Cooking Our Favorite Restaurant Dishes at Home

Columbine is a little walk-in sandwich shop on a sleepy corner of Broadway and White Street in Tribeca. Very similar in feel to Olive’s in SoHo, Columbine is a take-out lunch specialty shop, featuring daily soup specials and excellent sandwiches on fresh, crusty bread.

Like Olive’s, Gothamist thought we were going to get rather expensive and all American-wholesome choices of sandwiches and soups. But surprisingly, Gothamist began to realize that this was anything but the case.

Sure, Columbine specializes in the wholesome, down-to-earth soups and sandwiches - there’s nothing revolutionary going on here. But what impresses Gothamist most is the simple garnishes, spices and spreads that they use to add bold flavors to these simple soups and sandwiches.

Take a recent grilled skirt steak sandwich special. The steak was freshly grilled and the juices were being sopped up in the bread, a great sign on its own. But to take it beyond the wholesome category, they dusted it with Jamaican Jerk seasoning and used a creamy horseradish dressing with fresh greens to finish it off. Another example was a simple roasted squash soup – kicked up with curry and finished with a thick mound of fresh goat cheese placed on top. The goat cheese melts slowly into the soup, adding a pleasant accent to the sweet squash.

Gothamist appreciates when specials truly are special, and we rarely see the same specials twice at Columbine. It’s hard not to love an out of the way, sleepy street, un-franchised sandwich shop turning out Iron Chef-style improvised food to break us out of our work day routine.

An ode to a Columbine soup special, Gothamist warms up a cold winter day with a simple roasted squash and goat cheese soup, enhanced with the deep smoky flavor of ham hock.

Gothamist Recipe

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Roasted Squash and Curry Soup
with goat cheese, ham hock and dried cranberries

The elements of this dish can be made days in advance of serving. The finished soup can also be eaten over the course of a few days.

The key to this dish is the stock. The smoky bacon flavor given to the stock by the ham hocks only takes about a half hour of simmering. The resulting stock is relatively light and less fatty than a traditional chicken stock, but its flavor is intense and perfect for a cold winter night.

Ingredient Shopping List
Recipe serves 2-4 people, with leftovers.

2 whole acorn squashes
Unsalted Butter
Kosher salt, fresh pepper
1 package, or 3-4 medium sized smoked ham hocks
ground curry
1 10 oz log of fresh goat cheese
1.5 teaspoons ground curry
1 large carrot
1 stalk celery
1 medium sized whole onion
1 bunch fresh rosemary
1 package dried cranberries

Make the stock

Chop one carrot, celery stalk and half of the onion into a rough dice. Have your rosemary and ham hocks out and ready. In a large pot, and a glug of olive oil and turn heat to medium. After two minutes, add the vegetables and a pinch of salt to pot. Let sweat (not brown) for three minutes, until barely soft. Add all of your ham hocks to the pot. Immediately add cold water to cover the ham hocks by about an inch.

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It’s important to let the liquid barely simmer, not boil. Check the heat consistently. Let the stock simmer for about 30 – 40 minutes, uncovered.

Roast the Squash

Preheat oven to 400.
With a sharp or serrated knife, cut both of the whole acorn squashes into quarters. Repeat for the rest of the squash.

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Add a drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper to each squash half. Rub the mixture around the squash to cover the flesh. Place a piece of whole rosemary stalk in each squash piece. On a sheet pan lay the squash flesh side up. Cover the squash with aluminum foil. Roast for about 35 minutes until the flesh is nice and soft.

Finish the Stock

After 30-40 minutes, strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer. Ideally, you should strain twice. Once strained, skim any of the fat that rises to the top off with a ladle. If you let the stock rest for at least 30 minutes after straining, the fat will rise to the top for easy skimming.

Finish the soup

When the squash is done, scoop the flesh from the skin into a pot and add 2 1/2 cups of the stock and 1.5 teaspoons of curry powder. Bring to a simmer and puree using a stick blender. Alternatively, you can puree the contents in the pot in batches. Place the blended soup on simmer and after two minutes, add about 5 tbls of the goat cheese and 1/2 cup of the stock. Whisk vigorously and taste. Season with salt, pepper and stir again. Add more stock if you like your soup a bit thinner. Whisk again to incorporate.

Garnish with chopped rosemary, a handful of dried cranberries, and a sprinkle of the crumbled goat cheese.

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