Friday, January 20, 2012

Butternut Squash Soup with Fennel, Pears, and Spices

I know you may be thinking, what, another butternut squash soup, but this one is different.  This one has fennel.

And pear.

And ginger, cumin, and nutmeg.

And orange zest.

And, although this might seem a bit unusual, it is brilliant (especially, the pear! and the fennel! and the orange zest! oh my!).  But, this is what I've come to expect from and love about Dorie Greenspan.

This is not just another butternut squash soup, this is the butternut squash soup.

One of the keys is roasting the squash before hand.  It takes some time, but, on the plus side, not only do you get a ton of flavor, but peeling a squash after you have roasted it is a cinch.
Once its cool, cut it into 2 inch or so pieces.
While your squash is cooling, saute up some onions.  Then add in your fennel, celery, and garlic.
Next, in with the spices.  Unlike curried squash soups, these spices keep the soup on the sweeter side of things, rather than the savory-er side.
Add your stock.  And once that comes up to a simmer, throw in your pears.  And the orange zest.
Simmer away, gently, for 20ish minutes.
 Blend it up.

And, get ready to enjoy a slightly sweet, surprisingly elegant butternut squash soup.

Spiced Squash, Fennel, and Pear Soup (from Greenspan's Around My French Table: a book you must buy right now)
About 3 pounds squash, such as Long Island Cheese or Butternut (or 1 1/2 lbs pre-cut)
About 3 Tablespoons of olive oil
1 large Spanish onion, coarsely chopped
1 spring onion, trimmed and coarsely chopped, or 1 large shallot, coarsely chopped
1 medium fennel bulb, touch core removed, slived
2 celery stalks, trimmed and thinly slices
1 large garlic clove, split, germ removed, and sliced
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
fresh ground pepper
5-6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 ripe pears, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped [I didn't peel them]
2 strips orange or tangerine peel, pith removed
1-2 lemons

Preheat oven to 425.  Line baking sheet with foil.

If you're using a whole squash, cut in half, scoop out the innards, and rub the exposed flesh with some olive oil.  Sprinkle the squash with a pinch of salt, put on a baking sheet, and bake 60-75 minutes for a whole squash, 45 for cut.  When you can pierce the flesh easily with the tip of the knife, its done.  As soon as its cool enough to handle, peel it and cut it into 2 inch cubes.

Warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot over low heat, then stir in onions, Spanish and spring.  Season lightly with salt and cook for 5 minutes, or until the onions start to soften but not color.  Add the fennel, celery, garlic, and a pinch more salt and cook, stirring often, for another 5-10 minutes, or until all the vegetables are soft but still pale.  Stir in the ginger, cumin, nutmeg, 1/4 tsp salt, and a few grinds of black pepper, then add the roasted squash.  Pour in 5 cups broth, increase the heat, and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat so that the soup simmers gently; add the pears and orange peel.  Partially cover the pot and simmer about 20 minutes, or until the pears and squash are soft enough to be mashed with the back of a spoon.

Puree the soup.  Taste for salt and pepper.  If the soup is too thick for you, stir in up to 1 cup more broth and reheat until hot.

Ladle the soup into bowls and finish with a little lemon juice [if you like].