Anyone reading this who is familiar with my food posts knows that I don't post recipes. I relate the narrative of how I cooked a thing. Part of this is because I don't really use recipes that often. I will when I'm just learning how to make a particular food, and then I improvise from there. Part of that is because of the way I learned to cook - at an early age, from experienced cooks, who told me the story of how something is made while we were making it. So when I write about something I cooked, I'm more interested in telling its story and handing the knowledge over that way.
A recipe is a way to hand down a story of how to make a thing. But the structure of many recipes assumes a previous skill in not just cooking, but reading recipes - specifically, reading what the recipe -doesn't tell you.-
For a person who doesn't cook, the unspoken assumptions of recipes can mean disaster, ruined dinners, and yet another entrant into the story of why cooking sucks.
I found a recipe. I haven't actually tried this recipe, but this one looks pretty tasty. I got it from In Jennie's Kitchen, a blog i've never visited before, and it's a recipe for butternut squash soup. You can see the original page here.
But for the purposes of this post, i'm just going to copy the recipe and explain how it's read.
Velvety Butternut Squash Soup
The recipe title, and the anticipated serving size. My first question is serves 4 what? Does this recipe serve four as a starting course, or is it sized generously enough to be a lunch entree? I wish I knew before meal planning, but I'm going to guess that it makes around one liter of soup, probably less. But it honestly depends on the size of your squash.
This soup is so remarkably smooth, you’ll be tempted to call it creamy butternut squash soup—except there’s not a spot of cream. Start by roasting the squash in a 400ºF oven, until it’s nice and tender, about 30 minutes (split lengthwise and scoop out the seeds first). Then the your blender does the magic of whipping the soup into a light and airy puree.
A bit of description for the soup, but look wary: There's a few assumptions in the leading description. It's remarkably smooth and by the way you need an already roasted squash. That you already know how to make. Oh and also by the way the recipe calls for a stand blender rather than a stick blender. And that's before you even hit the ingredient list. So, dear reader:
Do you know how to roast a squash? I do. 30 minutes in a 400F oven is the barest description. You'd probably need to find more explicit instructions than that
. Yes, you can just cook the squash in the microwave. Lots of people do. I think that there's a difference in flavor and i prefer the oven roasted squash, but honestly what you need here is cooked squash, and that's all.
Do you also have a knife that can handle slicing a raw squash in half, lengthwise? I finally do. It cost $97 CDN before taxes. I hesitate to tell a new cook they need to spend a hundred bucks on a knife, but a dull knife and a raw squash will raise your perspiration and your ire. Some supermarkets will sell squash halves already cut and cleaned of seeds, so that might be an option.
Do you have a stand blender? I do. See the above hesitation about recommending new cooks lay out a lot of money for an activity they're not sure they're going to enjoy. So if you don't have a stand blender, don't run out and buy one because you've never made soup before. Your stick blender will work just fine. In fact, I'd ignore that bit about the stand blender in the recipe anyway and just use a stick. Don't have a stick blender, either? How about an electric mixer? you can smooth out cooked squash and broth with that, it'll just have a texture, and that's fine.
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 leeks, white parts only, thinly sliced
1 small butternut squash, roasted, flesh scooped out
2 cups vegetable stock
1/4 mixed toasted sweetened coconut and almonds
1 teaspoon chopped cilantro
This is your list of ingredients. We've already gone over the by the way you need a roasted squash before you can start this recipe assumption. You do of course want to make sure you have all of these things on hand in sufficient quantity before you can proceed.
But don't move on just yet. Look at 2 leeks, white parts only, thinly sliced. fresh leeks often have a lot of dirt in them. So if you were to nod your head and go on to the instructions and "Heat butter and oil in a 2 quart pot over medium heat" and then pull those two leeks out of the fridge, the butter and oil would scorch before you'd gotten the leeks cleaned and sliced.
Here's a concept that will save you a lot of trouble and frustration in the cooking process, though it's likely to create more dishes for you to clean: Mise en Place. Yes, it's French. It means "to put in place" or something similar. Some cooks just don't do this, some argue against it, but when you're a new cook or if you're learning a new technique, Mise en Place really helps.
So. take a liquid measuring cup, and measure out two cups of vegetable stock (i recommend low sodium pre-made. You can make your own stock. It may not be something you want to fuss with at the moment.) take a smaller portion dish and measure out a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in it. chop (ha!) some cilantro (bah! just cut the leaves with scissors, they don't have to be teeny) and set it in a little dish. scoop out all that cooked squash, maybe even dice it a little, and set it in a bowl or on a plate. take out those leeks, wash the leeks, slice the leeks up really fine, cuss at all the grit, dump the thinly sliced leeks in a colander and rinse (you're going to see a lot of grit on fresh spinach too. It's just how it is.) then shake the excess water, drop the leeks on a tea towel and pat them down a touch. measure your coconut and your almonds - there's a typo in the original recipe, but I'm betting it's a quarter cup each coconut and almond.
