Sunday, January 8, 2012

cooking challenge week 1: squash and flax soup

Not the prettiest picture, I know. Honestly, it just wasn't the prettiest soup. 
For the first week of my 2012 cooking challenge I decided to combine two of my favorite things in the world: squash and soup. While I adore squash and eat it every chance I get, I am ashamed to say that I have never actually cooked with squash myself. I found the recipe for Squash and Flax Soup while leafing through a fantastic cookbook my grandma gave me: The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook by Tosca Reno (see bottom of post for more info). I liked this recipe because it combined the normal soup staples (onions, garlic, carrots) with some not-so-standard ingredients (sprouts, flax seed, sunflower seeds). It seemed like a good balance between old and new. And super healthy, of course. Shopping for the ingredients and cooking this soup was a blast and affirmed that this is a great New Year's resolution. Unfortunately, however, the final result was not so pleasant. Not because it was a bad recipe, but because of a (embarassing) flaw in my judgement. So I bought a package of sprouts that, when I eyeballed it, looked to be just a little more than a cup. And since I didn't want any of the sprouts to go to waste, I just dumped them all in. After tasting my soup, however, I seriously regretted this decision. I grabbed the container and a measuring cup and realized that I had probably put around 2 cups of sprouts in. And I could taste it.  The soup tasted very, well, sprouty! It tasted green when I wanted to taste the orange of the squash and the carrots! It's not horrible, but unfortunately I'm not looking forward to eating it again for dinner tonight. Moral of the story: improvisation with a new recipe should be undertaken only because you think something will taste better, not just because you want to get rid of something. Because you might end up ruining your whole dish, which is a much bigger waste.

If after this story you still are interested in making this soup, I've included the original recipe below, with my modifications in parentheses. I would err on the low side with the sprouts; maybe just a half a cup would add a nice hint of green to your soup without completely overpowering it, like my 2 or so cups did. : (

Squash and Flax Soup

All the ingredients, minus the squash, which was already in the oven. 
    - 2 Tbsp flax seed, soaked (I use 2 Tbsp flax seed meal, which didn't need to be soaked) 
    - 1/4 cup sunflower seeds, soaked (I used dehulled kernels instead of the whole seed)  
    - 1.5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil 
    - 1 medium yellow onion, chopped 
    - 2 cloves garlic, passed through a garlic press 
    - 2 ribs celery, trimmed and chopped (I don't like celery, so instead increased the number of carrots) 
Scooping out the seeds
(which I saved and
am about to roast). 
    -2 large carrots, peeled and chopped (I used 5 carrots to account for the missing celery) 
    -1 medium butternut squash, cooked 
    - 4 cups low sodium vegetable stock or water (I used water) 
    -1 cup sprouts, use your favorite (I used daikon radish sprouts and put in way too much...don't do that)  
    - 2 Tbsp organic apple cider vinegar (I used red wine vinegar) 
    - 1 tsp dried crumbled basil 
    - 1 tsp dried crumbled oregano   
    - Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Sauteeing the veggies. 
1. Soak the flax seed in one bowl of water and the sunflower seed in another bowl of water for 1 hour.
2. Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Saute onions, garlic, celery and carrot until onions become soft.
3. Scoop flesh out of cooked squash into a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Add cooked onion, celery, garlic, and carrot. Add 4 cups liquid and set over medium heat. Bring to a gentle boil. Puree these ingredients right in the pan with a hand blend. Blend until smooth. Remove from heat. Add all remaining ingredients including the soaked seeds, puree until smooth. Add sea salt and freshground black pepper. If the soup is still too thick add some water and puree again. Serve immediately.

Don't heat over high heat, as doing so would destroy the vauable and volatile nutrients in the flax and sunflower seeds. If you reheat it, do so over a gentle, slow heat. Serves 8. 

Source: The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook by Tosca Reno

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