A cooking weekend

While I was not spending time in the garden this weekend (I know. . . FAIL), I was spending time doing one of my other favorite, most therapeutic things. . . you guessed it—cooking!

I found another book that features recipes using seasonal produce (yes, this is a recurring theme with me, I know) and there were a few I really wanted to try. . . so, since the weather wasn’t quite balmy enough for me to spend in my yard, I tried out three new recipes. The book is called The Feast Nearby: How I lost my job, buried a marriage, and found my way by keeping chickens, foraging, preserving, bartering, and eating locally (all on $40 a week), by Robin Mather. It’s a good book—not a straight “recipe book,” per se, but there are recipes in every chapter.  It’s a fun read, though, and related to what I’ve been trying to do, at least to some extent.

So here goes with the recipes.

The first was butternut squash risotto. . . and it was fabulous.  I’m a firm believer in the finished product reflecting the original quality of the separate ingredients, and I used homemade chicken stock to make the risotto, which I think makes a big difference (more flavor, less salt in general).  I will, however, admit to using basmati rice instead of Arborio. . . just because that’s what I had.  It seemed to work just fine.

Butternut squash risotto

Then, I used the leftover butternut squash to make muffins—the recipe actually calls for pumpkin but I figured it would be fine to use squash, and it was—they were really good.  Nice and flavorful—there was a fair amount of spice in them (cloves, ginger, cinnamon, etc.).  I brought them to work on Monday and the reviews were unanimous (they were gone by noon). 😉

The third thing I attempted was a Thai pumpkin soup.  It had pumpkin, peanut butter, chicken stock, fresh grated ginger, and a just a few other ingredients.  It was, at best, ok.  A bit on the bland side, we thought—of course, I didn’t use quite the amount of hot pepper flakes that the recipe actually called for, but I’m not one to think that heat equals flavor.  So I don’t really think that was the issue.  I would maybe try that one again and increase the peanut butter and other, more flavorful ingredients and cut back a bit on the pumpkin.  Like I said, it was fine—not bad, but just not great.

Do you think if I had used “fresh” pumpkin (as fresh as it would be this time of year, anyway) instead of the canned stuff it would have made any difference? I’ve done comparisons with pie before, and I honestly couldn’t tell a difference between fresh pumpkin and canned. But maybe in the soup it would make more of a contrast? Anyone have thoughts about that?

Anyway, in the end, three new recipes and two that were great. By all accounts, two out of three certainly isn’t bad.  :)

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