Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cooking like Calvin - Butternut Squash Soup

I love the comic Calvin and Hobbes, and especially the ones where Calvin and his friend tiger played 'Calvin Ball.' The game where the rules change constantly and crazily and it always looked like a blast.

My children and I now have a saying. 'Let's do it Calvin Ball style.' That's when we're playing a game of any kind that's gotten a bit stale, and suddenly you can just start making up the rules as you go. The only rule to making up rules is that you can't contradict another person's rules, you simply have to go with them and add more. And everyone has to have fun.

It occurred to me today that I cook the same way. These days, I cook 'Calvin Ball style.' Calvin Ball cooking is where the ingredients are always changing, but you have to try and have fun. I rarely find a recipe that I can use; usually more than half the ingredients are no-go. So we use a few ideas and then get to use whatever was in season and I happen to have at home. And try to have fun with it.

Today it was Butternut Soup.

I have two small butternut squash from our farmer today. It's raining and hailing, so I thought soup would be the perfect way to cook this up. Of course, then I had to figure out how to do it with our restrictions. Which seemed like, hey, that's doable.

I've got herbs, a few bell peppers, some frozen blended apples or peaches, salmon, some potatoes and some sweet potatoes. I've got beans I've made and beef. I've got a couple lemons, salt, and olive oil. I've got a 1/2 cup of pecans. And that's about all I've got that I can have.

So, time to Cook like Calvin. No rules but what you make, right? Just take what you have and use your imagination to come with something that hopefully isn't horrible.

I hunted around and found a really interesting butternut squash ravioli recipe and it was paired with a sauce that had sage, parsley, thyme, and pecans. And I know I've seen some African soup recipes with sweet potato or squash paired with peanut butter. So I'm thinking: butternut squash, roasted and blended up.

I can make a strong tea out of the sage and thin out the squash with that instead of stock (I've no veggie stock and not enough veggies to make it, really). Add some salt. Make some homemade pecan butter and thin it with a teeny bit of olive oil. Add to the soup and blend it all together. Add the thyme, cook for a while, and then add the parsley at the very end since cooking seems to affect the flavor. Maybe add a teeny bit of lemon juice if it looks like it needs it. And then....we'll see how it turns out!

I'm kind of debating if I want to add apples to this or not...maybe make the tea and mix blended cooked apple with it? That's a possibility. I think that might work. There's apple sausage with sage, so I know that doesn't go poorly with it, and I've had apples and pecans as a desert before. Don't know about the apples and parsley or thyme, but I'm willing to chance it!

Not really great for a soup. I cooked and blended up some apples into a slurry and added that to the butternut squash. Added the sage tea, the parsley and thyme, and then ground up the pecans and add them like that.

There were too many apples, so it was FAR too sweet. I didn't have enough herbs to really add enough flavor, so I'll wait on this next time until I've grown more. The pecan and butternut squash flavor turned out well, but the ground pecans thicken it quite a bit. I was already having thickness issues so this made it nearly like a paste rather than a soup. Too thick.

It also lacked something, a flavor that in the past I might have added with soy sauce or mushrooms. Now, I might chop and toast the pecans rather than grind them up. That might work, for next time.

However, right now, I think the soup will work if we spread it out thin and dehydrate it. Break it into pieces and it might be a nice snack to take with us. The kids agree. So we're going to try that with it tomorrow and see how it goes!

This is pretty common for calvin ball cooking - a lot of mistakes with a few successes we can use.

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