Sunday, July 11, 2010

Anatomy of a Craving

There are times in life when you want one thing to eat, and only that one thing will do.  Today was a day like that.  I decided I simply must have roasted butternut squash soup, pureed and with lots of intense flavor.  It started simply enough, a good-looking butternut squash that weighed about a pound and a half.

I cranked my oven to a very toasty 400 degrees, not unwelcome on this chilly, grey Alaskan summer day. I peeled and chunked the squash as well as lots of garlic, red and white onion, and red bell pepper. I cut some fresh rosemary and thyme from my little herb garden, and tossed all with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Into the really hot oven it went, with a gentle stir from yours truly every now and again (to encourage even carmelization) for an hour. After that hour, everything was all nice and soft and ready for the next step. Here it is after its hour-long roast.

Tender, sweet-roasted goodness! The garlic, especially contributes to the mellow roasted sweet flavors.  On to the next step, which was simply putting in a soup pot, adding broth, butter and cream.  I also added cayenne pepper, because I'm spicy like that, and pureed with my immersion blender.

My vegetarian and vegan friends can simply substitute vegetable broth, and appropriate products for the chicken stock, cream and butter.  The rich, velvety texture, the mix of complex flavors, and a wee garnish of cilantro completes the crave-fest. Obviously, it was and is delicious (sipping a cup while writing this post!). My new thermos and my tummy are both going to be happy this work week.

Once again, I must re-state the fact that I find it rather amusing that some people consider cooking difficult, or claim that they cannot cook. I do not think that is the issue at all! I think that some simply lack the dedication and follow-through for the task at hand, or are afraid of a bad result. Seriously, though, if one uses the right ingredients, in the correct proportions, and with an eye toward flavor and texture, you cannot go wrong. 

What is your cooking style? Do you fear making certain dishes more than others? Are you a bold cook, or do you follow recipes only? Tell me! I want to know!

Other cravings that Dear Husband drove me around like the maniacal foodie that I am, concerned health advocate that I am, to purchase, included this!

My favorite couscous-in-a cup. Couscous Parmesan, made by Nile Spice. My favorite gourmet goodie store carries every other variety, but I could never find the parmesan kind!  My good friend Happy Aly brought my attention to a mecca for foodies and health nuts, a store called Natural Pantry. Now, Dear Husband has by this point endured a trip to a farmers' market, the gourmet goodie store, another farmers' market and cheerfully drove across the parking lot to the Natural Pantry. I was so excited to finally go in there, I abandoned all thought of actually getting in the car with him, and began striding purposefully across the parking lot.  Who needs a car when your legs are moving even faster, and no need to park? To make a long story longer, I clearly snagged my beloved Couscous Parmesan. The untold part of the story, is that if Dear Husband was not sitting in the car, patiently waiting for me, I would have stayed in there for hours!  Foodie mecca - yay!

I also had to make a quick stop on Friday, at a regular ole' run-of-the mill grocery store for some cilantro, and an avocado.  But look what I found!

In Alaska, our Safeway stores are called "Carrs". I found organic frozen soy beans! Right there in the frozen section! Under three bucks a bag! I could not believe my good fortune!  In case your eyes are glazing over from my over-enthusiastic rapture at finding some decent edamame, I must tell you the side story.

The side story is that it is no secret to anyone who knows me, that I really, really dislike Alaska. Snow for most of the year, cool, gray and rainy for the other four months, it is, how shall we say not my cup of tea. I have spent the grand majority of my adult life in beautiful Northern California, and quite frankly, nothing else compares. Now before judging me, understand I have lived in Connecticut, Florida, Texas, England and Arizona.  Nothing can match Northern California's naturally mild climate, lack of humidity, natural beauty and general lack of natural disasters. I have felt more earthquakes in the last 20 months that I ever felt in 20-plus years in California.  I will not go on, but you get the point.

The only times (other than having fun with friends here) I have felt moments of pure joy here, involve the fact that Anchorage is a very closed society, in some ways.  People tend to stay indoors, keep to themselves, and generally speaking, indoor hobbies are pretty big here. To wit: if you are a foodie like me, indulging your passion up here is easy. It also tends  to make one gain weight pretty quickly after moving here. Or as one Alaskan nurse I know put it "the freshman forty". Ahem. I have been lucky, and have only put on "the freshman ten". It feels strange, and uncomfortable, and I cannot wait to get back to my normal girth.  Someday.

Do you feel like your situation controls you, not the opposite?  What can you do to change your situation?

Well, I'm off to make "suspended animation jello" for Dear Husbands' dessert. I call it that because to make this for him, one must drain a can of peaches or fruit cocktail, and put it into the jello an hour and a half into the chilling process.  I don't like it, but he does, and as you can tell, he goes out of his way to make me happy - so it truly is no hardship for me to try to make him happy, too. Eat well, my friends.


  1. The soup looks amazing! And I just went from having a vague tummy-rumbling to having a full-on craving for some edamame! And what were you up to with the avacado and cilantro? Guacamole? I want some. Or perhaps just an avacado, sliced up, with just a little vinegar, oil, s&p.... I think I may have to run to the grocery store RIGHT NOW.

    - Sarah

  2. There's nothing like a craving!