River and Rail-style Summer Squash Soup

In the words of the Dead Body that Claims It Isn’t in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “I’m not dead.”

I’ve just been busy. So am I going to take the easy way out with this post? You betcha!

I had the authentic River and Rail summer squash soup on my first visit there, and I loved the light flavors. I was naturally excited, then, to see a Tasting Table email sitting in my inbox one day with a summer squash soup recipe adapted from River and Rail chef Aaron Deal. Now, one doesn’t automatically think “soup” during the waning summer weeks, but this one is perfect because, well, it embodies all of those bright summer flavors of squash, leeks, and fresh herbs.

This is a great way to use up those last summer squash of the season. We had a few hanging out in our “accidental” garden (meaning we just threw seeds in our compost pile, never really expecting the squash to produce as well as it did), so in they went.

There’s not much to this, but it’s usually the recipes with fewer ingredients that taste the best because, well, you’re not masking any natural flavors. Just be sure to keep an eye on the leeks because they are quite fragile and can color easily. I subbed in olive oil for the 2 Tbsp. of butter just because we rarely keep butter in the house.

The garnish listed isn’t necessary, but it is an easy accompaniment if you’re so inclined. Any excuse to use country ham is a good time!

You’ll have to excuse the lack of photos here; just look at the Tasting Table photo. The soup will look like that, unless you pull a Bridget Jones and use blue twine not meant for cooking purposes and end up with blue soup. And Colin Firth sitting at your dinner table. In which case: lucky bitch.

I’ll be back soon with roasted duck, the perfect way to usher in the coming fall weather!


Sea Bass, Roasted Goodness

Augh, I’m so behind lately. It’s called, “I don’t handle humidity so well when I run, so I’m dead by the time I get home.” You can’t call it laziness if you crash as soon as you get home because of running, right?

Anyway, the other night I stumbled upon something kinda magical. I’ve used sea bass myriad times, frequently in fish tacos. It’s a substantial, almost buttery white fish that takes on different flavors so well. It’s a good fish to grill, but I’m coming to find that it’s especially flavorful when roasted. So, that’s what I did.

I adore rustic recipes, and I consider this to be one. A simple, lemony marinade really makes the tomato and fish sing, as cliche as that reads. It’s a bright, refreshing dish, the perfect way to start the summer send-off (thank god, because seriously humidity–I am done with you; but fresh seasonal tomatoes, I shall mourn your passing when the time comes).

My husband loved this one, and it’s earned sacred status as a possible pre-race meal. (His pre-race meal, mind you. I’ve tried fish the night before a race. Um, not a good idea. Not a good idea.)

Roasted Sea Bass and Tomatoes
Notes: I prefer to use a rainbow of cherry tomatoes as it makes for a more visually appealing dish. Tomatillos, which for some reason are often confused as being part of the pepper family, are actually of the ubiquitous nightshade family. Generally called “green tomatoes” in Mexico, they are the stars of salsa verde cruda (or tomatillo salsa). Tomatillos are tangy and complement the lemon used here quite well. If you don’t have easy access to locally grown tomatillos, just sub in more cherry tomatoes.

1 pint mixed cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on size
4-5 tomatillos, husked, washed, and quartered
1 lemon
Fresh rosemary and oregano, finely chopped
Olive oil
1 lb. sea bass (I use chunks since that’s what our local fishmongers have on hand)

In a large mixing bowl, stir the tomatoes, tomatillos, a few zests of the lemon, the juice of half the lemon (the other half may be refrigerated or frozen for later use), chopped fresh herbs, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle enough olive oil in the bottom of a baking dish to coat; place in oven to allow the oil to heat.

While the oil is heating, add the sea bass chunks to the tomato mixture. Cover again with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 minutes (do not leave any longer because the acidity of the lemon can actually cook the fish, which will leave you with ceviche, which isn’t a bad thing, but we’re roasting here).

Pour the fish/tomato mixture into the heated baking dish. Roast for 25 minutes or until fish is slightly golden on top and flakes easily with a fork.

Serve with a green salad or potatoes cooked to your liking (I went with what The Joy of Cooking called pan-broiled potato shreds, but really it was just hashbrowns. Don’t try to be fancy, Joy of Cooking.)