Slow Roasted Bell Pepper Salad

Hello everyone! Guess what? Working crazy long hours is not conducive to blogging. Like, at all. I’d apologize, but my time card at work says it all. Plus, women apologize too much. I’m trying to break the habit. What’s everyone been up to? Ready for the Oscars? I’ve watched several of the movies this year, but didn’t quite make it to all of them. Room blew me away, though. It’s an emotional rollercoaster of a movie, but so fantastic and heartbreaking. The acting is phenomenal. I want it to win… everything! The Revenant’s been getting quite a bit of publicity, but I was sorely disappointed. I found it boring and very ridiculous. It was mostly a movie of someone walking and then every ten minutes something insane would happen, like he’d be thrown off a cliff or a bear would attack or something would be on fire. It just got to be a bit much…

 

Moving on from the Oscars, I recently read a fantastic book! It’s called My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss the author of the Wednesday Chef blog.  I hadn’t read her blog before and simply liked the idea of a book about Berlin when I saw it at a used bookstore. The book ended up being quite wonderful! Luisa grew up in Berlin and Boston. Since I went to college in Boston (Tufts, the same school Luisa’s father worked at!) and studied abroad in Berlin, I felt a connection with many of the places and foods she mentions. Her sweet story about finding love and where one belongs in the world really struck with me. Afterall, she basically lives my dream: travel the world, speak many languages, find amazing German man, marry him, live together in Berlin, raise German-speaking babies. Ahh… if only! Plus, the many recipes she includes are incredibly inspiring!

 

She mentions a Slow Roasted Bell Pepper Salad she learned to make from her mother and had me craving it right then and there. I had next to none of the ingredients she included in her recipe, but I did have bell peppers. Always one for innovation, I decided to plug forward on my own and give the Slow Roasted Bell Pepper Salad my own little spin. It was so incredibly easy and delicious! Peeling the bell peppers does take some time, but over all, it’s so quick. It may still be winter, but this recipe has me dreaming of hot summer days, barbecues, and long, hot hikes. The mix of sweet bell pepper and salty olives is invigorating. Topped with feta cheese, the whole thing is just perfect for a summer picnic… or a cold February day! I’ve made this three time in two weeks! It’s just that good!

 

Slow Roasted Bell Pepper Salad | Land of Laurel

 

 

Slow Roasted Bell Pepper Salad

3 large, organic red bell peppers (or several small ones)

1/2 cup organic, pitted kalamata olives

1/4 cup artichoke hearts

2 teaspoons olive oil (truffle olive oil is particularly good)

1 clove organic garlic

Organic feta cheese in brine

Breadcrumbs (I used a piece of German Steinerbrot that I toasted and crumbed myself the first time I made this, and whole wheat panko crumbs from Berkeley Bowl the second time. Both were delicious, so use whatever you have on hand!)

salt and pepper

 

Slow Roasted Bell Pepper Salad with Feta Cheese | Land of Laurel

 

First pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash your bell peppers well and place on oven safe cookie sheet (lining this cookie sheet with compostable parchment paper will making cleaning up easier). Place the cookie sheet in oven and roast the bell peppers for 45-60 mins. Turn bell peppers (I just use my fingers on the stems) every 10-15 mins as they roast. Slow roasting this way (as opposed to quickly over open flame) makes the bell peppers sweeter and more delicious. While they roast in the oven, chop up your artichoke hearts, olives, and garlic in to fine pieces no larger than 1/4 inch. Place these into a medium sized bowl and stir well together. This won’t take long, so you’ll have time to clean up, before moving on to the roasted bell peppers.

When the bell peppers are well roasted (black in a few little spots with crumbly skins), remove them from the oven and let cool until you can handle them easily. Then begin peeling their skins off. Rubbing with a clean dish towel may help with this. Drying your hands frequently will help you peel more easily too. As you peel them, shred the bell peppers into thin strips with your fingers. Place peeled, shredded bell pepper into the same bowl as the olives, garlic, and artichoke hearts. Add olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss together and serve sprinkled with feta cheese (I like quite a bit!) and bread crumbs.

 

Slow Roasted Bell Pepper Salad with Feta Cheese and Bread Crumbs | Land of Laurel

 

Hope you find this as delicious as I did! Look for My Berlin Kitchen if you want to try the original recipe. Have a great Oscars night, y’all!

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Butternut Squash Soup with Sage

Butternut Squash Soup with Sage

It’s winter in California which means it’s 60 degrees and sunny, but for all of us Californians it’s freezing. We’re cold. Very cold. We talk about it a lot and dream of early March when temperatures will hit the 70s again. It’s truly miserable here on the west coast. Pity us. Sure the east coast may get blizzards and snow, but we have days in the 50s! It’s real extreme, y’all!

