Winter Doldrums

Dinner:  January 26, 2009

It’s time to come clean. Posting has been light because yes, I am still crazy-busy, with my long commute and full, draining days, but also, I feel like I’m in a bit of a slump. I just haven’t been feeling the weeknight dinners, and it’s a combination of the fact that midwinter produce is relatively uninspiring in this neck of the woods, and that we’ve really been trying to scale back on what we spend. The economy, it sucks, and though we are still among the lucky ones with a source of income and a roof over our heads, it is impacting our day-to-day lives in a very real way.

I’m grateful for the squirrel-like impulse I had through the late-summer and fall to stock up, stash stuff away, bolster our freezer and pantry for leaner times ahead, but I feel like a lot of our weeknight meals have been less than blog-worthy lately. They’ve been tasty and nourishing, sure, but how many times can I talk about pasta with Bolognese, or the cabbage and bacon studded spaghetti that was tasty and filling, but lacking a certain “oomph.”

We made it back to the farmers’ market on Saturday after a week away, which was great, but the dwindling stocks of fresh produce were a little disheartening. Butternut squash is far from my favorite vegetable, but when it’s what you’ve got to work with, you figure something out. At least you do if you’re me.

Soup was the obvious choice, but I thought I’d use the squash as a component of a soup rather than as the focus. Since I had cooked a pound of Rancho Gordo Midnight beans on Sunday for a black bean and quinoa salad (lunch for the week), I decided to use half of the cooked beans as the base for my soup. I sautéed a sliced leek in a bit of olive oil, added the beans, the bean cooking liquid, and some homemade chicken stock, and decided to spice things up with some chipotle. I added a whole, canned chile to the soup, and rubbed cubes of butternut squash with olive oil, salt, and ground chipotle powder to offset the sweetness of the squash. I roasted the cubes until they were caramelized and set them aside for later.

The black bean soup had a good flavor, which I brightened up with a splash of sherry vinegar, but it was a little thin, so I decided to puree it with a stick blender until it was relatively smooth but still had a bit of texture. At this point, I let everything cool and then stored it in the fridge overnight. Yes, I actually did all of my cooking on Sunday, which was a good thing: after a hellish Monday commute, culminating in a walk home of a little over a mile, uphill and on ice, from the train station, the most I had in me was to put a pot on the stove and reheat everything. And toast some pepitas. And eat.

3 thoughts on “Winter Doldrums

  1. I hear you in regard to the winter and economic slump! It will be great when the markets will be spilling over with spring and summer bounty again, and hopefully the economy will change gears by then as well.

    That said, you manage to make far more interesting, varied, and delicious-looking meals than I do, for sure.

    Sorry for the hellish commute. And Providence really does need to step up the sidewalk cleaning operation. It’s deplorable.

  2. I know what you mean about a slump. Lately we’ve been doing comforting old standbys and trying to use stuff up out of the freezer. But you should count your blessings that you have a winter farmer’s market at all – ours ended back in October (sigh).

  3. Liz says:

    I love butternut squash roasted and tossed with wholewheat pasta, toasted pine nuts, onions that have been slowly ‘melted’ in olive oil and plenty of freshly grated parmesan. Bit of a calorie-fest, but just the thing for a cold night. It works well with CSI reruns, too!

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