Cream of Butternut Squash

butternut squash soup 
My best testimonial for this soup was a pile of licked-clean bowls.  Butternut squash is so versatile that there are hundreds of variations on this recipe.  Add chilies and coconut milk for a spicy Asian twist, or add roasted peppers and goat cheese and serve this dish on a hot summer evening.  My version uses classic winter spices for a savory, bold flavor.

Makes: 6 guests go butter-nuts! (too corny?)
Total kitchen time: 1.5 hours

Shopping list:

  • 2 small butternut squash, halved
  • 5 cloves roasted garlic
  • 1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 pat butter
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 2 cups chicken stock (hot)
  • 2 cups heavy cream (warm)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. grated ginger
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds for garnishing
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F.  Place the squash, cut side down, in a large roasting pan.  Add about one inch of water to the pan.  Cover the pan with aluminum foil and roast the squash until they are very tender, about 1 hour. 
  2. Once the squash has cooled, remove it from the skin and cut it into small cubes.  Heat the butter and 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large saucepan.  Add the onion and sweat over low heat until it is tender and transparent, about 10 minutes.  Add the roasted garlic and stir to combine.
  3. Add the butternut squash and 1 cup each of chicken stock and heavy cream.  Using an immersion blender (or a food processor), blend until smooth. 
  4. Continue adding the remaining stock and cream until you reach the desired consistency.  Add the cloves, nutmeg, ginger, salt and pepper.  Adjust the seasonings to taste. 

You and your guests will be very happy with this soup.  If you leave out most of the liquid, the same recipe makes a great filling for homemade ravioli. 

Pear and Red Beet Salad – Minus the Salad

pear and beet salad Funny story… I prepared this “salad” for an elaborate, multi-course dinner party.  Halfway through chopping the beets, I realized that I forgot to buy lettuce!  My little oversight turned out to be quite an elegant first course.  Try this one out next time you have guests over – just don’t forget any other ingredients!

Makes: 6 guests forget all about greens
Total kitchen time: 10 minutes

Shopping list:

  • 3 ripe Bosc pears, skin on, cleaned well
  • 3 red beets, tops trimmed, skin on
  • 4 Oz. Stilton (a pungent blue cheese)
  • 2 cups candied walnuts
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (use the best stuff you have)
  • 2 tbsp. aged balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 twists black pepper
  1. Boil the beets in a large pot of water until they are fork-tender, about 25 minutes.  Drain and let the beets cool.  Oh, by the way, you should probably change clothes right about now.  Beets will stain, and you probably don’t want bright red sleeves right before your soirée. 
  2. Peel the beets and chop them into thin slices, as pictured above.  Set aside.
  3. Combine the garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, salt and pepper in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Adjust with salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar if necessary.
  4. Trim the top 1/2 inch off of the pears.  Slice in half from pole to pole.  Use a melon baller or a metal 1 tsp. measure to remove the seeds from each half of the pear.  Remove the bottom stem by cutting a wedge out of the pear with your knife.
    chopping pears
  5. Slice the pears into 1/8″ pieces and arrange five or six slices on a plate.  Pile a small mound of sliced beets, a bit of stilton and some candied walnuts nearby.  Drizzle with the balsamic vinaigrette just before serving.

Now, you could add lettuce back to this recipe, but I don’t think it’s needed.  Have fun with the plating too – create a “tower of pears” or a “nest of beets”.  Your first course will set the mood for the rest of the meal, so have fun with it.  Oh, and don’t forget, uh, what was I saying?