Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Scraping the Pantry

Ok, you know by now that I love to cook and bake - why have a food blog if I didn't? I also really enjoy grocery shopping. If I go to the super Wegman's, I can spend ages just in the produce and deli sections marveling over some of the more exotic ingredients and imagining what I'd make with them.

As much as I enjoy a fridge packed full of fresh ingredients, somewhat perversely I also look forward to the end of a really long grocery cycle; I like to see how long I can stretch things before I have to resort to a trip to the store.

My pantry is pretty well stocked, and although my fridge is small (only some 18 cubic feet), I still manage to lose items in there from time to time. For example, yesterday I found a celery root I'd forgotten about in the vegetable crisper. Still good! Raiding the pantry and the fridge and using whatever I can find to create new meals has been good practice for me when it comes to creative substitutions and figuring out what works, and what really, really doesn't work.

Does anyone else do that or do you start to freak out when you can see bare shelf space in the fridge?

I'm at that point now. I had an unexpected, not-so-cheap car repair last week that has eaten into my grocery budget. Then there's the holiday. I'll be driving 5 hours to spend Thanksgiving with the parents, so yesterday I didn't see why I should go to the store when we won't even be home for part of the week.

So, that brings me to scratch-together meals:
  • Between my fridge, freezer and pantry, I found that I had everything I need for my butternut squash soup.

  • I still have some multigrain bread from this weekend to accompany it, but it would be easy enough to bake another loaf;

  • This weekend I made my Sandra Lee type coffee cake, which didn't last long. In theory, I could make another, since I still have all the necessary ingredients.

  • For snacks, over the past few days I've finished the last straggling tablespoons of peanut butter scraped from 2 jars - spread on apples from the 1/2 bushel of Northern Spies which I'd bought at an orchard roadside stand several weeks ago.

  • I'm thinking I could do something with the leftover sausage, apples and sauerkraut, yes? My SIL gives me a quart of homemade sauerkraut every year and I think I have, um, four quarts of it still. It's great stuff, but I crave it only rarely. It should probably get eaten up though.

    How about sausage-apple-kraut piroshki? I have some wonton wrappers I could use.

  • I can probably make a curried split pea & carrot soup.

  • I could make a mushroom quiche using some of the dried mushrooms I have (porcini, morels and chanterelles), but the only cheese I have:

    • a half a block of mozzarella that I'm saving for pizza;
    • about 13 ½ string cheese sticks;
    • 2 little triangles of Laughing Cow cheese;
    • a ½-inch bit of a block parmigiano reggiano still clinging to the rind (so now it's difficult to grate without losing some skin, too);
    • ¼ pound of Cabot horseradish cheddar;
    • whipped chive cream cheese;
    • fat-free cream cheese which I picked up by accident - the Price Chopper brands of the cream cheese use blue boxes that are kind of similar, so I grabbed the wrong one by accident. I need to find a use for the fat-free stuff; perhaps I can substitute it for some of the regular cream cheese when I make a cheesecake;

    Now, I bet that horseradish cheddar might work well with the mushrooms.

  • Can you make welsh rarebit out of horseradish cheddar? I've certainly got some beer that could go into it.

See? So many possibilities. All that limits us is a lack of imagination... or spices. :)

This butternut squash soup recipe is entirely a result of my warped and unpredictable cravings. A few years ago I'd seen a recipe for a curried butternut squash and turkey sausage soup. The idea of a savory and spicy butternut squash piqued my taste buds' interest. So, after some experimentation, I came up with this recipe. I've made it for people on two occasions, and it was well-received, so it's not just my crazy taste buds that like it!

Butternut Squash Soup with Corn, Chouriço, and Jasmine Rice

  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup jasmine rice
  • 1 unpeeled butternut squash, halved and seeded
  • olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 chouriço sausage, casings removed, broken into crumbles, I use Gaspar's
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 2 14-ounce cans chicken broth or homemade chicken stock, warmed
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper, or to taste
  • ½ cup heavy cream (optional)
  • smoked Spanish paprika, (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Pour water into 9x13 baking dish until it's an inch high.

  2. Place the butternut squash into the prepared baking dish, cut side up.

  3. Bake in preheated oven until a fork can pierce the flesh easily, about 45 minutes.

  4. Meanwhile, place the jasmine rice and 1 cup of water into a saucepan. Bring to a boil, uncovered, over medium-high heat.

  5. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until water is absorbed and rice is fluffy, about 20 minutes.

  6. Remove from the heat and fluff with a fork.

  7. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and shallots and cook until tender and transparent, about 5 minutes.

  8. Push the vegetables to he sides of the skillet, making a hole in the middle. Mix in the crumbled chouriço; cook until crumbly and evenly browned.

  9. Drain any excess fat. Stir in the cooked rice and corn and mix well.

  10. Scoop out cooked squash and place in a blender or bowl of a food processor. Pour 1 cup of the warmed chicken broth into the blender or bowl of a food processor with the squash. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute.

  11. Stir the pureed squash into the sausage mixture until well blended. Add more broth until you reach the consistency you like. Season with pepper, and salt to taste. If desired, stir in the heavy cream.

  12. Simmer soup over medium heat until heated through, about 15 minutes, but do not boil.

  13. To serve, I like to sprinkle a bit of smoked Spanish paprika on it.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails