Thursday, February 28, 2008


There was a time, early in our marriage, when we subsisted on no more than a handful of meals. The Carnivore specialized in spaghetti and quesadillas. My repertoire included bean & rice burritos and baked macaroni and cheese. When we were feeling really decadent, The Carnivore might whip up a mean gumbo or a vegetarian chili, but for the most part, we had a short, easy-to-memorize grocery list and an even shorter menu from which we picked our meals. It suited us. At the time, we had other things on our mind and often we forgot to even eat dinner.

Our dismally slim cookbook collection consisted of the annual Southern Living hardbacks that my mother picked up for us at yard sales, and one or two of them had sticky notes flailing out of the top to denote a recipe or two that The Carnivore, who was by and large the family chef, had attempted with good success. And I had a tiny little single-pocket manila folder that held the four or five recipes I had clipped from magazines or newspapers. It was kind of sad really, now that I'm looking back on it.

When we first moved into our dream house, six weeks after The Big Boy was born, and I began to get used to my new role as more-mom-than-businesswoman, I started testing the waters as the head chef in the family. The Carnivore had designed and built a spectacular kitchen, with appliances that were smarter than me and a floor plan that had the living room and kitchen completely open to one another. The space is vast, airy, and colorful, with high ceilings, stained glass windows and a big bay window, hardwood floors, and even a fireplace. Really, it would have been hard to NOT get obsessed with cooking.

I began to madly clip new recipes, eager to expand our rather boring and completely uninspiring meal rotation, and over time, my folder of recipes started to bulge and split its seams; there were so many that I would often forget what was in there and would have to pull every single piece of paper out in order to find anything. And since we had started with such a limited set of meals, we were voting nearly all new recipes to be keepers. So, in true obsessive-compulsive fashion, I finally spent a weekend organizing all of the recipes into a binder. I made copies of each recipe on a single sheet of paper so I wouldn’t be stuck with all the scraps of paper, and I categorized all of them, even going so far as to provide an index for each category. I know, it’s a little sick, isn't it? I can’t help it. I blame my father. He’s the same way.

Recently though, I realized the binder had gotten out of control. There are maybe 150 or so recipes in there now, and our standards have changed drastically in the past four years. Whereas before, any old edible pasta dish would easily earn its place in the book, we recognize now that in those days, we were just trying to avoid starvation. I mean, the first pasta salad recipe that moved into the book is truly a very middle-of-the-road, pedestrian kind of dish that I clipped from the newspaper. I will probably never make it again now that I have added the Pasta Salad with Corn and Spinach that we fell in love with from Fine Cooking.

It’s clearly time to do some culling. We’re just a lot pickier than we used to be. And I don’t want to waste valuable real estate in The Book with white-bread fare, if you know what I mean. So we’ve gotten ruthless. Unless we get overly frustrated with the process, we’re not having any new recipes for a few weeks until we have gone back and eaten our way through some of the pages that we haven’t even turned to in recent memory. Last night, I made a goat cheese and sun-dried tomato pasta dish that we only ate once, maybe a year ago, and neither of us could even remember much about it, much less why we had decided to add it to our permanent cache. This time, we each had no more than a couple of bites before we put our food critic hats on and began to nit-pick the dish into oblivion. It just wasn’t earth-shatteringly tasty. And it didn’t pull our heartstrings or comfort us or excite even a single taste bud. I wish I had a buzzer on the kitchen table. Or a gong. At some point, we obviously felt this dish was an important addition to our menu book, but neither of us were particularly moved by it any longer.

So I marched to The Book, unceremoniously yanked the page out and escorted it straight to the recycling bin, scribbling over it’s entry in the index. Call me ruthless. I just love the sound of it.

Oh, it isn’t like we’ll run out of recipes. We can afford to be remorseless about this process. I mean, I’m threading my way amongt bookshelves that are groaning under the weight of cookbooks, I subscribe to a slew of cooking magazines (though that amount could rise at a moment’s notice), and the internet is a resource to be reckoned with here. Almost every day I print out a new recipe that I want to try from one of the food blogs (see sidebar at right) that I regularly follow.

