Friday, February 04, 2011

White Bean and Butternut Squash Soup

After all the snowy, snow snow and ice-itty ice ice and overall general theatrics of this week, I think we could all use a big bowl of belly-warming comfort soup. Yes? This one fit the bill for me this afternoon. It is pure texture— pure velvety goodness. Really, it's just that smooth. And I know, some of you will look at the soaking the beans scenario and say, "Egads, not for me." But don't. It's not that big a deal: Saturday morning, throw those beans in a big ol' pot and fill 'er up with water and go about your day. By the afternoon, you're in business. Dump the water and get on with it! Mmmmm…

Cannelini Bean and Butternut Squash Soup
Adapted from The Very Best of Recipes for Health by Martha Rose Shulman

1 pound cannelini  beans
 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, divided and minced
2 1/2 quarts water
1 bay leaf
2-3 each of thyme and parsley
2 sage leaves
Salt to taste
3 leeks, white part only, well washed and chopped
1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeds and membranes removed, and cut into 1" dice
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Rinse your dry beans well in a strainer and pick out any wonky looking ones, dark ones and the like. Place in a large pot and cover with 2 quarts of water. Soak for 6 hours or overnight. Drain.

Combine the bay leaf, thyme, parsley and sage into a little bundle and wrap in cheesecloth. Tie with kitchen string. If you don't have cheesecloth, just tie them all together as securely as possible—you want to be able to remove it easily. (This is called a bouquet garni.)

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat and add the onion. Cook gently until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add 2 of the garlic cloves and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir together for about 30 seconds, then add the drained beans and the water. Bring to a boil,  skimming any foam that rises to the top. Add the bouquet garni, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 1 hour.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in a wide, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.  Add the remaining garlic and the squash. Cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant and the squash is coated with oil and just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir into the beans. Add salt to taste and continue to simmer for another hour or so, until the beans and vegetables are thoroughly tender and falling apart. Taste and adjust salt. Remove the bouquet garni.

Working in batches of 1 1/2 to 2 cups, puree the soup in the blender. Do not seal the top tightly as you do this, as the heat may cause pressure to build up. Return to pot and place over medium-low until heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve garnished with slivered sage leaves.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

New York City illustration

I had fun working on a drawing of my former home town with this illustration of New York City, circa 1914, for Manhattan Luddite Editorial. Liz Daleske is a lifelong wordsmith helping people sound, look and be better through fine-tuned editorial content. Give her a jingle if you've got some words to sort out — she's a breeze to work with! (gawp! dangling preposition!) You'll find working with her a breeze!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Inspiration: Illustrator Kim Rosen

Greetings from the Northeast by Kim Rosen

With the level of panic that seems to be in the air surrounding Snowpocalypse 2011: The Midwest Tour, the above image by illustrator Kim Rosen seems appropriate. I am absolutely in love with her drawings. Rosen's color palette and textures give each piece so much feeling and liveliness -- not to mention the faces. I am so envious of people who can draw people so well. Below are just a few examples from this prolific artists -- check out her web site, blog and agent's site for more.  

 Making the most of a morning commute
Associations Now
cover by Kim Rosen

 A Bad Haircut, personal piece by Kim Rosen

 David Sedaris, by Kim Rosen

Mommom by Kim Rosen

Monday, January 31, 2011

Crunchy winter salad with fennel and celery

Since reading the article by Mark Bittman in the current issue of Bon Appetit about recent changes he's made to his diet, calling it 'vegan until six,' which I love, I've been obsessing over the recipes on his web site. I was already a fan of the Minimalist column and especially love the charm of his how-to videos. But now I'm seriously hooked. The recipes truly are minimalist and the fresh flavor and crunch of this salad will perk you up plenty on a cold winter's day. 

Fennel and Celery Salad

1 medium fennel bulb
2 celery ribs, trimmed and peeled
1 Tb extra virgin olive oil
2 Tb fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, more to taste
Freshly shaved Parmesan cheese
Trim fronds and end from fennel bulb and cut into quarters lengthwise, discarding outer layer if exceedingly tough. Slice fennel and celery as thinly as possible (a mandoline would be nice, though by no means necessary).
Whisk together olive oil and lemon juice in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Combine fennel and celery in a large bowl and toss gently with dressing. Season with salt and pepper and top with plenty of Parmesan, freshly shaved with a vegetable peeler. 
But wait — don't throw away those fronds! Reluctant to just toss the beautifully frilly fronds (fennel's not cheap, friends!), I did a quick search online and found plenty of people turning them into pesto — aha! Why not? I turn pretty much every other leftover herby green into pesto, so why not fennel fronds? The fronds have a more delicate flavor than the bulb, so  while I am a garlic freak, I would tread slowly with the garlic in this pesto — it can quickly overwhelm the lovely anise flavor. I added the peas for an extra bit of creaminess and veg,  but that is completely optional. So here's how it goes…
Fennel Frond Pesto
Makes about 1 cup.

1 cup fennel fronds (from 1 medium bulb), chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons pine nuts, pistachios or slivered almonds
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted slightly (optional)
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Combine fronds, garlic, nuts, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a generous grind of pepper in a food processor or blender and process until finely chopped. Add peas (if using), olive oil and cheese and continue to process until smooth. Season with more salt to taste.