Thursday, January 28, 2010

This week's soup: Butternut Squash Bisque with a Thai kick!

On a recent trip to the market, I found a beautiful butternut squash for $1! Into my bag it went and I had just the recipe in mind. A couple years ago, Bon Appetit published a recipe for Curried Butternut Squash Bisque. I've since made it on numerous occasions and I pass the recipe out to friends frequently. Easy to make, it's even faster if you have a stick blender. The spice from the Thai curry paste gives it a little heat to add even more warmth on cool days. (Fear not, the sweetness of the squash balances the heat of the curry.) Even without the curry paste, this would make a great butternut squash bisque.

Curried Butternut Squash Bisque
adapted from Bon Appetit

  • 1 4-pound butternut squash
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 apple, peeled and chopped
  • 2-4 tsp. Thai curry paste, preferably red
  • 3 14-oz. cans low sodium chicken broth, or 6 cups homemade
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • Fresh chopped cilantro, to garnish

Preheat oven to 375F. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Brush both sides with olive oil, then place, cut side down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 1 hour. Remove and allow to cool slightly. Once cool enough to handle, scoop out the squash and discard the skins. You should have about 4 cups.

Melt butter with 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large pot. Add the onion, carrots and apple and cook about 5 minutes. Add the curry paste, stir, and cook another 2 minutes. Add the squash, bay leaves and stock. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for about an hour.

Remove the bay leaves. Puree the soup using a stick blender or in a blender or food processor. Return to the pot and stir in the cream, if using, and the honey. Season to taste with salt.

Serve warm, garnished with fresh chopped cilantro.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Banh Mi - Oh my!

There are two things about me that I have to share before I start this post: 1) I LOVE Vietnamese food; 2) I am a junkie for food magazines but I rarely make the recipes in them. If you share either of these characteristics with me, read on!

It's true. I devour my monthly food magazines. I tear out recipes I want to try and then... well, they pile up in various places all over my house. Usually that's about it. (I know there are a lot of you just like me!). But I was reading the January Bon Appetit recently and eagerly tore out a recipe for Pork meatball Banh Mi. It appeared in a meatball article which I expected to be full of Italian classics. I was pleasantly surprised when I found this one and the photo looked good enough to eat. I decided to make it that very weekend.

The complete recipe is below, straight from epi. I left off the jalapenos (my mayo was zippy enough). One thing very worth noting is that the meatball mix and mayo can be made a day ahead. I was making this for lunch so saving some time in the morning was a huge plus. Also, I'd recommend Thai basil if you can find it. If not, no biggie - I only had regular and it tasted great, but the flavor would have been just a little more authentic with the Thai variety.

My husband and I devoured these and decided they'd make a delicious app too - pop a meatball, some of the quick pickled daikon and carrot, and a little of the mayo into a lettuce cup for a nice quick nibble. (OK, now I want some...)

By the way, Banh Mi can be made lots of different ways - if you have another variety you like, please leave a comment. I'd love to try some others!

ithout any further ado, my first recipe of 2010. It's a real winner.

Pork Meatball Banh Mi
Recipe from Bon Appetit, January 2010, also on epicurious

Hot Chili Mayo:

  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)*


  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)*
  • 1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt


  • 2 cups coarsely grated carrots
  • 2 cups coarsely grated peeled daikon (Japanese white radish)**
  • 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
  • 4 10-inch-long individual baguettes or four 10-inch-long pieces French-bread baguette (cut from 2 baguettes)
  • Thinly sliced jalapeño chiles
  • 16 large fresh cilantro sprigs
Hot Chili Mayo:Stir all ingredients in small bowl. Season with salt. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Meatballs:Line rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Gently mix all ingredients in large bowl. Using moistened hands and scant tablespoonful for each, roll meat mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Arrange on baking sheet. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Sandwiches:Toss first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour, tossing occasionally.

Preheat oven to 300°F. Heat sesame oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of meatballs. Sauté until brown and cooked through, turning meatballs often and lowering heat if browning too quickly, about 15 minutes. Transfer meatballs to another rimmed baking sheet. Place in oven. Repeat with remaining meatballs.

Cut each baguette or baguette piece horizontally in half. Pull out enough bread from each bread half to leave 1/2-inch-thick shell. Spread hot chili mayo over each bread shell. Arrange jalapeños, then cilantro, in bottom halves. Fill each with 1/4 of meatballs. Drain pickled vegetables; place atop meatballs. Press on baguette tops.

*Available in the Asian foods section of many supermarkets and at Asian markets.
**Available at some supermarkets and at Asian markets.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Restaurant review: Brasa Grille

After a break of a couple of months, Ladyberd's Kitchen is back in business. I'll save my excuses for another post. But first, I have to tell you about this little gem of a restaurant...

Tucked in the corner of Hickory Square Mall in Chatham, this family-run Portuguese restaurant serves up food that'll knock your socks off (perhaps its the garlic!). With a few seats at the granite bar facing the open kitchen and a handful of tables, be sure to call ahead for a reservation. Upon entering, you'll be greeted by Claudio or one of his family. Fresh bread and olives are brought to every table and you'll find deliciously fruity Portuguese Extra Virgin Olive oil for dipping.

Don't fill up on bread though! I went on a Tuesday evening with one of my girlfriends. As we perused the menu, we were informed of the daily specials: grilled whole red snapper or Chilean Sea bass fillet. We both chose items from the regular menu. To start we shared an order of clams with cilantro and garlic sauce. A dozen or so clams came in a pot with a light sauce loaded with cilantro and garlic. (Note: now would be a good time for the bread!) We soaked up the sauce with some of the bread and already swore we'd come back - even if only for those clams!
Our main dishes gave us more reason for a return visit. I opted for my favorite Portuguese dish: Carne de Porco Alentejana, or pork and clams. I was served an entire pot of chunks of tender, marinated pork and browned potatoes in a cilantro sauce. Five clams completed the dish. Lighter than any pork and clams I've ever had, it was full of flavor. Some pickled vegetables lend just the right amount of acidity to this hearty dish. I ate about a third of it and had to have the rest wrapped up to take home.
My friend chose the Bitoque, a grilled shell steak topped with fresh ham, a fried egg and their special grilling sauce. A pile of homemade potato chips came on the side. Ordered medium, the steak had a warm pink center and was another very sizable portion. The egg looked perfectly cooked with a bright yellow runny yolk.
A glance around proved that all the portions are huge - paella looked big enough to serve at least two (or one with lots leftover - even better!).
All in all, friendly service and delicious, fresh Portuguese food put Brasa Grille on the list of restaurants I'll visit again and again. If you're looking for good Portuguese, give it a try - it's a lot easier to park than in the Ironbound district of Newark... And as I told the owner: it's as good as any Portuguese food I had in Lisbon!

Brasa Grille on Urbanspoon
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