Smoky Southwestern Salad Dressing

Smoked paprika, how I love thee, let me count the ways…

  1. On beans
  2. On meat
  3. In soup
  4. On salad
  5. In sauces

The list could go on and on.  Suffice it to say, this gem makes it into my top-three favorite spices list.  Anytime I am cooking Southwestern fare, I add a little dash for that deep, smoky flavor.  It has nearly replaced traditional paprika in my kitchen, as there is rarely an occasion when I don’t want to add a little char.

This simple salad dressing is perfect for weekday lunches, company-over dinners and a killer pasta salad. I like to drizzle it over a bed of romaine or spinach topped with black beans, warm quinoa and queso fresco. If I have fresh tomatoes or cucumbers, I add plenty of each.  Toss some up today.  Yum!

Smoky Southwestern Salad Dressing

1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup cup red wine vinegar
3/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp freshly-ground pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
dash cayenne, optional

Combine all ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake to combine.  Store in refrigerator for up to several weeks.

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Another Soup – Tomato Bisque

IMG_1860.JPGWhat I secretly love most about soup for dinner is that it’s almost a full meal in one pot. Add some bread and/or a salad on the side and you’ve got dinner in 30 minutes. The cleanup is a snap and the leftovers are always in demand, unlike other meals that end up taking up valuable fridge and Tupperware real estate until you guiltily toss them a week later.

Tomatoes are the number one reason I grow a garden. I eat them daily during the summer months, which makes it all the more inexplicable that until this year I could not make a homemade tomato soup that I actually liked.

Enter: bacon. It really is the key to deep flavor here. While you could leave it out and add a dash of smoked paprika to appease any vegetarians in the crowd, it wouldn’t be quite so delicious.
Tomato Bisque

Adapted from: http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2010/11/12/recipe-tomato-bisque/

4 tablespoons butter

1 onion, diced

2 slices bacon

4 cloves garlic

5 tablespoons flour

5 cups chicken broth/stock

1 28-ounce canned diced tomatoes

3 parsley sprigs or 2 tsp dried

3 fresh thyme sprigs (remove leaves from stem) or 1 tsp dried

1 bay leaf

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon salt (salt to taste based on your broth’s saltiness

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

Cook diced onion in butter for about 5 – 6 minutes or until it softens and begins to brown.

Add bacon and garlic and stir for another minute or two or until the bacon gets crisp.

Sprinkle flour over all and stir for 1-2 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to avoid scorching.

Add tomatoes and broth, whisking constantly.

Add herbs and simmer about 30 minutes.  Remove bay leaf.

Puree the soup either in a blender (in batches) or with a handheld immersion blender

Stir in the heavy cream and salt & pepper to taste.

Butternut Squash Bisque

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It almost never snows where I live, so when it does, making soup is a requirement.  Today we saw the first, and possibly last, white flurries of the season and while the kids were wildly planning to build a gigantic snowman with the 0.047 inches of snow, I was dreaming of a rich, luscious bowl of soup.

I still have a few butternut squash from our garden in storage and I have been brainstorming the perfect recipe for weeks now.  I wanted it to have layers of flavor, like my favorite tomato bisque (I PROMISE to post that recipe this week as well) and be creamy without masking the flavor of the squash.

I used several recipes as a baseline for this one, and I think it turned out to be the perfect combo of easy prep and gourmet taste.  You’ll want to pull out your blender, one of these amazing jelly roll pans and a heavy-bottomed saucepan or dutch oven.   I love this one and may in fact consider saving it during a house fire if all my people were safely accounted for. Other than that, you’ll be sitting down to a steaming bowl within 45 minutes.  If you served it with a side of sourdough bread and butter, I’m certain no one would mind.

Roasted Butternut Squash Bisque

1 large or 2 medium butternut squash peeled and sliced (or use a combo of butternut and white acorn, which you won’t need to peel)
4 medium carrots, cut lengthwise
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
½ a large onion, cut into large chunks
olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
salt
pepper
4-5 cups chicken stock
2 large fresh sage leaves or a pinch of dried
salt and pepper to taste
¾-1 cup heavy cream

2 -3 cups mushrooms
1 Tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 450° F.

Prepare squash, carrots, garlic and onion and arrange on a jelly roll pan.  Drizzle liberally with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Slice 2 Tbsp of butter and place on top of veggies.

Roast for about 20-35 minutes, or until everything is beginning to char, but before it really burns.

Remove from oven and transfer veggies to blender with about 3 cups of the stock.  Puree until smooth.

Combine puree with as much remaining stock as necessary to reach the desired consistency. Add sage leaves and simmer gently for 10 minutes or so to combine flavors, stirring often.

Meanwhile, clean and slice mushrooms and saute in a little butter.  They will sweat out a lot of liquid.  Keep sauteing until the liquid is evaporated and the mushrooms are coated in a golden glaze.  

Taste for seasoning and adjust.  Stir in the heavy cream and heat through, but DO NOT ALLOW to boil.  Remove sage leaves or inform your guests that they may find a “lucky leaf” in their bowl.

Serve drizzled with plain or flavored olive oil and with a spoonful of mushrooms for garnish.  Sourdough bread with butter is the perfect accompaniment.

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