New Year/New Beginnings

Hello, everyone!

As the title of this post suggests, it’s a new year and it’s time for some new beginnings. To that end, I have decided to start a new blog in order to follow my foodie passion. Rather than the mix of things that Rough Draft has become, Fearless Kitchen will be dedicated to my love of making, eating, and sharing good food. I would greatly appreciate if those of you who would like to continue reading my posts head on over to fearless-kitchen.com and subscribe.

The content hosted on Rough Draft will not be deleted. I may still update this site with my random musings. Please note, however, that all food-related posts will be updated exclusively on Fearless Kitchen.

Thank you all for your endless support– you have made my experiences so far in blogging enjoyable and rewarding. I hope I can continue entertaining you and exciting your taste buds over at Fearless Kitchen!

Chicca

Butternut Squash Soup

There is something about winter that calls for soup. Specifically, the rich, thick, stick-to-your-bones, keep-you-warm kind of soup that makes you feel like you’re curled up in front of the fireplace, even though your NYC apartment certainly does not have the proper permits for one. I know it’s not really winter yet– we still have many colder months to go– but the briskness in the air is starting to signal that it’s a soup time of year.

My first journey into soup territory was only six weeks ago. Those of you who follow me on Instagram may have seen the tomatillo soup I made in late September. Surprise! I had never even tried to make a soup before that. Since then, I’ve made a delicious and hearty stew, a quick and yet tasty French onion soup, and the star of tonight’s meal: butternut squash soup.

20131110 Butternut Squash Soup

Thanks to my parents’ decision to clean out their kitchen storage spaces, I am the proud new owner of a very nice immersion blender. I am so thankful, because without this little (well, big) gadget, I would never have been able to make this incredible meal. While it’s a bit time-consuming to roast everything, there are ways to cut the time down. If you hate wielding a knife against a large, difficult piece of squash just as much as I do, feel free to buy the pre-cut cubes of squash. It’ll save you a lot of time and will still taste incredible. 

This soup is hearty enough that it stands confidently on its own, and versatile enough that it would be wonderful paired with another dish. The sweetness of the squash roasted with brown sugar pairs well with the spiciness of the cumin, giving the soup a surprising depth. It’s rich, it’s deceptively filling, and it definitely creates that warm feeling inside you, like curling up in a blanket on a cold night. 

And now, without any further ado, please let me introduce you to this soup. I’m sure you two are going to be great friends.

Butternut Squash Soup 

2 lb butternut squash, in about 1-inch cubes
32 oz low-sodium chicken broth
3 large carrots, cut small enough for your blender to handle*
2 medium onions
Olive oil
A pinch of red pepper flakes
3 tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp ground cumin**
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp cream per bowl (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Lay the butternut squash and carrot pieces on a baking sheet and coat with about 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix well so that all chunks are thoroughly coated with oil– this will prevent them from sticking and give them a nice color in the oven– then sprinkle with brown sugar and ground ginger. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until a fork can be easily inserted into squash and carrots, stirring the mixture at around 15 minutes. 

While the squash and carrots are roasting, chop the onions. In a heavy-bottom pot, heat about a tablespoon.5 of olive oil with the hot pepper flakes over medium-high heat. Add the onions when the oil is fragrant and shimmering. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. Allow them to cook, stirring to avoid burning, to desired softness or until the squash and carrots are soft enough, then lower or turn off the heat on the pot.

When the squash and carrots are ready, add them to the pot with the onions. Even if the squash was thoroughly coated with oil, there may still be parts of it stuck to the baking sheet. While the baking sheet is still hot, add a bit of chicken broth to it and scrape the burned bits and leftover caramelized brown sugar from the pan, then carefully pour the liquid and chunks into the pot. Add the cinnamon and cumin to the pot and mix well. 

With the immersion blender I found it easiest to add all the liquid to the pot and completely submerge the head of the blender while letting it do its thing. If you are using another type of blender, it may be best to add the liquid in stages. It’s your call. Blend carrots and squash to a pleasant consistency– mine was smoothish but a bit chunky. 

