Tuesday, January 05, 2016


I'm trying to establish new patterns on this next stage of my journey.  In my vacation notes, I found a scribbled note about trying new recipes one day a week.  That sounds easy.  I'm determined to work more vegetarian meals into my life. 

I find cooking creative.  If you put a kitchen up in my studio I would probably never come out.  I love the colors of food, the texture, the smells, how things look whole and then chopped.  I love food.  That does not necessarily equate with over eating.  

My repertoire of meals tends to comfort food.  When hungry teenage boys showed up for the evening meal after school, sports and whatever other activity they managed to squeeze into a day, they came to eat.  One was a meat and potatoes kind of guy and the other a fan of chicken or pork.  

When I would bake bread, four loaves would cool on a rack and by the end of the afternoon, I was lucky if one was still left. My rising bowl now sits on top of the refrigerator, a huge bowl that holds bags of chips and pretzels with colorful clamp holders attached to them.

I now cook meals for a six-year-old.  I don't want to go back to making everything from scratch but I do want her to eat in a healthy way.  I've got her started baking things and experimenting with her pancake batter.  I would like her to feel comfortable in the kitchen.
I want her to feel that it is an experimental place where you come to create things that tantalize your senses.

Tuesday..........that's today and I've been working on a lovely Black Bean-Squash Soup.

Isn't that pretty?  Those are the foods I purchased for this week of meals.This is what I will need to complete this Black Bean-Squash Soup recipe.

Christina Pirello says that this kind of soup is great when you need a bit of stamina in your life. Listen up!  "Bean soups are great endurance builders and combined with roasted sweet onions and butternut squash they create tremendous strength in your middle organs and the digestive system".

Ok, let's get started.  

Ingredients:  1 sweet onion, cut into thin half-moon slices
                     1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1-inch pieces
                      2 teaspoons soy sauce
                      About 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees
2. Toss sliced onion and squash pieces with soy sauce and oil and spread out on large baking pan.
3,  Bake, uncovered, about 45 minutes until vegetables are soft and lightly browned.

So far so good.  It smells wonderful cooking. Frankly, I think she gets carried away with the half-moon slices of onion.  You need to cut the thing up so it can soak up the soy and oil and bake.  It is not like you are going to ever, EVER see those half-moon slices again.

4. Transfer vegetables to a soup pot.

      Add: 3 cups plain rice or soy milk
              1/4 cup mirin

And, here folks is the first hurdle for a woman raised and taught to cook by Pennsylvania Dutch women. What the heck is mirin?

Goddess bless the Internet. Google it, double check the pantry, just in case some mysterious cook actually bought some and tucked it away on the shelf. Nope.
So, I grab my errand list, check out the rest of the ingredients, black turtle beans, right, brown rice miso, right, flat-leaf parsley and balsamic vinegar.  The last two are in my kitchen but rice miso has just gone on the WTHeck Is That list.

I stop by Cosco and buy a bag of big beautiful sweet white onions.  I don't think you can ever have too many onions on hand.  Their shiitake mushrooms look nice and so do the button  so I could actually make the Mushroom soup recipe on the opposite page if I got them.  Scallions look nice and oh look, they have big containers of already cut up butternut squash.  I do not need to reinvent the wheel here.  Time's a wasting.

I get out of Cosco and since I am in the same neighborhood I stop in the Coop Store.
It's packed with middle age women pushing little carts piled with clear bags of things, soy milk and what not.  Apparently, I'm in the right place.

Mirin, mirin, that would be in Asian foods....................who knew there were so many different things you could use from the Asian foods section.  I throw my hands in the air and stomp around until I can find someone who works here.  I can not ask one of these women and risk their scorn.  They are power walking up and down the aisles, snatching things off the shelves as if they know what they are doing.  

A nice young man takes pity on me and shows me the bottle of mirin that if it had been a dog would have chomped my hand right off. Then I ask what Turtle Black Beans are.  Such a nice smile, not condensing at all, the giggle I could have done without, though.

He explains how I get a plastic bag, hold it under this thing, pull up that thing and watch mesmerized as tiny little black beans slide down and into the bag.  He asks me how much I needed and I say 4 cups and he suggests that we put back some.  Some which turns out to be 3/4 of the bag.  Apparently, I was in a glazed state as they poured out.

