10 October 2006

Butternut Squash and Chickpea Soup

posted by gastrogirl @ 12:04 to section Cooking

Been busy with some new work and not much time to post lately. Here’s a lovely soup I made recently with butternut squash, which in my opinion is one of the most versatile of squashes. This soup is incredibly easy to make and also freezes well. I like the consistency to be a bit thick, but if you prefer you can thin it with some stock.

Butternut Squash and Chickpea Soup


2 15-oz cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 2-lb butternut squash
2 medium onions
1/4 cup of olive oil
5 cups of vegetable stock
1.5 teaspoons of roasted cumin
2 tablespoons of lemon juice, or more to taste
a few sprigs of fresh cilantro
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Wrap the squash tightly in aluminim foil and bake at 350 F for about 60 minutes, or until soft. Let the squash cool, then scoop out the flesh and put it aside, discarding the seeds and stringy stuff.

Heat the olive oil a heavy-bottomed saucepan. When hot, add onions and cook at medium heat until soft. Add the squash, chickpeas, stock, and cumin. Simmer for 30 minutes, covered. Puree the soup with an immersion blender or in a regular blender until smooth. If it seems too thick, add more water or stock to reach the desired consistency. Return soup to pot, stir in lemon juice, and reheat until warm. Sprinkle with cilantro leaves before serving.

3 October 2006

Pom and Circumstance

posted by gastrogirl @ 20:40 to section Cooking

Why is it that I always buy things and then forget about them until after their expiration date? This is particularly annoying when we’re talking about expensive produce or some delicate confection that gets pushed to the back of my pantry under the pretense of “saving” it for a special occasion or other such nonsense. The latest chapter in this saga is a bottle of pomegranate syrup that I’ve had sitting around for the past year or so. Pomegranate syrup is used in Middle Eastern cooking in dishes like khoresh (among others), but I just haven’t felt inspired enough to find a proper use for it. Luckily, the New York Times came to my rescue in the nick of time.

An article about the joys of all things tart and sour caught my eye, and it included a recipe of Bulgur Salad with Pomegranate Dressing that really sounded delicious. My pomegranate syrup was set to self-destruct expire this October, so the heat was on to pom myself into sweet and sour oblivion. This salad lives up to that challenge, and I actually ended up using less dressing than the recipe called for, to avoid overpowering the dish. It should be said that this dressing is for sour lovers only…by itself, it’s a bit wild and verging on too-tart, but the tanginess is addictive and it mellows considerably when paired with the mild bulgur.

Bulgur Salad with Pomegranate Dressing
Adapted from The New York Times

A note: I halved this recipe from the original and it worked out just fine. Below are the halved amounts, which makes about enough for 5-6 side-dish servings. You can double it if you like, which will serve about 8-10 as a side dish.

1 cup medium-size bulgur wheat
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons pomegranate syrup
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice, or to taste
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne, or to taste
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 bunch parsley, chopped
1 cup toasted walnuts

Cook bulgur in 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups of boiling water until water returns to the boil. Remove from heat and set it aside to soak up the water. After 30-45 minutes, drain the bulgur and put it in a serving bowl.

While bulgur soaks, make dressing: whisk olive oil, lemon juice, pomegranate syrup , tomato paste, and spices in a bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. It will be very tart and tangy. This is normal. Adjust spices if desired.

Pour 1/2 of the dressing over the bulgur and mix thoroughly. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes to absorb the dressing, then taste. Add more dressing if desired, as well as the parsley and toasted nuts. Mix well and serve.

Makes about 5-6 side-dish servings.

PS: If you don’t have any pomegranate syrup but still want to try this salad, you should be able to find it in most Middle Eastern food stores. It’s also sometimes referred to as “pomegranate molasses”. Regular pomegranate juice won’t work, unfortunately, as it fails to deliver the concentrated flavor needed for the dressing.