Once blended, heat soup thoroughly. Serve immediately, stirring in 1-2 tablespoons of cream per bowl if desired. Finish with freshly ground pepper. 

*I cut the carrots in half lengthwise and again into three short sections, cross-wise, so that they would roast in about the same time as the squash pieces. My immersion blender didn’t end up liking this, though if you’re using a slightly larger blender it may not matter. If your blender is also a bit finnicky, roast the carrots at this size and then cut them into smaller pieces before adding to the pot. 

**We only have cumin seeds– not ground cumin– in our apartment, so the cumin I used was freshly ground. Pre-ground cumin may not have the same level of flavor, so you might need to adjust the amount of cumin to taste. 

Pumpkin Bread & The Long Hiatus

Hello! Happy holidays and almost happy new year to all my readers!

Every time I come back from some sort of break I feel an urge to write a witty yet apologetic blurb about where I’ve been. This time, I’m going to keep it short and sweet so we can get to the good stuff: I’ve been busy, busy, busy– senior year is the craziest I’ve ever been in my entire life– but thanks to winter break I’m back for at least a little bit. It’s a couple of days early, but my New Year’s resolution is going to be to blog more, bake more, and knit more.

The good thing for all of us is that I’ve already started this resolution! I left my sweater at school, but I’ve been working on a pair of fingerless gloves for my cold dorm. I’ve also been doing quite a bunch of baking, like this lovely pull-apart cinnamon-sugar pumpkin bread:
DSC_0306edit

I don’t know what it is about pumpkin, but I could eat it pumpkin baked goods all year round. Maybe it’s the spices used with pumpkin, the feelings it conjures, or the aura of fall that surrounds it. Whatever it is, pumpkin baked anything just makes me feel at home.

The recipe for this pull-apart bread (found here) is wonderfully easy, even though it’s a yeasted bread. To be honest, I don’t have a lot of experience working with yeast; I’m the type of girl who usually to whip something up, pop it in the oven, and be done with it, and usually can’t be bothered to wait for something to rise. This bread has taught me that the waiting is worth it.

This bread was everything I look for in something with pumpkin. It was spiced, sugared, and the yeast gave it a depth that pumpkin pie doesn’t have. To top it all off, the sugar in between the layers got gooey, sticky, and scrumptious in the oven. The original recipe calls for an additional sugared glaze on top, but the bread is sweet enough that it’s prefect without the glaze. It was so good, in fact, that when I made it this past fall, Clara and I ate the entire thing in one sitting.

If you have some time to bake bread over these holidays, I would highly recommend baking this. It might not be fall anymore, but it’ll make any place feel like home.

DSC_0307editcrop

Next up: New Year’s cupcakes!

Foodie Confession + Quiche Bliss

Okay, I have a very important confession to make to you all.

I know I bill myself as an adventurous eater. It’s true– I love food, and I will try almost anything at least once. But I feel like I would by lying to you all if I didn’t come one hundred percent squeaky clean:

There is one food that I absolutely cannot stand. It is my food nemesis. If this food were a villain, it would be the most evil of all villains and the thwarter of all my plans.

My food nemesis is eggs.

Over the years, I’ve gotten a lot of weird reactions from people when I tell them this. “Eggs?? You don’t like eggs??” is the most usual one, but it’s ranged from incredulity all the way to unadulterated disgust. Most people just don’t understand it. I don’t eat them for breakfast, I don’t eat them for lunch, I don’t even eat them green with ham. Unlike the Dr Seuss character I have tried eggs before making up my mind; my mom tells me that when I was a kid I used to eat an egg sandwich every morning for breakfast. I was way too young to remember this, and sometime between then and my first memories some great change came over my body to make it rebel against all things eggy. I can’t eat french toast that has been soaking for too long because I can taste the egg in it. Breakfast sandwiches are off limits, and even egg drop soup is sometimes too much for me. Hell, I can’t even stand the smell of eggs cooking. It makes me want to hurl.

It might come as a huge surprise to you, then, that one of my favorite foods is quiche. That’s right. I can’t stand eggs but I love a food that’s essentially egg pie. In reality, though, quiche is so much more than that. It’s veggie-filled, cheese-gushing goodness that’s been poured into the mother of all baked things– a pie crust. There is so much deliciousness that radiates from quiche that not even eggs could taint it. Really, what more could you ask for from a food?

