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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Soup and Salad

I've tried a lot of butternut squash soup recipes in my day and I'll be honest, there hasn't been many I didn't like. If they're pureed and seasoned right, well, I'm a happy girl and I won't complain. But one of the best I've ever tried is a gingery one from Vong's Thai Kitchen (VTK) in Chicago. It is so aromatic and delicious that I have to order it everytime I go. Recently I found the recipe and decided it's high time I had those flavors at home. In the restaurant, they garnish the soup with roasted pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds.) The recipe link doesn't give you directions for doing that, so I will. Oh, and by the way I used low-fat sour cream in the soup with no noticable difference.


Spiced Roasted Pepitas (adapted from Bobby Flay, Mesa Grill Cookbook)

Heat oven to 325

Toss 1 c raw pumpkin seeds with 2 T of canola oil (I used less.) Sprinkle on 1/2 t chile powder, some pepper, a little cayenne pepper and a healthy amount of salt. Mix a bit.

Lay on a sheet tray and toast for 10-15 minutes until they just show a tiny bit of golden brown and look a little puffy. Let cool and sprinkle on to your bowl of soup. (Do your damnest to not eat them all before you serve the soup) I also gave my soup a little dollop of plain, unsweetened yogurt and a drizzle of sriracha. (IIRC, in the restaurant, the soup gets a drizzle of coconut milk a dusting of spice and the pepitas served on the side so you can put them on yourself. I need to go have it again to make sure)


My salad today comes courtesy of Cat Cora and her book Cooking from the Hip. This is the first recipe I've tried from the book but I've made it 4 times already. In fact, everytime I find myself with some leftover chicken or turkey this salad comes to mind. There's no meat in the actual recipe for salad. But the salad is so adaptable, you can just follow the model and make it how you like. Her recipe is for Fuji Apple, Walnut and Dill salad, a take-off on the classic waldorf salad. It also has celery, grapes and some dill that makes it a little different. Leftover diced turkey (or chicken) is a natural add-in and makes for a great hearty salad. The tart dressing is the best part. For the creamy component, she uses plain yogurt, instead of mayo or sour cream. Then there's rice vinegar, orange juice, oil and mustard. Really good.

Chef Cora notes that you can play around with this recipe. Use different apples or even pears. Try a different vinegar. Use a different nut. I like it with toasted pecans. Adjust the amounts of things as you please. Like I said, add diced turkey or chicken. Also if you don't like dill, leave it out or use fresh tarragon. The salad is good the next day too. There's enough acid in the dressing to keep the apples from turning brown right away. It is at its best standing in front of the open fridge eaten right out of the rubbermaid container.

Fuji Apple, Walnut and Dill Salad


2T rice wine vinegar
2T almond oil, walnut oil, or olive oil
2T plain, low-fat yogurt (greek yogurt will give you a thicker, more coating dressing)
1t dijon mustard
1T finely grated orange zest
2t fresh lemon or orange juice
1/4t kosher salt
1/4 t fresh ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients and sit in fridge until ready to use


1c walnuts (I used pecans) toasted
2c chopped apples (fuji or other)
2T chopped fresh dill
1/4 c thinly sliced celery
1/2 c seedless grapes (red or green, cut in half or left whole to your liking)

In a medium bowl, combine walnuts, apples, dill, celery and grapes. Pour dressing over the mixture and stir to coat. Arrange over endive leaves or other lettuce greens or not.

1 comment:

Proud Italian Cook said...

Wow Toni, Everything looks great here! I haven't been to Vong's in a while, you just reminded me of how good it is!

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