Ingredient: garlic

Luscious Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Luscious Curried Butternut Squash Soup

This deeply satisfying soup is super simple to make. Please use the full-fat coconut milk — don’t use the “light/lite” unless you want this to taste meh. I also love this recipe because I nearly always have every ingredient on hand, especially in the fall when the butternut squash are in season. The curry powder is from Savory Spice — it’s called Mild Curry Powder (link below). But I call it the “Hippy Curry Powder” because it tastes like every curry I ever had from “vegetarian restaurants” versus actual Indian restaurants. It’s just pretty much a generic, run of the mill Americanized curry powder.

Artichoke Dip 2020

Artichoke Dip 2020

Growing up in Missouri in the 1970s I went to a lot of potlucks. A lot. Most were filled with things like Swedish Meatballs, Three-Bean Salad, Macaroni Casserole, Watergate Salad, Jello Everything, and of course, buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken. My mother would get so annoyed at those who brought KFC. She would mutter under her breath, “Why the hell did I go to all the trouble to make something from scratch if others are just buying fast-food?” And people wonder where I get my attitude…

All of this to say somewhere embedded in my taste memory is a fondness for another 1970s favorite: Artichoke Dip. A dollop on a Triscuit was my favorite snacking comfort food. While I still think Triscuits are the greatest cracker ever invented (no judgement, please), I have outgrown the mayo-heavy, bland artichoke dip of my youth. Below is a recipe I started making nearly ten years ago. It’s a tiny bit more sophisticated but still pretty comfort food-y. The other day I also realized that if you pick up a can of artichoke hearts (in water, not oil) on your next COVID-19 grocery run, chances are you might have all the ingredients on hand for that night when your neighbors wanna come over for some Driveway Drinking. This also makes a wonderful spread for a sandwich or wrap filled with avocado, cucumbers and a slice of sharp cheddar…

Pesto (that doesn’t turn brown)

Pesto (that doesn’t turn brown)

Even if it tastes the same there is nothing appetizing about brown oxidized pesto. I used to find it so annoying when I would go to all the trouble and time to make a fresh batch of pesto and within minutes it would go from bright green to muddy brown. Bleh. But now thanks to Maria Rodale’s cookbook, Scratch, I finally learned the trick to keep pesto bright green: blanch the basil leaves. So simple! Below is my version of her recipe — it doesn’t have cheese (not that I’m opposed, I just like it better sprinkled on top not mixed in), uses walnuts instead of pine nuts, and less olive oil. The amount below will make enough pesto for a full pound of pasta.

During the harvest season I make as much pesto as possible and freeze in small 4oz. little jars. I used to freeze batches of pesto an ice cube tray, but I found that unless I wrapped each little cube in plastic wrap, they would freezer burn way too quickly. So now I just put in a little jar with a layer of parchment paper cut to size over the pesto and freeze.

Quick Artichoke Soup

Quick Artichoke Soup

My state of origin is Missouri/Misery — one of the increasing number of states where women are now considered chattel (sorry/not sorry to bring up politics). But I was lucky enough to have: 1. A grandmother who was a Master Gardener and 2. Lived in Laguna Niguel, California. Long before we had access to anything “exotic” at our local grocer she would send us boxes of Meyer lemons and artichokes fresh from her back garden. The photo above is a scene from the very beginning of my love affair with my favorite vegetable.

Nearly five decades later the opening of a Trader Joe’s in Boulder introduced 12-ounce bags of frozen artichoke hearts in the freezer section for $3.29. And suddenly, the ways in which I could express my love for the vegetable — a member of the thistle family — multiplied.

Yes, yes, YES – I get it. It’s totally not the same thing as a fresh artichoke and yes, I know they are not organic. And this does give me great pause. But when I asked a certain local chain to source frozen artichoke hearts for me back in 2010 the only ones they could find where $18 for 12 oz. Gulp. So I take my chances and hope that an article I read about one of the biggest growers in California switching to more organic methods is actually the case with these ‘chokes.

White Bean and Winter Vegetable Soup

White Bean and Winter Vegetable Soup

Super simple, dead-of-winter soup. My husband always calls this kind of soup: A Bowl of Health. And he’s right. You can’t go wrong with onions/garlic, kale, sweet potatoes and a handful of beans when trying to keep ahead of whatever virus is circulating or nourish yourself when you are sick.

The other thing thatI love about this soup is remembering basically how to make it: 1 cup dried beans, 1 onion, 1 sweet potato, 1 bunch of kale, 1 teaspoon thyme, 1 Tablespoon miso…

Coconut Curry Butternut Squash Soup

Coconut Curry Butternut Squash Soup

I kinda love butternut squash soup. Sure, if served I’ll eat it, and even I’ll probably even feign that I like it. But most times it’s usually just kinda bland and the texture isn’t all that pleasing. However, this particular recipe I created is actually craveable. In fact, my 16-year-old daughter asked while eating it if I could make this every month in the winter. Yes, I made it in an Instant Pot, but not necessary. For those who don’t have one (is that even possible?!), simply make on the stovetop in a soup pot making certain to cook the squash fully.

The key to making this soup so dang luscious is two-fold: 1. Use full-fat coconut milk in a can. Don’t skimp and use the coconut milk you pour on your cereal or use the ridiculous “reduced-fat” coconut milk. No, just use full octane tasty, silky, fatty coconut milk. 2. Puree in a blender, preferably one like a Vitamix with a lot of horsepower. Don’t be lazy and just use your immersion blender. I promise it won’t taste nearly as good. And then you’ll be disappointed and will likely throw out what you don’t eat. Which is even worse than using reduced-fat coconut milk.

Also, I’m very well aware that simply using curry powder from a jar is not “real” curry powder. Whatever. I make a lot of Indian food and create my own curry, so I get it. BUT sometimes the generic, sorta quintessential American curry powder just hits the spot, especially if you are serving to kids or people who are not huge fans of too much spice. And I don’t know about you, but that generic curry powder is just so evocative of hippie comfort food that sometimes I just crave it.