Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cream of Asparagus Soup and Couscous-Stuffed Squash

One of my favorite, favorite things ever is having friends over for dinner. One of the reasons that I love this is because I have super great friends, and so it is fun to get together for food, games, and just catching up. So, a little while I ago I invited some friends over for dinner. And, I love cooking, so the other great thing about having people over is that I get to cook.

And, when I cook, I tend to be adventurous. So, when my friends came over, I made one dish that is quickly becoming a staple and one that was a first time, though I will make something like it again.

Cream of Asparagus Soup
I am happy, maybe a bit pridefully, that this Asparagus Soup recipe is one that I came up with, through trial and tests, entirely on my own. It is also delicious and ridiculously easy to make. So, here's the how to:

(forgive the lack of measurements, but I don't really cook that way, and really, you can't mess up the proportions on this one)

Fresh Asparagus, chopped
Turkey Gravy (or use broth of any sort with a flour thickener)
Fresh grated Parmesan for garnish

1. First, chop the asparagus and then sautee it in the butter (sometimes I add a bit of garlic, here, too, but optional). Add a bit of salt and pepper at this point, for flavor, if you want. Cook the asparagus until it is soft. Then, add water to the pot.

2. Once the water is boiling, add the turkey gravy. I always make as much gravy as I can at Thanksgiving time and then freeze some of it, so that I have some for soup bases. If you don't have any homemade poultry gravy, use less above, and then use either a chicken or vegetable soup stock, and thicken the soup using flour (mix about 1/4 C flour with 1/2 C cold water, and then add to the soup)

3. Puree the soup, either using a hand blender or by transferring it to a blender. I highly recommend the hand blender method, so much easier.

4. Let the soup boil again, add some salt and pepper to taste, if you wish. Once the soup has boiled and thickened a bit, let it simmer until you are ready to serve. Serve with a garnish of Parmesan.

This soup could easily be made vegan by substituting olive oil for butter, and using vegetable stock to make the gravy, and then omitting the garnish. I am sure that it would be just as delicious.

Also, I have made this soup with a variety of vegetables: It is fantastic with cauliflower, broccoli, or spinach. I am sure that it would taste great with carrots or any other substantial vegetable.

Couscous-Stuffed Squash
This was a meal that we found on, and then added our own flare. Luckily, recipes aren't copyrightable, because I am not sure that I changed it the requisite 40%, but anyhow, here's what we did:

4 acorn squashes, halved and seeded
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter, melted
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 cup garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 cup raisins
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin (or to taste, I added more)
red pepper to taste
1 (14 ounce) can vegetable broth
1 cup uncooked couscous
2 large chicken breasts, cubed
2 large red bell peppers, cut in strips

1. Bake the acorn squash halves face down at 350, or until soft all the way through and lightly browned in the flesh. When they are done, brush them with melted butter and brown sugar. Then stuff them with the mixture, as follows:

2. Meanwhile: sautee the garlic, celery, and carrots in the olive oil. Really, we could have used any vegetable: zucchini, especially, would have been great. Once the vegetables are soft, add the raisins and garbanzo beans. Season with the cumin, salt, and red pepper.

3. Once the vegetables are sauteed, add the cubed chicken. (If you are serving this as a main course, it really does need the chicken, or maybe mushrooms, or anything substantial. If it is just a side, then the chicken could easily be omitted.)

4. When the chicken is cooked through, add the broth and the couscous. Wait until the couscous has absorbed the liquid (about 5 min) and then add the cut up bell peppers, saving a few for garnish.

5. Put the mix in the squash, garnish with some chopped peppers. I also roasted the squash seeds and used those as part of the garnish. The roasted seeds were also excellent to put out after dinner, as something to munch of while we were playing games.

This makes a TON of the couscous mix. The originally recipe calls for two squashes, but we used four and still had left over couscous.

You could also skip the squash altogether and serve this as a great side salad.

Skip the chicken to make it vegan!


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