Saturday, November 27, 2010
I have always loved spicy food. Ever since I was a young girl, I remember watching my grandfather eat pickled chile peppers from a jar with his congee. Congee is a rice porridge and many Chinese eat this soupy rice along with other savory items for breakfast. I remember trying the pickled chile for the first time. It was salty and spicy but it complimented really well with the plain rice porridge. Of course my mouth was on fire and I couldn't believe the spicy heat that enveloped in my mouth. I was intrigued by these tiny peppers that contain so much heat. That was the beginning of my interest in chiles. Through time, I've grown to love chile peppers, and hot pepper sauce has become one of my favorite condiments.
So when I read about A Chile & A Spoon challenge by Marx Foods, I was intrigued. The challenge is to use one or more of the six varieties of dried chiles Marx Foods provided and develop a recipe that you would eat with a spoon. So as a lover of chiles, I thought it would be fun to try out the variety of chiles they have to offer. The six varieties of chiles I received ranges from mild to extremely hot. So of course I was drawn to the extremely hot variety which was the Thai chiles aka bird's eye chiles. These are quite hot in the heat scale. I wanted to make a soup with seasonal ingredients. I love the sweetness of Kabocha squash (Japanese variety of winter squash); and with the Thai chile inspiration, I wanted to touch on the sweet, savory, spicy and sour flavors in most Thai cuisine. So when I came across quince (a fruit tastes similar to apples and pears but more tart and can't be eaten raw) in my local farmers market, I wanted to incorporate all these flavors in the soup. I am happy to see that Marx Foods also carries quince so you could buy it online. I also wanted to use another type of chiles and thought the dried smoked serrano peppers could add another element of flavor. Instead of adding cream I used coconut milk to enhance the Thai flavor.
Spicy Kabocha & Quince Soup with Thai Flavors (yield about 8 cups)
2 2 lb Kabocha Squash (peeled and diced)
3 quince (peeled and diced)
1 medium onion (sliced)
1 tbsp of fresh lemongrass (diced)
6 dried Thai chiles (rehydrate, seeded and diced)
2 smoked serrano peppers (rehydrate, seeded and diced)nm
3 cups of vegetable stock
1 cup of coconut milk
1 tsp of cumin seeds (toasted and ground)
1 tsp of coriander seeds (toasted and ground)
1 tsp of fennel seeds (toasted and ground)
Pumpkin seeds (toasted and salted) for garnish
Kosher salt to taste
To rehydrate the dried chiles, add hot water to the chile peppers. Let it soak for at least 30 minutes to rehydrate the peppers. Since these peppers have a higher heat index, be sure you wear gloves when working. Once they are softened, sliced them open and remove the seeds, as leaving the seeds would make them even hotter, then chopped into small pieces.
For the soup, heat a soup pot or dutch oven and saute the sliced onions with some olive oil. Season with salt, then lower the heat and covered with lid, let the onions cooked slowly in low heat which allows it to caramelized and add flavor. This takes about 30 minutes to an hour. In the meantime, prep your other ingredients. For the quince, be sure you work one at a time as the fruit can turn brown easily. Make sure you have a bowl of acidulated water (water with acid...lemon, lime, vinegar) as soon as the fruit is peeled or cut, put in the water to soak to avoid browning. Also toast the seeds and grind in spice grinder while the onions are cooked. When prepping the kabocha squash be sure you have a sharp knife and be careful when peeling the skin as the skin is thick and hard to peel. After the onions are caramelized, add the quince, kabocha squash, lemongrass, all the spices and chiles, saute for a few minutes. Then add the vegetable stock. Cook until the quince and squash are softened (about an hour). Puree the liquid in batches until smooth. Pass the soup through a sieve or chinois then add the coconut milk. Heat through for another 10 minutes, add the pumpkin seeds and serve immediately.
To purchase any of the chiles I mentioned and the abundant varieties offered, don't forget to visit Marx Foods. And if you like this recipe, I hope you vote for me. Voting opens on Monday, see details on this contest page.