 

Seriously. Is it not the most delicious-looking thing you’ve ever seen?

 

I have been going absolutely crazy with my internship this summer (which finally ended yesterday, by the way, and while it was a great experience I’m also glad it’s over), but I did have time recently to have a fun cooking day. And– you’ve probably guessed it by now– I made a quiche.

The recipe I used was (highly) adapted from the McCall’s recipe for Quiche Lorraine, but considering I had a ton of spinach and onions in my fridge I decided to do something completely different from what the recipe said. I ended up putting so much filling into the quiche that I had  bunch of the extra egg/cream mixture left over (whoops), so the measurements that I used are in the recipe below with what I guess would be better measurements in parenthesis.

So, without further ado:

Spinach and Onion Quiche

(Crust secret: I had some time to be in the kitchen, but not a lot of time. So I cheated and used a store-bought pie crust. Shhh. I recommend Trader Joe’s but the Pillsbury ones are also good!)

6 eggs with 1 white separated (4 would probably be better)

3 cups light cream (I used a mixture of cream and skim milk, and 2 cups would probably be better)

1/2 lb gruyere, shredded

1 1/4 tsp salt

1/8 tsp black pepper

dash of red pepper flakes

1 large onion

1lb spinach, washed and chopped

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Saute the spinach until wilted, then let it cool.

3. Slice the onions, then throw them in a pan with a little oil. When they’re close to being finished, add a little white wine and let it reduce.

4. Place your pie crust in a sprayed or buttered pie plate and brush the entire surface with the egg white. Throw the leftover egg white into the bowl in the next step.

5. Combine eggs and dry ingredients in a bowl, and beat together.

Ahh, my nemesis. You are so delicious when baked in a quiche.

6. Beat the cream in slowly until just combined– don’t let it get frothy.

7. Layer about half the cheese evenly onto the bottom of the pie crust.

8. Drain your spinach. Seriously, you want to get it really, really dry– I recommend actually wringing the water out with your hands. Get your spinach as dry as you can. Drain your onions, too!

9. Layer the veggies into the pie crust, then coat evenly with the rest of the cheese.

10. Pour the egg mixture in.

11. Cook for 50-55 minutes, or until the center of the quiche is firm.

12. Let sit for 10 minutes to set, then enjoy!

Bon appetit, everyone!

The Right Start to Summer

Hello, hello! I have been absent again for quite a while. Finals are done, friends have graduated, and I am officially a senior in college, hoping someone will find a way to stop time for a bit– I am not at all ready to leave this place, yet. But summer has started and it is going to be a challenging, rewarding, and hopefully relaxing few months.

I’m living at school this summer in an apartment and commuting to the city for work. I didn’t find out about my job until late so I couldn’t deal with housing until late, either, which means that I’m living in an apartment all by myself. It’s nice having so much space and I am definitely learning to be self-sufficient, but it’s gotten a bit lonely at points. I have lots of friends here over the summer, though, so I am not, by any means, alone.

Last night my friend Raymond came over for dinner and we made fajitas. Raymond says he can’t cook but did an excellent job of chopping everything (and an even more excellent job of doing the dishes… which was STELLAR). Before I talk about the food, though, I have to mention our cooking soundtrack: Onda Vaga. They’re an Argentine band that reminds me fully of summer and I would highly recommend getting their CDs, especially when it’s warm and happy out.

I was an idiot and forgot to take pictures of our fajitas (and the leftovers in my fridge don’t look nearly as pretty as my plate did), but the marinade on the chicken was delicious and I would most definitely use it again. You can find the basic recipe here, though I made some small changes. In the marinade, I used a bit more cumin than was called for and a lot more lime juice. The recipe also tells you to marinate the chicken already sliced, but I was worried that cooking it in slices would dry it out. Instead, I cut the breasts into thinner chunks– sort of like thin breast pieces (I  got about three out of each breast)– to cook in the pan, and sliced them afterwards.  We added some sauteed onions and peppers, homemade guacamole, and homemade pico de gallo to the mix and we were set. Yum!

