Happy Sunday, News 24/680 Food Followers:
This past week, I served a squash pear soup that I created and enjoyed by our Epicurean-MEAL-Exchange diners.
As a classical-trained, professional chef, I prefer to use fresh, seasonal, organic ingredients. I really believe the best ingredients produce the best results. Ideally, I prefer to use perfected-ripe seasonal produce. Ideally, I prefer to use cooking techniques to enhance naturally-existing flavors (i.e. roasting squash to caramelized sugars and create depth of flavor). As a ‘seasoned’ professional, I prefer to do a lot of things, but they are not always possible.
Like many, I don’t always have the time to pick, peel, cube and roast the perfect squash. I rarely find perfectly ripe fruit, even in season, due to the reality of the modern, globalized shopping experience. And, in many cases, I am cooking for large numbers of people, so time and costs are always considerations.
This recipe is a good example of how I compensate for the variations in products and inevitable time constraints, and I am sure that many of our readers will appreciate some of the selections and shortcuts I propose to both enjoy great food and cut down on “time to the table.”
In this recipe, I suggest using either fresh or frozen, pre-cut, butternut squash. It saves a lot of time and anguish, as you know, if you have ever tried to cut up a whole squash. I use canned pumpkin puree to contribute to overall flavor and consistency. And, because pears are NEVER ripe when you need them to be, I use fresh pears, plus pear juice to add more pear flavor. Hint: I found frozen butternut squash at Whole Foods and pear juices at Sprouts Farmers Market. I use milk to cut the richness of the squash and add a softness and creaminess to the finished soup. This soup is gluten-free, can be made lactose-free without the milk (or use lactose-free milk), and can be made vegan if vegetable stock is substituted for the chicken stock.
Lastly, for all my soups, I try to use as much of the whole produce as possible. For instance, in this recipe, I use unpeeled pears for added nutrition and fiber. The power of the Vitamix blender creates a smooth consistency and velvety texture; doesn’t require straining and – unknowingly – retains all the benefits of the whole ingredients. I’ve mentioned the Vitamix before…costly, but worth it.
Hope you give this a try. The time from start to table can be just 20 minutes! Let me know what you think!
If you would rather not cook, you can enjoy a hand-crafted, hand-delivered meal from me at Epicurean-MEAL-Exchange. Order here: http://epicureanexchange.com
– Chef Charlie
Winter Squash and Pear Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, cut into a 1-inch dice
2 firm, but ripe, Anjou or Bartlett pears; washed (unpeeled), cored and cut into 2-inch pieces1/4 cup brown sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-pound cubed fresh or frozen butternut squash
1-15 ounce can pumpkin puree
2 cups Looza or Knudsen pear juice
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups whole milk
Garnishes: diced, sautéed pear, roasted pumpkin seeds, olive oil and minced parsley
Equipment: Vitamix blender or equivalent power blender
• In a medium stockpot, over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, pears, brown sugar, a big pinch of kosher salt, and a little freshly ground black pepper. Sauté, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent, 3 – 4 minutes.
• Add the squash, pumpkin puree, pear juice and chicken stock. Stir well to combine. Cover, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes until the vegetables and fruit are very tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
• Purée in a blender, in batches, until very smooth. Return mixture to the stockpot.
• Heat to warm and add the milk. If the soup is still too thick, thin with pear juice to reach desired consistency. Taste. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, if necessary. The soup’s flavor should present a nice balance of squash and pear flavors.
• Serve warm with suggested garnishes.
Serves 4 – 6
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