The only issue we’re running into is when we disagree over a recipe’s rightful home in The Book. A couple of nights ago, I made a spinach, goat cheese & chive quiche that I truly enjoy (my sister-in-law showed up with a sizeable block of goat cheese last weekend so we’ve been on kind of a goat cheese kick around these parts lately). Though The Carnivore and I are usually on the same page with recipes – with the obvious exception of, um, meat – we butted heads on this one. In the interest of making meals that we are all happy with though, and since this is a rare occasion to begin with, I reluctantly recycled the recipe and took the leftovers to mom’s house. I’m still feeling a little sadness over this, like it’s a puppy my parents won’t let me keep and I need to find a good home for it.

I am a giant fan of eggy main dishes anyway, and The Carnivore most certainly is NOT. Quiches and frittatas are such beautiful vegetarian entrees, and can be loaded with all manner of seasonal veggies and herbs, and since goat cheese can even be found relatively locally here, well, I’m just downright downcast to see this recipe move on to a more agreeable audience than it found in my kitchen.

So here it is, free to a good home. Please take good care of it for me. I will miss it terribly.

SPINACH, GOAT CHEESE & CHIVE QUICHE (adapted from Fine Cooking, serves 4 as an entree, or 6 as a side dish)
  • 10 oz fresh spinach
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 2 to 3 Tbs finely snipped fresh chives
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1 partially baked tart shell (or pie dough or even puff pastry - whatever you like)
  1. In a large saucepan, bring 1 cup water to a boil.
  2. Add spinach to boiling water and cook until just wilted (2 to 3 minutes).
  3. Drain spinach and set aside to cool.
  4. In a bowl, combine the eggs, yolks and heavy cream. Season w/ salt & pepper and whisk until well blended.
  5. Add the goat cheese, chives, thyme and Parmigiano to the egg mixture.
  6. Squeeze excess moisture from spinach; and mince.
  7. Add spinach to egg mixture and mix well.
  8. Pour mixture into prepared, partially baked tart shell.
  9. Put tart shell onto a baking pan (because it will overflow and make a terrible mess of your stove) and bake at 375 degrees until the filling is puffed and brown (about 50 minutes) and interior no longer runs all over the place when poked with a knife.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Nerd (recipe for Leek and Asparagus Frittata)

