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Archive for July, 2009

Couldn’t resist the sssssound of that title.  But let’s make this short and sweet.  This post is really by way of a public service announcement. Because, let’s face it, it’s not even August yet and the yellow summer squash . . . well, it just keeps on coming, doesn’t it? I like summer squash, really I do. I like it grilled. I like it julienned and fried in olive oil or butter until golden brown and almost crispy  (kind of like an almost good for you almost french fry). I like it in pasta, with sausage and feta or basil and cherry tomatoes. I like it in a gratin.  But lately, it seems to multiply in the crisper drawer. It’s voluntarily growing in the compost heap. Really, how’s a girl to keep up?

Before you begin to smuggle squash onto your neighbors’ doorsteps at night or start experimenting with whether the dog might like some, consider this soup from Alice Water’s The Art of Simple Food. This recipe pleases me in two ways. First, and, I hate to say it, most importantly right now, it uses up a significant amount of squash. Second, it’s light and a bit spicy. I usually think of squash soups as mellow, thick and almost meaty.  Fall food. This one is perfect for summer — it has a little zip and it goes down easy. Don’t neglect to make the yogurt garnish. It really adds to the soup. We had plenty of it, and it’s flavor deepened with a couple of days in the fridge, making it all even better as leftovers.

Spicy Summer Squash  Soup with Yogurt and Mint

Adapted from Alice Water’s The Art of Simple Food

For the soup:

1/4 cup olive oil

1 large onion sliced fine

A pinch of saffron

1 t ground coriander

1 t ground cumin

1 t sweet paprika

1/4 t tumeric

1/2 t cayenne pepper

2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

5 medium summer squash, sliced into 3/4 inch slices (I used ten of the smallish ones that have been coming in the CSA box)

6 cups water, vegetable broth, chicken broth or a mixture.

For the garnish:

4 mint sprigs

2 T olive oil

2/3 cup yogurt

Salt

Heat the 1/4 cup oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot. Over medium heat, add the onion, garlic and spices. Stir frequently and cook until soft but not browned. If the garlic begins to brown, splash in a little stock to cool it down. When the onions are soft, add the squash and some salt and cook for about two minutes.  Then pour in the stock or water.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until the squash is tender (15-20 minutes). When the squah is tender, puree the soup in a blender or, even better, with an immersion blender , until it is very smooth. At this point, if you are going for an elegant presentation, you may wish to pass the soup through a sieve. I’ve done that and approved of the results, but I also like the one-dish-to-wash simplicity of using the immersion blender and then serving right from the pot. The soup can be gently reheated when you’re ready to serve. If it seems very thick, you may wish to thin it with some additional stock.

Before serving cut the mint leaves into a julienne. Take half of them and grind into a paste, whatever way you can achieve this (I don’t like this task, so my method is to hand the leaves and a mortar and pestle to my husband). Add the paste to the yogurt, olive oil and remaining mint and season with a little salt. Dollop onto the soup as you serve. Season with a squeeze of fresh lime. Feel relieved of the burden of squash until the next CSA pick-up.

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And just what have you been eating?

Many places, and oh so many things.

Baltimore, where there were excellent crab cakes and asparagus.

And Oxford, where there was much charm and history, some fish and chips, a baguette with goat cheese, fig and honey that I remember with particular fondness, and a very fine lamb shank. And asparagus.

A swanky Philadelpha hotel where I had the double whammy of only my second room service and my first cheesesteak ever. I didn’t want to like these things. But I did. There were no asparagus.

Then across the country and back, to that place that starts to be a second home . . .

. . . where there celebrations . . .

. . . and markets . . .

. . . and sunshine and scenery. And along the way there was a lot of excellent beer and some good food and quite a bit of bad food . . .

. . . and big skies . . .

. . . and long evening shadows, and small towns and miles and miles of highway.

Once in a while, I’ve even been home, where we’ve eaten good things . . .

. . . like paella . . .

. . . and pizza . . .

. . . and pulled pork and some other good things that don’t start with p. Like Shana’s buttermilk pie and Lenny’s grilled shrimp and lots and lots of berries. Although there have been a lot of peas, as well.

But now I’m home for real, so maybe it’s time to stop being a bad blogger and to start telling you about some of this as I go along, and to feed my friends and get to know my kitchen again and revel in that farm share while it lasts. And to consider important Ann Arbor food questions like why Zanzibar is closing and where will we take fancy visitors for lunch now and will Sabor Latino really reopen or is the ominous “closed for renovations” sign a euphemism for “out of business”?

I promise not to stay out so late without calling again. It’s a nice world out there, but I’m happy to be home.

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