Sunday, January 01, 2006

butternut soup, chard penne, balsamic vinegar

Happy New Year!

I made a couple of particularly good, straightforward recipes a week or so ago, and wanted to share those here. First was a butternut vanilla soup, and second was a pasta with red peppers Swiss chard, and balsamic vinegar.

The soup comes from esteemed food blogger Clotilde, who wrote about her recipe a few weeks back. In French it's Soupe de Courge a la Vanille, which sounds better than the English translation, naturally. Very simple recipe -- sweat a couple of onions in olive oil, then add chunked butternut squash and cook for 10 minutes. Add water or stock to cover (I used half water and half chicken stock) and simmer for 20 minutes, covered. Add a tablespoon of vanilla extract, cook 10 more minutes, puree, and season with salt and white pepper. Very easy, and the vanilla works very well with the sweetness of the squash.

The second is from The Classic Pasta Cookbook, by Giuliano Hazan, son of famous Italian cookbook author Marcella Hazan. It's called Denti d'Elefante ai Peperoni e Biete. Despite what you may think, there are no elephants or pepperoni in the dish, as the title translates to somethink like Pasta Tubes with Bell Peppers and Swiss Chard. The kick in the recipe comes from some balsamic vinegar. I used just normal grocery store vinegar, and it was excellent, but I think it would have benefitted from better vinegar. I happened to pick up some white balsamic vinegar at the gourmet store the other day, which is excellent. It would do great in this dish, and wouldn't stain the pasta brown. Here's the recipe, with a couple minor changes:

3 T XV olive oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
2 red bell peppers, cored, peeled and seeded, in 3/4" squares
1/2 lb Swiss chard leaves (no stems), roughly chopped
salt and pepper
1-2 T butter
2 T balsamic vinegar, ideally white balsamic
1/3 c grated parmegiano-reggiano cheese
1 lb denti d'elefante, penne, or rigatoni

1. Start water for pasta. Cook garlic in oil until brown, making sure the oil doesn't smoke. Discard garlic.
2. Add bell peppers and saute until lightly browned.
3. Reduce heat and add chard and 2 T water. Season with salt and pepper and cook until peppers and chard are tender. Remove from heat.
4. Cook pasta.
5. When pasta is almost done, warm up the sauce, adding the butter. Add drained pasta, vinegar, and cheese.

Very good...

Speaking again of balsamic vinegar, America's Test Kitchen recently taste-tested several brands. They particularly liked Whole Foods' 365-brand, and two somewhat more expensive brands: Masserie di Sant’Eramo and Fiurucci Reserva. They hated the ubiquitous Regina brand, calling it "thin" and "mousy"...!



At 3:50 PM, Blogger jay_morris said...

Ooohhhh!!! I love the simplicity of this soup!

I have made 3 recent attempts at butternut soup but since I don't use a recipe, my ADHD takes over and I end up throwing in lots of things. My memory isn't great either, but I know I started with onions, apples, and ginger in olive and sesame oils and plenty of curry-ish spices. Then I added apple cider, chicken/vegetable stock, squash, and plenty of tarragon (very important). Simmer, simmer, simmer, add in 17 other random things to pass the time (brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, vanilla extract, butter, ...), blender thingie, and add some 10% table cream at the table.

I like to cut the ginger into little bits and leave the skins on the apples to give some texture to the soup.


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