it's good to be back in the home kitchen

I love coming back home. The weekend in the Big City was fantastic, don't get me wrong, but I missed our pups and our bed and especially our kitchen. Again, not complaining, but none of my patients came to clinic today and I got to head home around 3:30, so I picked up a couple of Portabella mushrooms on the way and made us a delicious little vegetarian supper of grilled marinated mushrooms and roasted butternut squash soup. Before dinner preparations began, while Joe slaved away at his late clinic, I finished up my book club book in the placid sunshine of a late Houston March, where I was not infrequently interrupted by a few very affectionate furballs.

For a good 10-15 minutes, Choxie did laps around the backyard while Hollie attempted to corner her. It's one of my favorite games (should have caught it on video) so I couldn't bring myself to stop them from trampling a flower or 2. When the race was over, I surveyed the carnage and made the best of it - I think it turned out pretty well and will ask the girls to prune again tomorrow...

My love flew out of clinic at 7 and returned to me by 7:30. We had a lovely evening with a simple meal and, not surprisingly if you know Joe, stimulating conversation. Tonight we discussed vices.

The soup was pretty delish. It's simpler than most of the butternut squash soup recipes I've used before and is miles beyond the one we used at the Viking Cooking School class. Apparently it serves 8; we have a couple of spoonfuls left for tomorrow night. The shrooms were, as always, pure bliss. Balsalmic vinegary bliss.

Butternut squash soup with maple syrup and sage
from this website

Two 2 1/2 - 3 pound butternut squashes
1/2 head garlic (about 6 cloves)
tiny drizzle olive oil
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup water
1/3 cup half-and-half (or whipping cream)
1 Tbs chopped fresh sage + 16 fresh sage leaves
3 Tbs maple syrup
2 Tbs butter
1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese

The soup:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Slice each squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and surrounding stringy flesh and discard. Place them face-down on a baking sheet.

Slice about 1/2 cm off the top off each clove of garlic, and drizzle a small amount of olive oil over the exposed tops. Place the head on the baking sheet with the squash. Place it all in the oven and bake for 1 hour, or until the squash is soft, smooshy, and slightly browned. You can make the fried sage in the meantime.

If you have an immersion blender (I do! I do!), scoop flesh out of skin, and place in large pot over low heat. Squeeze cloves of roasted garlic out of skin into the pot. Add half of broth, half of water, half-and-half, maple syrup and 1 tablespoon chopped sage. Use immersion blender to blend soup until it is a smooth puree. Add enough of remaining broth and water, blending them in with the immersion blender, to get soup to desired consistency. Melt in 1 tablespoon butter and season generously with salt and pepper (salted butter is fine - I must have added a Tbsp of salt to get it moderately flavored and I could have added a lot more! I used a little smoked paprika in addition to the pepper too.).

If you have a food processor or blender, scoop squash flesh directly into its bowl in batches, adding garlic, broth, water, sage, and half-and-half in batches. Pour completed batches into large pot over low heat. Add broth and/or water to adjust consistency of soup. Stir in maple syrup and 1 tablespoon butter, and season generously with salt and pepper.

To plate, ladle soup into bowls, and top each bowl with 2 fried sage leaves and 1 Parmesan tuile.

Fried sage leaves:
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add sage leaves, and saute until lightly brown around edges. Remove to a paper towel, to catch excess butter.

Parmesan tuiles:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Using a cookie cutter as a guide, sprinkle Parmesan into 8 3-inch diameter discs. The discs should be very thin and lacy. Place in oven until edges brown, about 5 minutes. Allow to cool before carefully removing tuiles from wax paper (the first time I tried this, I used the only Parmesan we had on hand, which was the green Kraft cylinder. This was a silly, silly idea. The Parmesan has to be fresh, grated cheese. The other stuff doesn't melt. Of course.).

Note from the author: Be creative with the liquids to suit your fancy: replace the vegetable broth with chicken broth, apple juice or cider, or maybe add a splash of white wine (I used broth this time but last time I think I used about half apple cider. Highly recommended - this batch was still yummy but a bit on the bland side).

Serves 8 (or 2 - we'll just say it's because it was the main course...)

Marinated Portabellas

Yeah, there's no recipe per se, and the details vary each time (it's the spice of life!), but more or less:

2 big Portabella mushrooms, cleaned
2 Tbsp Balsalmic vinegar
1 Tbsp oil (I use canola or olive)
1 Tbsp soy sauce or ponzu sauce
Squirt of lemon juice
Minced garlic
Chopped fresh herbs - tonight was basil and thyme, because that's how I roll
Salt and pepper
Sometimes a dash of wine

Put the mushrooms in a Ziploc bag. Mix the rest of the ingredients together and pour over the mushrooms. Shake, shake, shake! Let sit for 15-60 minutes (or longer, if you forget they're in there until the next night, as might or might not occur with regularity at the Perklow abode). Grill over medium heat - I'm not the primary griller in the family, but I'm told the proper method is to grill cap side up for a few minutes, flip, and pour any additional marinade into all those little vents in the mushroom underside. Then you won't lose all the garlicky bits. They're done when the shrooms are maybe 1/2 to 1/3 of their original size.

hee! the mushrooms are looking at you.


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