Archive | September, 2009

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30 Sep

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Colorful Market Cooking

29 Sep

One of my dear friends, Noa, introduced me to the market in Grand Central Station.  Prior to that, I didn’t think shopping for fresh goods in a train station was rational, but boy was I wrong!  She introduced me to the market a few months ago and I wrote about it here.  This time, I went back to Koglin Royal Hams and got the same delicious veal brats as last time as well as the Swiss cheese filled hot dogs.  As we were exiting I decided I had to have a pluot(cross between a plum and an apricot) and noticed that this stand had beautiful looking purple potatoes.  I thought these would be a lovely compliment to falic looking meat so I went with it.  I tasked Mike to pick up whatever veggie he wanted to complete the meal.

I decided to go with roasted purple potatoes with roasted garlic.  It was a good decision. They were easy, amazing, and I highly recommend them.

Going into the oven:

Coming out of the oven:

Mike’s selection was broccoli with parmesan cheese.  I steamed it first, then put the shaved parm over it and put it in the oven with the potatoes for 5 minutes to get the cheese nice and melty.

I was much more careful not to explode my brats this time and went with a slightly different preparation method.  I put them into a pan with about 1/2 inch of water and let it simmer slightly for 10 minutes (no boiling… except when I left the heat on too much). 

I still preferred the veal brats over the Swiss cheese dogs, but the dogs would be great on a grill. The Swiss cheese filling was quite yummy.

It made for a colorful (and delicious) plate:

I’m not the biggest broccoli fan but with melted cheese it is absolutely delicious.   The potatoes were, by far, the stand out on this plate.  I want to eat more right now just looking at the pictures.

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RECIPE
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Roasted Purple Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • Purple potatoes (we got 1 pound, but more would have been better)
  • Head of garlic (all garlic peeled and removed whole)
  • 1 Tbs. Olive oil (or more, whatever is needed to coat)
  • 1 tsp. Rosemary
  • Salt & Pepper

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Cut up potatoes into wedges or slices about 1/2 inch thick
  3. Toss potato pieces, whole pieces of garlic, rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste in pan with olive oil
  4. Cover with tin foil and put in pre-heated oven for 45 minutes
  5. Serve

It’s that easy!

Jewish “Soul” Food

25 Sep

The first time I ever cooked something (baking doesn’t count) that made someone say “Wow! This is good! What on earth is this and how do you make it?” was when I made Kasha Varnishkas for my roommate, Kim, in college.  Now I think I managed to screw that one up by adding about 6 cloves are garlic (I learned), but I think Kim saw the hope.  She has since begun cooking this dish for herself (and her husband) and it makes me proud to hear.  I have actually been trying to make it lately, however, the grocery store near my apartment doesn’t carry Kasha (boo!)  When Kim heard of this problem, she sent me a surprise package of Kasha all the way from the Pittsburgh suburbs.  Thanks Kim!  It arrived on Monday morning and I cooked it Monday night.

Now I don’t make kasha in the way that Jewish delis make kasha.  This was the first recipe I ever really experimented with.  Rather than follow the directions on the box, I decided first to add garlic.  Then the next round I added onions.  Then next time it was mushrooms.  It was slowly getting there.  Then I did an experiment that revolutionized kasha (to me and the family anyway).  I added cream of mushroom soup.  V’oila!  Sara’s Kasha was born.

The pictures look pretty bland, but it’s delicious.  I like it alone as a meal, but some people would probably prefer it as a side dish.  Added benefit: Kasha is pretty healthy! It’s a whole grain (buckwheat), low in fat, and gluten free.  You can add other veggies into the browning process or grilled chicken, but I like it pretty basic.  Maybe it’s nostalgia…


________________________________________________
Recipe:
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Kasha Varnishkas:

Ingredients:

  • Varnishkas, I believe, is just bow-tie pasta.  So buy a box and cook it up!
  • Kasha (Wolf’s brand is good and the only kind I’ve ever seen in normal grocery stores, and I prefer the large grain, though fine is good too)
  • Egg (check recipe on the box… some require egg and some don’t)
  • Butter
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup of fresh mushrooms or 1 small can of mushrooms
  • 1 can of 98% Fat Free Cream of Mushroom Condensed Soup

