Archive for November, 2013

Spiced Squash Soup

butternut squash soup

Remember all that nice stuff I was saying about autumn a couple of weeks ago? Well, sometime between then and now, winter has struck. What had been a crisp chilliness has quickly turned into a dry, bone-freezing cold that calls for no less that seven layers of sweaters and a winter coat stuffed with all sorts of avian feathers. The Blistex has re-claimed its loyal spot in my North Face pocket and I’ve even invested in a humidifier.

The other morning, I woke up to a snowy sky with flakes of frozen water cascading past orange, red, and brown leaves. I thought, “Something’s not right here.” See, it’s not winter. It’s November for crying out loud! Someone up there didn’t get the memo, though, so it’s nothing but Cuddle Duds and circle scarves for me from here on out. Oh, and soup.

Soup is winter’s only redeeming quality. A bowl of piping hot soup is just enough to cure the winter blues, even when it’s still fall. In celebration (see, I’m trying to be an optimist!) of this retched weather (still failing, though) I decided to try my hand at Butternut Squash Soup.

Here I found the perfect combination of fall and winter, melding rich autumn flavors like squash and cinnamon with chilly weather stuff like sage and, well, soup. When searching for a recipe, most options suggested boiling the squash, but I am really in love with the toasted flavors that come from roasting, so when I landed on this Chowhound recipe, I headed straight to the kitchen.

I changed up a few things to embolden the flavors and took a healthier route by using much less cream than the original recipe called for. The result was magical. Like, seriously, I am way proud of myself for this one. The texture is silky and smooth (without seeming like baby food) and each individual flavor component is easily decipherable. I even did a taste test with Matt, asking him to guess the ingredients and he named all of ‘em. Either he’s a clever guy or I rock at making soup. I guess I can settle with both.

Topping the soup with my homemade breadcrumbs and some crumbled goat cheese seals the deal, adding a salty crunch and sour creaminess with each bite. The soup also heats up beautifully, so ladle the leftovers into a plastic container and bring it to work (and then tell your co-workers where you got the recipe).

 roasted squash recipe

Breadcrumbs Ingredients (makes 1 ½ cups breadcrumbs)

  • ¼ French baguette
  • 1/8 cup EVOO or olive oil
  • Sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Tear baguette into approx. 1-inch pieces. Pulse through a food processer until desired crumb size is reached. (I like mine super fine)

3. In a bowl, toss breadcrumbs, olive oil, and a sprinkle of sea salt so that crumbs are well coated.

4. Spread breadcrumbs on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes then remove from oven and stir so that the crumbs bake evenly.  Continue baking until golden and crunchy, about 10 more minutes.

5. Let cool and store in an airtight container.

 

Soup Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • ½ medium yellow onion
  • 1 small-medium tart apple
  • 5-7 fresh sage leaves
  • 2 ¼ cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2-3 tablespoons light cream
  • Goat cheese

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds. Melt ½ tablespoon butter in the microwave and brush over squash flesh. Bake, flesh side up for 50 minutes to an hour, until a knife is easily inserted.

3. Meanwhile, peel, core, and dice the apple. Dice the onion.

4. In a small skillet, melt ½ tablespoon butter. Once bubbling, add apple, onion, and sage and sauté until onion is translucent, 5-7 minutes.

5. Transfer sautéed medley to a large pot over medium heat. Add broth. Use a metal spoon to scoop squash from skin and add to the pot.

6. As soup simmers, break up any large pieces of squash with the back of a spoon.  Add cinnamon and salt and pepper to taste. Continue cooking, stirring every so often, allowing flavors to meld, for 15 minutes.

7. Remove from heat and mix in light cream.

8. Using a blender, work in small batches to combine all ingredients. Once complete, run through blender one last time.

9. Serve in individual bowls, sprinkled with breadcrumbs and goat cheese.

 

Fluffy Apple Pancake

apple pancake

This year is my fourth as a New Englander, and while my fascination with snow has waned (or more accurately, plummeted), my obsession with fall has grown exponentially, as the years have passed. During this short interlude between the oppressive humidity of summer and the bone-chilling cold of winter, New England undergoes a ridiculous visual transformation speckled with orange leaves gliding, twirling, and careening their way to the ground. In Boston, on grocery store shelves and farmers market stands, heirloom tomatoes are replaced by squash of every variety. Pumpkin spice lattes are in abundance and everything begins to smell like cinnamon and oak. On the most perfect fall days the air is a crispy cold, leaving your ears and nose just cold enough to remind you that this is the best time of the year.

Just recently I had one of those days, when my roommates and I piled into Liz’s car and headed to Honey Pot Hill Orchard for an afternoon of apple picking and cider donut devouring. Apple picking is a New England right of passage; one which I await with eagerness each and every year.

apple picking

This pilgrimage to the suburbs of Massachusetts came towards the end of the apple harvest, so we picked Cortlands, Red Delicious, and Spencers, filling two ten pound bags with the cream of the crop. Exhausted from the “laborious” work of climbing conveniently placed ladders and taking innumerable family photos, we headed to the store, where moist sugar-coated cider donuts awaited our arrival. After saying hello to the billy goats and pigs, we headed back to the city, apples in tow.

Our apple supply seems to be akin to the fountain in Tuck Everlasting and, try as we might, we can’t seem to make a dent in it. We’ve made apple crisp, apple cider and apple you-name-it, but it seems as if we’ll never run out.

caramelized apples

One afternoon, while pondering what the heck I was going to do with all of these apples, I remembered my grandma’s apple pancake, which isn’t really a pancake at all, but a fluffy casserole-like dish made of caramelized apples and woven with springy pancake batter.

apple pancakescast iron apple pancake

This is the kind of breakfast you’ll want to eat every day, all day, but take a look at the amount of butter you’ll need and think again. Or, if you’re like me and have a million roommates and/or a million apples, you can crank out these delicious upside-down cake impersonating suckers without the guilt.

german apple pancake

I hate to sound like an old lady here, but even just smelling the pancake in the oven is like heaven on earth.

Ingredients (serves 3-5)

  • 2 large, tart apples, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

2. In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk eggs, milk, flour, and 1 teaspoon sugar until smooth.

3. Melt butter in a large cast iron (or oven-safe) skillet. Once glossy, add apples to pan and sauté until lightly cooked.

4. Mix cinnamon and remaining sugar in a small bowl and sprinkle over the cooked apples. (Save a little bit for later)

5. Sautee until barely caramelized, 6-8 minutes.

6. Pour batter over apples, ensuring that it is evenly distributed.

7. Bake for 8-10 minutes and sprinkle with remaining cinnamon sugar mixture.

8. Turn oven off. Leave apple pancake in oven for another thirty minutes.*

9. Remove, let cool for a moment, sprinkle with powdered sugar, and serve.

*Note: My grandmother’s recipe calls for  turning the oven up to 375 degrees and baking until puffy and brown, which I’d imagine is much less than 30 minutes. However, I have yet to fully understand my oven and accidentally turned it off. Despite the “mistake,” this created a lovely caramelized texture and look on top while the inside remained moist and fluffy.

pantry raid

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