Labels: Savory Recipes
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Butternut Squash has become one of my latest food obsession. I love the sweetness of the squash and it is a great ingredient for the fall and winter. It is also a good source of fiber and vitamin A & C. Now that the weather is getting cooler, I am craving for more comfort food. I thought I would make a classic cheese sauce (Mornay) to make the ultimate mac and cheese. The twist is to add the butternut squash to make it extra special.
Roasted Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese (Serves 6-8)
2 cups of roasted butternut squash (2 small size butternut squash)
1 cup of small diced butternut squash (half of a small size squash)
5 tbsp of unsalted butter
4 tbsp of flour
2 cups of milk
1 cup of grated Gruyere cheese
1 1/4 cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 pinch of nutmeg
2 sage leaves plus 1 tsp of chopped sage leave
1 lb of Cavatappi or Cellentani pasta (spiral shaped)
1 cup of panko breadcrumbs
Salt & pepper to taste
First preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the butternut squashes in half and scoop out the seeds, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt, pepper and roast for approximate 45 minute. They should be roasted until a fork is able to pierce through the flash easily. Set aside to let cool, once it's cool enough to handle, scoop out the squash and reserve to make the sauce.
Butternut Squash Mornay Sauce
Cook pasta in salted water. Since the pasta needs further cooking in the oven, under-cook the pasta for at least a few minutes according to cooking instruction, drain and set aside. Puree 2 cups of the roasted squash in the food processor and slowly add 2 cups of warm milk. Season and taste the puree. Keep the puree hot while work on the roux. Melt 4 tbsp of butter then whisk in four tbsp of flour. Whisk until the flour is cooked and the roux is still pale in color. Keep your eyes on it constantly as you don't want your roux to turn to a darker color. Slowly combine the puree to the roux and whisk until the liquid is well incorporated and thickened. Add the nutmeg and sage leaves, cook for another few minutes. Then incorporate the two cheeses and stir until they are melted. Before adding the pasta, take out the sage leaves then combine pasta with the sauce and mix well. Spray non-stick oil to a baking dish and add pasta to the pan.
Cruchy Butternut Squah and Panko Crust Topping
Saute and brown the diced butternut squash with the remaining 1 tbsp of butter until the squash starts to get crispy. Sprinkle with a tsp of chopped sage. Then combine the panko breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup of parmiaggio reggiano. Mix well and saute for another minute or so, taste then season with salt and pepper if necessary. When the breadcrumbs is toasted, sprinkle the topping on top of the mac and cheese. Cover with foil and bake in a 350 degrees oven for 25 minutes. Uncover then bake an additional 10 minutes and serve immediately.
I love the crunchy butternut squash mix in with the breadcrumbs. It creates a nice contrast to the creaminess of the pasta. This is not your regular mac and cheese and by adding the butternut squash, it gives this dish a different flavor profile. The sweetness of the squash really compliments well with the saltiness of the Gruyere and Parmigiano Reggiano. My husband, who is a traditionalist when it comes to his mac and cheese, was pleasantly surprised by how much he loves the butternut squash flavor. So give it a try, and let me know what you think.
Now what's this? An award for me, this is too much. I received this award from the delightful and talented Maya at the Foodiva's Kitchen. It is a fabulous award of recognition from my fellow food blogger. Maya's been posting some beautiful purple sweet potatoes recipes, love the purple color and you should check it out. Now that I was received this lovely award, I need to pass it on to fifteen other talented bloggers whose blogs I look forward to read on a regular basis. I hope you check them out because they are so deserving of this lovely award:
1) Kelly @ Tender is the Bite
2) Fiona @ Life on Nanchang Lu
3) Chef Dennis @ More than a Mount Full
4) Christo @ Chez What
5) Leila @ Barbarian Table
6) Ken @ Hungry Rabbit NYC
7) Angie @ Rice & Wheat
8) Anthony @ Flavorful World
9) Victoria @ Mission: Food
10) Ryan @ Cajun Chef Ryan
11) Tanantha @ I Just Love My Apron
12) Jan @ I Love. Therefore, I Cook
13) Therese @ Artissta
14) Carolyn @ All Day I Dream About Food
15) Dana @ Food For Thought
Labels: Savory Recipes