Roasted Asparagus and Garlic Soup

7Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

It’s been extra spring-y lately. All I want to do is lay in the grass and nap in the sun, half in-half out of consciousness style. I find myself craving spring vegetables like asparagus. The asparagus and garlic combo is so tasty! Crack a generous amount of pepper and top with parsley. Restaurant worthy? Yes!

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds asparagus, tips trimmed
  • 10 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 3 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup milk (replace with broth for dairy-free version)
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • cracked pepper and chopped parsley, for garnish
  1. Preheat your oven to 450F. Toss asparagus and smashed garlic with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange asparagus on prepared baking sheet over parchment paper in a single layer. Roast for 12 minutes, stirring half way through.
  2. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Transfer asparagus and garlic to a blender. Add broth and milk, blending until smooth. Work in batches if necessary. Transfer soup to a soup pot and warm over medium-high heat. Thin with more broth if desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add finely chopped parsley and stir though. Enjoy!

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All Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Brown Butter Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

5Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Have you ever made brown butter before? Well…you might want to try it tonight. Blizzard 2016 is in full swing on Long Island. Everyone is hunkered down in their homes, relaxing and enjoying time with family. Make them happy tonight and break out the butter!! To make brown butter, aka “beurre noisette,” you start by melting butter over medium heat. Swirl the butter around in the pan often to be sure it is cooking evenly. As it melts, the butter will begin to foam. The color will change from yellow to golden to a warm brown. Once it smells nutty, take it off the heat and transfer to a heat-safe bowl to cool. (Technique courtesy of The Kitchn, www.thekitchn.com). That’s it! Now imagine pouring this hot, golden butter on top of butternut squash before you roast it. You can’t even imagine how incredible the kitchen will smell during that 45 minutes. When it comes out of the oven all tender, you’re more than half way to this creamy, divine soup. I ate it for lunch three days straight…some of my coworkers may have been jealous.


Prep time: 20 minutes — Cook time: 45 minutes to 1 hr — Total time: 1 hr 20 minutes

Soup Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/4 cup diced celery
  • 1/4 cup diced carrot
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • About 4 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups Roasted Winter Squash recipe (See ingredients below)
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half, optional

Roasted Squash Ingredients:

  • About 3 pounds butternut squash (preferably 1 large squash)
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves (Substitute dried sage if you need to)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons Toasted Spice Rub (See ingredients below)

Toasted Spice Rub Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup (1-ounce) chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Okay: here we go! Don’t be alarmed by the lengthy ingredient list above. There are just a few extra steps in making this soup turn into liquid gold! First, we start by mixing the spices for the toasted spice rub. Toasting them releases their oils and makes them more fragrant. It also adds another layer of flavor.

Toast the fennel seeds, coriander seeds, and peppercorns a small pan over medium heat. When the fennel turns light brown, work quickly. Turn on the exhaust fan, add the red pepper flakes and toss, continually. Immediately turn the spice mixture out onto a plate to cool. Put mixture into a blender with the chili powder, salt, and cinnamon and blend until the spices are evenly ground. Pour into a bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients. Keep the spice mix in a glass jar in a cool, dry place, or freeze.3Next, we roast the squash. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Peel the squash with a vegetable peeler. Halve lengthwise, discard the seeds, then cut into 1-inch dice. Place in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter stops foaming and has turned a light brown, pull the pan off the heat and immediately add the sage, sugar, vinegar (stand back so as not to get splattered), maple syrup and 2 teaspoons of the toasted spice rub. Mix well and let simmer over medium-low heat for 2 minutes to let the flavors meld.

Pour the vinegar mixture over the squash and toss well, then transfer to a heavy rimmed baking sheet large enough to hold the squash in a single layer. Place in the oven and roast, tossing at least once, until very tender and caramelized, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Set aside until cool enough to handle but still warm, so the liquids are runny. Working in batches, if necessary, transfer the warm squash and all the cooking liquids to a food processor (I love my Nutri Bullet for this) and process until smooth. Use immediately, refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 2 months. Yields 2 cups puree.

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Next we go forth with soup! Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add the onion, celery, carrot, cinnamon stick and sauté until soft but not brown, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for several minutes. Stir in the squash until smooth, then simmer gently to let the flavors meld, about 10 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick. (Make sure you discard… I almost forgot).

Puree the soup in a blender until smooth. (The soup can be made ahead to this point, cooled, covered, and refrigerated for several days or frozen for about 1 month. It will thicken as it cools and may need thinning with stock or water when reheating.)

Return the soup to the pan and reheat gently. Add the half-and-half. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Keep warm until served. Garnish with roasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds. Enjoy!

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All photo credit: Ashley Cuoco

Recipe adapted from Michael Chiarello, www.foodnetwork.com

Chestnut Soup with Cognac Cream

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” Nat King Cole says it best (or should I say, sings it best). I grew up listening to these Christmas words among others sung by the voices of Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby and Johnny Mathis. When I close my eyes, I can still see the familiar scene: It’s evening. The light is dim and my mother is tidying up the kitchen. My father hasn’t returned from work yet. I’m in the living room, watching and listening. The tree is a-glow. Not a light, bow or berry our of place. They know that Santa’s on his way, he’s loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh. So calm and so serene. This is Christmastime.

