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Tackle the Cold with a Roasted Winter Squash Soup

The cold weather has really been upon us here in my area of New York this week. The schools were closed last Friday and this past Monday because of ice and snow and the temperature has barely risen above 20°, with wind chills in the morning below 0 just about every day. This makes you feel like just bundling up under the covers and going back to bed each morning and not bothering to even think about what you might want to make for dinner that day. Of course, one of the best alternatives for this time of year for lunch or dinner is always a nice bowl of warm soup. One of my all-time favorite dishes always make use of some of the great winter squash that is available and makes a nice thick squash soup to have with some homemade bread or rolls to help fill you up and really keep you warm. This particular recipe, for a roasted winter squash soup, comes from the Cooking Channel and is from Michael Chiarello. It makes use of a really nice toasted spice rub that you use for the squash and the soup itself and while it may seem like there are a lot of steps involved, the prep time outside of getting the squash ready (which you can do well in advance if you like) only takes about 20 minutes and the cook time is not much more than that, so you can have everything done and ready in about 45 minutes.

 

Roasted Winter Squash Soup

For the Soup:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup (1/4 inch) diced onion

1/4 cup (1/4 inch) diced celery

1/4 cup (1/4 inch) diced carrot

1 cinnamon stick

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, optional

1 1/2 cups Roasted Winter Squash recipe, recipe to follow

1/2 cup half-and-half

For the Toasted Spice Rub:

1/4 cup fennel seeds

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

1/4 cup (1 ounce) chili powder

2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

For the Roasted Winter Squash:

3 pounds winter squash

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup molasses

2 teaspoons Toasted Spice Rub

To make the toasted spice rub, toast the fennel seeds, coriander seeds and peppercorns in a small, heavy pan set over medium heat. When the fennel turns light brown, work quickly. You may want to turn on the exhaust fan over your stove as it can get quite smoky. Add the red pepper flakes and toss rapidly, mixing the ingredients quickly. Immediately turn the spice mixture out onto a plate to cool. Once the spices have cooled, put the mixture into a blender with the chili powder, salt, and cinnamon and blend until the spices are evenly ground. If you have a small spice mill or a coffee grinder dedicated to just grinding spices, grind only the fennel, coriander, pepper, and chili flakes. Pour the ground ingredients into a bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients. Keep the spice mix in a glass jar in a cool, dry place.

 

For the roasted squash, preheat the oven to 400°. Peel the squash with a vegetable peeler. Halve the squash lengthwise, discard the seeds, then cut the squash into a 1-inch dice. Place the squash in a large bowl and season it with salt and pepper.

Heat the butter in a medium skillet set over medium-high heat. When the butter ceases to foam and has turned a light brown, pull the pan off the heat and immediately add the sage, granulated sugar, balsamic vinegar (stand back so as not to get splattered by the vinegar and the vapors from it), molasses and the toasted spice rub. Mix well and let the mixture simmer over medium-low heat for 1 to 2 minutes so the flavors can meld.

Pour the vinegar mixture over the squash and toss it well, then transfer the squash to a heavy rimmed baking sheet or baking dish large enough to hold the squash in a single layer. Place the squash in the oven and roast, tossing the squash at least once, until it is very tender and caramelized, about 45 minutes to one hour. Set the squash aside until it is cool enough to handle but still warm, so the liquids are runny.

Working in batches, if necessary, transfer the warm squash and all the cooking liquids to a food processor and process until it is smooth. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.

 

For the soup, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat until it is shimmering. Add the onion, celery, carrot, and cinnamon stick and sauté until the vegetables are soft but not brown, about 10 minutes. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper. Add the chicken broth or vegetable broth and the coriander, if using, and bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer the broth for several minutes. Stir in the squash until it is smooth, then simmer gently to let the flavors meld, about 10 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick.

Purée the soup in a blender until it is smooth. The soup can be made ahead to this point, cooled, covered, and refrigerated for several days or frozen for about one month. It will thicken as it cools and may need thinning out with more broth or water when you are re-heating it. Return the soup to the pan and reheated gently. Add the half-and-half, if using. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Keep the soup warm until you are ready to serve. Ladle the soup into serving bowls. Garnish the soup with dollops of mascarpone cheese or toasted pumpkin seeds, if desired

 

While it does take some time ahead of time for prep work to get the squash ready, there is not really a lot of work involved in it and it is certainly worth the effort. I used a combination of butternut squash and acorn squash but you could certainly use any type of squash that you want either in a combination or by itself. I also did add one diced apple to the vegetable mixture of the onion, celery, and carrot to give the soup a little extra sweetness and flavor. The soup comes out to be a very dark, rich color with some nice sweetness from the squash thanks to the balsamic vinegar and molasses that you put on top of it. The spice rub does give the dish a little bit of a kick, so you may want to watch how much chile powder use if you are looking for something a little milder or eliminate the chili powder and red pepper flakes altogether for something smoother. As I said, this dish is great with some homemade rolls, biscuits or bread or even just your favorite store-bought variety or you could make a nice meal with a soup and sandwich idea for lunch or dinner.