We topped it all off with this lovely grapefruit, thyme, and gin soda (minus the gin because Raymond had to drive home afterwards). Shh, don’t tell anyone… but I cut a few corners and this beverage was super easy to pull together. Trader Joe’s has ruby red grapefruit juice without sugar added, so I used some of that instead of fresh grapefruit juice. I also am not too keen on juicing limes, so I used some of the bottled stuff from the supermarket. The thyme syrup is incredibly easy to make, though, and I am so happy that the recipe he provides for it makes much more than you need for this soda– I’m planning to use it in just about anything and everything. It is so tasty! The one thing I was disappointed about is that the club soda lost its carbonation almost immediately, but I also wasn’t storing it in an appropriate bottle and the drink was delicious un-carbonated, as well. Basically, I was so pleased with it that I am planning to make it all summer long! Maybe next time we’ll try it with the gin and report back.

I’m preparing now to head home for Memorial Day weekend. We’re supposed to have a doozy of a heatwave here at school this weekend, and nothing says Memorial Day like swimming in a nice, chilly pool. Have a wonderful holiday weekend, everyone! Catch you next week.

Still alive, I promise! + news + pho

So… yes. I kind of dropped off the face of the planet for a while. For everyone who thought my plane might have disappeared in a Lost-esque situation on the way back from Argentina, I’m sorry to disappoint.

I like to tell myself that I haven’t been posting because I’ve been readjusting to living in the US. Which is true! Or, at least, was— while I’m still adjusting the recent truth is that I was not at all prepared for all the free time I don’t have now that I’m back at college. Seriously. I run from place to place to place and have so much stuff to do all the time and yet am somehow managing to sleep, which is a real-life miracle.

That’s not to say that I didn’t do work while I was in Argentina. I actually did a lot of reading, and one of my classes was even more challenging than some of the classes at my top-notch US college. The difference, I think, is that while I have more work here in the US I also have more activities. In Buenos Aires I would finish my work and then have time to hang out with my family or go out and explore. Here, I finish fencing practice, finish a capella practice, and then still have all my homework to do. All my time is taken up either by homework or other commitments, and that, I think, is what’s killing me. Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely love everything I’m doing. I know that it’s just that I’ve had a taste of what free time can be like and am missing it now that I don’t have any, but it’s seriously getting me down.

Something that’s keeping me happy, though, is the new boy! I know, right? Surprise! The serial monogamist strikes again. But really, this boy is wonderful. He’s from my study abroad program, and even though that means it’s long-distance (womp, womp) he’s only a few hours away by train. So far I’ve been wonderfully happy and expect to be so for a while.  🙂

In other news… I’m back to being a suburb gal. The biggest difference between suburb and city is that here, everything is so spread out. Not that Buenos Aires wasn’t– as the seventh largest city in the world I would call it anything BUT that. I guess the difference is that it’s easier to get around in a city. A half-hour bus ride wasn’t so bad because the bus stops were generally no more than three blocks away. I walked briskly to the stop, waited for a little bit, and then got to do some reading or people-watching during my trip. Here, however, the train station is a ten-minute walk away, and even though the commute is the same old half hour, for some reason it feels completely different. I did get into the city today, though, which was a wonderful experience. My friend Brian took me to a Vietnamese restaurant for my first-ever pho, and believe me when I say that if you haven’t already tried it, YOU MUST!!! Seriously. See how delicious it looks??

Now take that deliciousness and multiply it by like a thousand. The base is broth with rice noodles, scallions, and paper-thin slices of beef. The beef starts cooking in the broth as soon as you get it, which is pretty cool and means that you get to eat it at exactly the right level of cooked-ness. Plus the sauces you can eat with it… mmm, the sauces. I’m so glad I went with Brian because he sure knows what he’s talking about. We rounded off the day with a lovely bubble tea experience, and then on the way out of the city I ended up on the same train as my fencing coach. Ha!

All in all, it’s been a pretty awesome day. And now I’m back (for realsies)! Which means that everyone has reason to celebrate.  😉