Smooth Kabocha Squash Coconut Soup

coconut cream heart

This smooth rich soup is made with nutty kabocha squash, onions and carrots, It is rich and creamy from coconut milk and brightened with fresh ginger. I’ve tried this soup with both regular and low-fat coconut milk, The regular gives a rich coconut flavor.but the low-fat is lower in calories. Chose what’s right for you. In any case, I recommend the most natural coconut milk you can find, with only guar gum added, no preservatives.

You can roast the squash ahead of time. It’s a good way to warm up the kitchen on a frosty morning. If you’re in a hurry, you can microwave it for 10 minutes (stab it first so it won’t explode!)

serves 4 bowls (8 cups), more or less, depending on the size of squash

Ingredients:

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1 medium kabocha squash

2 large carrots, peeled

2 tsp unrefined coconut oil (it tastes like coconut)

2 tsp grated ginger root

1 onion, chopped

2 – 3 cups water

several grinds black pepper

14 oz can coconut milk (regular or low-fat)

1 1/2 tsp salt to taste

Garnish: 1/3 cup pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)

Instructions:

roasted squash and carrotsPreheat oven to 430◦ Stab whole kabocha several times and place on a foil-lined heavy pan. Roast for 20 minutes.  Add carrots and turn off oven. Let the vegetables sit in the oven for half an hour.  Remove carrots from oven. Let squash stay in the oven several hours until it’s cool.

Melt coconut oil in a medium- large pot. Saute chopped onions until they soften. When squash is cool, cut it in half and scoop out and discard stringy seed pod from the squash. Carefully cut off the thin peel and add chunks of squash to the sauteed onions. Stir a few grinds black pepper.

Slice carrots crosswise into 1/2 inch slices. Add carrots and ginger to the onions and saute a few more minutes.

veggies in soup for smooth kabochaSimmer uncovered for 15 minutes.

pour coconut milk into soup.jpgReserve a few tablespoons of coconut cream from the top of the can for garnishing the soup. Pour coconut milk into the broth and stir well.

Let soup cool for 30 minutes.

Pour into blender in batches and blend until smooth.

Stir in salt to taste

Heat soup until ready to serve

toasting pepitasToast 1/3 cup pepitas on a comal or heavy skillet over medium low heat and toss on top of each soup bowl to garnish

Have fun making designs with reserved coconut cream.coconut cream topping.jpg

Valentine’s Day Heartfelt Salad

Valentine’s Day meals aren’t only about the chocolate for dessert. They begin with a salad made with hearts of romaine, artichoke hearts and red bell pepper hearts. The heart-healthy dressing marries olive oil and Meyer lemon juice, celebrating the happy coincidence of Meyer lemons ripening on Valentine’s Day.

serves two sweethearts

14 oz can Artichoke hearts

1 heart of romaine lettuce

1 red bell pepper, cut into heart shapes

Dress with Meyer lemon vinaigrette:

3 Tb Meyer lemon juice

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp fresh minced garlic

Combine ingredients in blender and run on high until emulsified.

Roasted Mushroom-Barley soup with Beef Broth

roasted mushroom barley soupThis earthy soup is made with four kinds of mushrooms, although you can vary the type. It’s rich made with beef broth, but vegetarians can use vegetable broth as well. Serves 6

½ cup pearl barley (not to be confused with Pearl Bailey)

5 cups water

1 lb beef femur  bone

2 medium cloves garlic

2 leeks, white and light green part only.

1 onion

4 stalks celery

2 large carrots, peeled

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp salt, to taste

1 Tb olive oil

2 lbs crimini (brown) mushrooms

6 fresh shiitake mushrooms

4 King mushrooms

1 large bunch of oyster mushrooms

4 dried shiitake mushrooms

1/4 to 1/2  tsp white pepper, depending on how peppery you like your soup

3 Tbs cooking sherry

several grinds black pepper

several sprigs fresh thyme leaves to garnish.

Make beef broth: Bring the water to a boil with the beef bone. Chop leeks, celery, carrots and garlic finely and add to the water. Grind the dried shiitake mushrooms coarsely in a spice mill or clean coffee grinder. Add them to the vegetables along with the salt and dried thyme. Simmer for at least 3 hours. Refrigerate overnight.

The next day, skim the fat off the soup. Remove the bone and blend the soup.

Bring soup to a boil. Add barley and let simmer for 20 minutes. While barley is simmering, heat oven to 425 degrees. Clean mushrooms well (I soak them several times in a salad spinner, then clean each one with a brush or paper towel.) Trim the woody ends from the  crimini and shitake mushrooms then toss with olive oil (or spray with olive oil spray) and roast them  for 20 minutes until they are soft.  While they are roasting, chop the oyster and King mushrooms and add them to the broth along with the white pepper to taste.

roasted mushroomsAdd the liquid from the roasted mushroom to the soup. Cut the roasted mushrooms in quarters and slices and add them  to the broth.

