Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Stuffing s

Last week, Shawn brought home some chanterelles, oyster, and button mushrooms from the market. She wanted me to make my cream of mushroom soup. Since I first made it a couple of years ago, we each get a craving for it once in a while, particularly when the weather turns chilly and skies become grey.

It's a simple soup and I'm happy to oblige. You first begin by cooking up an onion in a lot of butter. Then you add a couple of pounds of button mushrooms and you cook them until all of their juices are released, about 20 minutes. At this point you add in soup broth. I like to use Knorr brand frozen mushroom stock base (just add hot water). In addition, you add some dried mushrooms and their soaking liquid. I keep a dried mushroom mix on hand (from Delaurenti's in Pike Place Market) and soak it, but you could use porcinis. After this has cooked for another 20 minutes or so, you pull it off the burner and then process it in a blender in batches. Clean out the stock pot, then add the soup back into it. Add some cream, salt, and pepper and the basic soup is done. For a garnish, fry up some fresh wild mushrooms (the chanterelles and oyster ones in this case, but any will do) in some butter for 8 - 10 minutes. Spoon the fried mushrooms into each soup bowl just before serving.

For a variety of reasons, we did not get to the soup as leftovers. Shawn's mother came to town Friday night - for a funeral on Saturday. She stayed with us on Friday night and we anticipated her staying with us on Saturday (which she ended up not doing...which made us miss plans to attend a baby shower for our friends, Mike and Heather). While waiting for Debbie to show up, Shawn and I took the time to make a simple meal together. Since she's been in school, it was nice to take some time and cook a meal together. The fanciest portion of the meal was our salad and all we did there was serve roasted pears on it.

Sunday was a gorgeous day here. The sun was out in full force and it sure felt like it was in the 70s. After a breakfast of Amaranth pancakes, canned peaches, an egg, and soy sausage, we took a walk around the neighborhood. Shawn picked some flowers and we had a nice talk. After getting back home, Shawn went out and planted winter crops in the garden. She also did some other yard work. I stayed in, read, watched TV, listened to music. Eventually we got around to a quick meal of Bocca burgers.

Monday was my yard work day. I wanted the grass to dry out more before I hit the lawn. My reel mower does a fine job, except in wet grass. That, and I think the blades need to be sharpened (as is to be expected at the end of the season). I ended up mowing the back yard twice, in different directions, to get the grass cut well. The front yard should have been mowed twice, but the turf there is soggy. I don't think the builder did a good job of laying out the sod. I don't like the grass they used (it's thin and wispy, no matter how I fertilize is grown on some sort of mat that is on a plastic grid - fun to dig into) and it doesn't drain well. All of which is to say that if I walk too much on it during fall, bare spots appear and the grass is matted down. Grrr. This week I made certain to do a good job of trimming around the yard and the garden beds. I also cleaned up the yard a little for winter (taking in the garden hose, etc.) and I sprayed the blackberry bushes in back with Round-Up.

After the yard work, I came inside and took out the mushroom soup. Rather than just heat it up, Shawn had suggested that we reduce it and use it as a pasta sauce. I got it going on the stove. It took a long time, but it reduced rather well. Shawn came home with a half pound of bay scallops, which I cooked in a little butter and white wine - carmelizing them just a touch - and served them on the pasta with the mushroom sauce. It was a very tasty dinner.

Last week I was pondering what to do with tomatillos. We grew them for the first time this year and the plants have produced quite well. The first harvest was used mostly for a roasted green salsa that I froze. It's good, but tart. Our cookbooks offered several salsa and green sauce recipes for tomatillos - all on the same theme. It got me to thinking that there must be some other use for them. I searched on Google for 50 pages and found about 3 ideas other than salsa. Eventually, I started thinking about the tart nature of tomatillos. You would need something sweet to balance them out. It occured to me that butternut squash would be a complimentary flavor. Last night, I took my first stab at a recipe. I roasted 12 tomatillos, 2 poblanos, 8 cloves of garlic, 12 cherry tomatoes, and 1 carrot in the over. While that was roasting, I fried an onion (and deglazed the pan with tequila) and then added cumin and a touch of cinamon and chipotle powder to it. Then I added butternut squash cut into cubes, veggie stock, and water, brought it to a boil, the covered it and simmered it until the squash was soft. When it was done, I processed the squash and the roasted veggies and their juices in the food processor in batches. I added the soup back to the pot, put in about a half cup of cream, some salt and white pepper, as well as about 3/4 cup of chopped cilantro and brought it back to temperature, but not to a boil. The soup turned out a little too hot for Shawn, but I liked it a lot. Next time, I'll probably leave out the peppers (I just had them around and decided to use them in something before they spoiled) and maybe not add the chipotle powder at all. There was a very nice balance between the squash and the tomatillos. Definitely something to work on a little more. It's nice to have something else to do with the tomatillos.

I'm looking forward to this weekend. My friend, Frank, is coming to town a month early to help begin my celebrations for my birthday. Frank scored some tickets to see Tom Waits at the Paramount Theater. Other than that, our days and nights are free. Parents, lock up your daughters. Hoes get ready for the badass, sexiest man east of the Mississippi. Rotondo's coming to town and he's a player!

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