Directions:

  1. Cook Kasha per the recipe on the box (about 10 minutes)
  2. Cook Pasta per recipe on the box (start pasta pending how long it takes to cook)
  3. While the Kasha is cooking, brown onion and garlic in a bit of olive oil. 
  4. Toss in mushrooms and cream of mushroom soup into the onion and garlic towards end of cooking time for Kasha, just to warm
  5. When kasha is done, fold in soup mixture
  6. Toss with pasta and serve (I recommend with salt)

Korean BBQ

23 Sep

Thanks to my best friend from growing up, I LOVE Korean food.  Of course, this is quite a bit of a quandary since I’m allergic to peppers and Koreans LOVE their peppers.  Luckily I have been able to successfully avoid them by knowing what to order… kind of. 

Mike and I decided to eat in Koreatown after a very successful shopping trip at JC Penney (my new favorite store… who knew?!)  I had a list of places to try and we stepped into Shilla (on 32nd between Broadway and 5th).  It was only after Mike mentioned it that I realized that we had been there before.  Whoops!  I remembered liking it but being annoyed that they make you order 2 BBQ dishes to eat at the BBQ.  I wasn’t overly hungry, but we decided to go for it… Plus an order of Bim Bim Bob (in a hot stone bowl of course… aka “dol sot”).  Our BBQ picks were Bul Go Gi (my favorite! it’s thinly sliced beef in a special marinade) and Saewoo Gui (grilled jumbo shrimp).

(Apologies for the pictures… still using my iPhone since my camera battery wasn’t charging for a few days… fixed now)

When we sat down, we were immediately greeted by a spoon that looked, shall we say, protected:

The center of the tables have an actual grill in them.  They light them up and somehow they don’t catch on fire… but it makes for some fun table grilling.

The salad looked good but was far too red for me to consider eating:

The one thing that always shocks and amuses newbies to Korean BBQ is all the dishes that they put out beforehand.  90% of them I could not possibly identify (except that if it’s very red it’s probably kimchi), but some I really enjoy. 


Mike especially likes the crunchy fish.

The waiters bring the food out raw and throw it on the grill, then come back periodically to flip it and move it around so nothing burns. (Shilla has onions as well.  Each place has their own set of veggies they use). Unfortunately sometimes they forget to let you know when it’s done, but you figure it out and hope you’re not eating something that isn’t quite cooked.  The shrimp came out first and they were flavorful and delicious.


When the waiter brought out the meat, I was immediately concerned.  First, it wasn’t thinly sliced like Bulgogi usually is and second, it was BRIGHT red.  Kimchi red.  UH OH!  Sure enough it was a mistake and the right meat came out.



Once the bulgogi was done, we made lettuce wraps (rice + meat + whatever from the side dishes you desire to include all wrapped up in a lettuce leaf).


We also split the Dol Sot Bim Bim Bob.  Bim Bim Bob is rice topped with assorted veggies, a protein (in this case, chicken), and a fried egg on top.  You usually put kimchi in it, but I use the Korean soy sauce (with sesame oil I believe).  When you get it in a restaurant, you can order it in a hot stone bowl which makes the rice burn and stick a little to the sides.  This is my favorite part.


The meal ended with a sip of tea, which was especially delicious.  The waitress said it was ginger and cinnamon, however, I also tasted something floral, vanilla, and honey.  Whatever it was, it was a nice sweet way to end the meal.

Of course, none of the food at Shilla can come anywhere near to comparing to Esther’s home cooked Korean food. However, since I can’t hire Esther as my personal chef (the whole doctor’s hours would probably get in the way), it’s a decent alternative.  I will say though that I have had better in K-Town (and without the 2 dish BBQ minimum) for cheaper (this was $21 for the bulgogi, $22 for the shrimp, and then the affordable meal option of $13 Bim Bim Bob).

Overall Nom Points: 7 out of 10

Taste The West Village (Pictures Fixed!)

21 Sep

(Sorry about the pictures in the original post.  Picasa seems to have a glitch in the html structure right now.  AKA “red x of death.”)

