What's for dinner? So many foods, so many recipes, so many choices! That question is the basic premise of the book The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, which was the book we read for our first dietitian book club this past week.
I had great fun thinking about what to serve. Knowing I was going to serve a soup, salad, and breads, I combined four guidelines to make my choices: make it a vegetarian meal, use produce that is in season in Michigan, use locally produced organic ingredients where possible starting with what came from our garden, and use mostly ingredients I already have in the house.
Here is what I came up with:
• Chilled Curried Yellow Squash Soup with Cilantro-Lime Puree (A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen by Jack Bishop, page 120)
• Rhubarb Muffins (Muffin Madness by Marilyn Taylor, page 37)
• Blueberry Sage Muffins (Asparagus to Zucchini by Madison (WI) Area CSA Coalition, page 141)
• Three-Seeded Bread (recipe on the back of a package of flaxseed from Bob's Red Mill)
• Rosemary Pepper Bread (Bread Machine Baking by Lora Brody and Millie Apter, page 203)
• Modified Tabouli (recipe from my web site using other veggies since locally grown tomatoes are not ripe yet in Michigan - including purslane, an edible weed from our garden that is an excellent plant source of omega-3 fatty acids)
To drink, I made iced teas (1) Earl Green tea (from Zingerman's) and (2) Raspberry Green tea (from Arbor Teas) plus iced decaf coffee (from Roos Roast).
Also served (brought by friends Karen, Ruth, and Kathy G) to round out the meal were fresh organic strawberries so sweet I thought they had sugar added, several types of white wine, and frozen organic strawberries to put in the wine for added color, flavor, and health-promoting phytochemicals.
Here is the recipe I made for the Chilled Curried Yellow Squash Soup with Cilantro-Lime Puree. I doubled the recipe as written in the book, with a few modifications. This recipe will easily serve 12-14, maybe even with some left-overs to enjoy later!
•2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
•3 # yellow summer squash, chopped (these came from Tantré Farm, Chelsea, MI) (save the ends for broth)
•2 medium onions, chopped (save peels for broth)
•2 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger root
•2 tsp. powdered garlic (or 5-6 medium garlic cloves, minced) - we dried garlic this spring from garlic bulbs my husband grew last summer that we had not eaten yet and were starting to dry out - the taste of our own dried garlic powder puts store bought garlic powder to shame!
•4 tsp. curry (I used 3 tsp mild curry and 1 tsp. hot curry for extra zing! - use a combination best suited to your taste)
•12 cups vegetable broth (homemade is BEST - see my notes and photos below for how I do this!)
•2 yukon gold potatoes (peeled and chopped - save peels for broth)
•Salt to taste (I did not add any)
•2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
•1 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves (Michigan grown, organic, from my local grocery store Busch's)
•1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Heat the 2 Tbsp. olive oil in large soup pot over medium high heat. Add squash, onion and cook until soft, approx 8-10 minutes. Stir in the ginger, garlic, and curry powder, stirring until fragrant, only about 1 minute. Add the broth, potato, and salt to taste and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potato is very tender, approx 20-25 minutes.
Puree soup in batches in a blender until very smooth. Adjust seasonings as desired. Put in a covered airtight container (I used two medium Tupperware containers) and chill several hours. (I made the soup in the morning and served it well chilled in the evening)
Puree the cilantro, lime juice, and olive oil. Drizzle some of the puree over the soup in each bowl and serve. Yum, yum!!! This soup is a winner, both for taste and eye-appeal. I know I'll make it again. It could even be made ahead of time and taken to a cottage or potluck dinner.
Now, for how I make my own veggie broth! This is as easy as pie (hmmm, I wonder where that phrase came from, since making pie from scratch is not easy for me, although eating it is!)
Save all your fresh veggie peels and scraps left over from preparation, although I do not save any part that is "bad". Truthfully, vegetables get used so fast in our house that it is very rare for any spoilage to occur before use. Wash as much dirt off as possible although don't obsess over this. Save all the ends, peels, stems, and scraps in a 1 gallon size ziplock bag that is kept in the freezer. When that bag is chockfull, it is time to make broth.
I pull out my crock-pot, placing all the frozen veggie scraps into the crockpot, which should be nearly full. Add water to cover to the top. Turn on low for all day cooking or high if I just have a half a day to get this done.
At the end of cooking time, I pull out my seldom-used Melitta coffee maker, which is just perfect for filtering the broth from the vegetables and particularly catching any sand that is in the broth. After, collecting all the broth, I use it right away or freeze it in 1 quart yogurt containers. This can easily make 2-3 quarts of rich vegetable broth, for pennies on the dollar compared to what you would pay in the grocery store for pre-packaged organic vegetable broth, and truly just for minutes of your time. At this point, I do close the loop and toss the remaining veggie scraps into our compost pile to be recycled next spring back into new vegetables or flowers in our garden beds.
One of my RD friends is also a chef. It was revealing and rewarding to hear her say that she could tell the yellow squash soup had been made with homemade broth! You can do this, too, as making your own vegetable broth truly is as easy as eating pie. :-)
A simple meal, a great meal, indeed a perfect meal shared with great friends! I am still feeling the happiness generated from this gathering. With that in mind, I'll end with this appropriate quote sent by email from Suzanne, our group's honorary long-distance member:
Five Simple Rules to Happiness
1) Free your heart from hatred.
2) Free your mind from worries.
3) Live simply.
4) Give more.
5) Expect less.
~~ Based on teachings of The Buddha
Diana Dyer, MS, RD