This cooking hobby is getting expensive. Well, maybe that is too strong a statement. We have to eat, after all, so I suppose if I had to pick anything for a hobby, cooking is certainly the most useful. And since we would have to buy food no matter what, then I can even kind of cheat and consider that not all of the money I spend on this little venture really goes to the hobby itself. Maybe I should come up with some sort of formula by which I take all the money spent on groceries and cooking magazine subscriptions and the cookbooks I’m trying real hard not to buy, and then allocate a specific portion under the heading of ‘hobby’ and funnel the rest to the ‘groceries’ line item on my budget.
It's the accounting degree talking here. You know how you’ve heard all this talk for the past five or ten years about misstated financial statements and important documents being shredded and, you know, Enron. I bet those problems started just like this, with the accountant making twisted justifications about expenses.
Even though I tend to pinch my pennies until they bleed and cry out for mercy, and I bargain shop and try to get the most bang for each buck, I’m pretty reckless when it comes to the food portion of the budget. Because honestly, we DO have to eat. And if I’m going to have to cook every single doggone day for the rest of my dadgum life, then by golly, I’m going to get good at it and I’m going to like doing it. So I buy expensive cheese without even checking the price tag. And we’ve joined a CSA and shell out a pretty sizeable check to the farm at the beginning of the season. And I spend twice as much on organic produce and dairy products without batting an eye, and I go to the weekend farmer’s markets and pay a premium to both support local farmers and to know that my vegetables were grown just a couple of miles down the road and were picked that morning.
So it is what it is. When cash flow gets tight, I do not try to trim our grocery budget. We can cut corners in everything else, but not with our food. I track all of our expenses – even to the point of grumbling at The Carnivore about the $20 in cash he takes out of the ATM once a month or so (it must be hard being married to me), because then I’m unable to allocate that money on the spreadsheet. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise to me at the end of the year, when I print out the annual income and expense detail reports for us to go over as a family, that we spent an exorbitant amount of money on groceries. I’m the one who does the shopping. I know what is spent each week, and I can do the multiplication in my head fairly easily.
But it was still a shock. I printed out the 2007 report and read through it line by line so that I could pat myself on the back for, you know, barely spending a dime on clothing, for ponying up hardly a pittance on dining out, for paying off the vehicles this past year. And then I got down to the grocery section.
Oops. My bad.
Even The Carnivore, who leaves the financial stuff completely up to me, and who has never complained about the decisions I’ve made about our money was brought up short in his tracks when he got to that line.
Clearly, I was going to have to put things into perspective.
I'd recently read The Amateur Gourmet, a witty and delighfully un-elitist guide for aspiring foodies written by Adam Roberts, a food blogger I adore, and I remembered a Ruth Reichl quote from the book about food costs: “Food isn’t cheap. People used to spend half their income on food. Now they spend six percent.” The quote confused me the first time I read it, and it’s still picking at me. If, like she says, food isn’t cheap, then how is it that people are spending so much less on food than they used to? Obviously, due to the industrialization of agriculture, food has gotten much cheaper over the past 50 years, but that is only if you’re talking about buying straight off the supermarket shelf, rather than buying organic or local. And is she talking about groceries, or is she including the cost of eating out? Because I could swear I’ve read some staggering statistics on how many meals are eaten outside of the home now…
So I gave up and commenced Googling. According to a USDA Economic Research Service report, Americans spent 9.5% of their income on food in 2004. From what I read in another USDA report (which included numbers from 1997, which were obviously slightly different), it looks like the numbers used by the USDA in these reports do include both groceries and restaurant meals, and the income amount they use is after-tax income.
I’m such a nerd. OF COURSE I grabbed my adding machine. And OF COURSE I ran the numbers. Now, we’re self-employed, so we lose a higher percentage of our income to taxes due to there not being an employer to pay half of our FICA, and I’m still procrastinating on preparing our income tax return for last year, so I can only go on the amount that I paid with our quarterly estimates, which should be relatively close (due to nerdism). From what I came up with, it looks like we (argh – I suppose ‘I’ is the operative pronoun here) spent approximately 13% of our estimated after-tax income on food. And no, that doesn’t include the money spent on new cooking gadgets or the afore-mentioned cooking magazines, etc.
I was really hoping we’d be closer to the curve here. Then I wouldn’t have to spend the rest of the day trying to come up with excuses, especially when I have some cooking projects I really want to work on. For quite some time now, I’ve justified our high grocery expenses with assuming we were still spending less than those people who ate out all the time – and I do hate having to admit that I was running on mistaken assumptions there. And I’m sure my mom (bless her) will read this and still find a way to help me devise further justifications – because, you know, I don’t have car payments, so maybe I SHOULD be able to spend more on food…
Or maybe I should just admit I have a problem.
Exhibit One: the following leek and asparagus frittata recipe which has become one of my new favorite vegetarian entrees.
We gushed over this recipe and have fallen back in love with frittatas again. The Parmesan crust adds fabulous texture and delicous sharp, salty flavor. The asparagus is cooked until barely tender, and the sauteed buttery leeks are rich and delicate. Even The Carnivore considers this fritatta worthy of entree status, always my biggest goal when serving meatless proteins to a beef-loving man. And The Big Boy ate a few bites of it himself before he lost interest and wandered off to have an imaginary sword fight. I love it too (the frittata, that is), and will be making it for dinner again tonight, along with Spicy Couscous with Chickpeas and a mixed green salad.
But, more to the point, I shudder to think of the actual cost of this dish. I use free-range eggs ($2 worth in this recipe) and fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano (there goes another $2 - $3). The cup of Fontina cheese adds another $3-$4, and I'd just rather not dwell on the cost of organic asparagus, mushrooms and leeks. And, oh, I almost hate to admit this, but I even buy organic butter now. It's all so mind-boggling. I mean, SURE, I could scrimp on the quality of ingredients and use eggs from abused chickens. And I could get my Parmesan from a can. Instead of Fontina, I could use mass-market mozzarella. But then I'd be sacrificing on taste, and what would be the point of cooking at all?
LEEK AND ASPARAGUS FRITTATA (adapted from Bon Appetit, 4 main-dish servings)
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 1 cup chopped leeks (white and pale green parts only)
  • 12-oz asparagus, trimmed, cut on diagonal into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 cup shredded Fontina cheese, divided
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus a pinch more
  • 1/2 tsp finely ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat broiler.
  2. Melt butter in heavy oven-proof skillet over medium heat.
  3. Add leeks to pan, and saute for 4 minutes.
  4. Add asparagus and mushrooms to leeks, sprinkle slightly with pinch of salt, and saute until asparagus is just tender, about 6 minutes.
  5. Whisk eggs, 3/4 cup Fontina cheese, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper in medium bowl.
  6. Add egg mixture to skillet; fold gently to combine.
  7. Cook until almost set, and top is only slightly runny, about 3 -5 minutes.
  8. Sprinkle remaining Fontina cheese, and Parmesan cheese over the top.
  9. Put skillet in oven and broil until frittata is puffed and cheese has turned golden, about 3 minutes.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Macadamia Double-Decker Brownie Bars

