11.29.2010

Soup - That's Where It's At

I'm a soup kinda girl.  I love having a pot of bubbling, spattering goodness on the stove as I go about my day.  My idea of a perfect day? Soup on the stove, me melted into the couch in front of a fire wearing elastic-waisted flannel pants and thick, chunky socks and my family lazing around the house on a football Sunday watching our Steelers.  Oh, yeah.
Croutons are something I make regularly.  Sometimes we have leftover baguette or sourdough.  Before it gets too "crusty", I love to make crunchy, salty, herby croutons for salad, soups and snacking.

I have no recipe per se, only a general method:
Day or two-old bread (crusty, artisan-type breads work best. Skip the Wonder bread.)
Olive or sunflower oil
Jane's Crazy Salt (or salt and pepper)
Herbs (fresh work well - rosemary is my fave)
Pepper
cooking spray, parchment paper or silicone baking mat

Preheat oven to 350. Cube bread in to bite-sized pieces (1") and place in large bowl. Drizzle enough oil over cubes to coat all pieces. Add slowly, tossing cubes as you drizzle.  Don't drench them - just a light coating.  General ratio - 4 cups bread cubes, maybe about 1/4 oil. 

Finely chop fresh herbs - I love rosemary, but if I don't have fresh on hand I usually use dried thyme. If you use dried rosemary, chop it finely. Add Jane's or salt and pepper to taste.

Spread on cookie sheet prepped with cooking spray or baking mat and bake for 10 minutes. Stir. Bake until golden and crispy, about 5-10 more minutes depending on what bread you use. (I used a whole-grain bagutte for this post)

Cool and store in air-tight container until ready to use. Do not, I repeat do not, pop one of these bad boys in your mouth right out the oven.  Well, unless you want third-degree burns on your palette and tongue - knock yourself out...

The soup pictured above is a roasted butternut squash with a sour cream dollop - so yummy. This is my recipe.  And yes, it's my own concoction:

Roasted Butternut Soup
1 Medium-sized butternut squash, peeled, seeds scraped and cubed into 1" or 2" pieces 
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced
1 yellow onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
1 1/2 t Jane's Crazy Salt (or salt, pepper to taste)
2T olive oil
Chicken broth, canned or homemade
half-and-half

Preheat oven to 375. Place first 6 ingredients in a large bowl and toss to coat veggies with oil.  Place veggies on large baking sheet, spreading evenly.  Roast for about 40 minutes or until all veggies are soft and slightly browned.  Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes.

Place veggies in blender, food mill (my fave) or food processor and puree mixture.  May have to do this in batches.  Use a little broth to thin in blender if needed. 

Put veggie puree in crock pot or pot on stove and add chicken broth and half-and-half to desired consistency.  I like mine really creamy and sort of thick. Warm gently over low heat and add salt and pepper if needed. Serve in small bowls with croutons and a dollop of sour cream or creme fraishe.
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I had this soup for the first time in NYC about 8 years ago.  I had gone with my hubby, who was on a media trip there, and I had my days to myself for shopping, wandering and pretending to be a New Yorker. I had done heavy damage at the American Girl store on a very cold, slightly damp morning and came back to our hotel, The Muse, to drop off bags and change my shoes (wearing heels in the city all day when you're used to sneaks or slippers is not smart).  I went up to my room and decided I was very hungry - hungry enough to take myself to lunch at our boutique hotel restaurant, a swank and chic little nugget.  I ordered the lunch special - roasted butternut squash soup with a roasted beet and goat cheese salad. I ordered some sparkling water and  dove into my New Yorker magazine.

This was one of the most memorable meals I've ever had. I can't convey just how chic and independent and secure with myself I felt in that moment - all things that I find are quite elusive for me most days. And to be there by myself - never before had I just gone to a restaurant and bought myself a $30 lunch and been so satisfied both with the food and the company of just me and my aching feet and my winter-stung cheeks.

This soup gives me just a little taste of that day - without the price tag and the blistered feet due to walking through Midtown in stripper boots and thin socks...




3 comments:

  1. I'm coming to your house for lunch!!! My kids are still home today for Thanksgiving break and it looks like it may be a snow day tomorrow. Yikes!

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  2. I'm a soup kind of girl also....and if there are leftovers in the fridge...that is ALWAYS my breakfast - nobody dares to touch it.

    Also - a quick thank you on the heads up about the Fabric Shack. Mom and I drove out there this weekend and I spent way too much money. And cant wait to go back and spend more!

    ReplyDelete
  3. My friend, I think we may just be kindred spirits. Your perfect day lounging sounds like a dream come true and I'm from Steeler country too. I've also been looking for a crouton recipe!

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