Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches are the Food of the Gods...

I cannot explain my sudden passion for grilled cheese sandwiches (maybe my body needs calcium? or butter, I must have a butter deficiency!), but I sincerely hope that my future kid(s) love grilled cheese so I can have an excuse to make them everyday. Not that I need one, because I've been doing that already, but you know, it'll be nice to have an excuse all the same.

In other news, I have a cold. Which is totally all my fault. The temps have been in the mid-to-high 9os here this week, and I am stubborn about being SO OVER summer and ready for fall, and I made Matt run the air conditioner super high last night and I swear, gave myself a cold. That usually only happens to me in hotel rooms. So I have a bit of a fever and a miserable sore, runny nose, all of my own doing, but at least I can still taste things like my delicious grilled cheese. If my sense of taste is compromised, well, run for cover. Nothing bums me out more, and I might resort to violence.

We started looking rather seriously at houses this week, we have a few to go see this weekend and we've contacted a buyers' agent to help us. We also have contacted a bunch of mortgage brokers so we could pre-qualify and find out just exactly how much we can spend on a house before we get out hearts set on a bunch we can't afford. Through a total act of grace, I had apparently forgotten what it was really like to apply for a mortgage and buy a house. It all came flooding back to me last night, and I remembered that it ranks right up there with a gynecological exam in terms of invasiveness and my very over active need for privacy. Oh, yeah, that's right, in order to convince these people to let me borrow more than $100,000 I'm supposed to provide them with every private record, receipt, tax form, bank statement, social security number and blood sample on file for Matt and I, records I was told to keep safe and never show to anyone. How could I have forgotten? Blech. But, as I keep telling myself (and others), progress is progress. Trudge forward. Heave ho. Etc.

And now, to something completely more fun, y'all. I'm going to follow KatieKate's example and post any truly awesome recipes I come across, and last night's experiment is truly a dynamite place to start. Although you all will have to bear with me, as I made this whole thing up and therefore it's a recipe in Cortney Style, which means "measurements? we don't need no stinkin' measurements." Trust me, there is only so much damage you can do to this one.

Cortney Hall's Most Awesome Fall Soup Ever, aka Curried Pumpkin Soup
Don't let all these steps scare you, if you're worried about time, this can be made a day or two in advance, or frozen for later.

2-3 cups pumpkin puree (either canned, or you can be crazy like I am and cook some pumpkins)
2 sweet potatoes (partially baked and then peeled and diced, or you can bake them all the way and scrape out the flesh, but my way saves time)
2 apples, peeled and diced
1 med sweet yellow onion
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp Olive oil
1 qt chicken or vegetable broth, plus more liquid (water, wine, apple cider) to total 2 qts
Dried ground ginger, curry, and/or garam masala to taste
Salt, to taste

Optional: Half and half, sour cream, croutons, roasted salted pumpkin seeds

First, let me start with the veggies--Pumpkin and sweet potatoes are suggestions, but the truth is you could use butternut or acorn squash, zucchini, or even some regular potatoes as part of the mix. It can be as simple or complex as you want. I went with pumpkin because I've been dying to try cooking with real pie pumpkins from scratch, but it's entirely flexible. If you're going with my version, buy a couple small, dense pie pumpkins (not jack o' lantern pumpkins, they won't taste good) that are about 1 to 1 1/2 lbs each. Cut them in half, scoop out the seeds, and place them cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet with about a half inch of water (this will help steam the pumpkins and also keep them and their juices from scorching your pan). Bake at 350 for about 30-45 minutes, or until a knife easily pierces through the skin. I baked my sweet potatoes at the same time, which was just enough time for them to still be firm when removed. Let all the roasted veggies cool while you chop onions and apples. Peel the sweet potatoes and dice, scoop the flesh from the pumpkins and set aside.

Get your butter and olive oil started in a stockpot, and add the onions and apples, sautee until softened and beginning to brown. Add your spices so that the can bloom in the oil--I used about a teaspoon each of ginger, curry, and garam masala, and some hot hungarian paprika because I wanted it to be good and spicy, but these are all to taste and you can certainly add less and then adjust with more later on in the recipe. I cook everything to taste, but I'm crazy like that.

Once the mixture has become nice and fragrant, add the sweet potato cubes and the chicken or veggie stock and bring to a simmer. You want to have enough liquid just to cover everything. If it's not enough, add a little water. Add the pumpkin puree and adjust your liquid again. I used a bit of apple cider we had leftover, but water or even white wine will work too. Continue to simmer until all the veggies are completely tender and ready to break down. Taste a bit of the broth and adjust your seasonings if necessary. Now, you're ready to puree--you can do this in batches in the blender, but I prefer my immersion blender (some people call it a stick blender), and I promise you, if you make soup more than once a year you should invest in one of these--I Heart My Immersion Blender. Anyway, puree the soup until nice and smooth, and again, taste for seasonings and also consistency--if it's too thick and you've got babyfood instead of soup, add some more liquid.

Now, you can stop right here if you like, the soup is perfectly good enough to eat as is and it will be delicious. You can also freeze half at this point, as there will be more than enough, trust me. But, me, I like to go a bit further. So here's how I served mine:

Take out the portion you'll be serving (say, four bowls full) and add a Tbsp of cream or half and half per serving, stir well to blend. Dish the soup out into individual bowls, top with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkling of roasted pumpkin seeds, and a few croutons (I usually make my own, and like pumpernickle especially for this fall soup). Serve, and let everyone ooh and ahh over what a genius you are.

Now if you make this, you must tell me how it went. Katie's enchiladas were so amazingly good that I had to pay it forward with an equally awesome recipe. Enjoy!


Shanna, Adam and Gracen said...

num-num (gracen language)--this will be a good weekend project!

good luck house hunting. we went with lending tree and had about 30 different brokers fighting for our business. you really do win when banks compete. also, we ended up with an AWESOME guy and he'd love for me to spread his info if you're interested.

CortneyTree said...

Yup, we started with Lending Tree too, and then yesterday our buyers' agent recommended a guy who seems pretty awesome as well, so we've got several on the line--we'll see what they all come up with. Hopefully I can shake this cold and we can get some serious work done on my house this weekend so that it's ready to be put on the market in a few weeks! October is crazy and it's not even here yet!

KatieKate said...

ok. seriously...I'm months late on this...but I am so glad you loved the enchiladas!!!

Now, we did discover that corn tortillas don't freeze well at all. You may have realized this as well or simply known it in your cooking brilliance, but I thought I'd share.

CortneyTree said...

Thanks Katie! I actually did not freeze mine at all, Matt ate on them for three days and loved every minute of it (I'm a terrible leftover eater, because, please, I've already *had* that and clearly it is time for me to make something new--which is why we are a great Jack Sprat Couple). They really are the best enchiladas ever! My Father in Law is helping me out with tons of work over at my house, so I'm going to fix a big batch for them as a thank you.