Oh, my stars. I’ve been dying to get a chance to blog for the past few days. I wanted to tell you all about the cauliflower recipe that I tried from the February issue of Bon Appetit. It is just the most divine side dish in the world and I want so badly to share it with you. But you know how it goes. I’ve had work to do all week, and two clients kind of breathing down my neck about it all. Even getting the work done was practically an exercise in futility though because Little Miss Piggy isn’t much for napping, which really gets in the way of getting, you know, ANYTHING done.

So, of course, writing took a backseat. Not just a backseat, more like a way-in-the-back-of-the-bus-seat. The list of priorities that comes before writing is a long one: family, cooking, exercise (gotta work all those desserts off), work, house-cleaning, and so on. And life happens, of course. But there is just so much I wanted to write about from that issue of Bon Appetit…

It was The Green Issue, you see, so pretty much every article in the whole doggone magazine was a sermon I wanted to hear. A cooking magazine focusing on environmental concerns – what more could I ask for, right? To top it all off, Orangette, one of my very favorite food bloggers had her inaugural column published in this issue (the reason I bought it in the first place) and it was worth the price of admission all by itself. See, I really like her, and the article, titled “Why I’m Not a Vegetarian,” was really, really funny. Mostly because, um, I am a vegetarian.

I tried four of the recipes from this issue over the past week, and two of those were enormously successful for us (read: both the vegetarian and The Carnivore liked the recipes, AND the cook had no trouble getting the recipe right, AND ingredients were easily obtained even out here in the boonies). So of course I wanted to write about at least one of those. The decision wasn’t that big really – I could wax poetic about the cauliflower (which was so unusual, yet so incredibly flavorful) or maybe the asparagus frittata (be still my beating heart…). But then a little tiny bit of time passed, and I never made it to the computer, and then the March issue came out. And all I can think about now is that I really want to get that issue so I can read Orangette’s new column. She only blogs once a week, and I KNOW that, but still I check her website every day, just hoping she has posted something new.

I’m trying really hard to NOT subscribe to Bon Appetit, because with my schedule I can barely keep up with my reading as it is, but just the thought of not reading one of Orangette’s columns makes me cranky. And I know I get hung up on the economics of virtually everything, but if I were to purchase six of these issues at the newsstand (which I would probably end up doing), I would have paid the same price as if I had subscribed for an entire year. And I do hate to waste money…

So here I am, all side-tracked (as usual), worrying myself over budgetary concerns and still I haven’t shared either of those two wonderful new recipes. And I’m pretty sure I’m not even going to now, because something wonderful happened this morning that overshadowed all that luscious cauliflower. And that pretty little asparagus, too.

I would love to build up the suspense for a while, because I just love to make people squirm, but I can’t hold it in any longer: I WON FIVE COOKBOOKS. Not just any cookbooks, but FIVE CHOCOLATE COOKBOOKS. Oh, hold on for just a moment while I wipe the tears of joy from my eyes. I’ve danced around the stove, I’ve called my mother, I’ve shouted out of all seven of our exterior doors trying to find The Carnivore and The Big Boy (who have vanished with the wheelbarrow and are totally unaware of this life-changing bit of news), and I’m still excited. I never win anything. Oh sure, a million dollars would be fabulous to win (but I would invest it and probably wouldn’t spend a dime). And I guess I could have won a car, but that would have only irritated me, because I would have sold it (at a loss, most likely) in order to pay the taxes on the prize. And I don’t really need a car anyway.

