1.31.2015

The Comforts of Home

If I were to tell you I miss New England winters, you would think I had completely lost my mind, or you would know I was lying.

The bitter, cold, dark, relentless winters were the biggest reason Mark and I moved to the Southwest.

Days and weeks - nay, months! - of snow, sleet, wind and bone-chilling rains weren't my thing any longer. (True, there was a time I found it invigorating. What was I thinking?)

I do miss our friends every day. I also miss some very specific things: the sweet, tender lobsters that were available fresh from the sea, and the intoxicating fragrance of the lilacs hanging in the soft air of late May. Of course, those weren't part of winter were they?

Foodwise, I miss the need for comfort food. Here, in Tucson, the season for rich soups, stews and slow-roasted meats lasts but a few weeks. Sometimes, it is only a few days here and there.

It is said that President Nixon turned on his air-conditioning even in summer so he could light a fire in the fireplace (while listening to Mantovani, of course); I haven't gotten that needy yet, but it has crossed my mind.

After spending most of my life in areas that were just this side of arctic, I have amassed quite the collection of comfort food recipes, many of which came from my mother.

While at the farmers market last weekend, under a clear blue sky with temperatures hovering around 70°F (21°C), I saw a butternut squash and had a pang of nostalgia for my mother's Autumn Harvest Bisque.

I pretty much knew the ingredient list by heart - some things you just don't forget. A few ingredients weren't available, and I wasn't in the mood to run from one grocer to another. I got what I could, and decided to make the recipe my own.

My impromptu version is much less caloric than my mother's, and oddly creamier without using cream (as she did). Yes, there is still a decent amount of butter involved in a large batch, but that comes to only about a half tablespoon per serving.

All in all, this is a very healthy soup - and a hearty one. And comforting. I think Mom would approve.

~ David

Butternut Squash and Apple Bisque

1 medium butternut squash – about 1 1/2 pounds
cooking spray
6 tablespoons butter, divided
1 large white onion, chopped
2 leeks, white and light green parts, halved lengthwise and sliced
2 large tart cooking apples, cored, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 small turnip, peeled and coarsely chopped
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
6 sage leaves, chopped (about 1 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
1/4 cup flour
2 cups lowfat milk (I used 1%)
salt
freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).

Cut squash in half lengthwise; scoop out and discard seeds and stringy parts. Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray foil with cooking spray. Place the squash halves, cut side down, onto the foil. Roast for 45-60 minutes, until squash is very tender when pierced with a fork or knifepoint. Let cool.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large soup kettle over medium heat. Add chopped onions and sliced leeks, and cook for 5-10 minutes until onions are clear and soft. Increase heat to medium-high, and add apples, carrots and turnip. Sauté for a minute or two, then add broth. Scoop out the flesh from the squash and add it to the kettle. Stir well, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer the soup for 30 minutes.

Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan. Add the rosemary, sage, nutmeg and five spice powder; cook for 1 minute or so, or until fragrant. Add the flour, and stir. Let cook for 2-3 minutes to remove the raw taste of the flour. Add the milk and whisk to incorporate. Add this mixture to the soup kettle, season well with salt and pepper, and cook for 10-15 minutes, until thickened. Let cool 15 minutes.

Purée soup in four batches in a blender; pour into a clean pot and reheat. Serve with a crusty bread and salad.

Makes 10-12 servings.

31 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. It's nice and hearty, Jill! I think you will like it!

      Delete
  2. DeareDavid, there is absolutely nothing that compares with a delicious bowl of homemade comfort-style soup! Butternut happens to be my favorite squash and I love butternut squash soups.- I would adore this one, the recipe sounds delightful and the pictures speak for themselves - a soup to soothe one´s soul!
    Noch einen schönen Sonntag,
    Andrea & Co.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Andrea! We rarely get gloomy weather here but, when we do, it gives me a chance to make some comforting recipes! Hope you are warm and happy in Bonn!

      Delete
  3. I bet you're glad you're not in New England now, given the extreme weather they're having at the moment. I adore it up there and even said I could easily live there, but something tells me the winter would be very testing.

    The good old butternut is my go-to when it's soup time. I almost always have some in my fridge, providing it's available. I love cutting it up and roasting it with seasoning and a bit of balsamic glaze.

