Creamy Butternut Squash Soup Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

I hope everyone had a delicious Thanksgiving dinner last Thursday! Now it’s full speed ahead to the December holidays!

A few weeks ago, I read Ruth Reichl’s newest book, My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life. In 2009, Reichl, and the rest of the country, was shocked when Gourmet magazine, the oldest cooking publication in the country, closed its doors immediately. After almost 70 years, Conde Nast folded the monthly with nary a reason. At the helm was Reichl, who along with being blindsided, also blamed herself. With no job and no prospects, she tweeted on Twitter and retreated to the kitchen and cooked. The book encompasses her tweets and recipes she created during that year.

Her recipes, such as they are, are more a listing of ingredients with a description of what to do. I love this way of cooking, but I know it’s not for everyone. And her writing is so beautiful, she makes everything she cooks sound delicious. Including a butternut squash soup.

I’ve never been one for squash soups; squash in soup, yes, but a pumpkin or butternut squash soup is something I’d tried on occasion but never liked. I’ve always found the flavors odd and would always avoid it in restaurants. This mindset shifted a couple of months ago when my mom ordered a pumpkin soup that was really delicious. Reichl had a recipe for a butternut soup and her description of it made me want to make it immediately. I took a glance at the ingredient list, decided to make my version, and cooked it up as the first snowflakes fell outside the kitchen window. And she was right. It’s good. And comforting. And is the best kind of soup to eat this time of year; it’s easy on the wallet and takes maybe 30 minutes at the most to make.

Dairy-free, wheat free, vegetarian, this is so simple that anyone can make it. For lunch, it’s satisfying and warms you up and fills you up, too. You’d think that just five ingredients would make for a not so exciting soup, so I was skeptical when I put everything together. But something about the melding of the flavors is delicious. And don’t worry about precise chopping, everything is going to be blended; it’s a lot easier to use a hand blender if you have one, but a standing blender will work, too.

You’ll find you’ll need more than the first two cups of water. I always add a little bit to my lunch container to get the consistency I like. If you want a little bit more flavor, I thought some cumin or thyme would be a good addition.

Happy Cooking!

butternutsoup
Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

1 Tablespoon olive oil

One butternut squash, 1 pound

2 peeled carrots, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 medium onion, diced

2+ cups water

Salt and pepper to taste

Warm the olive oil in a soup pot. When ready, add the carrots, celery, and onion and saute until soft over medium heat. Add the squash and saute for about five minutes or so. Add the water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook the vegetables until everything has completely mushy. With a hand blender (or standing blender) puree until everything is blended, adding additional water if needed. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve warm.

bs1MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Bonnie Slotnick’s Cookbook Store

Number two on my New York City adventures (Part I can be read here). When I went to New York, I had very little on my agenda except for one thing, I had to go to Bonnie Slotnick’s cookbook store in Greenwich Village. I really wanted to check it out and after more than ten years, I finally made it!

My friend, Jen, and I got there Sunday afternoon at 12:56, only to discover the store opened at 1 p.m. and we were famished. So instead of waiting four minutes, we went to another bookstore for lunch and then I made my way back while Jen went shopping.

bs2I walked in and it was like walking into someone’s kitchen. A lovely table with the season’s colors and cookbooks was in the middle of the room. Cookbooks lined the walls, all neatly divided into ethnicity and topic. The lighting was golden with lamps on various bookshelves and the colors were of retro kitchens, light greens, oranges, yellows. Vintage aprons, linens, and cookware sat on wooden kitchen tables, and I immediately spied the recipe box my mother has in her kitchen since I was born! A box in the back had a pile of old menus from long ago New York City restaurants now closed. It was warm enough to have the back door open, which led to a small enclosed garden with a small table and chairs, where you could read your cookbooks.

bs3I thought it was curious she had no Julia Child books in the French section, but I soon discovered she had a reserved spot for the masters right in front of her counter! Child, James Beard, Elizabeth David, Jane Grigson, a variety of editions of The Joy of Cooking, she had all of the greats. I was so pleased to find they had such a special space all together!

bs4After everyone left, I was able to have a chat with Bonnie and it was everything I thought it would be. I ended up buying a book, Clementine in the Kitchen, a book Ruth Reichl reissued when she was editor of Gourmet, the recipe box, and a small cooking booklet titled Meals for Two. I found the book prices to be reasonable, especially for New York City and for being vintage. If you are into cookbooks and want a treat, don’t hesitate to check it out. Her hours change weekly, but she always posts them on her website, bonnieslotnickcookbooks.com.

bs5Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks ~ 28 East 2nd Street, New York, New York

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The One Where the Cook Stays Home Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

This gorgeous sunflower field is on my commute!

This gorgeous sunflower field is on my commute!

Last weekend, four of my girlfriends were meeting up in Michigan for a book festival. It disappointed me that I wasn’t able to join them, so I tried to make the most of being home by celebrating the season in my own backyard!