There was a fundraiser in the West Village this past Sunday to support two public schools (P.S. 3 and P.S. 41) called Taste The West Village.  I’m pretty sure I first heard of this through a new food blog I am reading: Wined & Dined.  I found out later that one of the schools is actually where the daughter of a friend of mine goes.  BONUS!

(Funny/dorky side note… some web coder either had a huge typo or thinks they’re funny.  If you open up the link to Taste The West Village, the tab/site name is listed as “Taste the Waste Village.”  WHOOPS!)

Upon getting there on the beautiful day, I noticed it was nicely set up in the open outdoors space (parking lot? play area?) next to the school.  Unfortunately, while my ticket package specified the deal at 20 tasting tickets (thank you AmEx incentives), it turns out that was a typo and was only supposed to be for 10 tasting tickets.  I battled internally between making a fuss and sucking it up (since it was a fund raiser and all) and did so just long enough that the guy at the table threw in an extra few tickets.  It wound up being very fortuitous as we used every single ticket and didn’t have too many or too few for everything we wanted to try. Perfection. 


Our first stop was the liquor area (hey, it was after noon!) and we began with a very refreshing St. Germaine Spritzer.  We first tried St. Germaine at a wine tasting this past winter and fell in love, so we were all too eager to have some on this warm afternoon.  It was quite delicious, though precarious to balance with tasting plates in one hand.  No worries!  We downed the spritzers and made our way through the food.

The Restaurant: August
The Chef: Terrence Gallivan
The Taste: Ricotta Ginepro Panna Cotta, Heirloom Tomatoes, Toasted Pinenuts, and Savory Honey Pearls
The Noms: I though the Panna Cotta would be a weird texture with tomatoes but I really liked them together.  Great flavors and very fresh for the warm day.  The honey pearls were cool but I didn’t find the flavor.
The Food Porn:

The Restaurant: Bobo
The Chef: Patrick Connolly
The Taste: Fried Oysters, Tartare Sauce, Celery Salt
The Noms: Delicious!  Seasoned perfectly and friend without too much batter yet still remained crunchy.  My close-up was WAY too blurry (thanks to the sun beating down, making my screen nearly impossible to see and turning many shots a lovely shade of indigo)
The Food Porn:

The Restaurant: Charles
The Chef: Kristine Mana-ay
The Taste: Braised Short Rib of Beef, Parnsnip Puree, Golden Raisins & Pine Nuts
The Noms: Wow!  I have come to realized braised short ribs are one of my favorite foods.  Mike and I both agreed that the parsnip puree probably could have used a bit more texture since both pieces were on the very soft side, however, the taste was great.  One of the few dishes we tried and said to each other that we MUST try that restaurant in the future (which, in my humble opinion, should be the goal of the restaurant at these types of events)
The (blurry) Food Porn:

The Restaurant: Barbuto
The Chef: Jonathan Waxman
The Taste: Eggplant Agridolce with Riccota on Ciabatta
The Noms: It was good.  Great flavors and perfectly seasoned and crunchy.  Good for a passed hors d’oeuvres but underwhelming overall. Didn’t scream “Come back for more!”
The Food Porn:

The Restaurant: Gusto
The Chef: ?
The Taste: Tonno con Melagrane Yellowfin Tuna, Pomegranates, Arugula and Saba on Garlic Crostini
The Noms: I liked the pomegranate seed with the the tuna, Mike did not.  Overall, nothing amazing.  It did make for some interesting conversation about this season of “Top Chef” really being “Top Ceviche” (“Thees ees notta toppa scallop!”)
The Food Porn:

The Restaurant: Little Owl
The Chef: Joey Campanaro
The Taste: Sausage and Peppers, Stewed Tomatoes
The Noms: Unfortunately the peppers kept me out of this tasting.  It smelled quite good though (even as it stung my nostrils).  Mike said it was good but spicy.
The Food Porn:

The Restaurant: Market Table
The Chef: Mikey Price
The Taste: Peekytoe Crabcake, Warm Corn Salad, Peppercress, Chili Aioli
The Noms: Curious that looking back on this that it describes the corn salad as “warm” since one thing both Mike and I noted was how much we enjoyed the cold corn and how refreshing that was.  Luckily for me, the aioli could be done without, so I thoroughly enjoyed this tasty crab cake.
The Food Porn:

