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At the Kitchen Table: 11/15/2010

Autumn is soup season



This time of year makes me nostalgic for the fall weather that I grew up with in Michigan. Deep yellows, oranges and reds dot the landscape, and leaves fall to the ground, creating a crisp, crunchy carpet underfoot. The prevalence of damp, rotting leaves was a sure sign that winter was around the corner. Our fall was spent at school football games, and raking up leaves (literally tons) and jumping or falling into them before burning them at the end of our dirt driveway. Several miles away was the Franklin Cider Mill where I consumed more than my share of cider donuts; the small, round, brown ones with no glaze were always my favorite.

Growing up we knew how to entertain ourselves inside the house on those short fall and winter days. We spent what seemed like hours playing card games – war, cribbage, gin and gin rummy, hearts and spit. We had tournaments that lasted days, monopoly games that seemed to last for weeks, and an ongoing puzzle on the dining room table where we almost never ate, except for holidays and special occasions. We watched our share of television, and as Lucy and Ricky blared on, we sat on the floor in our den and made waterfalls with cards. Onto the next game, please.

Another reason to like this time of year – it just naturally feels like soup season. The weather is perfect for soup and it’s one of my favorite categories of food – hearty, chunky and filling soups, as well as refined, strained and smooth soups. Both warm the body and feed the soul. Soup doesn’t often get top billing, but it should, since it can be a main course just as easily as a first course. Making soup also helps to use up those little bits of leftovers that don’t make much of anything by themselves.

This soup recipe is from Judith Jones’ cookbook, The Pleasures of Cooking for One, one of my favorite new cookbooks from last year. It’s smart and easy, with recipes short on ingredients but long on flavor and common sense. I have adjusted it to add olive oil instead of butter, as I prefer the flavor and lower calories, but you can add it back if you like. You will make this again and again.

Happy Cooking and Happy Fall!

Versatile Pumpkin or Winter Squash Soup

I love how simple this soup is. It doesn’t take long to make, and it keeps in the freezer for a couple of weeks or the fridge for a few days. It is perfect for a chilly fall day or in winter as an elegant dinner. For a topping, try sautéing shallots and sprinkling them on top, or finely chopped fresh parsley, or even a little crumbled queso fresco.

1 TBS olive oil (or butter, if you prefer)
1 medium onion, chopped finely
About 2 cups roasted pumpkin or winter squash chunks (kabocha, butternut or delicata)
2 cups light chicken stock
1/4 tsp grated fresh ginger
salt
1 TBS heavy cream
A small grating of nutmeg

For the roasted squash or pumpkin:

Peel and cut into 1-inch chunks, tossed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper then roast at 375 degrees for 55-60 minutes.

For the soup:

Warm the olive oil in a small heavy pot, and sauté the onion gently for 5 minutes. Add the pumpkin or squash and stock, and simmer for 30 minutes. Mash the pumpkin or squash right in the soup, using a fork or a potato masher, or if you prefer a smoother texture, puree the soup with an immersion blender or in a food processor. Stir in the ginger, turn the soup into a warm soup bowl, and spoon the cream over it, with a sprinkling of nutmeg on top.

Recipe from Judith Jones’ The Pleasures of Cooking for One, Knopf, 2009.

Adjustments by Tricia O’ Brien.


Tricia O’Brien writes the Vegetable of the Month column for the Oak Hill Farm newsletter and lives in Glen Ellen. You can visit and follow her blog at www.cafetrix.blogspot.com.
Email: tobcaters@gmailcom

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