The Weekend Dish – Roasted Beet Salad

DSC_0051beetsBeets, the beautiful beet, is vibrant in color.

beets

Its’ color is festive.

cut beets

When added to a salad it’s like a party in a bowl. A salad is a fine way to start a meal; leading one into the entree if you will. This roasted beet salad is a wonderfully, delicious way to celebrate Valentine’s Day, or turn an ordinary day extraordinary.

DSC_0073salad fixins

Roasted Beet Salad

6 beets, peeled and chopped into 1″ cubes
1/4 red onion
6 oz arugula
6 oz mixed baby greens
1 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup roasted pecans

Preheat oven to 400°. Toss chopped beets with enough olive oil to coat and sprinkle with salt to taste. Roast in oven until tender, about 40 minutes.
In a large bowl toss the beets with the remaining ingredients and the dressing. Serves 12.

Dressing:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp honey
1/4 tsp black pepper
Whisk ingredients together until thoroughly mixed. Ingredients can be adjusted to taste, sometimes, if not tart enough for my taste, I will add a splash of red wine or apple cider vinegar or will add more honey if too tart.

roasted beet saladEnjoy and Happy Valentine’s Day!

~ Sue

The Weekend Dish – Curried Butternut Squash Soup

curried butternut squash soup

There are a few food scents that upon detection send me to my “happy place” – cinnamon, cloves, roasting garlic and to a slightly lesser extent coffee and cooking bacon. A new addition is curry. This month, I have been making dishes with curry more than usual and I have noticed it is beginning to have that happy effect on me. Recently, returning home after making this soup, I am transported to my aroma therapy happy place. The faint curry scent coupled with the delicate squash create an olfactory bouquet I view as a little gift to myself. In the five seconds or so I am mentally reveling in this gift, my daughter exclaims, “mmm, smells good!”, a bonus gift!

The squash, with the help of a few supporting ingredients, is elevated to a smooth, warm, savory delight and allowed to shine.

_MG_8721soupFor this simple yet elegant soup. . .

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
2 Tbsp chopped, seeded jalapeño pepper
1 tsp curry
6 cups cubed, peeled butternut squash (about 3 pounds)
4 cups water
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp dry sherry

Heat olive oil in a dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Add onion; cover and cook   5 minutes. Stir in jalapeño and curry, and cook 2 minutes. Stir in squash, water, and salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes or until squash is tender. Place half of the squash mixture in a blender ; process until smooth (or can be processed in pan using a hand held blender). Pour the puréed squash mixture into a bowl. Repeat the procedure with the remaining squash mixture. Return the puréed squash mixture to the pan and stir in the sherry. Can be brought back up to a simmer and kept warm.

curried butternut squash soupThe perfect dish for warming a cold, winter day.

Try it this weekend and see if you will be transported to your “happy place”.

~ Susan

The Weekend Dish – Macaroni and Cheese

_MG_8317mac&chse Bringing the focus theme into the kitchen, the idea of recipes that focus on one or two ingredients became the clear and obvious choice for a weekend dish. Macaroni and cheese are two ingredients when combined create a simply delicious dish. In this backyard sister’s kitchen, macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. I don’t mean the boxed variety with the powdered orange cheese sauce but the made from scratch, whip up a cheese sauce and mix with your favorite pasta variety. It was the “go to” dish when I first started playing around in the kitchen with savory dishes. This happened mostly on nights when our parents were going out and we wanted to get creative with a meal.  Recently, I turned the dish into an appetizer by putting it in mini muffin tins and baking until crispy.

_MG_8331mac&chse

The Recipe:

Macaroni and Cheese

2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs flour
1 cup milk (I use non-fat)
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 pound grated cheese – I use sharp cheddar, but a mixture can be used with cheddar,     gruyere, parmesan; as long as the amount equals 4 cups grated.
1 pound elbow macaroni or your favorite small shaped pasta (I have also used penne before)

Preheat oven to 350°

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan, when melted add flour and stir to mix. Pour in the milk, add the pepper and cook over med/low heat until thickened. Add the grated cheese and stir until completely incorporated and smooth.
Add the cheese sauce to the pasta and mix until pasta is completely coated with sauce.
Pour into a greased 9 X 13 pan. Add 1/4 cup of milk to the pan and gently shake from side to side to work milk to the bottom. Bake in preheated oven until top is slightly browned, about 20 minutes.   Alternately, if you would like to make the bite-sized version place spoonfuls into a greased mini muffin tin. Use 2 tins or put remaining in a small baking dish. Bake for about 14 minutes or until crispy and browned.

