So Easy Butternut Squash Soup

easy vegetarian butternut squash soup recipe

So Easy Butternut Squash Soup
Makes approximately 6 servings
Can be doubled | Can be halved | Makes great leftovers | Freezes well

I begin craving this soup in early autumn, when big displays of winter squashes start to appear at the farmers markets… But a great thing about winter squashes is that they’re “in season” all winter long! We’re lucky to have some good year-round markets in this region, they simply move indoors for the snowy months. On a cold and dreary Saturday morning in late February, it’s a healthy outing, heading into town to grab a few things at the indoor farmers market when we might otherwise be tempted to stay in the house, huddled near the wood stove. And, making a pot of soup is a perfect way to spend part of the afternoon once we get back home with our goodies.

A winter squash has a great “shelf life” from the time you pick it, or buy it. If it takes a week, or two or even a month before you decide to cook it, it will be ready for you, and meanwhile it’s a nice decoration for the counter or windowsill. You’ll get multiple meals out of this recipe, which makes for easy meal planning.     ~ Susan

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon butter, olive oil or, a combination
1 medium-small onion – diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 large stalk celery – thin slices
2 medium carrots – thin slices
1 2-lb butternut squash, seeded* – 1 inch chunks
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or minced sage leaves (3/4 teaspoon dried)
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh minced rosemary leaves (3/4 teaspoon dried)
water as needed (or vegetable or chicken broth for a richer flavor)
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
a few pinches of sugar, or maple syrup or agave nectar, if needed, to bring up the sweetness

* Buy organic, no need to peel it first! It purees beautifully.

Instructions:

Heat the butter or oil in a soup pot on medium heat. Use a spatula to spread it around the bottom of the pot.

Add onion and sautee until lightly browned. Reduce heat if necessary to prevent onion from burning.

Add celery, carrot, squash, herbs and just enough water to come to the top of the vegetables. Bring it to a boil on high heat, cover and reduce the heat to medium-low.

Simmer the soup for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are very tender.

Puree, using an immersion blender, until it is velvety smooth. Or, use a counter top blender and puree the soup in smaller batches. Taste and add a bit of sugar if necessary to bring up the sweetness (some squashes are naturally sweet, sometimes they like a little coaxing).

Season to taste with salt and pepper, and simmer another 5 minutes on low heat, allowing the flavors to meld. This soup only gets better if it has a chance to sit for a few hours before reheating and serving.

Serving Suggestions:

Top each bowl with a few grates of a hard goat cheese such as Castellano. Other good grating choices: Asiago, Parmesan, Romano, Grana Padano, Aged Manchego, Gruyere, Mimolette, Cotija, Ricotta Salata. Garnish with parsley and a dash of cayenne. Serve with a green salad dressed with a basic vinaigrette and a slice of whole grain toast.

Try leftover soup ladled over a bowl of warm brown rice or quinoa, topped again with parsley and a few shavings of cheese. Add a handful toasted pine nuts and call it lunch!

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Crispy Grilled Whole Fish

Grilled Whole Fish
Makes 1 to 2 portions
Can be doubled

When I graduated from high school in 1996, my parents marked the occasion with a spectacular trip to Greece and Turkey.  On the picturesque Grecian islands such as Mykonos and Santorini, simply grilled whole fish alongside a Greek salad is a staple that I fell in love with. Up until then, I’d always eaten seafood in a more complex preparation such as a spicy fish curry or a sauce laden version, but here, I thoroughly enjoyed the freshness of the fish and minimal garnishes.

When I got back Stateside, I ordered whole fish on every restaurant visit I could. Today, we’re lucky enough to live a short subway ride from Astoria, which is home to dozens of Greek restaurants and a haven for fish fans like me.  Whenever we have a chance, Mahir and I like to take Meenakshi to our favorite spot there for an early Friday night dinner and order two Greek salads and a whole fish big enough for two. One day, Mahir was traveling, and I had such an intense craving for a whole fish that I decided I would try my hand at making it at home. I have to say my version is just as good what we get in Astoria, and our trips across the Queensboro Bridge to the Greek area have become a lot less frequent. I grill the fish until the skin is slightly charred and very crispy, and once I’ve worked my way through the meatier fillets, I like to suck the leftover bits right off the bones.

Ingredients:

A one to one-and-a half pound whole fish, headed, scaled and gutted (orata, branzino, dorado, sea bass or any light white fish works well, and your fishmonger can take care of the heading, etc.)
Any assortment of fresh herbs such as thyme sprigs, rosemary sprigs and basil leaves
Four to six thin slices of lemon
One teaspoon of oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees (only if baking).

Season the fish with salt and pepper to taste, stuff with the herbs and lemon slices.

Rub the outside with the olive oil.

