One of the best things about having friends for dinner is it inspires me to clean the WHOLE house. So for a couple of hours, the house is all clean. Then I tear apart and create happy havoc the kitchen. The kids bring the toys back out. Spills begin to occur. And once again we are back to where we started. Ahhhh well it was fun while it lasted.
The other thing I love about guests is trying out new recipes. I know a lot of people who only make tried and true dishes. Things they know turn out well every time. Not me! Fool that I am, I usually tend to see this as an opportunity to try something new or experiment. Luckily, most of the time, the food turns out pretty well if not very good! (Can you tell I typed that while knocking on my wooden desk and my head?)
The weather was cool again and I was still in the mood for soup. I also wanted to practice that amazing French bread again. That decided, I thought I'd add some green salad. Paul doesn't eat any soup at all so I wanted to do a salad he would like. He loves Caesar salad and I have admit, when it is a good one, it is one of my favorites too.
Caesar salad and I are no strangers. I have made this recipe and that for years. Most of the time the ingredients are all the same or similar. In fact really it has been quite a while since I followed a recipe. I was getting lazy and sloppy and the dressing hadn't been coming out quite as well as in days of old. Hence my decision to find a new recipe again. Where did I go? To whom did I seek advice? A fellow blogger of course. Peter at Kalofagas has never let me down so far. His Caesar had all the ingredients I have been using but the portions were actually laid out. This is where I had been lacking. Peter's recipe was well balanced and creamy. I probably added an extra clove of garlic as I am obsessed with garlic and can never have enough. And let me tell you, I can find nothing wrong with this recipe. It is simple and so delicious.... In fact... I am hungry. It is dinner time. I must retreat to make it again, NOW! I see no reason to really mess with any other set of ingredients. Go for this one! Thanks Peter.
I wanted a soup that just sang fall. As I had never made butternut squash soup, I searched for a good recipe. After a glance at this and that, I came across a very simple recipe that sounded just right at June's site Thyme for Food. It was my first time on June's blog and I am so glad I found it. She has really got some good looking recipes there. I might just try her No-Knead Bread this weekend! The only modification I really did was to add a leek. I have been so into leeks lately and had a bunch here. I also topped it with one of the homemade croutons I made for the salad and some sage fried in butter. I wanted whole sage leaves but the market was out. Go figure! So I had some nice Greek sage that I just sauteed in butter on the stove for a few minutes. Here is June's recipe with my changes.
Butternut Squash Soup
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 leek chopped
1/2 onion chopped
2 gloves galic chopped
1 3lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into even small chunks
6 cups chicken broth (48 oz)
1/4 tsp dried thyme
pinch or two of fresh grated nutmeg
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
Melt the butter in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the squash, chicken broth, dried thyme and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer and cover. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook until the squash is tender, 20 to 30 minutes.
Remove from the heat. Puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor, or in the stockpot with an immersion blender until smooth.
Return the pureed soup the heat. Stir in the heavy cream. Bring to a brief simmer, then remove from the heat. If the soup is too thick, thin it out with additional broth or water. Season to taste with salt and pepper and more nutmeg if desired.
Top with fried sage and homemade crouton.
Serves 4 to 6 as a main meal
Did I like the soup? Oh yes! My guests just loved it too. I even served it the following day again to my sister and her husband. They inhaled it! It was smooth and subtle and very festively fall.
Now soup and salad with homemade bread are certainly enough for me. But I like to fatten up my guests and spoil them as best I can. I also need to give Paul something with more substance than just salad. So I marinated some flank steak which he threw on the grill. When I say it was a cool day, I am talking 60's and our grill is just about 5 feet from the kitchen so I grill year round! I thought another earthy vegetable would be nice. And what goes better with some steak than mushrooms. I based my recipe off of a recipe I had done before from Bon Appetit December 1999. It is Creamy Sautéed Mushrooms with Toast. When I made it for my aunts 60th birthday, the crowd inhaled it. Now this recipe is for 30 appetizer servings so for a side to dinner, I simply used one box/carton of button mushrooms and just splashed in the Marsala and heavy cream until it felt right. Any way you do it, you just can't go wrong with mushrooms, marsala and cream! So very very good.
So here's to good friends, good food, good wine and cooking and sharing! Cheers!