Food stylist and recipe columnist Renee Muller of Lakewood, New Jersey, invites home cooks to come to the table and partake in her family’s favorite kosher recipes in her new holiday cookbook, Our Table (Artscroll/October 2016). But you don’t have to celebrate Jewish traditions to enjoy Renee’s refreshingly simple recipes, beautifully presented in full-color photos.
Renee learned to cook in the traditional Northern Italian tradition emphasizing freshness and flavor using common ingredients. When she moved to the U.S. in 2002, she continued honing her culinary skills and then worked as a food columnist. Our Table is her first foray into compiling and sharing her favorite recipes in a single volume. Gifted with an artistic eye for presentation, Renee has become an in-demand food stylist, working frequently with world-class food photographers.
“As a child growing up in Lugano, Switzerland, I enjoyed spending time in the kitchen with my mother and grandmother watching them talk and cook, always with passion and dedication to the task at hand, no matter how mundane,” Renee says. “From them I learned that meals shared with family and friends are memorable, especially when imbued with love and care.”
Throughout the pages of Our Table, Renee walks readers through each recipe with subtle suggestions, insights and techniques that turn good food into great food. Chapters focus on Appetizers, Soups & Salads, Fish & Dairy, Meat, Chicken & More, Snacks & Sides, and Desserts and Breads, providing everything needed to create an easy weeknight meal or a special holiday dinner.
When I asked Renee if she would share a simple recipe with New Jersey Monthly readers, she happily sent me this easy and tasty recipe for squash soup. It’s perfect for your Thanksgiving table, or for a light autumn meal:
Renee Muller’s Butternut Squash Cream Soup
This soup is always in our rotation. We never tire of it. Thick and silky, it’s forever a favorite.
2 Tablespoons oil
4 onions, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 large butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 large knob celery root, peeled and diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
1 Tablespoon salt OR Lawry’s seasoned salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon paprika
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
In a large pot, heat the oil. Add onions and garlic; sauté until onions are softened. Add butternut squash, knob celery and carrots. Add the spices. Add water just to cover. Bring soup to a simmer; cook until butternut squash is fork tender, about 1 hour. Blend soup until smooth, using an immersion blender. Add tomato sauce; blend again. Taste; adjust seasoning to your liking
Note: This soup freezes well. When defrosting, re-blend using the immersion blender to restore creaminess. Ever heard of black garlic? It’s the newest hip thing to use. Try it in this soup. I add 2-3 garlic cloves to give the soup that umami depth. It makes you stop and think, “What is this deliciousness I just tasted?” This is totally an extra that is not needed in the recipe per se, but well worth a try. If using, add the garlic cloves in the last 10 minutes of cooking, and then blend.
8 servings/4 quarts
Some of Renee’s other favorite Our Table recipes include:
• Sweet Chili Salmon Cubes
• Mushroom Barley Soup
• Crunchy Asian Salad
• Silan, Lemon and Mustard Salmon
• Tangy and Succulent London Broil
• Fall-off-the-Bone Tender Flanken
• Pulled French Roast Sliders
• Oven-Baked Honey Mustard Chicken
• Homemade Egg Kichel
• Light-as-Air Marble Cake
• Buttery Chocolate Scones
• Wähe – Swiss Fruit Tart
The cookbook includes a special selection of recipes with links to online video tutorials, just as if Renee were in the kitchen cooking with you. “Many times while writing down recipe instructions, I wished I could invite my readers to join me in my kitchen and cook. That thought led me to create a variety of videos of some of the recipes so you can view them as you want and see some of the techniques I use when cooking.”
Renee Muller also has included a complete substitutions guide for Passover, making Our Table a helpful go-to book for any occasion or holiday. Our Table is available in hardcover for $34.99 at Barnes & Noble, amazon.com and in Jewish stores.Click here to leave a comment