Now set out the pot you're going to cook the soup in. If you read ahead you know it should hold at least 2 quarts. If you're not sure, simply measure two quarts of water and see if it fits in the pot. if it's too small, dry the pot with a teatowel and put it back, grab the bigger one, and try fitting two quarts of water in that. Repeat until you find a pot that will hold at least two quarts of water, then dry that one and put it on the stove. Now set out a frying pan. Put out a couple of wooden spoons. Have your stand blender or your stick blender or your electric mixer ready to go.
you can cook. Let's go on to the instructions.
Heat butter and oil in a 2 quart pot over medium heat. Add leeks and saute until soften and fragrant. Add roasted butternut squash and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Pour contents of pot into the glass bowl of a blender and puree until smooth, about 2 minutes. Divide among four bowl and garnish with toasted and almond mixture and a sprinkle of cilantro.
Lots of assumptions here. Heat butter and oil in a 2 quart pot over medium heat. In this case you can simply put the butter and oil in a cold pot and then turn the heat on, it won't harm anything unless you have the heat on too high to start. but "medium heat" varies from stove to stove, and we're working with olive oil, which has a very low smoke point compared to other oils. So let's do the sizzle test:
1. heat the dry pot on medium heat. give it a minute to heat up.
2. pour yourself a glass of water. wet your fingers, and flick the pot. what does the water do?
If it evaporates near instantly, it's too hot. Turn the heat down and wait a few minutes before trying again.
If the water kind of becomes little balls that roll around for a second before evaporating, that's a good heat if you were just heating butter or canola oil and sauteeing in that, but that's not what we're doing, so turn the heat down and wait a few minutes before trying again.
If the water spreads and boils with big bubbles but takes a couple of seconds to evaporate, that's about right.
Add the butter and oil. Pick up the pot and tilt it around, covering the bottom, but the important part is to add the leeks the moment the butter melts. You'll be moving the leeks around with a wooden spoon, and your'e watching for the leeks to become soft and to start releasing their smell. you're not trying to brown the leeks, but it won't be ruined if you do wind up browning them a bit. they'll look a little translucent when they're ready.
now add the squash. you'll get a good sizzle when they go in. Stir the squash around a bit, mixing it with the leeks. Steam should be rising from the pot. you're not looking to brown the squash, you're getting it slightly warmed and taking the leeks up into the squash mixture so they don't brown either.
Once you get that mixed, pour in all the vegetable stock. keep an eye on things, but this is a good time to wash your slicing knife, your cutting board, the dishes that held the squash and the butter oil, and your measuring cups, but keep glancing at the pot. when you see the stock boiling, turn the heat down to low, drop a lid on it, and set the stove timer for 20 minutes. this is more than enough time to get your prep dishes washed, so do that.
Once you're fidgeting because the timer's not done but you've got nothing left to do, let's work on the other assumption in the recipe directions: that you know that the only way you're going to get toasted coconut and almonds is if YOU toast them. You see what recipes leave out?
Heat the frying pan. Use the sizzle test, and when the water rolls, drop your coconut and your almonds in the dry pan and stir constantly with the other wooden spoon. (yep, that's why I said two.) stir constantly. everything is always moving. you're smelling the coconut and almonds and watching them stubbornly not brown and then all of a sudden WHAM it happens all at once. scrape the hot stuff onto the dish you'd placed the coconut and almond in before, and set the fry pan on a cold element while the other element cools.
When the timer goes off it's time to puree the soup using whatever instrument of liquefication you may have. hopefully you don't have too much stock and not enough squash. if your squash soup is just too thick, you can thin it by adding a splash of stock, but too thin is just sad. you want it smooth, and it doesn't really matter what instrument of liquefication you use to achieve this.
Once it's smooth it's ready to serve. Pour into a bowl, drop a pinch of fresh cilantro on top, add a spoonful of coconut and almond to the center.
One thing about this recipe: In my opinion the absence of any seasoning is very surprising. I would not add salt if I were using premade vegetable stock, but I would add pepper. I'd probably also add paprika or thyme.
The other thing about this recipe: to be completely honest I'd never roast a squash for the express purpose of making soup out of it. I probably roasted a squash and had some as a side for a previous meal and then used the leftover squash to make this soup. but for learning purposes this recipe stands as a perfectly servicable butternut squash soup recipe.
One last thing about this recipe: if I were feeding vegans i'd skip the butter and olive oil and just use coconut oil for sauteeing them leeks. I keep coconut oil in the house all the time, and my vegetable stock is made with vegetables, herbs, and water. the only thing that keeps this recipe from being vegan is the butter.
Originally posted on http://cpolk.dreamwidth.org/248081.html