_MG_8340mac&chse

We like to serve with barbecue sauce or ketchup to add a little tang.

_MG_8337mac&chseA salad and some green beans or broccoli usually round out the meal.

Enjoy and cheers,

~ Susan

The Weekend Dish-Creamy Tomato Soup

Through the wonders of an Instagram discovery moment, and the beautiful truth behind the line, “like mother, like daughter,” today’s Weekend Dish comes to you courtesy of Sue’s daughter, Michele Greene, one of the original Backyard Cousins.

During the chilly fall months in Chicago there are times when nothing sounds better than a warm bowl of soup. This time it was creamy tomato soup compliments of a little Bon Appétit browsing. In thinking of what to pair with tomato soup the natural choice was grilled cheese, however, I didn’t want to stick with your ordinary grilled cheese, so I chose a Gruyere and caramelized onion on baguette twist.

Hopefully this soup and grilled cheese keeps you warm on a blustery day. For me, the process of making homemade soup gives a whole new meaning to “soup for the soul.” It’s a process that cannot be rushed and must be savored. So often, our lives are go, go, go and it is nice to slow down and pay mind to the many detailed flavors and the slow simmering of a delicious pot of soup.

Creamy Tomato Soup
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
10 sprigs thyme, tied together
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes
1–2 teaspoons sugar, divided
1/4 cup (or more) heavy cream
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

Melt butter in a large pot, and then add the thyme, onion, and garlic (I use crushed garlic paste – great flavor and less work). Cook until the onion is translucent and tender.

Increase heat to medium-high.   Add tomato paste. Continue cooking, stirring often, until paste begins to caramelize in spots.

Add tomatoes with juices, 1 tsp. sugar, and 8 cups water to pot. Increase your heat to high and bring to an almost boil, then reduce heat to medium. Simmer until flavors meld (about an hour).

Remove soup from heat and let cool slightly. You will want to discard the thyme sprigs.

Now, you have two options: either work in small batches puréeing the soup in a blender until the entire batch is smooth, or use an immersion blender and work in the original pot. I bought a Cuisinart Smart Stick immersion blender a while back on a whim. I believe it was suggested in one of the recipes I wanted to experiment with and it had always been a kitchen tool that captured my curiosity, so I decided to give it a go. I can now say it is an incredibly handy kitchen tool.

Anyway, once your soup is properly pureed, stir in 1/4 a cup of cream. Simmer the soup a bit longer until all flavors come together, 10–15 minutes or longer. The last step is to season to taste with salt, pepper, and remaining 1 tsp. sugar.

You can add more cream, if desired, but I couldn’t bring myself to do. I always think of my Mom’s hearty and delicious meals that often use half the called-for butter, or creatively substitute Greek yogurt for sour cream. The thought of actually using heavy cream in a dish made me wince a bit, but 1/4 cup was the perfect amount.

While waiting for the soup to come together in the last 10 minutes of simmering, I began the grilled cheese.

Michele’s Chicago Grilled Cheese Round One
Olive oil – enough to coat a sauté pan and one long baguette
One onion, sliced thinly
One long baguette
Gruyere cheese, 1-2 cups shredded

Simply, pour a nice amount of olive oil in a sauté pan and place your sliced onion in it. Cook until the onion becomes caramelized.

While waiting on the onion, cut the baguette in half lengthwise. Put a very thin layer of olive oil on the baguette, and place under your broiler for a moment, just until it gets a nice crisp. Once the baguette is crispy place your caramelized onions on top.

Lastly, top your onions with a liberal amount of Gruyere cheese. Place under the broiler once again; just long enough for the cheese to melt. Enjoy!

Michele’s Chicago Grilled Cheese and Creamy Tomato Soup, Day Two

A few days after my initial soup-making venture, I reheated the soup and added apple and Roclette cheese to the previous grilled cheese recipe. Actually, I can’t take credit for that part at all. I have a co-chef that joins me in my cooking adventures. I love being able to bounce ideas off a fellow cooking enthusiast!

~Michele

p.s. If you want the perfect dessert for this meal, check out last week’s Chocolate Caramel Dandy recipe and vote for the Backyard Sisters entry in the L.A. Times Holiday Cookie Bake-Off.  Hurry! Voting ends November 12.