Although I didn’t grow up eating chestnuts, since I’ve been with my husband I’ve eaten them every Christmas Eve. His family roasts them and eats them warm. It’s a real treat, so soft and flavorful. Recently, a good friend of mine shared this recipe with me: chestnut soup. It sounded unreal… I love soups. And to boot, a cognac cream on top. Hello! This recipe comes from Bon Appetit magazine, from many years ago. It makes a perfect starter to your Christmas meal. I bought whole chestnuts so I could get the full experience. To save on time, you have the option of getting vacuum packed, ready-pealed nuts. Either way, this one is worth the effort! Merry Christmas, everyone!

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All Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco


Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients for Soup:

  • 2 Tbsp (1/4 stick) butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 small carrot, chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp minced fresh thyme or 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups boiled chestnuts* (see instructions below for cooking) or 2 cups vacuum-packed chestnuts (about 10 oz), halved

Ingredients for Cognac cream:

  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 2 tsp Cognac
  • pinch of salt
  1. To boil chestnuts (1 lb nuts will make about the 2 cups you’ll need): using a sharp, small knife, cut an X in each chestnut. Cook chestnuts in a large pot of boiling water until just tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer the nuts to work surface. Remove hard shell and papery brown skin while chestnuts are still warm.
  2. Melt butter with oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add celery, carrot, onion and thyme and sauté until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add broth and chestnuts. Cover partially and simmer until chestnuts are very tender, about 30 minutes.
  3. Puree soup in batches in a blender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
  4. To make cream, whisk whipping cream, cognac and pinch of salt in a medium bowl until thickened but not stiff. Bring soup to a simmer over low heat. Ladle into bowls. Swirl spoonful of Cognac cream into each bowl and serve. Enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of Bon Appetit Magazine.

Roasted Cheese Pumpkin Soup

Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

A few weeks ago, my mom and I shared a memorable trip to a north shore Long Island, family owned farm. It was a beautiful, crisp autumn day. I went with the goal of finding a good cooking pumpkin to make this soup with. I found a lovely cheese pumpkin, which has been decoration until now (it has a shelf life of up to 1 year!) Today is Halloween, and although I really don’t care for it, it felt like the perfect day to cook my pumpkin. With my husband at school preparing for an exam, I found myself with some quiet time. I finished a few house chores (naturally, my reward is cooking) prepared candy for the trick-or-treaters, put on some old-timey Christmas tunes (don’t you say a word) and lit tea lights around the house. It was so serene. This is how I cook happy.

I learned that the cheese pumpkin is slightly sweet with a firm flesh, making it lovely for roasting, soup making and pie baking. It gets its name for the exterior resemblance to a wheel of cheese. Basically, it makes a wonderful puree. On a Saturday or Sunday when you have a little more time, it is actually very simple to make your own! Trust me. Once the pumpkin is roasted, it practically falls apart. All the good stuff comes right out. And once you’ve made it into soup, the flavor of the final product is subtle, rich, but not overwhelming– it has the smoothest, velvety texture. It is worth every effort. The addition of the coconut milk swirls and roasted seeds adds another layer of texture and interest to the bowl. You’ll also be able to say that nothing was wasted! Those seeds… they are a seriously delicious snack all by themselves. Do not be intimidated! Bask in the glory that is autumn and give this one a try! Sweet November, you are almost here.


(Gluten free… paleo… and vegan!)

Yield: 4 servings — Prep time: 5 mins — Cook time: 60 mins — Total time: 1 hour 5 minutes

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Ingredients:

  • 1 small cheese pumpkin (about 3 – 5 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon dried sage
  • ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ teaspoon chile powder
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut pumpkin in half, discarding the top stem and scooping out the seeds (don’t throw the seeds out!)
  2. Rub 1 Tablespoon of coconut oil on a baking sheet and place halves of pumpkins cut side down on pan. Roast for about 35 minutes, until pumpkin is tender and can easily be pierced with a fork. Don’t be alarmed if the pumpkin looks deflated when it comes out, it gets very soft.
  3. Let pumpkin cool and then scoop out the flesh, about 3 cups. Discard the skin. Once cool, I pureed the 3 cups of flesh until very smooth.
  4. Add the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil to a large pot over medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic, and ginger and sauté for about 5 minutes, until onions are translucent and garlic is fragrant. Add the pumpkin flesh, thyme, sage, pumpkin pie spice, chile powder, and stock. Bring to a boil and then lower heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste (I added about 1 teaspoon of each). Garnish with a drizzle of coconut milk and roasted pumpkin seeds*.

To roast pumpkin seeds, first boil the seeds in a small pot of water for 10 minutes. Strain, so you lose any strands of pumpkin, and dry. Place in a bowl with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper. Roast at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes. When they roast, they turn from a grayish color to a lighter browned color. Crunch away!

79All photo credit: Ashley Cuoco

Soup recipe adapted from In Sonnet’s Kitchen.

A little lesson on other pumpkin varieties good for cooking and baking:

Cinderella Pumpkin: Looking much like the pumpkins that Cinderella’s fairy godmother magically transformed into a carriage, the Cinderella — with a flattened shape and striking red color — carries a strong and sweet flavor.

Long Pie Pumpkin: Also known as “Nantucket Pie,” the five to eight pound Long Pie looks nothing like a standard, round pumpkin. As its name suggests, it has an elongated shape, and its bright orange flesh is smooth and nearly string-less.

New England Pie Pumpkin: Known for making delicious pumpkin soup, the New England Pie has a superior consistency — string-less and slightly less sweet than the Baby Pam — that also makes for a thick filling in pies.

Pumpkin varieties via The Daily Meal, www.thedailymeal.com.