Tuesday, November 13, 2007

More Signs of the Season

I was driving down Mason Road the other day and was struck at the sheer beauty of a particular row of trees lining the street. The trees alternated--one red, one orange, one gold, one green (evergreen trees), and the combination of colors was just brilliant. My heart leaps with joy upon viewing such sights. The only thing that could possibly match such brilliance would be to come home and inhale the aroma of a seasonal soup, simmering on the stove.

Well-respected chefs and nutritionists often recommend taking advantage of the produce that's currently in season. Cooking Light's "Velvety Squash Soup" is a perfect display of the autumn harvest. I made it for the first time last week and it certainly lives up to its name--smooth and creamy--and warmed my family through and through.

Suggested Menu 1
Velvety Squash Soup
Rustic Italian or French Loaf
Green Salad

Suggested Menu 2
Velvety Squash Soup
Grilled Turkey 'n' Cheese Sandwiches

Velvety Squash Soup
  • 1 (3 pound) butternut squash
  • 1 (2 pound) acorn squash
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped onions
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 5 cups chicken broth (preferably fat-free, lower sodium)
  • 2/3 cup apple cider or apple juice
  • 2 T. molasses
  • 1 tsp. curry powder or turmeric
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. ground red pepper
  • 2/3 cup half-and-half

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Cut each squash in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place squash, cut sides down, on jelly-roll sheet (or large cookie sheet) coated with cooking spray.

Combine onion and oil, tossing to coat. Spread onion mixture onto pan around squash. Bake at 425 degrees for 45 minutes, or until squash and onion are tender. Cool slightly. Scoop out squash pulp from skins; discard skins.

Place onion and squash pulp in a Dutch oven. Stir in broth and the next 5 ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes.

Place half of squash mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining squash mixture. Return squash mixture to pan; stir in half and half. Cook over medium-heat for 5 minutes, or until thoroughly heated. Yield: 10 servings

**Tip--I strongly suggest baking the squash earlier in the day, to give it ample time to cool. I however, did not do that. Instead, I had to try and handle near-piping hot squash while scooping the pulp from it. To quote a fellow blogger: "Be ye not so stupid."

**Second tip--Turmeric, one of the spices found in curry powder, will leave a bright yellow stain on anything it touches. Be careful what utensils you use when making this soup. Stay away from utensils such as white plastic or silicone and wooden spoons. If you spill any on formica countertops, wipe it up right away. Don't let my warnings discourage you from using turmeric, though. It's extremely flavorful and essential in creating the right flavors in many recipes. It can be found at most local grocery stores, in the spice aisle.

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