 

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for another recipe. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day, and enjoy your meal!

wintersquashsoup

 

 

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How About An Elegant Thanksgiving Side? Winter Squash Bowls

While I did not make this side dish with the turkey I made recently, it is one that would go well with your Thanksgiving meal and look really nice on the table. Any type of winter squash would work well for Thanksgiving or any Fall or winter meal, and doing one like this can make a Sunday dinner look nice or your holiday table. I got this recipe from Bon Appetit and you really have your choice of what type of winter squash you want to use, so use what you like best and what is most available in your area.

Winter Squash Bowl

1 medium butternut squash ( about 1 1/2 pounds)

5 small winter squash (about 1 pound each; such as acorn squash, carnival, delicata or sugar pumpkins), divided

4 1/2 teaspoons olive oil, divided

3 teaspoons pure maple syrup, divided

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon butter, room temperature

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut the butternut squash in half crosswise. Set the top half of the butternut squash aside. Remove the seeds and strings from the bottom half of the butternut squash and discard them. Place the bottom half of the butternut squash on 1 baking sheet. Remove the caps from 3 of the small squash by cutting a circle 1 inch around the stems with a small serrated knife (just like you were carving a pumpkin). Slice off and discard the strings from the bottom sides of the caps. Scoop out the seeds and strings from the centers of the squash and discard.

Cut a thin slice off the bottom of the 3 hollowed-out small squash so the squash will sit evenly on a flat surface; place (with the caps on) the squash on a baking sheet along with the bottom of the butternut squash. Drizzle the insides of the squash with 1/4 teaspoon of olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon of maple syrup. Season the cavities with salt and pepper. Bake the squash until a paring knife inserted into the squash meets no resistance, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, remove the stems from the remaining 2 small squash and cut the squash in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and strings from the small squash and the top half of the butternut squash and discard. Peel and chop the squash into 1/4-inch pieces and place them in a large bowl. Add the remaining 4 1/4 teaspoons of olive oil and toss to coat them well. Season the squash pieces with salt and pepper. Spread the squash pieces in a single layer on the remaining baking sheet and bake, stirring once, until the squash is tender, about 30 minutes. Transfer the baked squash to a large bowl and toss it with the remaining 2 3/4 teaspoons of maple syrup, the butter and the thyme leaves. Divide the baked squash among the hollowed-out butternut and small squash and serve warm or at room temperature.

I did change this recipe up just slightly. Since I was making this for less people, I did not need to use all this squash. What I actually did since I had a very large butternut squash is cut it into 3 sections, hollow out part of it, and used 2 sections of the butternut squash and one acorn squash to fill with the remaining squash. I have to say the squash I had was pretty solid and did have a lot of seeds, so I had to do some hollowing out on my own, which took a little work, but it was worth it. The squash was wonderfully roasted and tender and had great flavor from the maple syrup. It also looked very nice in the squash bowls itself. I think you could easily do this with just one squash of any size if you wanted something smaller and elegant for a weeknight meal.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for some more recipes. I have a pork chop casserole recipe I just tried, some homemade french bread, a great turkey pot pie for your turkey leftovers, another turkey recipe, chicken and waffles and much more to come so stay tuned. Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on November 19, 2013 in Cooking, Dinner, Holidays, Vegetables, Vegetarian

 

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Let’s (Bacon) Wrap It Up

I wanted to make something easy today and just use what we already had in the house since I have a bit of a cold and didn’t feel like going out. I checked in the freezer and we had some tilapia, so that’s what I am going with today. I found a great recipe idea from Mark Bittman in this weeks New York Times Sunday Magazine that makes some great use of fish and everybody’s favorite, bacon. It’s quick, easy and destined to taste great. I mean, it has bacon in it, it has to be great, right?

Bacon Wrapped Tilapia

6 slices bacon

1 pound firm whitefish, like tilapia or cod, cut into 4 filets

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

Salt and pepper, to taste

Parsley, to garnish

In a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and warm until shimmering. Add in the red onion and saute until they are just starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, wrap the bacon slices tightly around the fish fillets and lightly season with salt and pepper. Add this fish to the pan and saute until the fish and bacon are done and the bacon is starting to crisp, turning halfway through cooking, about 8 minutes. Garnish with parsley ans serve.

That’s all there is to this one. You get the smoky flavor of the bacon added to the fish along with the bite of the red onion and you have a nice meal. I served this with plain white rice, but I also had some acorn squash on hand, so I decided to bake that and have it as our vegetable. I love the way acorn squash tastes when it has been baked or roasted, and it tastes even better when you add in a little brown sugar and maple syrup.

Baked Acorn Squash

1 acorn squash, cut in 1/2
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons maple syrup
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Scoop the seeds and stringy pulp out of the squash cavities and discard. In a small mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar, butter, syrup and salt and pepper, to taste. Rub the squash cavities and cut sides of the squash with the butter mixture and place them on a baking sheet, cut side up. Bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork. Serve 1 half per person.

There you have it, a quick meal for a Sunday, or any day, for that matter. There’s not a lot of clean up involved for this one either, and I plan to use the leftover rice with some turkey chili that I also made today to have for dinner tomorrow and lunches this week.

That’s all I have for tonight. I do have a few recipes that I plan to try this week, including a shrimp dish that I picked up this week that looks pretty tasty. We’re also heading into the soups and stews time of year, so I plan to be making more things like that in the coming weeks, so we’ll have to check for some recipes for them as well. Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

 

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2012 in Cooking, Dinner, Seafood, Vegetables

 

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