    I must try putting apple into my next batch of soup. Sounds like a winner!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am sure the winters would not be your favorite time. I love how many New Englanders convince themselves of the romance of winter but, once it comes, we hear lots of complaints and get lots of reservations for our guest room.

      I think butternut is my favorite of the squash family, and I just saw a recipe for butternut squash agrodolce that sounds similar to your recipe. Gotta try that!

      Delete
  4. Oh no, I think my first comment was eaten up somewhere. Oh well. Love the addition of apple in your soup... and this is a gorgeous post, David. Glad you moved away from those cold dark winters!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Liz - both for your comment AND for posting it twice! Yes, we are really glad to be here!

      Delete
  5. Lol David the good recipes always come from the mom! :-) It is a knowledge that should not be wasted, but unfortunately nowadays what was trasmitted from generation to generation is going to be lost...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are so right, Marco! And I think Italian people are really good about keeping traditions, but even that is changing. I have catalogued all my mothers recipes in a book, and now am doing my mother-in-law's mother's recipes so they will be around for generations.

      Delete
  6. Bring on the butter, leave the snow where it belongs. GREG

    ReplyDelete
  7. Actually I know what you mean, living in the sub tropics is great but sometimes I miss the cold.... mostly when it is so humid and hot here :) That is such an interesting list of ingredients in your soup, I have never tried apple with butternut in a soup before. I will look forward to trying this when it cools down enough here to enter the kitchen :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The nice thing about the apple, Karen, is that it isn't really overwhelming - it blends in perfectly.

      Delete
  8. Hi David, I'm one of those people that can eat soup all year round, especially ones like this. love that you added Chinese five spice here, looks delicious!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for noticing that, Cheri - I just decided to add it for a little extra zing! It worked beautifully.

      Delete
  9. Having made at least one of your versions of this soup, I can already attest to LOVING it...but, just to be sure, I plan to make it this week! Gorgeous photos, too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Susan - this soup is perfect for the weather you are having! xo

      Delete
  10. Simply damn delicious pumpkin soup!!!

    ReplyDelete
  11. The places where you find the harshest weathers are also the places with the prettiest summers :)
    I don't mind the cold and love living in Colorado, and the upside of dealing with a few inches of snow is the absolute beautiful summer and autumn we have here.
    It's funny you are eating soup in warm Arizona and I've been craving salads in cold Colorado! I think I've made more salad this winter than I did all last summer!
    The soup is beautiful and definitely winter food. I'm curious, is the five spice your addition, or your mother's? I bet it tastes really good with the hearty flavour of the pumpkin. Gorgeous!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The good news for me, Nazneen, is that I like the summers here in the desert! :) So I get to be happy all year-round!

      The addition of the five spice powder is definitely mine. I am not sure if my mother even knew what it was! It works perfectly with the flavors in this soup.

      Delete
  12. David, What do you recommend as a substitution for five-spice powder? It's too cold to go out again? Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Susan - you can easily approximate the flavor of the five spice powder by using pinches of cinnamon, ground anise (star anise is preferred), cloves, Szechuan pepper and ground fennel seed. Using just the fennel, cinnamon and cloves would be perfect for this soup.

      Delete
    2. David, We made the soup on Friday evening for a small dinner party. Rave reviews! it was delicious, soothing, and a gorgeous color. Not having the five-spice powder, as you know, I followed your advice (in part cause my spice cabinet needs replenishing)--we used cinnamon, star anise, and cloves. It was such a success--thank you!

      Delete
    3. One more thing--for those of you without much time...I didn't have much time before the dinner, so I baked the squash the night before and was able to quickly assemble the ingredients for the delicious soup just before the guests arrivedl

      Delete
    4. That is a great suggestion, Susan! It would also be a good idea to make a lot and freeze some for easy usage later. Glad the spice combination worked!

      Delete
  13. Great photos, always! I love butternut squash soup, too. The great thing is, you can always fly to Maine for lobster without having to live in the freezing cold weather year-round. Hmm...thinking of adding that to our list of things to do!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is exactly the way we look at it, too. Maine isn't that far away, and they do actually ship live lobsters here just in case...

      Delete

Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

If you would like to receive follow-up comments, simply click the "Subscribe by E-mail" link to the right of the "Publish" and "Preview" buttons.