But cookbooks? Oh. My. Goodness. Serious Eats gives away at least one cookbook a week, and I enter every single time. I mean, I’m there at Serious Eat two or three times a day anyway. It’s the first place I go when I turn the computer on each day, and it is the last site I check before I shut down for the evening. I love the writing, the recipes, the food news, the irreverent tone. I love it all. It’s like the sorority I never rushed. Or the club I never joined. Or the family I never had (work with me here).

So forget the cauliflower. Don’t worry about the asparagus. All this talk (and dancing and singing and shouting) about chocolate has taken me into a whole other direction. Because the other recipe I tried this week was a macadamia brownie recipe from the December 2007 issue of Fine Cooking. And even though I’ve never met a brownie recipe I didn’t like, this particular gooey, sticky, fudgy, over-the-top, hunka-hunka burning love brownie is so scrumptious I’m going to make another batch today even though we haven’t finished eating the first batch yet. I just don’t want to run out – it’s THAT good. And then I’m going to take the whole pan of them, and I’m going to get my lawn chair and a bottle of water, and I’m going to park myself down by the mailbox and wait for my new cookbooks to arrive.

MACADAMIA DOUBLE-DECKER BROWNIE BARS (yields 48 bars - if you exercise considerable restraint, adapted from Fine Cooking)
  • Cooking spray (to grease the pan)
  • 12 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into large chunks (don't try to use margarine or some other butter substitute - when the recipe calls for butter, use butter - real butter, amen)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp table salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup (no, this isn't nearly as evil as high-fructose corn syrup and it has a rightful place in my baking supplies cupboard)
  • 3 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups roughly chopped salted macadamia nuts
  • 1/3 cup sweeteened coconut flakes
  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisk 12 Tbs butter until melted.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and add the granulated sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Whisk until well blended.
  3. To the pan, add 2 eggs and 1 tsp vanilla and whisk until smooth.
  4. Add the 3/4 cup flour and stir with a rubber spatula until blended.
  5. Spread mixture evenly in a greased 9x13-inch baking pan, and bake at 325 degrees until the top is shiny and dry-looking and the brownie springs back very slightly when pressed with a fingertip (about 20 minutes). The brownie should NOT be completely baked - it will be going back into the oven with the next layer. Remove pan from the oven.
  6. While the brownie layer is baking, combine the brown sugar and 1/3 cup flour in a large mixing bowl, and whisk until well blended.
  7. To the mixing bowl, add the corn syrup, melted butter, and 1 1/2 tsp vanilla. Whisk until blended.
  8. Add 2 eggs and whisk just until combined. Do not overmix.
  9. Add the nuts and coconut and stir with a rubber spatula just until combined.
  10. Evenly (but carefully) spread the macadamia topping over the still-warm brownie layer.
  11. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the top layer is golden brown (35 to 40 minutes).

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Golden Winter Soup

I have rather vehement opinions about most vegetables. Maybe it’s a vegetarian thing. After all, I would be hard-pressed to have virtually anything to eat if I weren’t at least a little adventurous in the produce section. But when it comes to how I actually feel about individual vegetables or even herbs for that matter, I’m not one to be all wishy-washy. As a general rule, I love them or hate them.

Turnips and fennel get most of my hate mail, but they belong to a very small minority. I swoon over fresh beets, and I get positively misty-eyed over asparagus. I can’t get enough basil and flat-leaf parsley in my life, and I’ve never met a green I didn’t like. I’ll eat zucchini and summer squash until I pop, and I’m sure most people would agree that you can’t go wrong with anything potato. Oh, and cauliflower and broccoli and Brussels sprouts, yum, yum, yum.

But, and here comes Embarassing Admission Number 97, there are still vegetables that I’m not well-acquainted with. I have an uneasy relationship with radicchio, but I haven’t given up that we will find common ground eventually. Eggplants have caused me some consternation, but I still have hope there as well. And I’m still trying to find a local source for broccoli rabe as it is something I’ve never even had the pleasure of meeting (and I’m a little cranky on this since I really needed some for a recipe I wanted to try tonight).

