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Alaskatarian: Using fresh vegetables to inspire springtime Alaskan soups

Amy O'Neill Houck
"Bread machine baguettes" are a favorite, quick way to have fresh bread in a couple of hours. I use a basic French bread recipe and set the machine to the dough cycle. Then, shape the bread and let it rise again just for a bit. Amy O'Neill Houck photo

CORDOVA -- The kitchen gods recently conspired against me. The dog ate my cheese. I broke my favorite mug. I worried that bad things come in threes, and I hesitated to begin a cooking project. Hunger and too many vegetables in the fridge prevailed.

Selma loves soup, and I find it a great way to sneak in healthy things that kids aren't always excited about eating, like beans and greens. Jay Jay, whose tastes are slowly maturing, will eat the heck out of vegetables in their natural state, but resists dishes where the flavors have been cooked together. He's progressing toward soup. He now eats stir fry.

Fits and starts seem to be the way March is going. We began with sun and the days have lengthened enough that light fills my kitchen in the afternoon. And now there's new snow.

I opened the fridge and found I had, in my quest for fresh veggies, bought a little too much. We had fresh green beans, beautiful baby kale, and some cubed butternut squash all on the verge of wilting. Soup is the perfect solution. I sautéed onions in olive oil with thyme, rosemary and savory, and veggie bullion. Then I added the squash to soften a bit before deglazing with water. White beans and brown rice make the soup thick and hearty. I'll let it cook a long time, and serve it tomorrow when the flavors have melded.

Next, I'll make some bread-machine baguettes to serve with the soup. These baguettes are my favorite quick way to have fresh bread in a couple of hours. I use a basic French bread recipe and set the machine to the dough cycle. Then, shape the bread and let it rise again just for a bit. I have some baguette pans, that are rounded on the bottom, but you can also shape the loaves and bake them on a sheet pan.

Squash and Kale Bisque

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups carrots, sliced
1 pound butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon thyme
1 teaspoon rosemary, crushed
3 teaspoons vegetable bullion
2 quarts of water
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups baby kale leaves or full-sized kale chopped fine
2 cups green beans cut in 2-inch lengths
1 cup rice
1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar
Sea salt and cracked pepper to taste

Sauté onion in olive oil until translucent. Add carrots and squash. Add thyme, rosemary and savory. When squash is soft, add bullion and water. Bring to a simmer. Add green beans, kale, white beans and rice. Simmer until rice is well cooked. Add vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with crusty bread.

Bread Machine Baguettes

First published on my blog, The Hook and I. Adapted from the Black & Decker All-In-One Deluxe Automatic Breadmaker Operating Instructions & Cookbook Classic French Dough recipe

1 1/4 cups water
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 cups organic, unbleached flour
1 1/2 teaspoons active-dry yeast
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1 teaspoon canola oil

Place the water, sugar, salt, flour and yeast into the bread machine pan in the order listed above. Set your machine to the "dough" setting. Grease baguette pans or sheet pan and sprinkle wtih cornmeal.

When the dough is finished, remove it from the machine, and on a clean surface, separate the dough in half. Stretch each piece into a long flat rectangle and then roll the rectangle into a baguette shape. Place the baguettes into the pans seam side down.

Cover the dough with a towel and allow to rise again in a warm spot (approximately 30 minutes). Preheat the oven to 400F. Slit the baguettes down the middle with a sharp knife. Bake for 25 minutes or until the internal temperature of the bread reads 190F on an instant read thermometer. Remove baguettes from pans and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Originally published in The Cordova Times and reprinted with permission.