The Restaurant: Employees Only
The Chef: ?
The Taste: Steak Tartare
The Noms: Unfortunately there was some confusion as to whether hot sauce included peppers so I went without.  Mike did too.  I guess he’s not a tartare fan.  So we’ll never know how this tasted.
The Food Porn:

The Restaurant:Braeburn
The Chef: Brian Bistrong
The Taste: Littleneck and Razor Clam Chowder with Apple and Smoked Bacon
The Noms: Here there was more confusion over peppers, but luckily I was safe.  The bacon taste was great, but overall I found the chowder a bit underwhelming.  I guess I’m too used to my big chunks of clam and potato.
The Food Porn:

The Restaurant:Dell’anima
The Chef: Gabe Thompson (take 2)
The Taste: Lamb Ragu Sliders
The Noms: I couldn’t have it due to chili, however, Mike enjoyed the messy “sloppy joe” type slider.  (I think we’re getting a little far fetched with what we call a slider here btw).
The Food Porn:

The Restaurant:Centro Vinoteca
The Chef: Leah Cohen (yes… from Top Chef)
The Taste: Smoke Corn Soup with Lobster, Chantarelles, Bacon, Chili Oil, and Micro Basil
The Noms: Well first, Mike insisted I get a picture with Leah.  I flat out refused.  Nice enough she was doing this benefit, she didn’t need my bothering her.  And I stand by it! 😉  I also hear she’s leaving the restaurant soon.
As for the soup, SO GOOD!  The corn had terrific flavor and the lumps of lobster meat were perfect.  The bacon was also quite delicious and I was lucky that they could leave out the Chili Oil.  I have been to Centro Vinoteca for a bite and wine, however, I really need to go back for a meal.
The Food Porn:

The Restaurant:L’Artusi
The Chef: Gabe Thompson (take 1)
The Taste: Olive Oil Cake with Raisin Marmellata and Creme Fraiche Mousse
The Noms: I was impressed by this.  The cake tasted like olive oil (but in a very good way) and was incredibly moist with the perfect balance of salty and sweet. 
The Food Porn:

The Sponsor: Patron
The Chef: N/A
The Taste: Patron Silver Margarita (Patron Silver, Patron Citronge, Lime Juice, Splash of Orange Juice, Lime Wedge) and Roman Daquiri (Pyrat Rum, Lime Juice, Luxardo Maraschino, Simple Syrup)
The Noms: Thank you to Patron!  I love tequila and my margarita was DEFINITELY strong (a little too strong actually, I couldn’t finish it and had a bit of a headache afterwards).  Mike’s Daquiri was quite delicious.  Good way to end the day… well… almost
The Food Porn:

To close our fun afternoon, we decided to wait for the last tasting that we hadn’t yet tried.  An obvious, but important lesson: If you want to create demand for your product, run out of it early!  The burgers ran out by around 1pm and weren’t available again until after 2pm.  Before the meat had even hit the grill, the line started to form.  By the time we reached it, it looks liked the below.  And we got to the front just in time for my camera to run out of battery (and for them to run out of cheese and bun tops).  So it was iPhone to the rescue (though not overly well on the close-up)!

The Restaurant: Forgot to take a picture of the sign… so I don’t have details. There was some association with Johnny Utah’s but it was a different restaurant and/or chef?  I’m pretty sure it was the famous burger of or in the style of whomever this chef was.  Sorry!
The Chef: ?
The Taste: Slider (sans cheese, sans top bun)
The Noms: Totally worth the wait!  The juiciest slider I’ve ever had!
The Food Porn:

It was a very fun afternoon where we got to try some great tastes.  I will definitely be back to try out Charles and Centro Vinoteca sometime soon.

An excuse to use adorable poachers

19 Sep

So upon a shopping spree at Broadway Panhandler (thank you Lori for turning me onto this store!) I found these adorable egg poachers.  They’re cracked egg shaped silicone bowls that you float in boiling water to perfectly poach an egg.  I was looking for a good excuse to use them, so a night without dinner plans proved perfect. 

I heated up soba (buckwheat) noodles and some frozen veggie assortment that had sat in the freezer since who knows when.  Added some Purdue Italian Marinated Chicken “Short Cuts” (they are fabulous and easy!) and topped with the poached egg and a splash of basil olive oil. 

