Archive for November, 2011

November 17, 2011

Velvety Butternut Squash Soup

Velvety Butternut Squash Soup

A beautiful soup to kick-off any holiday feast, this is one of my favorites. The first time I tasted butternut squash soup it was served in those tiny cups as an hors d’oeuvre at a wedding. Cute idea and I loved the soup, but oh so unsatisfying! I couldn’t get enough from those little cups. I wanted a big bowl and the server was tired of me chasing after him with his tray of deliciousness. Soon enough, I was making it at home for my family. For my first attempts, I made curried butternut squash soup. Ellie Krieger has a really good recipe in her The Food You Crave cookbook.

This time I wanted to try a version that combined the fresh squash with a little sweetness. Since we are in the middle of autumn, I thought apples just picked from the orchard would be the ideal ingredient to achieve the sweetness I was looking for. This soup is so creamy but nary a drop of cream in sight. The salty crunch of the crisped prosciutto on top is sensational. If you don’t own an immersion blender I highly recommend one for recipes like this. An immersion blender lets you take the blender to the soup, not the soup to the blender.

INGREDIENTS (Serves 4-6)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large apple – peeled, cored and diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • Crispy prosciutto, about 6 slices (optional)
  • Chopped fresh parsley
  • Kosher salt and pepper

Heat the oil and butter in large heavy bottomed stock pot. Add the onion, carrots and apple. Cook, stirring frequently until they begin to soften. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about a minute. Add the chopped rosemary, squash and chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Give a good stir and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook covered for about 30 minutes or until the squash is nice and soft.

Shut off the heat and using your immersion blender, blend the soup until it’s velvety smooth. If using a blender, be sure to follow the instructions for blending hot ingredients. Place the blended soup back on the stove at medium-low and add the cider vinegar one tbsp at a time. After the first addition of vinegar, sprinkle with some salt, stir and taste. Add the second tbsp of vinegar, stir and taste. Reseason with salt as needed.

The soup is delicious alone, but to serve with the prosciutto, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line a sheet pan with a piece of aluminum foil. Lay the slices of prosciutto on the foil and bake for about 10 minutes or until crisp. The prosciutto will crisp up a little more as it cools. Break the prosciutto up and sprinkle over each bowl of soup along with some chopped parsley. Enjoy!

* A hunk of rustic bread is perfect with this. I have schmeared my bread in the photo above with a little taleggio cheese. Taleggio is a semi-soft aromatic cow’s milk cheese from Italy’s Lombardy region. It’s one of our favorites. 

November 13, 2011

Whose cake is it? Apple Cranberry Heirloom Cake

Apple Cranberry Heirloom Cake

I’m calling this Apple Cranberry Heirloom Cake because I fondly remember my grandmother making this, but have recently learned that the origins of the cake are a bit fuzzy. On a trip to New York last month we enjoyed an afternoon visit with my Aunt (my grandmother’s sister). She baked this cake using small Italian plums and indicated that it was her plum cake recipe. As soon as I saw the cake I realized this was the same cake that my grandmother used to make when I was growing up. She also referred to it as her plum cake recipe. In fact, I have the recipe on a pretty card from my grandmother, pictured below. I have since learned that the recipe belongs to the New York Times, originally published in the early 1980’s. Whose cake is it? Served with ice cream or whipped cream for dessert, or even for breakfast with a cup of coffee, this one’s a keeper.

I have made this with apples and cranberries here or you can use plums as called for in the original recipe. Italian plums have a short season so they aren’t always available, hence my version here.

Grandma's Recipe Card

INGREDIENTS

  • 3/4 cup sugar plus a little for sprinkling
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • Apples (3 peeled, cored & sliced) or Italian Plums (about 12 sliced in half lengthwise and pitted)
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries (if using)
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon
  • Squeeze of lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8″ springform pan. If you are using plums, cut each in half lengthwise and remove the pit. If using apples – peel, core and slice. Place the fruit in a bowl and sprinkle with a little sugar and cinnamon and a spritz of fresh lemon juice. Toss together and set aside.

In a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla, beat well. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Grandma’s recipe card says to sift them together – I didn’t and it was perfect. Feel free to sift if you prefer. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer with the wet ingredients. Don’t overmix. The batter will be dense.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle the cranberries over the batter and lay the apple slices in a pretty pattern over the top. If using plums, place the halves skin side up, close together. They look pretty if you make a circular pattern all over the cake. Sprinkle the top of the cake lightly with a little extra cinnamon and sugar and bake for one hour, checking at 50 minutes. Cake is done when toothpick comes out clean.

How Fun! The Original NY Times Recipe

* I did a little research online for the original recipe. Looks like many people have made versions of this referring to the New York Times as well. I can’t take away my Grandmother’s ownership of this one… for me, it will always be a Grandma Ruth original.  But here’s the original from the New York Times compliments of my other favorite Aunt. Can’t believe she found this after all these years. Obviously the cake’s origin was no mystery to her.

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