Grill on grill pan or bake in oven until done (you can test this by checking to see if your fish flakes easily with a fork). Cooking times vary depending on size of fish. A one pound fish takes roughly eight to ten minutes a side on a grill pan and around 25 minutes in the oven.

Serving Suggestions:
A large Greek salad with romaine lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion, olives and a light serving of feta cheese.

Baked fries- cut a potato into your favorite French fry shape, sprinkle with a touch of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and bake in oven or toaster oven until crispy and golden.

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Vietnamese Turkey Tenderloin Stir Fry

Vietnamese Turkey Tenderloin Stir Fry
Makes 4 servings
Can be doubled | Can be halved | Makes great leftovers| Freezes well
Vegetarian substitutes

Here’s a recipe from a recent cooking class, and check this out, it’s a no-oil stir fry! You can also use tofu, chicken, shrimp, pork or beef in place of the turkey… It’s delicious over brown rice or rice stick noodles, but for class we actually did the recipe with pork and used it as a filling for Bahn Mi, a baguette sandwich which also calls for quick pickled carrots and radish, with cucumbers, cilantro sprigs and a few slices of fresh hot chiles if you dare. There’s a craze in New York City, where folks will make long subway treks to Baxter Street near Chinatown for nothing more than a big Bahn Mi sandwich for lunch. There must be something to this craze, our cooking class participants raved about our homemade version!

Turkey tenderloin is naturally lean and, of course, a good source of high quality protein. Look for humanely raised meats, locally produced when possible, or at the very least, meats which have been given no added hormones and antibiotics. It’s the truly healthy choice in a number of ways.      ~ Susan

Ingredients:

1 lb turkey tenderloin – partially frozen, then very thinly sliced (or chicken breast)
3 scallions – minced
2 cloves garlic – minced
2 or 3 Thai or serrano chile peppers – minced
2 teaspoons sugar, sucanat or agave nectar
2 tablespoons fish sauce (or tamari soy sauce)
juice of 1 lime
optional – 1 tablespoon of your favorite natural BBQ sauce
fresh ground black pepper to taste

Instructions:

Mix the sliced turkey and marinade ingredients all together in a large bowl. Set aside to marinate for at least 15-30 minutes, or pop in the fridge for as long as 2 hours.

Heat a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the turkey and all its juices and stir fry until just cooked throughout, about 2- 3 minutes. Voila, it’s done, ready to serve!

Serving Suggestions:

Serve with brown rice and steamed vegetables (try sliced carrots, water chestnuts and sno peas).
Serve with al dente rice stick noodles and sliced cucumbers dressed with rice vinegar and sea salt, garnished with chopped peanuts.

Substitutes:

Try this recipe with extra firm cubed tofu, thinly sliced seitan, boneless skinless chicken breast, pork tenderloin, beef tenderloin, diced chicken thighs, or whole shrimp.

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Fajita Style Chicken Cutlets

Fajita Style Chicken Cutlets
Makes 2 to 3 portions
Can be doubled | Can be halved | Makes great leftovers

It’s not an exaggeration to say that our lives wouldn’t function without Tess. She started with us more than a year ago as our nanny, but she has taken it upon herself to run all aspects of our house including the kitchen. She loves to cook and has a knack for inventing recipes that become family favorites. I normally plan all of our meals a week in advance, but one day, I had a gap in the menu and couldn’t think of what to make with a pack of chicken cutlets. I asked Tess to help out, and she rustled through our spice cabinet, found our favorite fajita seasoning, spread them on the chicken and grilled them into one of the tastiest preparations ever. The recipe almost sounds too easy to be good, but I promise that these cutlets are packed with zesty Mexican flavors like cumin and oregano while being low in fat and calories. Mahir thinks so too. I always make a little extra so he can take them for lunch the following day alongside a nice green salad.

Ingredients:

1 pound chicken cutlets

Salt-free fajita seasoning (any brand is fine. I like The Spice Hunter)

Salt and pepper to taste

The juice of one or two limes (the amount depends on how much lime flavor you like)

Cilantro (optional)

Instructions:

Rub cutlets with lime juice, dredge in fajita spice, and season with salt and pepper.

Cook on grill pan, grill or regular pan sprayed with cooking oil. The time will depend on thinness of cutlets. Mine take three to four minutes a side.

Top with cilantro.

Serving Suggestions:
Spinach sauteed in a little olive oil and garlic, steamed broccoli, steamed green beans, roasted brussel sprouts, mixed roasted vegetables (zucchini, onions, mushrooms and peppers) or a nice green salad are excellent sides. For a starch fix, Mahir and Meenakshi love baby roasted potatoes. I’m allergic so I enjoy my cutlets and veggies with Ezekiel toast, which is a hearty flourless bread. It comes in several flavors, and my favorite with this one is sesame.