The meal was good but not great.  Would have been much better with fresh veggies, this brand of soba noodles were bland, and I slightly over poached the egg. Will know for next time!

Goin’ Greek

17 Sep

Mike and I decided to treat my dad to dinner at Uncle Nick’s, a Greek restaurant that just opened up this second out post at 29th and 8th Ave (their original is in Hell’s Kitchen at 51st and 9th). 

We started with the four dip sampler: Tzatziki (yogurt, garlic, and dill), Tarama (roe dip), Melitzanosalata (eggplant and tomato dip) & Scordalia (garlic and potato dip). Our favorite was the Tarama.  I failed to mention to dad that it was roe for good reason… Sorry dad!

Mike and dad both ordered the the Ellinki Compania which consisted of gyro, two pork souvlaki, pita and tzatziki sauce.  It was like a make your own gyro platter and it was DELICIOUS. 


I guess I was having nastalgia for college as I ordered stuffed cabbage (my college roommate Kim turned me onto stuffed cabbage).  I did forget, however, that greek stuffed cabbage comes in a white sauce and not tomato sauce.  I definitely missed the tomato sauce, but it was still good.

My stuffed cabbage came with pan roasted veggies.  The potatoes were especially good.

Overall, it’s not the best Greek restaurant I’ve been to, but it’s very good for the price.  They are consistently good (I’ve been to the uptown location twice and this location once before) and the service is always top notch.  I was actually quite dissapointed that we didn’t have room for baklavah!

Total Nom Points: 6 out of 10

Classic Tello’s

16 Sep

We were walking up 8th Ave in Chelsea looking for Italian.  The menu at Tello’s looked good and it had an old fashioned Italian eatery look to it. So we tried it.

I ordered the “Tello’s Favorite” which was Braciole & Gnocchi consisting of rolled beef stuffed with prosciutto, parmesan, garlic, bread crumbs, braised in a fresh tomato sauce.  The gnocchi was some of the best I’ve had. Texture and flavor were perfect.  The rest was just okay.

Mike got the Veal & Shrimps Milano with sauteed veal scaloppini and shrimp, with lemon and white wine.  The sauce was really phenomenol and probably the stand out part of the meal.

As we ordered our entrees, our waiter (who, by the way, was a bit of a douche) asked if we wanted a souffle for dessert.  He said if we did, he had to put it in immediately.  They had a few options, and it sounded fun so I went with the praline.  It wasn’t… exactly… what I thought it would be.  It was a plain (very plain) souffle that they poured a praline sauce over.  This melted out the full center and made it have the consistency of not quite baked cake.  Bland cake.  With delicious praline syrup over it but never the less… It just fell completely short for me.

Overall the food was decent, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat there.

Total Nom Points: 5.5 out of 10

So where is the bacon, lettuce, and tomato?

15 Sep

After a few comments, I realized that I forgot to explain BLT!

BLT stands for Bistro Laurent Tourondel. Laurent Tourondel is a famous chef who has 5 BLT restaurants and a place called Fish Shack. I have personally been to BLT Steak, BLT Fish, and BLT Prime. BLT Market is next on the list!

I have always had great meals there and the popovers stuck out in my head from my very first BLT dining experience. All the info on the BLT restaurants is here.

I also reviewed a lunch at BLT Steak. (and looking at the popovers they served us, mine were DEFINITELY flat)

Toys and Popovers Make Everything Better

12 Sep

I had a pretty disappointing day on Tuesday, and since I had been craving BLT popovers for about a week (since Lori gave me a popover pan for my birthday), I decided I would make them to cheer myself up.  While I was shopping for the ingredients at the store, I also decided that it would be fun to make a squash and apple soup with my new favorite kitchen toy, my immersion blender.  New cooking toys and pans make everything better!

The BLT Popovers call for very basic ingredients, and the secret is the grated cheese on top!  You’re supposed to use Gruyere, but my store only had a very little bit, so I mixed Gruyere with Monchego. I’m glad I did since the Gruyere was very bland and the Monchego was delish!  The combo was good.

