Monday, October 11, 2010

Pumpkin and Squash Soup

It seems like Salt and I were on the same page the other day...she came home with a cooking pumpkin and I bought two acorn squash (one golden, one regular). I think the fall weather inspired us both. I decided to use all three and make a soup.

Pumpkin and Acorn Squash Soup

First step: cook the pumpkin and squash

1 small cooking pumpkin and 2 acorn squash, together makes about 8 cups when cooked
4 shallots
6 garlic cloves
3 T. olive oil
1 T. salt
1 T. pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Cut the pumpkin and squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Cut a flat spot on the bottom so they'll sit flat. Line a baking sheet with foil and arrange the squash. Put some of the shallots and garlic in each half, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
Roast until tender and slightly caramelized, about 1 hour.
Note: The pumpkin doesn't take quite as long as the acorn squash, so keep an eye on that.

Remove from oven and when cool enough to handle, remove the squash from the skins.
Reserve the roasted shallots and garlic with the squash.

Step 2 - Make the soup

2 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
2 shallots, diced
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
1/4 t. white pepper
2 t. Italian seasoning (not usually what I use, but it was on hand)
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

In a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat and when the butter is starting to foam, add the diced shallots and saute until they are starting to caramelize, about 5 to 6 minutes. Deglaze the pot with 1/2 cup of the chicken stock. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add in the reserved squash, roasted shallots and garlic and then the remaining chicken stock. Stir to combine, then puree with a handheld blender or carefully transfer to a blender to puree. The mixture will be very thick. Add in the cayenne, white pepper and the seasoning. Stir in the cream and heat slowly over medium-low heat. When the mixture comes to a slow simmer, mix again with the blender and stir in 1/4 cup of the cheese and turn heat to low. Serve with a fresh crack of black pepper, a nice drizzle of olive oil and a light sprinkle of remaining Parmesan. Ladle into bowls and serve.

We served it with open faced grilled cheese on french bread with roasted red peppers.

Great for fall weather!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Moving to Michigan

It has been a while since the last update. Mostly because we have been in a transition period. Losing my job, moving in with family while searching for the next opportunity, and now finally finding a great new job in Michigan.

We will be moving to Lansing in the next couple of weeks. While I was interviewing we celebrated Salt's birthday at Ai Fusion Sushi and Grill in East Lansing. It was definitely a big plus for the city that we found a good sushi spot since it is one of our comfort foods.

Here is a picture of our sushi, followed by a picture of a sushi boat that the chefs were preparing for a large group.

Up to this point, I don't know what the food identity of Michigan is...other than the fantastic fresh fruit we had a couple of years ago when we were vacationing in Montague, MI. The cherries were fantastic.

We are looking forward to exploring Michigan and its culinary offerings. If anyone has good recommendations, please send them our way!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

R2D2 Cake

Here is the R2D2 cake that Salt made and Pepper decorated for our nephew's 5th birthday party.

Lemon Cookie

Salt has perfected this recipe for lemon cookies. Slightly cakey in texture. Modified from a Better Homes and Gardens recipe for Sugar Cookie Cutouts after a night of drinking and other know the type of night that you don't have the patience to roll out and cut cookies into shapes. We've also made the glaze with orange zest and juice, making them taste like a cookie version of a dreamcicle.


  • 2/3 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
Powdered Sugar Icing
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons milk plus additional milk as needed


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg, milk, and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour. Divide dough in half. If necessary, cover and chill about 30 minutes or until dough is easy to handle.

2. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into 1/2 inch balls and press down on them with the bottom of a drinking glass to shape. Place 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

3. Bake for 8 to 9 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are very lightly browned. Transfer to a wire rack; cool.

4. Powdered Sugar Icing: In a small bowl, combine 2 cups powdered sugar and lemon zest and lemon juice. Stir in 2 tablespoons milk. Stir in additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until icing reaches spreading consistency. Dip cooled cookie tops into glaze and put them back onto the wire rack to cool and dry completely.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Lemon Poppyseed Pancakes

We went out to brunch with some friends (BJ and Robin) in Chicago at a place called Toast. Salt had pancakes...each layer was a different type of pancake: blueberry, lemon poppyseed, and banana pecan. It was topped with topped with a berry granola, vanilla yogurt, fresh fruit and drizzled with honey. Salt's favorite layer was the lemon poppyseed. So we went searching for a recipe to replicate it. Here's what we found...

Lemon Poppyseed Pancakes

2 cups unbleached ap (all-purpose) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1/3 cup poppy seeds
zest of 4 lemons
2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted

butter, to serve (and for pan)

To make the pancakes combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt in a large bowl. In another bowl the buttermilk, eggs, butter, lemon zest and poppy seeds. Add the wet to the dry. Stir all the ingredients until they are just combined. Don't worry if the batter is a bit lumpy, you don't want to over mix.

Heat your skillet, pan, or griddle to medium-hot and brush it with a bit of butter. Test for the right temperature. If a drop of water dropped onto the pan starts to dance, you are in the ballpark. Pour about 1/3 of a cup of batter into the skillet. Wait until the pancake bottom is deep golden in color, then flip with a spatula and cook the other side until golden and cooked through. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Publican review

I recently visited some friends in Chicago. We decided to check out the gastropub The Publican. They advertise as being specialists in shellfish, pork and beer. (a Palace to Porcine Pleasures) If that doesn't sound like an ideal place for two guys to eat out for the evening, I don't know what does.

Oyster sampler platter. I'm not sure which ones we got since it was chef's choice, but the web site lists the following pick the 6 that sound the best and imagine that is what we had...because they were delicious.
  • Kumamoto (oyster) Oakland, Washington; sweet, buttery, cucumber
  • Penn Cove (oyster) Northern Puget Sound, Washington; fresh, briny
  • Watch Hill (oyster) Rhode Island: precious, firm.
  • Raspberry Point (oyster) P.E.I., Canada; rounded, substantial
  • Wianno (oyster) Cap Cod Massachusetts; briny,sweet
  • Peter's point (oyster) Blue Hill, Maine; virtuous & crisp
  • Bagaduce (oyster) Bagaduce River, Maine; unyielding, brackish.
  • Island Creek (oyster) Duxbury, Massachusetts; firm, beautiful
Spicy pork rinds Slagel Family Farm, Fairbury, Illinois
I always think of pork rinds as those bags of nasty that you get at road side gas n' sips. These were delicious. A cone full of light, fried, spicy pork goodness.

Suckling Pig Slagel Family Farm, Fairbury, Illinois; choucroute & toulouse sausage
This was a good sampling of different cuts of pig. But the best was yet to come.

Beets Nichols Farm, Marengo, Illinois; ricotta & balsamic
Roasted beets with ricotta it was served as a salad of sorts between courses. Very tasty.

Porchetta Becker Lane Organic Farm, Dyersville, Iowa; turnips & rosemary
This is the dish that made the whole evening worth the effort of coming to the restaurant. It was a pork tenderloin with pork belly wrapped around it. It was absolutely delicious.

Dessert? Are you kidding me? There was no way I was fitting another morsel of food in my belly. But according to our waiter, who was very attentive and friendly, he would have been highly disappointed if we were able to order dessert. We did not disappoint.

Oh and we tried several different beers, but since I can remember a name of any of them, I'm not going to review them. Let's just say they were good...really good.

The Publican
837 W. Fulton Market
Chicago, IL 60607