Our current Cook the Books Club selection is Midnight Chicken by Ellen Risbridger1, a cookbook with stories. The most exciting thing for me related to this book is that I was able to get the electronic version from the library (biblioteca). I am still not sure how I got the various pieces to work, but one day, I clicked on a link in an email and pretty soon I could open the book in my e-reader. I don't think this is the best solution for cookbooks (seeing as the kitchen is not the best environment for electronics), but for reading it is great. I am already half-way into the second book I borrowed.
Risbridger talks about her life and about how cooking helped her in moments of particular difficulty. She is open about her mental health and her struggles. She lives in London and her shopping and cooking are influenced by the urban environment. She favors prepackaged vegetables, like cleaned and cut winter squash, and canned legumes and wonders who makes homemade puff pastry (I do). Her ingredients are British, like self-raising flour.
I was not inspired to make any of the recipes, but one of them reminded me that red beets are called beetroots in England and that inspired me to grab a beautiful bunch of them at the farmers market, with their glorious greens (foglie di barbabietola) still attached. In our household we LOVE beet greens so those disappeared fast. The book includes a recipe for Butternut squash mash, which reminded of a recipe I made some time ago that brings together those two ingredients into a bright soup that is just perfect for when the weather is gray and cold.
This time I used honeynut squash, a relatively new variety of winter squash2 which I introduced in a post last year.3 Honeynut squash looks like a mini butternut squash: it has the same elongated shape, solid neck, bulbous end, but it is smaller, darker in color and sweeter in flavor. This year, a local farmer grew it, so I've been able to find it at the market. Given its small size, it is perfect for recipes where you don't need a large squash.
- 8 ounces / 225 grams red beets
- 18-20 ounces / 510-565 grams honeynut squash
- 2 tablespoons / 30 ml extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 ounces / 170 grams red onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon / 15 ml grated fresh ginger
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon hot paprika powder
- 1 cup / 240 ml chicken or vegetable broth, preferably homemade
- 2 cups / 475 ml water
- 1/2-3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, to taste
If you purchase a bunch of red beets with their greens, cut off the greens about 1 inch / 2.5 cm from the root and cook them as soon as possible like you would other types of dark leafy greens.
The honeynut squash and beets are roasted before being used in the soup. This step can be done in advance.
Heat the oven to 375 F / 190 C. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat.
Scrub the beets, wrap them in aluminum foil and place them on the baking sheet.
Cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds (a grapefruit spoon works well to do this). Place the squash halves on the prepared baking sheet, cut side down.
Bake the squash until it's tender enough to pierce easily with a blade, about 40 minutes.
Bake the red beets until easily pierced with a knife, an additional 20 minutes or so.
Let the squash cool then scrape the flesh off the skin with a spoon.
Let the red beets cool until easy to handle, then slip off the skin. Cube the beets and set them aside.
Warm up the olive oil in a soup pot on medium heat, then add the onion, stirring well to coat. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the ginger and stir. Cover and cook on gentle heat for another 8 minutes, until the onion is soft, stirring often. Add the garlic, coriander, cumin and hot paprika, stir and cook for 1 minute.
Add the squash and the red beets to the pot, stir and add the broth and water. Bring the soup ring to a boil, covered, then turn down the heat so the soup bubbles gently. Cook for 15 minutes, then remove the pot from heat. Season with the salt and stir. Let the soup rest, covered, for 15-30 minutes, then purée it with an immersion blender.
Making the soup at least a few hours before serving will allow it to rest and ripen.
When ready to eat, heat the soup, ladle it in bowls and serve immediately.
I like the bright red color and the sweet and spicy flavor of this nourishing soup.
Click on the button to hear me pronounce the Italian words mentioned in the post:
or launch the zuppa di zucca e barbabietola rossa audio file [mp3].
[Depending on your set-up, the audio file will be played within the browser or by your mp3 player application. Please, contact me if you encounter any problems.]