… and I’ll take better pictures when I do.

Salad Turnips

If your experience is like mine, you’ve never encountered the phrase “salad turnips” before shopping at a farmer’s market or being a member of a CSA. Salad turnips are, in my experience, much closer to radishes than to turnips. Visually, they even look like white radishes:

The entire plant is edible. The bulb at the  bottom is like a radish, though usually with a bit more of a sharp bite. The greens can be used the same way one would use beet greens (or, actually, radish greens). The  bulbs can, as the name suggests, be put into salads, which is perfectly delicious. My fellow CSA members have suggested that roasting them is a way to curb the sharpness and bring out the sweetness. Every year, I enter the season intending to experiment… and then they all disappear. How do I eat salad turnips? Like chips:

I scrub the bulbs, halve them, and then cut them in thin half-moons. I then use them to dip in hummus. They are DELICIOUS like this. I’m dead serious when I say that there are none left to experiment with each time they appear in a share.

So, let’s talk about the greens. Today, Farmer John suggested that they could be sauteed or put into a soup.

Since we had onions and bell peppers in today’s share, I have garlic around from the Pocono Garlic Festival, and it was an egg week (we get egg/poultry shares from Griggstown Farm on alternate weeks), I decided to make a fritatta. Normally, one thinks of a fritatta as a dinner meal. Sometimes, we eat them for dinner, but often I’ll make them ahead for breakfasts for a few days.

Fritattas are basically crustless quiches. I sauteed the onions in extra virgin olive oil over medium low heat until they got soft, then added the garlic for about a minute. Then I added the red bell peppers and salad turnip greens until the greens started to wilt. In a separate bowl, I scrambled 6 eggs with some milk, some pepper, and some parmesan cheese. I poured that into the pan, and cooked it over medium heat until the eggs mostly set, then transferred the skillet to the broiler until the top was cooked.

The beauty of the fritatta is that, aside from the eggs, milk, and (usually) cheese, all of the ingredients are up for debate. Onions and garlic are always good. some other vegetable is tasty. Sausage, ham, or chicken  is able to be added. Greens always work – mustard greens, tatsoi, spinach, kale, beet greens, carrot tops… It’s all about method. Sautee, pour over scrambled egg mixture, set, broil.

I only used about half of the greens in the fritatta, so I was left with a choice. I chose soup. I’d originally planned for Wednesday night’s dinner to be a soup that I’d frozen in the spring,  along with salad, but I made a soup that will take its place.

I sauteed onion and garlic, then added potato and sauteed for a while longer. Then I added salad turnip greens and sauteed until they started to wilt. I added homemade vegetable stock, a can of cannelini beans, and spiced to taste. I simmered until the potatoes got soft, and ta-daa! I have half of dinner for tomorrow.

So, today’s lesson is: salad turnips are awesome. If they’re a choice in your share, get them. If you see them in the farmer’s market, get them. GET THEM. EAT ALL THE SALAD TURNIPS.

Chomp, chomp. Nom, nom. Goodnight.