Story last updated at 11/14/2013 - 5:59 pm
I miss having teenagers in the house. I miss their energy and their laughter and the way they would talk. Some of the slang is hilarious. I remember a few years ago when No. 1 Daughter referred to No. 2 Daughter’s shoes at being tight. I promptly commented that we could look for a larger size. Proper parenting wouldn’t you say? Getting the appropriate sized shoes for my offspring. Go mom!
Actually, at that time tight meant cool. This was explained between groans and snickers from said teenage daughters. A few months later I used the word tight in what I believed to be the correct syntax and was told emphatically that tight was no longer a cool word and for the love of all things cool, please don’t use it. Ever. Again. Particularly in public.
One word that has been with us for a while is “pro.” It means looking professional, top of the line, dare I say it — cool. I like this word and whether or not it stays in the cool domain of hipster words, I’m keeping it. I think looking professional and top of the line is a good thing.
This leads me to plating my food. It is true that we eat with our eyes first. If our food doesn’t look good, then we’re less likely to eat it, or even to taste it. It must be appealing visually. This sense partners with aroma. If a dish doesn’t smell or look appetizing, forget it. No one will eat it. No matter how good it tastes.
I enjoy plating my food. It makes me feel pro, as if someone could or would pay me to cook and to present this meal. Plating is also one way to get kids to eat those vegetables. Make it fun for them. Remember the clown pancakes and bacon and egg happy faces? Adults tend to prefer more sophisticated presentations. At least this adult does.
A secret to plating is serving the appropriate amount for the dish. This means, the half-pound of lasagna is probably a bit over the top. If it is an appetizer course, bruschetta for example, plate it simply with a drizzle of olive oil to enhance the flavor. This will also give an extra dimension visually to the plate.
Soups are one of the easiest and most fun dishes to serve. I have invested in white dishes so that the food stands out, and for the purpose of my articles, the pictures are more pro.
This week I had a spontaneous urge to make butternut squash soup. I had never made it before and on a grocery run I happened to come across some already peeled and cubed. It was kismet. I was obviously meant to make this soup. Someone had already done the hard part for me. The next decision was how to make it. There are lots of wonderful spicy squash soups with Thai or Canjun flavors, and I have a recipe for Indian spiced pumpkin soup. I decided to go another route and make a savory simple soup and focus on the garnishes.
A simple combination of chicken broth, butternut squash and dried thyme created a delicious autumn soup that was a beautiful as it tasted. I added garnishes of roasted Brussels sprouts and crab, which lent a sophisticated flare to the dish. A toasted crostini brought it all together. The garnishes are what made this dish extra special. If you don’t have crab, roasted shrimp is a great substitute. You only need a few. After seeing and tasting this dish I thought, wow, even Wolfgang Puck would be proud of me.
This week I present a simple recipe that can be eaten from a coffee mug or presented in a sophisticated style: Butternut Squash Soup. Even my daughters would say this is pro, or tight, or whatever the catch phrase is now.
Until next time…
Eat and enjoy,
BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP
4 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
4 cups chicken broth (vegetable broth is OK too)
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine squash and broth in large pot and cook until squash is fork tender. The broth should just cover the squash cubes. You may need a little more or less broth. You want a creamy soup, not a watery one. Add dried thyme. Blend well with immersion blender. A regular blender may be used. Be careful not to overfill and work in batches. Salt and pepper to taste.
Slice French baguette into one ½ inch slices. Drizzle olive oil over each slice and toast in oven until golden brown.
CRAB or SHRIMP
Boil crab legs in seasoned water and shell. If you are unable to get crab use shrimp. They can be roasted on a separate pan in the same oven as the Brussels sprouts. Season with salt and pepper and lightly toss in olive oil. Roast for 5-7 minutes.
ROASTED BRUSSELS SPROUTS:
1 cup Brussels sprouts, cut in half
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
Combine all ingredients and toss together. Place on baking sheet and roast for 25 minutes on 375 degrees. Let cool a few minute and quarter for garnish.
To plate: ladle soup into small bowl. Top with crostini, add a few Brussels sprouts and crab. Add a parsley spring for color.