Spiced Squash, Fennel, and Pear Soup {FFwD}

When I posted the Twenty-minute Honey-glazed Duck Breasts this morning, I wasn’t planning on writing this week’s French Fridays post until next week. In fact, I hadn’t even made the soup yet, so posting it today seemed out of the question. But with the girls at school, J resting on the couch, Bailey napping wherever he could find a comfortable spot, and me off work for the day, it just seemed like a great time for some cooking. Add to that the fact that we got our first snow overnight, and soup was the perfect choice for the afternoon.

I started out by roasting a pumpkin.

It was only a 3-pounder, so I was surprised by how much meat I got from it.

Next, I did my mise en place. I’m a big proponent of using mise en place for cooking and baking, and I always employ it for soups, which tend to require a lot of measuring, peeling, and chopping but come together quickly once you start cooking. With all your ingredients in front of you, most of the work is behind you.

I sautéed onions in olive oil over low heat, then added fennel, celery, and garlic and cooked until the vegetables softened.

I added spices, the roasted pumpkin, homemade chicken stock, pear, and orange peel to the pot, brought it to a boil, then simmered for about 20 minutes, until the pear was mashably soft.

I pureed the soup with my immersion blender, then adjusted the salt and pepper. Most soups are oversalted for my tastes, so I had used very little salt while preparing the soup. I stirred in a little at a time until the balance was perfect. As I tasted the soup, I thought it might benefit from a little honey to help bolster the sweetness of the pears, so I stirred in about 2 tablespoons of clover honey.

I served the soup with a squeeze of lemon juice and crème fraîche.

The soup was creamy, savory, a little sweet, and spiced just right. The acid from the lemon juice gave it great balance, and the crème fraîche added a nice tang. I could just barely taste the orange peel, and it seemed like the soup would be really good with just a bit more orange flavor, maybe from some zest or a bit of juice.

But it was pretty close to perfect just the way it was.

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Squash, Sausage, and Apples {Recipe}

One of my family’s favorite dishes, and one that frequently appears on our table this time of year, is some combination of squash, sausage, and apples. It can be acorn, butternut, carnival, or any other kind of winter squash. I use smoked turkey sausage, but, again, you can use any kind you like. As for apples, I often use Granny Smith, but I’ll choose Honeycrisp whenever they are in season.

And just as the ingredients vary from time to time, there are several different ways that I make this dish. Sometimes I peel and cube the squash, parboil it, and then sauté it with the apples and sausage for a quick stovetop, one pan meal.

Tonight, however, I made the squash the way my mom always fixed it: baked and stuffed. I began by baking acorn squash halves, cut side down, in a 350°F oven for 45 minutes.

While the squash was baking, I peeled, cored, and chopped three Honeycrisp apples and cut the sausage on the diagonal. I sautéed the sausage and apples in butter with brown sugar and a bit of nutmeg.

I cooked the mixture for about 5 minutes, until the apples had softened and given up some of their liquid and the sausage had begun to color.

I put a pat of butter in each squash half, then spooned in the apple mixture and topped it with a few grinds of nutmeg and more brown sugar. (Note: I wouldn’t recommend the brown sugar on top. It’s not necessary, as the mixture is plenty sweet, and it tends to burn rather than melt.)

I returned the squash to the oven and cooked it for 25 minutes, until the squash was tender and the apples and sausage had cooked through.

This is a complete meal, which can be served directly in the squash halves or scooped out into a bowl. But don’t count on leftovers — we all polished off our squash halves. Even the extra squash and apples from the pan were gone by the time we were done.

This dish, in one form or another, will make several appearances on our table before the season is over. If you try it, I’m sure it will start showing up on your table, too.

Semi-Silent (and Succulent) Saturday — Farmer’s Market Bounty

Giant Blackberry!

 

Eggs, hen and duck

 

African (Garden Egg) Eggplant and Purple Peppers

 

Squash Season is Here!