Ingredient: salt

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.

Putting Up Tomatoes

Putting Up Tomatoes

When I was really young my mom would spend hours every August blanching, peeling, de-seeding and then canning mountains of tomatoes in our oh-so humid Missouri home. Her unruly curly hair would be pinned back with multiple bobby pins as she carefully lowered the tomatoes into the massive black tin stock pot water with the Ball canning jar insert. Not sure what happened, but after a few years she stopped canning and started just putting whole tomatoes in panty hose in the freezer. Each tomato was knotted off from the other, sausage link style, to apparently prevent bruising. It was always a little alarming to open the freezer to see the frozen red globes bound by old pairs of L’eggs pantyhose, but it worked for her. In 1994 I got Marcella Hazan’s, Essentials of Italian Cooking and started making her to-die-for classic sauce Tomato Sauce and Onion and Butter in batches to freeze. After one mid-winter visit where we served my mom the sauce three different ways: over pasta, as tomato soup and the base for our grilled pizzas, she never went back to her old ways of preserving tomatoes.

I generally have two ways I put up tomatoes for the winter: whole cherry tomatoes and pureed sauce. I don’t believe in taking the skin off or de-seeding, as I think it adds to the overall flavor.

Cashew Dill Cheesy Spread

Cashew Dill Cheesy Spread

I’ve messed around with making a variety of alternative cheeses, but I’m just not a fan of ingredients like tapioca flour or agar agar powder, etc. This recipe is my latest obsession because it’s so simple and incredibly delicious. Adding a bit of brine from your favorite fermented vegetable gives it a dose of healthy probiotics, too. To get the super creamy texture, however, you will need a bad ass blender like BlendTec or a VitaMix. If you try making it in a food processor or a normal blender, the result will still be tasty, but the texture will be a bit grainy.

Super Simple Romesco Sauce

Super Simple Romesco Sauce

I’ve been making variations of this succulent sauce since 1997. Romesco sauce is from Catalonia and is usually served over fish or other meat. It is frequently made with both almonds and hazelnuts as well as stale bread crumbs. My version is slightly different, but still hits those same taste notes. I usually serve it over grilled veggies, spread on tortillas topped with avocado and salad greens, dolloped on top of slices of baguette, thinned out and drizzled over orzo, etc.
I nearly always have everything for this in my kitchen, which means that even though we’ve been pretty homebound these last few months, I can usually make this without a trip to the store. In my freezer I always have almonds (if you don’t already, do store your nuts in the freezer to prevent them going rancid) and bags of red bell peppers that I roasted and froze the previous summer. If you don’t have sherry vinegar, substitute a light balsamic. If you don’t have smoked paprika, just use regular paprika.

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…

Quarantine White Bean Dip

Quarantine White Bean Dip

If you’re cooking and adding beans to everything these days like minestrone, soup, stews, etc., this is a great way to use up the extras. If you don’t have tahini, just use a tiny bit more olive oil. The fat from the olive oil and/or tahini is what makes the dip a little more decadent. Specific quantities are listed below, but just adjust to what you have on hand and your taste. FYI: this also works with canned beans.