 

Anyways, this cold spell has me drinking tea like a fish drinks water (constantly) and dreaming of soup. Because tea and soup are the only things that can warm my frozen heart fingers. My friend Katharine came to visit for a few days in late January. We’ve known each other since my sophomore year of college, fenced together on a varsity team, and then I basically lived at her house my senior year. We’ve spent a bit time together, you could say. While she was here we thought about going out drinking and dancing, but it was raining sprinkling and that seemed like so much unnecessary effort. Instead we hit up Berkeley Bowl (my home away from home! ❤ ) Berkeley Bowl is an institution here in the East Bay. Did you know Michael Pollan shops there?! I have friends who’ve seen him. I’ve read all of his books. I agree with everything he says. He’s pretty much my religion. BRB I’ll just be camping out in the produce section for the next month. I’m totally not a stalker, I’m just completely obsessed with him. There’s a difference, okay?!

 

Anywho, Katharine and I decided to make some butternut squash soup. I’d been craving it lately and it seemed like the perfect season. When we arrived at Berkeley Bowl, right out front was a pile of the organic gourds all on sale. Score! We headed home, made our soup, and contentedly watched Netflix for the remainder of our evening. She’s my friend match-made-in-heaven I tell you. Anyone who wants to stay in on a weekend is my kind of gal!

 

Our soup came out wonderfully. It is incredibly butternut squash-y. That sounds silly, but somehow the soup made the butternut squash taste amazingly like itself and oh so good. The flavor is very pure and not disguised by any ingredient. It’s a very thick soup, perfect for an entree, though you could thin it a bit if you wanted to serve it as an appetizer.

 

Butternut Squash Soup | Land of Laurel

 

Thick Butternut Squash Soup with Sage

Serves four to six.

Vegan, Gluten Free

 

Ingredients:

 

3.5 lbs organic butternut squash (one medium and one small squash)

1 organic red onion

1 organic carrot

1/2 organic white onion

3 organic stalks celery

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 bunch organic fresh sage

1 quart organic vegetable broth

1/2 teaspoon organic thyme

salt

pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

cooking oil as needed

 

Directions:

 

First pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, start making a mirepoix. Chop the celery, white onion, and carrot finely into pieces no larger than 1/2 inch. Place into a hot cast iron pan or an enameled cast iron dutch oven with a tablespoon and a half of olive oil. Add thyme, nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon paprika, and a few pinches each of salt and pepper. Cook, covered, over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally. You want the entire thing to sweat.

 

Mirepoix | Land of Laurel

 

While that starts to get flavorful, begin cutting your butternut squash and red onion into pieces about an inch wide. Place the squash and onions on two cookie sheets (careful not to crowd) and sprinkle with the remaining olive oil, a dash of salt, a liberal amount of pepper, and the remaining paprika. Place the the sheets in the oven for 20 to 25 mins or until a fork can be inserted into the squash without resistance. When they’re done they should look a little toasted. The squash should be a bright orange and the onions should be a faded purple-y brown.

 

Butternut Squash and Red Onion | Land of Laurel

 

When they squash and red onion is done, leave to rest and turn of the oven. Uncover the mirepoix (you should have been stirring every now and then this entire time). If you’ve been using a cast iron pan, it’s time to get out a large stock pot and add the liquid. You should be able to just add water to the mirepoix, but I had a container of vegetable broth that I wanted to use, so I added this instead. If you are adding plain water be sure you have liberally salted the mirepoix. Add the roasted butternut squash and red onion to your pot and stir. Everything should be cooked at this point, but bring everything to a boil to let the flavors intermingle. Once it’s boiled reduce to low heat.

 

I fried my sage to make it more exciting. Take a small pot or sauce pan and add about an inch of oil. Remove sage leaves from stems. When your oil is quite hot gently toss in sage leaves one at a time. They should fizzle in the oil, when the cease to fizzle, count to ten before removing them and placing the fried leaves on a clean towel. The leaves should brown in the oil. When you’ve fried each leaf, turn your attention back to the soup.

 

Fried Sage | Land of Laurel

 

Now for my favorite part! Your soup should be looking like this:

 

Butternut Squash Soup | Land of Laurel

 

It’s perfectly edible and delicious this way, but I am a huge fan of a much smoother texture. Which leads me to my favorite kitchen tool – the IMMERSION BLENDER! I love immersion blending things! It’s literally the most fun thing ever invented. You can blend a smoothie in it’s cup! You can blend soups in the pot! We’ll do the latter. Get out your immersion blender and go. to. town. It’s delightful! Once your soup is good and blended you’ll be able to truly tell how thick this soup really is. If it’s too think for your liking, now is a good point to add water or vegetable stock to the thin it down. Just simply stir it in. I didn’t feel this was necessary, because the soup was to be my entree and hey, I like a thick soup!