Every month in Vermont has its jewels (well, maybe not January and February!), but September really stands out for me. The days are getting shorter, it’s dark when I get up in the morning and my evening walks sometimes end at dusk. And there is something about September’s light that is special; I can look at the reflection of the sunset on the mountain range that makes every little pine tree stand out, and then it is gone in the blink of an eye. The days and nights are getting cooler too, although you wouldn’t know it by Saturday’s record high of 85 degrees.

Photo7This time of year in Vermont you’ll run into harvest festivals, a celebration of the bountiful season with local farmers and vendors, and sometimes even suppers. This is one of my favorite times of year to cook because of the fall harvest, and while I’ve been cooking with the season, I didn’t have any special or new recipes to share (roasted beets, garlic mashed potatoes, and sautéed kale anyone?), but realized since I went to my coop’s harvest festival that I could share some of my favorite Vermont producers I buy on a regular basis for my far away readers! Many have stores, so check out their websites. If you are in Vermont, you can pop in for a visit and let me know if you liked them! And special thanks to The Eater of the House, who helped me out with the photographs, because I forgot my camera!

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Vermont Coffee Company
This is hands down the best coffee in the WORLD! Although I tend to be more of a tea girl these days (more on that later), if I do drink coffee, VCC’s dark roast is my choice. I’ve shared this coffee with many and a care package to a certain friend in Seattle isn’t complete without a bag of the dark roast. I sipped a sample of iced coffee sweetened with cream and maple syrup and I learned their method of making iced coffee that is a cold method rather than my method of making a pot then cooling it in the fridge. (They were out of pamphlets, otherwise I’d give you the secret!)

Photo2MapleBrook Farm
MapleBrook Farm’s specialty isn’t cheddar, it’s mozzarella. And now they are selling handmade burrata. Burrata was the “it” cheese a couple of years ago and I tasted it for the first time in New York City and since then I’ve been obsessed with it, but have avoided it since I know I’d eat the whole thing in one sitting. Burrata is a fresh mozzarella cheese, the outer shell is mozzarella, while the inside is both mozzarella and cream. MapleBrook’s samples served the cheese with a tiny basil leaf, a halved baby tomato, and a drop of balsamic vinegar and were an incredible taste treat. What I really wanted to do was eat the entire platter, but I was polite and stuck with just one. I now know what to make next time I’m searching for a special appetizer!

Photo3Red Hen Baking Company
I don’t buy bread that often, but when I do Red Hen is one of just two Vermont breads that I will buy. I almost always pick up a loaf of their seeded baguette on the weekend and serve it with olive oil and fresh garlic or just with some good cheese or local butter. (The above burrata would be incredible!) And their bread ingredients are what should make up a bread recipe: flour, yeast, water, and salt with no other additives.

Photo4Stone Leaf Teahouse
Like I said above, I drink mostly tea these days, usually flavored green tea or as a special treat, my favorite Yorkshire Gold. I always think of tea as an English beverage, so I have a lot to learn about Asian teas. And a visit to Stone Leaf Teahouse is a great place to do that. I had a sample of a dark Asian tea and some Chai, which was SO good!

Photo5Butterworks Farm
I have been eating Butterworks Farm’s yogurt for as long as I can remember, so I had a great discussion about their products, where they have been and where they are going. The oldest organic farm in the state, it produces yogurt and other dairy products and has now expanded and sells whole wheat flour, cornmeal, wheat berries, and dried black beans. And I learned something new! Apparently Jersey cows give higher protein milk, so their yogurt has a higher protein content than some others. I had no idea that different cows produced different levels of protein in their milk. And while I’m full-fat dairy all the way, they also produce low and non-fat yogurts, which allows them to skim off the fat for their cream.

Photo6Sunrise Orchards
My tiny town has its own orchard that I frequent in the fall, but it closes right before Thanksgiving, so winter fruit, besides citrus, is at a minimum for me. But I am able to get apples at the coop from Sunrise Orchards well into spring! Their Empire apples, a hardier variety, which I eat in the winter, are kept in a special climate controlled fridge that eliminates moisture, so the apples are kept fresh all winter long. I always wondered why their apples were fresher than if I kept them in my own fridge!

The weekend ended at a lovely local restaurant for a special evening of dinner, dancing, and watching the sun set behind the Adirondacks. Not bad to spend a weekend at home!

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IMG_2841MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Ruth is Back in the Kitchen!
Last week, I lamented the fact that Mark Bittman is no longer writing for the New York Times. But this week I’m happy again, because my other favorite food writer, Ruth Reichl, has a new cookbook coming out!

The former editor of Gourmet magazine, the rug was pulled out from under Reichl in 2009 when the magazine shut its doors quickly and swiftly with no advance warning. So Reichl did what many of us cooks do, she retreated to the kitchen and cooked. My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Changed my Life, which is released on September 29, focuses on those recipes she made during that year of recovery, step by step, month by month.

If you’ve ever read any of Reichl’s writing, be it her memoirs, articles in Gourmet, or even her tweets, you know you are going to be in for a treat when you sit down with this book and I can’t wait. The New York Times had a great profile on her and the writing for the cookbook last week. You can read it by clicking here.