Saturday, January 30, 2010

Lime Almond Squares

Alot of people are passionate about lemon squares or lemon bars. It's understandable; the combination of tart, sweet, sort of gooey citrus filling and buttery, shortbread-like crust is good. Really good. There's almost nothing like the bright taste of a lemon bar to lift you out of the winter doldrums.

ALMOST nothing, because I have to inform you that this cookie is better. It's lime filling is not only a bit more unusual than lemon filling, but it has a more distinctive flavor and it stands up better to all the sugar in the filling and to the buttery crust. Plus the addition of toasted, slivered almonds to the crust not only adds another layer of flavor, but it also provides a nice crunch. Besides, this cookie happens to be one of my husband's favorites.

I'm not sure where I got this recipe. I thought I got it from my mom, but when I asked her about it she claimed she got it from me. Regardless of its provenance (sorry about the lack of attribution), I promise you that lime almond squares will become one of your favorites too.

Lime Almond Squares
Makes 16

1 cup flour
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons well chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds

3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon grated lime zest
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt

Powdered sugar and lime curls, for garnish

For crust:
1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line 8-inch baking pan with tin foil; butter foil.

2. Mix together flour, brown sugar and salt. Add butter and nuts, and blend together until a fine meal forms.

3. Press evenly into the bottom of the greased, foiled pan and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

For filling
1. Blend together sugar, eggs,lime juice, lime zest, baking powder and salt until smooth.

2. Pour filling onto hot crust and bake until filling is slightly browned and just springy to the touch, about 20 minutes.

3. Cool completely.  Lift foil from pan, peel off foil and cut into 16 squares. Dust with powder sugar and garnish with lime curls.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

It's snowing (again) and I'm in the mood for soup.  I first started experimenting with this recipe for curried butternut squash soup a couple of weeks ago, when a ferocious blizzard buried us in 26 inches of snow.  The roads were awful and my car looked like an igloo, so I made do with the rather limited supplies I had: butternut squash, an apple, onion parsnips and a load of pecans we had just picked up in Alabama driving home from Florida.

The first time I made this soup I used chicken broth and some cream, but when my vegan sister-in-law visited last week I left out the cream and substituted vegetable broth -- and the soup actually tasted better! The toasted pecans add a nice crunch and if you're looking for a touch of something creamy (and you're not vegan) garnish with a dollop of sour cream or, better yet, Boursin cheese.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup
Serves 8

2 smallish butternut squash, about 4 lbs. total
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 large onion, chopped
2 parsnips, diced
1 granny smith apple, diced
4 tablespoons curry
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
6 cups or more vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped for garnish
Sour cream or Boursin cheese (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Peel, de-seed and chop butternut squash into one-inch cubes. Place squash in large bowl, drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, add salt and pepper, and toss to coat squash. Spread squash on rimmed backing sheet and bake for about 45 minutes until easily pierced with a fork and slightly browned.

2. In large pot, heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, parsnips and apple and saute until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Mix in curry, cumin and cayenne pepper; cook, stirring now and then, an additional minute. Add cooked squash and vegetable broth to the pot, mix and then bring to boil. Low heat to simmer and let cook at least 10 minutes.

3. Using an immursion blender (or regular blender in batches) puree soup. Depending on your taste, you can leave the soup a bit chunky or puree smooth. (You may need to add additional broth or water if soup is too thick.) For an ultra smooth texture, strain puree. Add additional salt and/or pepper to taste.

4. Garnish with chopped, toasted pecans and/or a dollop of Bousin cheese or sour cream.