Sunday, December 6, 2009

The mysterious snow pile

Alex and I spent a good portion of the day at Orchard Valley Coffee, our usual study spot. Alex is a pro studier, he sits down, opens his book and is able to just get down to business. I on the other hand have to suffer through a long drawn out process of distraction before anything actually gets done (you dear reader are at this moment privy to this process, as writing this post is serving as a means of distraction). So while he was getting shit done I sat around and checked my E-mail, arranged and rearranged my pile of notes, eavesdropped on other people's conversations and engaged in various other time wasting activities. About twenty minutes into my procrastinating I noticed it. Snow, a huge pile of man made snow was set up one one of the side streets outside of the coffee shop, and there were kids sledding down it and throwing snowballs. I grabbed my tea, abandoned all of my good intentions of studying for my physiology final and went to check out this strange anomaly.

Here's the thing, it was probably fifty degrees out yesterday, jacket weather, but not really very cold. Despite this fact, the side street was freezing, and slushy, and there were the sounds of snow crunching under boots and sleds and the solid thwacking sounds of snowballs banging into kids. It was winter, and not just our usual lackluster California winter. This random, huge pile of snow managed to bring real winter to our neck of the woods. And real winter is not something that we get a whole lot of around here. So basically that was awesome.

In honor of the snow we decided to make soup for dinner. This is not an uncommon event at our place because soup is without a doubt my all time favorite food. I like brownies, and burritos and pizza, and pasta and salad but I LOVE soup. Almost as much as I love soup, I love both artichokes and squash, so after margaritas at Aqui, this weird sort of new wave fusion Mexican restaurant downtown, Alex and I walked to Safeway and rounded up everything we needed for butternut squash soup and braised artichokes with shallots.

Both of the recipes were from my lovely and strikingly green Gourmet Today cookbook. That thing is a beauty, its huge and has not only every recipe you could ever want to make but also little intros by Ruth Reichel who I adore. Lets start with those artichokes shall we?

Braised Baby Artichokes and Shallots

Adapted from Gourmet Today

Notice that the recipe is for baby artichokes-we could not find any so we used regular sized artichokes and have written out the recipe as we made it

  • 3 lbs artichokes
  • 1 lemon halved

  • 1 tbl unsalted butter

  • 2 shallots chopped
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

The first thing you have to do is trim the stems and cut the top of the artichokes off. I also removed some of the outer leaves but I suppose you could leave them all on if you wanted to.

Cut the artichokes into fourths and remove the thistle from the inside. Make sure you get all of the hairy bits, they are not so tasty. Throw the artichokes in a bowl and squeeze the lemon juice over them.

Melt the butter in the skillet and add the shallots, artichokes, and lemon halves. Let cook for about 5 minutes and them add the wine and chicken stock. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes or until the artichokes are tender at the heart.

Chunky butternut Squash, White Bean and Tomato Soup

Adapted from Gourmet Today

  • One large garlic clove minced

  • 2 tbl olive oil

  • 1/2 butternut squash seeded, peeled and cut up into pieces

  • 1 3/4 chicken stock

  • 16 oz can of white beans rinsed and drained

  • 16oz can of canned tomatoes chopped up (we used the juices as well but you could omit them)

  • 1 teaspoon chopped sage
  • 1/4 cup parmigiano-regiano shredded

  • Salt and pepper

Optional for topping (it is so worth it, the seeds were delicious!)

  • Shaved parmigiano-regiano

  • 1/4 cup green hulled pumpkin seeds

Heat one tbl of the oil in a soup pan and add garlic-stir frequently for about a minute. Once the garlic is golden add the squash, water, chicken stock, beans, tomatoes and sage. Allow the mixture to come to a simmer then cover and let cook for about 20 minutes while stirring occasionally.

In the mean time throw those pretty little pumpkin seeds into a skillet with the other tbl of oil. Cook the seeds on medium heat for about 5 minutes stirring all the while. Once the seeds are slightly browned they are done.

Place seeds in a bowl and mix with salt.

Once the soup has been cooking for 20 minutes mash up some of the squash to thicken the soup. This can be done with a fork, but I used my new immersion blender because, well its new and I love it and I wanted to. I did not entirely blend the soup, but just broke up some of the larger chunks.

Turn off the heat and mix in the cheese, salt and pepper.

Serve the soup in warm bowls, sprinkle with the toasted pumpkin seeds and more cheese.

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