Archive | January, 2010

Taming the Pantry with Butternut Squash and White Bean Soup

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I recently found myself with an overabundance of butternut squash.  We made ravioli one weekend, but I still had 3 squash left. When I mentioned my plight to a friend, she suggested a white bean and butternut squash soup.  This sounded perfect as it solved two problems for me; I also had a pack of Rancho Gordo Yellow Eye Beans from my trip to San Francisco that kept attacking me every time I opened the pantry.

13010_1When I initially bought the beans, I thought they were related to black-eyed peas. After a little research, I learned that they are a cousin of the white bean and can be used as a creamier replacement for Navy or Great Northern beans. Perfect!

I added turnips to the soup balance out the richness of the squash and chose rosemary as the herb, inspired by a black-eyed pea dish seasoned with rosemary that my friend Zack made for a New Year’s dinner. If you’d like to add a touch of green to the soup, Spinach or Kale would make a nice addition.

This recipe makes an enormous batch of soup, about 10 servings. I froze it and have been eating it for lunch with a side salad. It reheats nicely and is delicious!

White Bean and Butternut Squash Soup
1 tbsp olive oil
2 leeks or 1 onion – peeled and chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 large turnips, peeled and chopped
2 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped
13010_216 oz dried white beans or substitute (like Yellow Eye Beans), soaked over night and drained (if you are substituting with canned beans, use 3 cans of drained beans)
2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth
2 tbsps fresh rosemary, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the other vegetables and saute for another 5 minutes to sweat the vegetables and let the flavors come out.

Add the beans and 1.5 quarts of the stock. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer. Cover and let the soup simmer for about an hour, adding stock as needed. Add the rosemary, salt and pepper and cook for another 15 minutes.

I garnished with a little extra fresh rosemary, but I would skip this step if you don’t like a strong rosemary flavor.

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Dining Out Sustainably: Cipollina

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Cipollina, a casual bistro in Clarkesville, is the younger sister to Jeffrey’s, that icon of Austin restaurants, located across the street.  Cipollina serves high quality sandwiches, pizzas and entrees to hungry neighbors.  

A few years ago, Cipollina began hosting a Farm to Table dinner on Wednesday nights featuring locally-sourced dishes.  Now, you can find locally grown and produced ingredients on the menu any day of the week.  


12910_1I recently visited Cipollina for the Slow Food Austin Happy Hour.  If you aren’t familiar with Slow Food Austin, the organization focuses on reconnecting people with their food and encouraging people to take the time to cook rather than buying processed food.  They host farm tours, monthly Slow Sessions highlighting a different facet of cooking or food, and Happy Hours for socializing and supporting local restaurants who source local.  It’s a great organization.

Our table ordered a couple of appetizers to nibble on – a local Brazos Valley Brie and a Countryside Farm duck liver pate. The pate by itself had a strong liver flavor, but when you combined it with the brie or the pickled tomatoes garnish, it was much more enjoyable. 

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Eventually, we could not resist the temptation of the pizza aroma wafting from the kitchen and decided to split a few salads and a pepperoni pizza.  The pizza has a crunchy hand-tossed crust and a luscious homemade tomato sauce, but the pepperoni was the star of the show.  Made locally from Richardson Farms pork, the pepperoni was outstanding with a little sweetness and a nice spiciness.   

I was reminded that Cipollina is an easy sustainable choice.  It’s the perfect place to visit with friends in a relaxed atmosphere while enjoying an affordable, delicious, locally-sourced meal.  
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Dining Out Sustainably: Wink Restaurant

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12710_1Wink Restaurant, located at 10th & Lamar, is one of the flagship restaurants for sustainable dining in Austin.  Since its inception, it has focused on working with locally-sourced ingredients whenever possible and has built relationships with a wide variety of farms across Central Texas.  The list of local purveyors at the bottom of the menu reads like a Who’s Who of Central Texas farms.

Wink’s goal is to bring out the best in those local ingredients in an innovative way.  The menu changes daily, guaranteeing that each dish offers the best of what was available that day.

Recently, a few friends and I met up for a casual dinner in the Wine Bar to put the gift certificate I was given over the holidays a good workout.  If you haven’t planned ahead, the Wine Bar is an easy alternative to the dining room, which is often booked on the weekends.

12710_2We started off the evening with a few items from the Bar Apps menu – Mac N’ Cheese with Black Truffles and Chicken Liver Pate.  The Mac N’ Cheese was some of the best I have ever tasted, creamy and luscious with the black truffles shaved on top giving it an even deeper flavor.  The Chicken Liver Pate was smooth and lovely with a rich, but not livery, flavor.

For dinner, we split the Seared Foie Gras, Gulf Pompano and the Bison NY Strip.  Before you start drafting a protest e-mail, the Foie Gras is from birds from Countryside Farm and is raised naturally and humanely.  And, it was delicious – literally melting in your mouth with its richness.

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The Pompano had a delightful grain butter mustard sauce on top and was complimented nicely by the potatoes and celery.  The Bison NY Strip, from Thunderheart Bison, was fantastic – perfectly cooked at medium rare, tender and packed with flavor.

12710_4After dinner we compared notes and found it difficult to pick a favorite dish.  Wink offered too many tantalizing goodies to narrow it down to just one.

I encourage you to tempt your taste buds at Wink.  It’s worth the splurge and you can feel good about every delicious, locally-sourced bite.

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A Chicken For Every Pot: Ringger Family Farms selling Stewing Chickens

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12310_1I love the aroma of a chicken stock simmering away on the stove.  It brings the promise of a delicious, rich soup or maybe tasty enchiladas made from the stewed meat.

Ringger Family Farm can help you in your quest for a great homemade chicken soup.  For $10 each, you can buy a 3-4 pound hens that was pasture raised and is hormone, antibiotic and chemical-free .

To order your stewing hens, e-mail ringgerfarm@gmail.com or call 512-923-2053.  Don’t forget to ask about their free delivery in the east or central Austin area for orders of 10 or more hens.

Better start digging through my chicken soup recipes!

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