 

Now, crumble the majority of your sage into your soup and stir it in. Be sure to save a bit for garnish!

 

Thick Butternut Squash Soup with Sage | Land of Laurel

 

Serve and enjoy!

 

Delicious Butternut Squash Soup with Fried Sage | Land of Laurel

 

Have you made soup recently? Waiting out the cold weather with hot liquids? Live somewhere warm and want to let me crash on your couch for two months? Let me know!

 

Zucchini Crostini

I made Zucchini Crostini! Just kidding. They’re Butternut Squash, Pomegranate with Lemon Ricotta Crostini, but Zucchini Crostini rhymed so well!! 🙂 Hey, I tried ok?

Anyways, prepare your mouth for absolute deliciousness! I whipped these up real quick last Saturday when I had some friends over for dinner and OHMYGOD they were delicious! I served these as appetizers and then ate them for dinner. They were too good to have just five one! I hadn’t seen a recipe or anything to inspire me to whip this up, but I grabbed some things from my home away from home with the idea of crostini in mind.

Pomegranate, Butternut Squash, Lemon Ricotta Crostini | Land of Laurel

What you’ll need:

1/2 – Large Butternut Squash

2 tsp – Rosemary

2 Tbs – Olive Oil

16 oz – Fresh Ricotta Cheese

1 – Large Pomegranate

1 Lemon – Lemon Rind

1/2 Lemon – Lemon Juice

1 – Rustic Sweet Baguette

Salt and Pepper

Note: I bought all my ingredients organic. They taste better and are better for you and the environment, but this recipe would work with non-organics as well. This definitely makes use of Fall produce, so making these in season will result in better tongue tantalizing deliciousness. Say that five times fast!

Tongue tantalizing deliciousness.Tongue tantalizing deliciousness.Tongue tantalizing deliciousness.Tongue tantalizing deliciousness.Tongue tantalizing deliciousness. Dang I love copy/paste! 🙂

First, pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Then a little prep; I cut my pomegranate in half and removed all the seeds using my favorite method: banging the back with a wooden spoon.  Then I sliced my baguette on an angle, cutting long thin 1/4″ thick pieces. I placed the slices onto a cookie tray and sprinkled them with a little bit of olive oil.

I, then, turned to the butternut squash and peeled it before cutting it in half. I saved one half for another meal and cut the other into pieces a bit smaller than 1/2″ cubes, but just a tad bigger than 1/4″ cubes. You want a whole bunch of pieces to fit on a single baguette slice, so smaller is better! I promise cutting the butternut squash is the most time consuming part. Once the pieces were cut, I spread them out on a cookie sheet and sprinkled a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over them and tossed them with a wooden spatula.

When the butternut squash cubes were well oiled I took out my rosemary. I cut a bunch of rosemary from my parent’s garden whenever I visit them and dry it myself. Rosemary is my absolute favorite herb. My mother calls it my “Signature Herb!” I use it all the time! I scattered a couple teaspoons of rosemary, a bit of salt, and some pepper over my butternut squash and tossed it again, then popped the tray into the oven with the baguette slices. Watch your squash like a hawk! At 400 degrees Fahrenheit, tiny butternut squash cubes and then baguette slices cook through in just a couple of minutes! Mine took only about five minutes until the squash was hot and soft and the baguette slices were just starting to turn golden.

While the squash and bread is in the oven, take out your ricotta cheese and dump it out into a mixing bowl. I took my microplane and grated the lemon rind into the bowl. I used one lemon worth of zest, then cut the lemon in half and juiced half of it into the same bowl. I mixed the ricotta gently with a fork and added some salt and paper to taste. Once I’d finished the ricotta, the butternut squash was done cooking so I took it out of the oven and put it on top of the stove so I could begin assembling the crostini!

To assemble, I set up a little line with the bread slices first, then the ricotta, then the butternut squash, and ended with the pomegranate and a nice platter. I took a spoon and smeared a small amount onto one of the toasted baguette slices, then — using another spoon — gently layered butternut squash on top. I finished it off by sprinkling on the pomegranate seeds. I couldn’t make them fast enough! My guest were eating them off the platter before I could finish putting together the next one!

These crostini are simple, easy, and delicious! The tastes combine in a wonderful and unexpected manner. The crostini are decidedly very Autumn! Perfect for a cold blustery November evening! Who knows, I may even make them again for Thanksgiving dinner appetizers! This is the kind of hors d’oeuvres that seems fancy, but really takes very little skill!

Have you whipped up any quick appetizers lately? Tried making these crostini? Let me know!