Sunday, February 8, 2009

We Made Red Pepper Soup and Chickpea Butternut Squash Salad

This was Monday night dinner, and by now you know what that means: Gossip Girl/another collaborative culinary feat by Alena and Sarah. This time the decision was made pretty quickly. Alena called me from her shift at the Park Slope Food Co-op asking what groceries she should pick up. I said, "Wanna make this chickpea butternut squash salad?" She said, "YES." We decided the meal would need one more element to be complete, so I looked up soup recipes. I found this recipe for Red Pepper Soup, also on Smitten, originally from the New York Times. It looked quick and easy, plus I already had all the ingredients at home--except for the peppers. I called Alena back to see if she could pick up some peppers. But when I looked to see how many we needed, I saw that it called for 12!!! That's like a whole pepper... tree? vine? What exactly do peppers grow on, anyway? So we halved the recipe, since we were only cooking for the two of us anyway. Here it is, comments in bold:

Red Pepper Soup
Originally published in The New York Times, September 21, 2005

Total time: 45 minutes

2 tablespoons olive oil
3¼ cup sliced onions
3 large cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup dry white wine
12 large red bell peppers, cut in 1-inch pieces
2 cups no-salt-added chicken stock or broth (we used vegetable broth instead.)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
¼ to ½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
Salt and white pepper
Crème fraîche for garnish
Thyme sprigs for garnish.

1. Put oil in large pot. Add onion when oil is hot. Cook onions until they begin to soften and take on color. Add garlic and cook another minute. Add wine and cook down quickly, until about 1 tablespoon is left.

2. Add peppers, stock, thyme and red pepper flakes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer until peppers are tender, about 30 minutes.

3. In food processor or blender, purée mixture in batches until smooth. Adjust seasonings. (As usual, I used a hand blender instead. It was a little tricky because of the splattering of the hot soup. Alena was very nervous for me. But I've figured out that if you keep the blender submerged it splatters less.)

4. Cover and chill overnight or for as long as 2 days or freeze (whisk well before serving if thawed). Can also be served warm.

5. Serve in demitasse cups or soup bowls, topped with a dab of crème fraîche and a tiny sprig of thyme.

Yield: Makes six large servings, 12 demitasse size.

We didn't have any creme fraiche, or even sour cream, so we sprinkled some feta on top, as you can see in the photo. Delicious! Later, when I had leftovers, I put some Greek yogurt on top. Also delicious!

Now comes the salad:

Warm Butternut and Chickpea Salad with Tahini Dressing
Adapted from Orangette, who adapted it from Casa Moro

Yield: 4 servings

For salad:
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed
1/2 teaspoons ground allspice (I skip this)
2 tablespoons olive oil
One 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (1 1/2 cups)
1/4 of a medium red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

For tahini dressing:
1 medium garlic clove, finely minced with a pinch of salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 tablespoons well-stirred tahini
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more to taste

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

In a large bowl, combine the butternut squash, garlic, allspice, olive oil, and a few pinches of salt. Toss the squash pieces until evenly coated. Roast them on a baking sheet for 25 minutes, or until soft. Remove from the oven and cool.

Meanwhile, make the tahini dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic and lemon juice. Add the tahini, and whisk to blend. Add the water and olive oil, whisk well, and taste for seasoning. The sauce should have plenty of nutty tahini flavor, but also a little kick of lemon. You will probably need to add more water to thin it out.

To assemble the salad, combine the squash, chickpeas, onion, and cilantro or parsley in a mixing bowl. Either add the tahini dressing to taste, and toss carefully, or you could serve the salad with the dressing on the side. Serve immediately.

We followed the recipe pretty much exactly. The only thing I would have done differently would have been to use a little less dressing, or to leave it on the side. But it was still a great success. So many delicious flavors you would never think of combining! And the colors are so pretty. You can't really tell in the above photo. We really should have taken one before adding the dressing. Here is one from Smitten, which is pretty much what ours looked like:

This was the first time we actually finished cooking before the show! Both of these recipes are deceptively quick and easy. Perfect for a Monday night.

1 comment:

  1. I might have to try that chickpea butternut squash dish...