We’ve all encountered it. The recipe sounds great on paper—you follow all the directions perfectly, then you proudly set it on the table. How do you/your meal companions react? Meh. Food is the most subjective subject in the world, don’t you think? For every recipe you find delicious, someone else will perceive it to be mediocre or awful.
This happened to me a few months ago when I treated myself to an issue of Bon Appetít. The magazine had a lovely photo of a pasta dish on the cover with about eight recipes by a pasta expert. I took a chance on most of them, and while some rated a ‘star,’ none were really good enough to bother keeping the magazine around. One was a simple dish with shredded butternut squash and sage. Bob is picky about MANY vegetables, so I have to be careful with what I take chances on around here. He is tolerant about winter squash and I figured I could risk it. Considering all the seasoning and cooking, the results were—you guessed it—meh. Not horrible by any means, just…well, you get the drift.
Since I foolishly made the entire recipe (a whole pound of pasta), thinking I might have grown daughters visiting or the leftovers might be good, I was stuck with quite a bit of meh pasta and half a butternut squash afterwards. What to do?
First, I dealt with the remaining pasta. I sprayed a large pot and sautéed some chopped onions and frozen peas, then I added (gasp!) about a quarter-pound of thinly sliced Polish sausage I had hanging around from some other dish. I only gasp because, lately, there seems to be so much pressure in the culinary world to embrace a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. Now don’t get me wrong—plenty of people consume far too much meat, in general, but I’m not willing to give it up completely. However, even though I’d estimate that about 60% of my diet consists solely of vegetarian meals, sometimes you really can’t beat the addition of some savory Polish sausage to perk up a boring pasta dish. Then, to bow down to the New Mexican gods of cuisine, I added a four-ounce package of roasted, chopped, hot green chile, with its juice, plus about a quarter-cup of water. Then about a quarter-cup of heavy cream. I let this mellow on a medium heat for a few minutes, added the pasta, and turned this ‘meh’ dish into a ‘marvelous’ dish. The four servings I got from this re-purposing were extremely satisfying. I know, I know—I’m bad for adding extra fat, but I also added three different vegetables.
Then there was that squash staring at me from its container in the fridge. Since it was cold, a soup was in order. Now, if you find this to be a ‘meh’ recipe, I’m sorry, but you can always jazz it up with green chile and Polish sausage, you know.
Butternut Risotto Soup
- 1 tablespoon salted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- ½ cup celery, coarsely chopped
- ½ cup onion, coarsely chopped
- ½ cup carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
- ½ cup arborio rice
- 1-1½ pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into ½” cubes
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 14½-ounce can low-sodium chicken broth
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ¾ teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup heavy cream
- A sprinkling of fresh chives as a garnish (optional)
Liberally coat a 6-quart saucepan with cooking spray. Sauté butter through squash on a fairly high heat for 10 minutes, until the squash starts to brown. Stir occasionally; don’t let it burn. Add the wine through the pepper and bring to a boil. Cook over a very low heat, covered, 30-35 minutes, until the rice is tender; stir occasionally. Add the water and cream, then puree all. Adjust seasonings, if desired. Cover and refrigerate leftovers. Makes about 6 cups.