I am often asked how I come up with the recipes I cook at Eastern Market and publish in this blog. They all start with inspiration – or desperation – figuring out how to feature a seasonal ingredient or use a new product from one of the great shops I work with.
Sometimes it’s easy. I’ll pull a recipe out of my head that I’ve cooked many times, like asparagus soup or zucchini pancakes. Along the way, these recipes get tweaked with new ingredients and new ideas I’ve learned elsewhere.
Other times an idea pops into my head, like last week’s Indian style peas and corn. I’ll flip through cookbooks and search the web to understand the range of ingredients, seasonings and techniques that other people have used, then pull together the ideas that sound the best and start testing the recipe, making changes until I’ve got something I’m proud to serve.
The hardest recipes, and some of my greatest satisfaction, come when I’m stumped. This past week I wanted to work with summer squash. The Saturday before I had sautéed it, tossed with a compound butter. Rather then another variation on sautéed and tossed with herbs, I wanted something really new. I began flipping through cookbooks waiting for a recipe to excite me. I found a squash goulash, 70’s style with ground beef, green peppers and sweet paprika. I removed the beef so the squash could take center stage. Red peppers kept some bitterness without the bite. Red miso and tomato paste added depth, while Spanish paprika or pimentón, brought a bit of heat. Some fresh vegetable stock gave the sauce another layer and I was ready to serve this week’s Summer Squash Goulash. My sincere thanks to Too Many Tomatoes, and my Mom who raised us on its recipes, for the inspiration.
Summer Squash Goulash
Makes 3-4 main course servings unless you eat it at 10:30 at night, in which case two of you will be fighting over the last bowl.
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 cups thinly sliced crimini mushrooms
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 2 tbs sweet paprika
- 2 tbs tomato paste
- 2 tbs red miso paste
- 2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 1.5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 2 cups summer squash thinly sliced in half rounds
- 1/4 cup chopped basil
- Sherry Vinegar
- In a sauté pan over medium heat, cook onion in olive oil until softened. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds until fragrant.
- Add mushrooms and cook until lightly browned on edges.
- Add pepper, paprika, tomato paste and miso. Cook 1-2 minutes until paprika is fragrant.
- Stir in tomatoes and cook until softened and water begins to evaporate. Add stock and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Add squash, basil. Cover and cook until squash is softened but still firm.
- Uncover and let thicken to desired consistency. Season to taste with salt, pepper and vinegar.
Cauliflower, cheddar cheese soup is really hard to make without cauliflower. I discovered this essential truth last Saturday when I arrived at Eastern Market for my cooking demos and there was no cauliflower in sight. Plan B? Curried zucchini soup. My Mom has a great recipe for this.
She, however, was not there, soooooo I made it up on the spot. Once the vegetable stock was done, the soup was ready in twenty minutes. Perfect timing for a quick weeknight dinner – or you can tell your weekend dinner guests that you slaved over the stove for hours. They’ll never know.
A couple notes: First, potatoes thicken the soup without the addition of cream. Calories saved here mean an extra glass of wine with dinner. Second, make your own stock. If you’ve got the time, chicken stock is awesome here. If not, you can have a vegetable stock ready in 30-45 minutes. If you use store bought, ALWAYS go with low sodium. It gives you better control over the amount of salt.
Honestly, I’m not remotely worried about your health here. The soup will be inedibly salty before you hit an unhealthy level. The problem is that your stock will condense a bit as your soup cooks and you can easily end up with soup that tastes way too salty.
Curried Zucchini Soup
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 medium yukon gold potatoes, diced
- 5 cups chicken or vegetable stock (see recipe below)
- 2 cups shredded zucchini
- 1 tbs curry powder
- 1-2 tbs butter
- 1 lemon
- Heat olive oil in a 4 qt sauce pot over medium-low heat. Add potato and onion, sauté until onion softens. About 5 minutes.
- Add 1 cup stock and stew onions and potato for an additional 5 minutes.
- Add remaining stock and cook until potato is soft 15-20 minutes.
- Add zucchini and curry powder. Cook for 3-5 minutes until soup is fragrant and zucchini is cooked through but still fresh.
- Season to taste. Start with salt and pepper. A tablespoon or two of butter and a good squeeze of lemon juice make the soup rich and the flavor bright. If you use chicken stock instead of vegetable stock you will probably get away with less butter.
- Run this through a food mill, or pulse it a few times in your food process or blender. A little texture is nice. Don’t over process.
Vegetable stock: Place 12 cups water in a 6 qt stock pot. Roughly chop 1 large onion, 1 large carrot and 2 celery stalks. Add to pot along with 2 bay leaves, 8-10 celery stems, 2 sprigs of thyme, and 8-10 black pepper corns. If you have leek greens or parsnips sitting around add those as well. (No peppers or cabbage. Yuck!) Simmer partially covered for 30-45 minutes and strain. Season a quarter cup with a little salt and pepper. If the stock is bland, reduce the stock by boiling down to 8 cups. (Just guess. No one actually measures boiling stock to get an exact measurement.)