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Cozy Soups for Fall
Thursday October 26th, 2006 09:22 AM
What could be better on a brisk fall evening than a bowl of soup and a piece of crusty bread? There is a terrific thread over in the Consuming Pleasures forum all about favorite fall soup recipes. In the spirit of simple, comforting, warming fall soup for evenings at home (or lunches, since soup in general travels and re-heats beautifully), I'd like to share three of my favorite soup recipes. Of course they are all inspired by professionally developed recipes, but have been tweaked enough that I consider them to be my own. All can be made vegetarian by using veggie broth or water instead of the chicken stock. Enjoy!

Tomato Bread Soup
3/4 lb crusty Italian bread
1T olive oil
1 small onion, diced small
2 cloves garlic, pressed
28 oz can peeled crushed tomatoes in puree
7 large basil leaves, cut into ribbons (and another few for garnish if you like)
3.5 cups chicken or veggie broth
1T sugar
1t kosher salt or sea salt

Heat oven to 350. Cut the bread into 1 inch slices, cut off & discard the crusts, then cut remaining squishy middle into 1x1 inch cubes. Place bread cubes on a baking sheet and put them in the oven for 15 minutes, until they are golden and dry. You could also just use stale bread if you have it.
Heat 1T olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. When it is hot, add the onion and sautee until translucent (8 minutes or so?).
Put the salt and pressed garlic in a small bowl and mush together to make a paste. Add this paste to the onion and sautee for about a minute.
Add the contents of the can of tomatoes, the tablespoon of sugar and stir. Cook until they are bubbling nicely, then add the chicken broth and allow the whole thing to come to a boil. Drop in the toasted bread cubes and stir. They will very quickly slurp up the liquid and the mixture will take on a puddingy texture.
Turn the heat down if you're worried about the soup at the bottom burning, and keep stirring until the bread cubes are pretty much totally broken up into the yummy, puddingy mess. It takes 5-10 minutes generally. If you don't like the looks of it, add more broth or some water a few tablespoons at a time until it is the consistency you like. When it gets there, stir in the basil bits and take it off the heat.
Scoop it into bowls, garnish with a drizzle of good olive oil, some parmesan cheese and a whole basil leaf. Yum!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

1 bag Trader Joe's cubed bn squash (this is about a pound-- peel, de-seed and cube a 1-2 pound butternut squash if you don't have a TJs nearby)
1 can chicken broth (low sodium best)
1 small onion, diced
1 shallot, diced
1 largeish clove garlic, pressed or minced
1T sherry (dry, for cooking)
1/4t nutmeg
1/4 c heavy cream or 1/2 & 1/2
2T maple syrup
2T butter
3T olive oil, divided
Salt & Pepper
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Put squash in a roasting pan, drizzle with 2T olive oil, shake salt all over and mush around with your hands so all of squash is oily. Put in oven to roast for 30 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon after 15. (if you don't have time for roasting, you can cover the squash with water in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil and boil until tender, about 15mins, then continue with the recipe)
Heat butter and remaining 1T olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. When melted and bubbling, throw in the onion and shallot. Saute until soft and translucent- 5-7 minutes.
Add garlic and nutmeg and saute another minute more. Add sherry and allow to cook until most of the sherry has reduced (maybe another minute or two).
Add roasted squash and saute for 5 minutes.
Add chicken broth and bring up to a boil. Once it comes up to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and let cool for about 5 minutes, then in 1 cup batches transfer hot mixture to your blender and puree until smooth (be very careful! it is hot and can jump up through the lid when you turn it on).
Return pureed soup to the pot, add cream or 1/2&1/2 and maple syrup. Stir until blended and heated through, probably 2-5 minutes.
Serve with crusty bread, yum!

Curried Lentil Stew, adapted from Epicurious

8oz Lentils (I use green, but any kind should work fine)
1.5T olive oil
4c Chicken (or veggie) broth
1 medium onion
1 medium carrot
2 cloves garlic
2t curry powder (i like pondicherry)
plain yogurt (Greek style is best)

Dice the onion, carrot and garlic in your food processor(or with a knife, just so they are nice and small).
Sautee them in the olive oil over medium heat for about 8 minutes (or until they are tender, however long that takes for you). Throw in the curry powder and lentils and stir for about 2 minutes.
Pour in the broth and bring it all up to a boil. Then turn it down to a simmer, cover, and let simmer for 45-60 minutes (until the lentils are tender), stirring occasionally.
If it gets too stewy for you (i like it thick), add more broth.
Ladle some into a bowl and add a dollop of yogurt, then stir in the yogurt and enjoy. Yum! It is very flavorful and filling-- be sure to use a curry powder you know you like, as of course that is the overwhelming taste.

Keep warm and cozy, and please share links or recipes for your favorite soups in the comments if you like!

Crafty Novel Writing Redux!
Wednesday October 04th, 2006 03:57 PM
Just a quick note to any craftista who has always dreamed of writing a novel but "just didn't have the time." Last November I participated in NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month (you can read about my experience here), and it is now a little less than a month before this year's odyssey begins.

I will definitely be breaking out my brand new pencils and going into the madness again. I want to point all of you with literary aspirations to the NaNoWriMo Website. Read the rules, set up your profile and get ready for a month of frantic scribbling fun! Many regions have "NaNoWriMo Kick-Off" parties in October so you can meet fellow NaNoNovelists if you sign up for your region's e-mail updates. Please comment with your NaNoWriMo name if you are signed up, so all of us craftistas can virtually support each other in this wordcrafty adventure. My NaNoName is belleepoquewhimsy.

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