He points me to the soy milk, I can not believe how many kinds and flavors there are.
I put the rest of the ingredients into my cart now starting to feel overwhelmed. Everything about this place is different or seems different from my little Verona market.

Home again I read the rest of the recipe and see that these beans are going to have to be softened.  I don't have a pressure cooker. I hadn't planned on waiting to eat this soup another night and soak these little turtle beans overnight. So, I opt for the boil the heck out of them for an hour and hope they soften.  NOT A WISE CHOICE, I'm just saying.

While the little beans are boiling I transfer the baked vegetables to my soup pot and add:
                                      3 cups plain soy milk
                                       1/4 cup of mirin

They are just going to get to know one another under a lid and brought to a boil over medium heat.  Once that happens turn it down to low and simmer for 15 minutes to develop flavors.  OH BOY, that smells sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo good!

After the 15 minutes put the soup, in batches, through a food mill to create a smooth bisque texture. hmmmmmmmmm  food mill, food mill..............I think somewhere downstairs in inventory I have a food mill for making applesauce. But, by now, I'm hungry, tired and everything smells good and I haven't had lunch and whine, whine, whine I don't want to go to the basement and crawl around looking for a food mill.  So I pull out my food processor.
It's heavy, it is ordinary but it works. I get a great bowl of  pureed vegetables.

Did I ever tell you the story of when, as a young bride, I got it into my head to make watercress soup?  All I had to puree then was a blender, a wedding present that hadn't been used yet.  I boiled up the watercress and milk and then ladled it into the blender.
I'm sure what happens next must fall under the classification of stupid or physics, one which I was and the other I never took. I put on the lid and pushed the buttons. The lid exploded off, watercress soup shot up in the air, hitting the ceiling and then do to gravity, my exposed shoulder, doesn't everybody cook in a sundress? Third-degree burns on my shoulder and John had to rush me to the emergency room.  The young doctor was cute.  He thought the whole thing was funny.  He wasn't so cute after that.

So, things are putting along nicely in the kitchen.  The butternut squash puree is made, the beans have completed their cooking time. Things are about to come together.

I should just stop here.  It has been a good ride.  You really don't need to know how this all comes out.   Right?

Now, Christina would have tasted a bean.  Or maybe she knows they are soft by pressing her finger into one. But, did she even mention that in the recipe?  I was supposed to know that and remember that and folks, I didn't.  Those of you that have cooked beans know where this is going, right?  I put the four cups of cooked beans in the food processor tried to puree until smooth. I could still be there now, pulsing and pulsing that @#%^& food processor but it wasn't going to help those beans get softer.
And, you would think that someone who KNOWS HOW TO COOK would have just paused and taken a breath and then decided to NOT PUT THE semi pureed beans into that lovely onion, butternut squash mixture.  The puree that could have been served as is without the beans. Yeah, that someone would have done that but I didn't.

It went pear shaped from there.

I remembered my lesson with putting rice down the garbage disposal. Don't do it!!  Even in little bits with lots of water, don't do it.  I thought from the looks of that bean mess that it might do the same thing to the disposal that the rice did and then John was going to be most unhappy.  With me.      So, I put on my boots, trudged out to the woods and dumped my soup pot full of disgusting looking something, in the woods.  

Calling out to all the woodland critters, "SOMETHING YUMMY FOR YOU!"

Then I went back upstairs and chopped up another onion and mixed it with the chopped up butternut squash, soy sauce and oil, because I always buy enough to make something twice  And, this time, I will let the beans soak all afternoon and overnight and then I will only add them to half of the soup mixture because when it comes down to it, I'm not really sure I even want those little Turtle beans in my soup.

Oh, I suppose you want the rest of the recipe?

After you have put your soup in batches through a food mill and created a smooth bisque texture then return the soup to the pot and stir in 3 cups spring or filtered water.

When your beans are smooth and pureed then SWIRL them into the veggie soup mixture. Simmer soup covered for 5 minutes.  Remove a small amount of liquid and use to dissolve
3 teaspoons brown rice miso.  Stir miso mixture back into the soup and simmer UNCOVERED for 3-4 minutes to activate enzymes in miso.  I don't even want to go there.

And, just before serving, sit in 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar.  Garnish with parsley.

:) Bea, who will have Black Bean (or not) Squash Soup for dinner sometime this week.

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