Saturday, October 24, 2009

Soup Season: Come and Peel It Tonight

Dear Mouse,

I have fought a formidable enemy, and won.

                                                                                   You should see the other guy.

There's something about this season. Pots, pans, simmering, bowls of savory goodness. I'm fixating.

It's not just me. The Date has informed me twice in one week of exploits with carrots and ginger. I have a Stew dinner plan with a playwright friend. And I recently logged on to a social networking site that shall remain nameless and irritating, to find my friend Helena's status update:

And She said, "Let there be sexy vegetarian pumpkin chili"; and there was sexy vegetarian pumpkin chili. And She saw that the sexy vegetarian pumpkin chili was good; and then she roasted the sexy pumpkin seeds.

Mmmmmm. It is Fall, the Season of Soup. (/Stew/Chili).

On Saturday I found myself at home in Sunnyside, a whole rainy afternoon spread out before me, all signs pointing towards my recently-neglected kitchen.

The night before, lured by the status update, I'd gone up to Heavenly Small Town to visit Helena and her Roomies. As I've mentioned, our friendship began in the kitchen and we always cook/eat together. This time, the Household was preparing a Pumpkin Party Extraordinaire for Saturday night, and because I couldn't attend, I came to participate in Pumpkin Eve cooking. My task: mixing a batch of corn muffins with maple butter which H planned to serve with the Chili (recipe, I hope, forthcoming).

Roomie #1 was busy creating a tomato vinegar he found in an all-Vinegar Cookbook ("I got this for a dollar!"), and Roomie #2 was bravely attempting her first pie - double crust!! You would have been proud of me. I had already climbed into bed (foolish, foolish Boo) when R2 asked, "Do you think I should make the crust tonight? Any tips? Oh - No, I dont have a rolling pin. Why?" Bang - I'm in the kitchen in my PJs, up to my elbows in butter & flour, providing what I hope was sage advice such as "remain calm", and "yes, always READ the whole recipe to begin with, but I think we'll be fine without the shortening" (we were).

You know your friend has forgiven you for missing her party when she ends the evening of manual labor by drawing you a bath and handing you a glass of maker's mark.

So it was with these festive thoughts in my head that I came back to Sunnyside in the morning, looked in my fridge and realized I had the following, nearly all from the farmers market:

* 1 voluptuous butternut squash
* 2 yellow onions
* bag of cortland apples
* curry powder
* apple juice
* Recipe for "Butternut Squash and Apple soup" from Her Majesty Ina Garten

Now if I didn't know better I'd say there was a small conspiracy in the food world around this sunny root vegetable. WHY does no recipe EVER cop to the difficulty of peeling butternut squash? They all innocently begin "Peel and seed a butternut squash", without so much as an asterisked acknowledgement that the skin of this thing is so tightly welded to the fruit that it might as well be a coat of paint. I imagine home cooks everywhere, like myself, putting their peeler to this task and giving up.

Yes, I cut myself. But you don't have to. (Remain Calm). There IS a way to do this, and it's worth it. Because like a cheap date, once you get the outer layers off this baby, the rest is easy. (And warm and delicious.)

Take your skinny vegetable peeler in one hand. Look at it, shake your head, and throw it over your left shoulder.
Pick up your squash, and with a Big knife, cut it crosswise in half (or 3, if it's really big). Just plunge it on in and wrestle it through.
Then, holding a piece cut side down, just make slices down the sides with SMALLER knife, slicing off skin in big strips. It's ok if some flesh comes off with it. Better its than yours. Don't get crazy trying to skin it flawlessly.
Then, chop up squash into chunks, retrieve your skinny peeler and use it on the apples.

On a related note, the Peeling Issue came up at Helena's while R1 was struggling with his bag of tomatoes. The vegetable peeler was doing more harm than good and each tomato was a project unto itself (1 min or more). The solution: Boil a pot of water. Drop each tomato in, count to ten. Remove with a slotted spoon and, under cold running water, slide the skin off easily with your hands. Trust me on this.

Oh and the Pumpkin Party? From Helena:

missed you last night! corn muffins were devoured
Jesse put the maple butter into the gravy
around 11pm i was finishing the turkey with men 3 deep around the oven
turkey came out at 11:30 and disappeared completely-- people sucking on bones-- by midnight. this morning i made pumpkin pancakes and drenched them in maple butter. goodness. your food was put to good use.


The Boo

PS I just found this picture online. Talk about seasonal!


Anonymous said...

Absolutely love your website!

Regarding 'peeling' butternut squash (the painful demise of many a peeler)

- chop the sqaush in half -simpley take your vegetable chopping knife or chef's knife and firmly plant into the center.

Then take a hammer (yes, a hammer)

Take the hammer and give the top end of your knife a good tap. I was initially afraid in breaking my knives with this move but I haven't so far, in fact, they are not even damaged. Two taps and you are done.

Cut the rest of the butternut squash accordingly until manageable without the hammer.

As I love a good mashed turnip (mashed with a little cream, nutmeg, unsalted butted, salt and pepper). I also use this method to cut the unweilding but almighty turnip.

Hope this is helpful.

The Mouse said...

Thanks for the anonymous tip!

Chef Josh also has some good advice for wrestling with squash...

Maria said...

wow!i have to try this!my children will surelly love this.thanks for sharing the recipe.