Simmer  for 20 minutes. Correct seasonings, adding several grinds black pepper and sherry. Sprinkle a bit of fresh thyme leaves on top. Serve the pearl barley inside the oyster mushrooms.

Poached Salmon with yogurt dill and lemon sauce

My husband once took my son on a fishing trip and caught a salmon bigger than my 6-year-old daughter! What were we going to do with all that fish? We called all our friends to come over and gave each of them a chunk of salmon to take home!

Here’s an elegant, delicious and easy salmon fillet recipe that uses dill and lemon mixed in nonfat Greek yogurt as a sauce.

salmon topped with lemon and yogurt dill sauce
Ingredients:
dill plant
1 lb fillet of salmon to feed 3 people. A tail piece will not have bones.
1 shallot, peeled and thickly sliced
1 scallion, sliced diagonally into 2″ pieces (both white and green parts)
1/2  cup chicken broth

½ cup dry white wine such as Chardonnay

1 lemon (Meyer lemon is best.)

½ cup plain nonfat yogurt  or Greek yogurt

Several sprigs of dill

Cut a lemon in half.  Cut several slices from the middle and set aside for garnish. Use the rest for squeezing juice.

broth with scallions and shallots

Boil broth in frying pan with shallots and scallions. Add 1 Tb lemon juice, wine and place a sprig of dill in the broth and bring to a boil again.

salmon cooking in broth with lid

Salt the salmon and place in the boiling broth skin side down. Cover pan and cook for 5 minutes on medium heat. Turn off heat and let sit for another minute.

yogurt sauce ingredients

While salmon is cooking, mince 1 tsp. dill and 2 Tb cucumber. Mix in yogurt with 2 tsp of lemon juice and salt to taste.

salmon with yogurt dill sauce

Serve salmon with lemon slices and yogurt sauce.

No Mayo Tarragon Chicken Salad with Yogurt

This chicken salad sings with flavor from anise-like fresh tarragon and fennel, balanced by thyme, lemon, and a bit of scallion.

I do NOT like mayonnaise,  plus it is loaded with calories (10 grams of fat in one tablespoon!), so I usually avoid chicken salads in delis and restaurants.  I use Mediterranean-style nonfat plain yogurt such as Karoun, which I find in Middle Eastern or South Asian markets. It is very thick like Greek yogurt, and has only 70 calories in a half-cup.

You can make the peas ahead of time. I suppose you could cook  frozen peas, but they won’t have the same crunch as parboiled fresh ones.

You can use a mix of light and dark meat, or just white meat, depending on what you want or have on hand. For the first batch I made, I used leftover roast chicken.

For the next batch, I poached boneless chicken breasts.  I salted them and browned them in olive oil. I then poured boiling water over it, and added a splash of white wine and a squeeze of lemon, several sprigs of tarragon and thyme and a spoonful of salt, and covered the pan, and boiled it for 10 minutes. I then turned off the flame and let it sit for  10 minutes. You can make the chicken ahead of time.

When making a large quantity for a crowd, I shredded the chicken by pulsing in the food processor. Then I transferred it to a large bowl to stir in the yogurt and other ingredients.

This recipe is pretty versatile for substituting vegetables. I added 2 Tb chopped pecans since my  South Texan husband loves pecans in almost anything.

1 cup shelled English peas

1 cup shredded cold chicken.

1 cup diced celery and/or jicama

2 Persian cucumbers, chopped.  (If you can’t find those, use 3/4 cup regular cucumbers.)

1/4  cup diced fennel root

½ cup plain nonfat Mediterranean or Greek yogurt

1 tsp minced fresh tarragon

½ tsp minced fresh thyme

1 tsp. minced shallot or red onion

1 Tb. minced green onion (scallion) about 1 stalk.

¼ salt or to taste

3 grinds pepper

1 Tb lemon juice (juice of 1 small lemon or ½ large lemon) preferably Meyer lemon

Shell about 1 pound English peas to make 1 cup, then parboil them for 2 minutes. Immediately cool them in ice water. I pour them through a strainer, then place the strainer in a bowl of ice water.

cooling peas in ice water

Dice chicken, cucumber and jicama, mix with cooled peas, and yogurt. Mince tarragon, thyme, shallot and green onion, add to chicken. Add salt, pepper and lemon juice. Mix well.

I bought some pita bread when I picked up the yogurt, so I tucked my chicken salad into  it.