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Maple Ginger Garlic Crusted Wild Salmon

low fat maple ginger garlic crusted salmon recipe

Maple Ginger Garlic Crusted Wild Salmon
Makes 2 portions
Can be doubled | Can be halved | Makes great leftovers | Freezes well
Vegetarian substitutes

This is a quick take on teriyaki. I created it one afternoon in a client’s kitchen, in a pinch, just by using things she had around. It was an instant winner with her family, so the next day I bought a piece of salmon and made it for myself. It was ama–aaaa-zing, if I do say so myself!

I’ve been making this recipe for nearly 10 years and never tire of it. In fact, it’s one of those dishes I find myself craving now and then. I love the simplicity of the ingredients. I rarely measure them anymore, I just taste the mixture to make sure there’s the right combination of salty and sweet and then add plenty of the garlic and ginger before putting it on the fish. The flavors of the finished dish are clean, yet so dynamic! The ginger and garlic get a little browned on top, the sauce caramelizes a bit, the salmon stays tender and moist. Easy, healthy and delicious – a recipe dream come true.     ~ Susan

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon wheat-free tamari (soy sauce)
2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons fresh cracked black pepper
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 six ounce wild salmon fillets – no more than an inch thick

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 400 F. I like to use our toaster oven for this recipe for a nice quick cooking time and good browning of the topping. If  you’re using a regular household oven you might want to try the temperature a little higher, at 420F.

Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet and arrange salmon pieces about half an inch apart on the parchment.

In a small dish stir together the maple, tamari, garlic, ginger, sea salt and cracked pepper.

Use a spoon to spread the mixture evenly over the salmon, covering the top of each piece completely.

Place in the preheated oven and bake 6 – 8 minutes, or until fish is just cooked throughout and the crust is nicely browned on top. If necessary, use the broiler for one minute at the end of cooking to get the ginger and garlic just a bit browned (but not burned).

Serving suggestions:
Garnish cooked salmon with sliced scallions and serve in a shallow, wide bowl on a nest of buckwheat soba noodles in miso broth, with steamed broccoli florettes scattered around the noodles (use about a cup of water and 2 teaspoons miso per serving).
Garnish cooked salmon with chopped parsley and serve with boiled new potatoes and steamed green beans.
Double the recipe and enjoy the leftovers for lunch over a bed of baby spinach with grated carrots and scallions drizzled with brown rice vinegar, wheat-free tamari and a few drops of toasted sesame oil.

Substitutes:
Use agave syrup instead of maple
Add a teaspoon of sesame seeds
Add a generous pinch of crushed red chile flakes
Try half-inch thick slices of tofu, pole caught tuna, wild striped sea bass, arctic char or chicken breast cutlets instead of salmon.

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Indian Style Masala Omelet

Eggs, low-fat, vegetarian, omelet recipeIndian Style Masala Omelet
Makes 2 portions
Can be doubled | Can be halved

Since I’m such a big seafood and poultry eater and often  feel that eating vegetarian doesn’t always satisfy me, it might seem strange that my first post for this site is a vegetarian dish. But, this omelet recipe is so good that it’s an exception. It’s popular in India for a heartier breakfast or filling for a sandwich. When Mahir and I were dating, he used to make it for me on Sunday mornings. Fast forward a few years, and we realize that it’s also a super fast but also super tasty dinner, and now it’s standard in our repertoire. I usually chop extra onions and cilantro so I can make another one the next day for lunch (I use two eggs instead of three to have lighter midday meal). We break it up into pieces for Meenakshi, and she eats it up- green chili’s and all! The best part? It has no oil at all!

Ingredients:

6 eggs (you can substitute with egg whites if you want to go even lighter)
one small onion, finely chopped
one generous handful of cilantro, chopped
green chili, chopped (the amount you use here is entirely personal. We love lots of spice so we use the small green chilies with the seeds, which are spicy, but you can also use a little jalapeno or serrano with or without the seeds)

Instructions:

Beat the eggs with a whisk and add onions, cilantro and green chili

Add salt and pepper to taste

Pour half the mixture over a warmed pan with cooking spray, and cook on medium-low heat until the edges aren’t runny, and the omelet looks golden when you lift it up with the spatula. Flip, and cook another two minutes.

Repeat with the second half of mixture and enjoy!

Serving Suggestions:
You can have this spicy omelet for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I often use two eggs for breakfast and lunch which makes for a lighter meal. Whole wheat toast with just a touch of butter is the best accompaniment. For lunch or dinner, pair with steamed broccoli or green beans. My personal favorite is huge salad with lots of veggies and a dressing made with vinegar, dijon mustard, pepper and olive oil (no more than a tablespoon, of course!)

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