When it comes to the dizzying variety of squashes out there though, I get a bit flummoxed. I’ve got a myriad of delicious recipes for yellow crook-neck squash, but then there is acorn squash, butternut squash, delicata squash, kabocha squash, spaghetti squash, turban squash – oh, you get the idea. I stumble across these at the farmer’s markets and the supermarket and I just stand there with my head cocked to the side like a dork. I mean, sure, I’ve read about many of these different varieties, but I have zero intuitive knowledge when it comes to these things. And I can’t just pick one of them up and bring it home and then do an internet search for an appropriate recipe to go with that night’s menu. Because remember, I’m the only vegetarian in the house. And The Carnivore has been known to openly mock me when I serve something that strikes him as a little too hippie.

I walk a fine line here.

But I will not be bested by a gourd. And it was with that in mind that I felt urged on by forces stronger than me when, within the span of two days, I came across both a delicious sounding recipe for butternut squash in Cooking Light and handy instructions for peeling and cutting them in Bon Appetit. It’s as if all the stars were aligned just so…

Alright, so I felt the teeniest bit of trepidation. After all, I was planning to serve a squash soup to The Carnivore for an entrĂ©e, and I didn’t have the slightest experience with what butternut squash even tasted like, but I’ve been feeling rather snarky lately anyhow, what with being cooped up in the house with small children all winter, and I was craving, even lusting, for a little challenge to wake up the senses.

And soup just made sense for yesterday’s dinner anyway. The Carnivore had no idea how late he would be working, Little Miss Piggy has been fussier than usual lately, and The Big Boy has a bit of a cold, so clearly I wasn’t going to be able to pull together a fancy meal in which timing would be critical. I needed something that I could tinker with ahead of time a little, and then be able to keep warm for as long as necessary without compromising texture or flavor.

So I gave it a shot. The recipe was featured on the cover of the January/February issue of Cooking Light and it just looked divine. And, oh my stars, it did not disappoint. This was the most luscious, the most creamy, yet still light and delicate soup I’ve had in ages. You could taste all the flavors in each glorious slurp, and the butternut squash added such an interesting sweet note without being cloying at all, if you know what I mean. Even The Carnivore groaned happily over it, and The Big Boy greedily took a few spoonfuls before he, like all nearly-four-year-olds forgot what he was doing and ran off in a different direction. As for me, well, I woke up craving the leftovers for breakfast.

Such a winner, this soup – I can’t recommend it enough. I didn’t change a thing in the original recipe (other than substituting vegetable broth for chicken broth, of course), serving it with Gruyere toast, as recommended, and a salad of mixed greens with a quick, homemade vinaigrette.

GOLDEN WINTER SOUP (from Cooking Light, serves 5 or 6 as a main course)
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 5 cups (roughly 1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash, about 1 1/2 lbs, seeds scooped out and discarded
  • 2 cups (roughly 1/2-inch) cubed peeled russet potatoes, about 12 oz
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp finely ground black pepper
  • 2 cups sliced leeks, about 2 medium leeks (white and light green parts only)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 3 Tbs chopped chives
  • Baguette or French bread, sliced on the diagonal
  • 3 oz shredded Gruyere cheese (eh - I actually doubled this, I think - I really love cheese)
  1. Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
  2. Add squash, potato, salt and pepper to pan. Saute for 3 minutes.
  3. Add leek; saute 1 minute.
  4. Stir in broth; bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes or until potato is tender, stirring occasionally.
  6. Puree the soup, either using an immersion blender in the pan, or whirring 1/2 the soup at a time in a regular blender (removing the center piece of the lid and covering with a towel to let steam escape without splattering the entire kitchen). I chose to only slightly blend the soup, as I prefer a little bit of chunky texture - to do this, I put all of it through the blender in a couple of batches, but I only pulsed it a few times so that each piece of vegetable was broken up, but was not completely pulverized.
  7. Return soup to pan; stir in half-and-half. Keep warm over very low heat.
  8. Arrange bread slices in a single layer on a baking sheet; sprinkle with cheese. Broil bread for a minute or two, until edges are golden and cheese is melted.
  9. Top each serving of soup with a little chopped chives.