Monday, October 09, 2006

Weekend cooking

This weekend I spent some time in the kitchen and I thought I would share.

I’ve been buying butternut squash at the market to store over the winter, but last night I cut one open to try to roast it. My recipe called for me to cut the squash into chunks, remove the skin and roll it in a roasting pan with melted butter, onions, salt, pepper and dried rosemary. I decided to use a red onion wedge I had because I like red onion, a lot, and it was already mostly cut, and I smashed the dried rosemary under my meat mallet to crush it up. It was quite outstanding. Everyone loved it and I actually regretted that I had only cut up one squash. Here is the recipe in its entirety.

3 butternut squash (about 1 ¾ lbs each) 1 inch cubes with skin removed.
4 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion-diced
1 3/4 teaspoon salt
3/8 teaspoon pepper
1 ½ teaspoon crushed dried rosemary

Set oven at 400 degrees. Melt butter in pan. When butter is melted add all the ingredients and stir to coat. Bake until squash is tender. Adjust spices to your preference.

The red onion that I used made a nice sweet-salty mix on the squash. Quite tasty. I wouldn’t change anything with this recipe.

I also cooked up some soup. It was good, but I think my 2 year old liked it the most. He had 3 bowls of it. And he was so busy eating the broth from it he was actually eating the zucchini, which is the first time he’s eaten that vegetable, even after we present it over and over. It was kind of a strange soup taste. It had a Chinese/Japanese like taste that I think came from either the Zucchini or the Ginger. I’m not really sure which one. Recipe:

1 large carrot-julienned
1 medium zucchini-diced
1 can of chicken broth (13oz)
1 package frozen ravioli
2 teaspoons ginger
A bunch of watercress

Bring broth up to a boil. Add carrots and simmer 5 minutes. Add ginger and zucchini and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. In the meantime prepare the ravioli per the package directions. Add water cress and ravioli to bowls and ladle broth and vegetables over. Serve.

My thoughts: I think I would add more vegetables, although this number is pretty sufficient. This soup is really an appetizer. I tripled the recipe and it barely fed 5 adults and 2 kids, albeit one that was hungry. Keep that in mind. Next time I’m just going to add the ravioli to the broth mixture and perhaps increase the broth by 50% to make up for the broth the ravioli will absorb. Next time instead of water cress I’ll just use spinach or even better, arugula. I love that stuff.

Also, on Saturday night I made some chili. Well really, it was quite a long process. Everyone and their dog has a chili recipe but I figure what’s one more? I’ll discuss it here.

This is really the first time I’ve made chili for the whole family for about 4 years. I’ve been afraid my kids wouldn’t eat it because of how spicy it is, but after seeing them tear into the salsa I’ve made this summer it’s clear that my wife is the wimp in the family. I still took it easy so that no one would have any problems.

I cut up a beef roast. (No ground beef in this recipe) I estimate it was probably about 3 lbs but I’m not really sure. After these pieces were sliced I coated them with flour. In the bottom of my biggest soup pan I added some vegetable oil and put in the beef pieces to brown. To this I added 4 cloves of garlic and ½ of a medium red onion, diced.

After all this had cooked a bit and the meat was sufficiently browned I used a slotted spoon to move the beef to a bowl and left all the juice in the pot. To the pot with the browned bits I added 1 can of beer as my deglazing liquid. By the way, per Ms. Child the cook always samples any alcohol before adding it to a dish. Helps ensure that everything works OK. Then I proceeded to furiously scrape the pan to get all the yummies off the bottom.

Once this was all together I added 3 packets of chili seasonings (I know, the easy way. But I didn’t have all the spices I needed and didn’t want to make a special trip to the store.) along with some crushed red pepper, cayenne pepper and hot chili powder. I also added a little BBQ spice mixture (a sweet/salty mix for grilling) and a few quick worstershire squirts. I didn’t measure. I just dumped them in and tasted. I also added 3 8 oz cans of tomato sauce and 24 ozs of water.

After this had all blended together for a little while I resampled and adjusted the spices along with salt and pepper until I had them where I wanted them. Then I added the meat and bowl drippings back to the soup pan. Then I left it on a very small simmer for about an hour. A small simmer is a simmer that you would use to make stock. Perhaps a bubble up to the surface per minute or so. I was hoping to cook the meat as slowly as possible so that it would be pretty tender.

After an hour was up I portioned off the chili mixture. A set up a smaller pan of soup for my wife and oldest child who don’t like beans. (I know, the horror) Into the biggest pot I poured one large can of chili beans and left the mixture to simmer for another 30 minutes or so. Let me tell you, this was certainly not a soupy chili. It was a thick rich chili sauce with beef in it.

Even if I was rusty at chili making I need to be rusty more often. This turned out really good. I looked over at the youngest child during dinner and he was using both a spoon and fork to eat it as fast as he could. When he noticed me looking at him he smiled and he had chili all over the lower part of his face. If the camera hadn’t been in the car you would have gotten a picture. I spooned my chili over some cooked ditaliano pasta while others made a sort of non-walking taco with theirs. And I have enough leftover to enjoy all week long. Definately good eats.



At 1:26 PM, Anonymous Mom said...

Sounds YUMMY!!

You would not eat the beans when you were little, either so do not pamper Z with that. Rachael is past eating chili beans but Z may come around. The ginger probably gave your other soup the oriental flair since ravioli is considered more Italian.

Did miss the pictures, tho.

At 4:36 AM, Anonymous Wifey said...

I am not a wimp! I just have a sensitive tongue.....


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