Happy Summer Solstice to everyone. It’s the longest day of the year and the start of summer. It’s all downhill from here.
It’s also National Aboriginal Day up here in Canuckland. In anticipation of this day, the Harper government has decided to join the US, New Zealand and Australia in their stand to stop the United Nations from passing a declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. I mean, they have they’re own freaking day, who needs basic human rights?!?! Dreamcatchers and fry bread for everyone!To make natives even more nostalgic for the good old days, the Harper government has pretty much raindanced the life out of the the Kelowna Accord, a plan laid out by the previous Liberal government and the provincial leaders to provide $5 billion over five years to address many of the inequities facing Canada's aboriginal population.
Thanks to a cold, my body has been under the control of Captain Mucus and his sidekick Boy Phlegm for the last few days. I’ve managed to shake most of it off. Unfortunately, most of it shook off onto my DH. As long as he gets a steady supply of canned chicken noodle soup, Ho Yan Hor cha and PS2, he’ll be ok. Consider it part Jewish, part Chinese, part pubescent boy medicine.
What do you mean, 'What is Ho Yan Hor cha?'
Seriously, get a Chinese friend.
They'll tell you that Ho Yan Hor cha is a magical herbal tea that can cure everything from the flu to dandruff to a New Year's Eve hangover. It has stuff like double golden rabbit bile powder and red phoenix flower stamen and ear of ginseng monkeys in it. (I've got no idea what's in it but it makes DH feel better.)
Today I picked up my box of organic produce from Nanoose Edibles, a local farm. Each week I get a box of fresh veggies and fruit as part of their produce box program. There was enough stuff to fill a whole shelf in my fridge. Amongst the crazy lettuces, English peas, baby beets, local strawberries, purple kohlrabi (picture above) and other goodies was a tomato plant and a stash of chamomile-lemon balm tea. It’s going to be grand playing with these ingredients. Considering how cool it has been this spring, I’m amazed at how awesome of a bounty we’re already getting from them.
We’ve definitely into salad season. I’m thinking of digging right into my produce box and making a mixed green salad with strawberries with orange-poppy seed dressing. I have a piece of smoked salmon from our neighbourhood fishmonger that will pair up nicely with some homemade bread and the last of a wedge of pepper crusted brie that I picked up the last time I was in Vancouver. The bread I made is the Wheat-Nut Anise bread from ‘Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book’ by Laurel Robertson. It’s a sweet, nutty bread that has managed to stay moist for 4 days so far. There is a hum of licorice from the anise seeds and the cooked bulgur has created a chewy but still light texture. So far it has held up well to a Spicy Nutty Squash soup and a picnic lunch or cheese, real salami and olives.
Here’s my recipe for Spicy Nutty Squash soup. It’s an easy soup (only 4 ingredients!!) that requires almost no prep except for chopping and disemboweling a couple of squashes. It’s also a great way to use up cooked winter squashes. I prefer roasted squash since roasting caramelizes the squash but you can use any plain cooked squash. It’s also a vegan dish.
1 large or 2 small winter squashes (or 4-5 cups of already cooked squash). Any orange flesh squash like butternut, acorn, Japanese pumpkin/kabocha etc. Some are starchier than others. Some have more flavour. Just experiment. Pick a heavy squash with few blemishes and a nice solid flesh.
*2-3 tsp of peanut butter or another other nut butter
1/8 tsp of sambal oelek or any other chili sauce
2-4 cups of water or diluted veggie broth (1:1 broth to water)
1- Preheat oven to 325F. Line roasting pan with parchment paper or lightly oil with vegetable oil.
2- Slice squashes in halve lengthwise and scoop out the seeds.
3- Place squashes cut side down onto prepared pan.
4- Throw it onto the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 30-40 mins or until flesh is soft and cooked through. Let cool until able to handle with bare hands
5- Scoop out all the flesh from the squash with a large spoon into a blender.
6- Add other ingredients and 2 cups of water or veggie broth.
7- Blend on high until nice and smooth.
8- Dump it in a pot and add enough of the remaining liquid until it reaches the consistency you want. I prefer mine a bit on the thick side, other’s like it a bit thinner. It’s up to you.
9- Simmer pot over low heat until soup is just heated through. Stir consistently.
*For those with nut allergies, replace the nut butters with a couple cloves of roasted garlic. Just throw a couple of cloves of garlic with only the papery skin removed into the roasting pan along with squashes. They ought to be soft in about 15 mins. Remove from pan before they start to burn.
This soup freezes nicely. It will separate a bit once thawed but a bit of stirring will have it back as new. The smooth, thick mouth-feel (there's something quite obscene about that word, 'mouth-feel') of the soup makes it seem richer than it really is.
Things you can add to this soup (add only 1 or 2 additions):
-a squeeze of lime
-a sprinkle of chopped cilantro
-splash of good balsamic vinegar
-roasted veggies (think eggplant, carrots, parsnips, or more squash)
-ginger-soy or teriyaki marinated tofu
-a sprinkle of chopped smoked bacon, pancetta or chorizo (If you happen to have some leftover from a previous meal.)
-a sprinkle toasted breadcrumbs or a homemade croutons.
-freshly ground pepper
Or just quit screwing around and leave it as it is.
I'll be back with more installments of my China trip. Right now I'm going to enjoy what's left of the longest day of the year.