I followed the recipe exactly (just cut it in half), however, it just… fell… flat… My popovers didn’t pop enough! They were denser and eggier than the BLT ones and not nearly as airy.  Don’t get me wrong, they tasted GREAT, but they weren’t RIGHT.  Sad.  The recipe says to turn the popover pan halfway in the over 15 minutes into cooking.  The other recipes I saw said to not open the oven at all… so maybe this was the problem. 

When I turned them, they looked more popped than when they were finished:

The finished product looked great but… alas…


To make the squash soup, I had Delicata Squash (like a pumpkin but milder, more of a sweet potato flavor) on hand and bought an apple and some sage. 

I have been cutting many things using the cutting method I learned for shallots in my cooking class.  It worked quite well for cubing the raw squash.

I was basically using a recipe I had seen, but knew I was going to vary from it (especially to reduce it… 6 pounds of squash was not in my future).  Unfortunately, this meant I added WAY too much sage and I forgot to cut that down.  WHOOPS.  It was a very easy recipe, however, that mainly included warming the squash for 5 minutes, apple for 5 minutes, added chicken stock (and the seasonings) for 5 minutes, then using the handy dandy immersion blender to make it all creamy. (I love that immersion blender!)

Even with the added sage, the taste was actually still great, but it turn it into a very, very mushy greenish brown color… it was not pretty… but it was sure tasty!  I knew it was missing a little something though, so I added some cider spices to make it just perfect (brown sugar, cinnamon, and a pinch of nutmeg).  Perfection.

Together, the popovers and the soup made for a delicious meal. 

As a side note, I  received a request for a view of my personalized NYCNomNom apron from Kim (my awesome college and post-college roommate who taught me a lot about cooking AND was a witness to my early cooking days when I hermetically sealed a pot).  She put my NYCNomNom logo onto my very own apron!  So exciting.

And now, a shot of the cook!  Is this my first personal appearance on NYCNomNom.com?

And of course I always wear my hair like Pebbles Flintstone!

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Recipes:
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BLT Popovers:
(when I perfect this recipe and make sure they POP, I’ll post any changes)

Serves six (approximately twelve popovers)

Ingredients
4 c. milk, warmed
8 eggs
4 c. flour
1 ½ heaping tbsp. salt
2 ¼ c. grated Gruyere

1. Place the popover pan in the oven. Heat the oven and pan to 350º.

2. Gently warm the milk over low heat and set aside.

3. Whisk the eggs until frothy and slowly whisk in the milk (so as not to cook the eggs). Set the mixture aside.

4. Sift the flour with the salt. Slowly add this dry mixture to the egg mixture and gently combine until mostly smooth.

5. Remove the popover pan from the oven and spray with nonstick vegetable spray.

6. While the batter is still slightly warm, fill each popover cup three-fourths full.

7. Top each popover with approximately 2 ½ tbsps. of the grated cheese.

8. Bake at 350º for 50 minutes, rotating pan half a turn after fifteen minutes, until the popovers are golden brown. (I do not recommend rotating… I think this may be where I went wrong)

9. Take out of oven, remove from pan, and serve immediately.

(Note: Popovers DEFLATE after a few minutes out of the oven.  To avoid this, take a knife and pierce the tops as soon as they come out of the oven)

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Squash and Apple Soup:

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of Squash (peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes)
  • 1 Granny Smith Apple (cored, peeled, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes)
  • 1 can of chicken stock (I used 99% nonfat)
  • 1.5 tsp. Sage
  • 1 tsp. Kosher Salt
  • Pinch of Pepper
  • 1/4 cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
  • Pinch of Nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Put a smidge of olive oil in the bottom of a large saucepan and cook the squash for about 5 minutes (don’t stir too often, browning on the bottom is good)
  2. Add apples and cook for another 5 minutes (same thing with the stirring)
  3. Add chicken stock, sage, salt, and pepper to pop and simmer for about 5 more minutes until apples and squash are soft
  4. Use an immersion blender (make sure yours can go directly in a pot on the stove) to blend down the soup (if you do not have an immersion blender, take the pot off the heat and you can put it in a regular blender in batches when it cools a bit)
  5. Add brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg (adjust to your tastes… if you don’t like sweet, add less sugar)
  6. Serve hot

Happy Nomming!