Taste Bud Geography


Friday night. Date night.

80P went off to play video games with one of his college friends and I had my girl El over to cook and eat. In past posts you may have learned that El was a huge factor in creating the food monsters that BS and I are today. So it was a mighty treat to have her over for a kitchen session.

The menu/plan: butternut squash soup and salad. Details to be determined upon opening fridge, pantry and through many rounds of tasting.

Before El got there I cleaned my terribly messy kitchen roasted two butternut squashes. Peeled those motherfuckers, cut them into pretty small pieces, tossed with oil, salt and pepper and threw them in the oven. Maybe on 400 for about 30 minutes, getting in there halfway through and shaking the pan.

Near the end of the roasting, I sauteed half an onion and two cloves garlic with oil, salt and pepper. I then dumped in the soft and slightly browned squash and stirred it around with the onion and garlic.

Enter El.

Like I’ve said before, I’ve only been using water (4.5 cups water) in my soups instead of stock. And I honestly think it’s great. It gives me more room to play around with flavors and really figure out what the soup needs. One day, though, I’ll woman-up and make my own stock.

Okay, so after quick consultation we decided on using harissa to give the squash some flare and heat along with my new best friend, curry powder. But of course it didn’t end there (get ready for more of this). With some more salt and pepper and pureeing the squash and water til creamy, we concluded that something was missing – there was no front flavor. Spice in the back, but almost bland in the front. El thought of adding nutmeg, but I threw out my old nuts recently and haven’t replaced it yet <gasp!> so we threw in a cinnamon stick instead.

In order to nail that elusive front flavor, El investigated taste bud geography and I pulled out The Flavor Bible. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a culinary explanation of the tongue, but I’m on the lookout now. Anyway, the *bible* gave us the idea of ginger (freshly grated) and lemon (juice from one).  We stirred that together, added a pinch more salt and we were finished. Oh wait. The garnish: dollop of yogurt and a few toasted pecans/walnuts (the nuts were labeled pecans, but El thinks they’re walnuts. They’re all nuts to me.)

And in case you’re still reading this super long post:

Salad: greens, diced avocado, queso fresco, pecans/walnuts dressed with oil, garlic, um, crap. El made the salad. Hopefully she’ll leave it in the comments (HINT).

We scooped up this deliciousness with fried corn tortillas.

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  • Britannia February 9, 2009  

    I’ve always roasted the squash before chopping, or should say once roasted it scoops out. Chopping before seems like so much work.

  • El February 9, 2009  

    Nuts: I’m sure they were probably pecans. But since I was TRYING to buy walnuts – and they were pre-chopped so hard to disern – I got confused. 🙂

    Dressing: There was definitely olive oil, lemon, pepper and LOTS of garlic. I think I grated (thanks for the new tip, Gansie) one large clove. I have no clue about proportions. This was kind of a crap shoot since I didn’t taste the dressing before dumping over the salad.

  • gansie February 9, 2009  

    time out. @britt. so do you split it in half or just roast it whole. and if you do roast it whole – how long does it take you. i chop everything up to help out my slow oven.

  • Rachel February 9, 2009  


    I gotta tell you though, once you start making your own stock you will never go back to water. You can boil the bejesus out of it so it’s incredibly thick and strong (therefore it takes up less space in the freezer) and reconstitute when needed.

    That soup looks great though..may have to copy it with the butternut we have at home. Regular, plain yogurt? Greek yogurt? Talk to me!

  • gansie February 9, 2009  

    @rachel if you have a beginners stock recipe, id love to have it

    i used axelrod yogurt, plain, low fat (1%)
    i dont love the taste by itself, but its great mixed into this soup or turned into a sauce.

  • conniecooks February 9, 2009  

    A very simple veg stock that I do when I don’t want to use water:
    1) Make a mirepoix – 2 parts chopped onion to one part each of chopped carrot and celery. It’s a stock so you don’t have to chop finely, large pieces are okay. (I’ll do a medium onion and one carrot, one stalk celery, pretty much)
    2) Put the mirepoix in a saucepan and cover with 6-8 cups cold water.
    3) To the pot, add herbs for a bouquet garni – about 4 parsley stems, 3-4 peppercorns, 1 sprig thyme (or sprinkle of dried thyme), and 1 bay leaf.
    4) Bring the water to a boil and lower the flame to a simmer. Simmer for half an hour or so. Strain the liquid thru a finer-mesh strainer and remove the solids.
    5) Note that you’ll add salt and pepper when you season the soup or whatever you’re making with the stock, so you don’t want to add it to the stock.
    Hope this helps – enjoy!

  • Britannia February 11, 2009  

    apologies for the delayed response. split in half length ways. roast for about an hour to an hour and half depending on size at 350 degrees.

  • Rachel February 12, 2009  

    Connie’s recipe is way more recipe-like than mine…I’m a dork who saves onion ends, carrot peelings, and soggy celery (because I buy a pound of celery, use one stick for ants on a log when I feel like being 5, and then forget about the rest of the pound in the bottom of my fridge for months) in the freezer. When it’s time to make stock, i.e. when I just bought a roasting chicken and it comes with an extra neck and I don’t want to deal with all these chicken parts lying around, I throw the neck and the bones and all the bits of cartilage and junk into a stock pot with the veggies. Add fresh vegetables if it looks like you have too much of any one thing. Add enough liquid to cover–usually for me it’s a 50/50 solution of red two-buck Chuck and water. Add bay leaves…my bay leaves are really old so I use like 6, but you probably only need 1. Cook until everything is soft or until you get sick of cooking it, then strain (and if you’re feeling exuberant, moosh up all the veggies to get every last bit of liquid out of them).

    It sounds way more complicated now that I’ve typed it up. Really it’s just something you throw into a pot after dinner, check on it every so often to make sure it’s not on fire, and then strain into a container after like 2 hours.

    Note that if you add any herbs other than bay leaves and leave them in for a long time, they can make the stock really bitter, so either do the quick-simmer method like connie says or just add the herbs when you use the stock rather than when you make it.

  • Yvo March 3, 2009  

    I gave you a simple stock recipe, hmph! It’s entirely similar to Rachel’s but I normally don’t add wine. But yeah same concept, just boil.
    Regarding the taste bud map I think you were looking for… I found out that’s a myth! Taste buds all over our tongues have the ability to taste each flavor, not just sweet or salty or sour… yeah. 🙂

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