A little over a week ago, I was like, if I just post six more times before March 7, I'll have posted 100 times in the last year. (Yep. My foodblogiversary is just around the corner.) I thought 100 posts in 365 days - despite how randomly said posts were distributed throughout said days - sounded like a v. respectable frequency indeed. So I posted! But then some more days passed. And I didn't post. And now March 7 is really soon. Like so soon that I'd have to blog every day until March 7 to actually achieve the respectable frequency of posts for which I was aiming. And this stresses me out so much that I'm using proper English grammar in a terribly awkward way.
Fortunately, I'm at a point in my life where accomplishing goals is more like a trip to the casino than something that actually dictates how I spend my days: if I'm successful, that's awesome; if I'm not, it was fun dreaming, better luck next time, maybe a little loss of pride but where has pride ever gotten me in life anyway?
Wait a minute. What did you say? There's a loss of money involved when you don't win at the casino? Yikes. Well. Next time I'll base my analogies on things I've actually experienced.
Speaking of things I've experienced: let's talk about the most unique and delicious winter squash soup recipe I've come across so far. (And I make winter squash soup fairly often.) I'm almost embarrassed to admit where this recipe came from. Not because it's a source that I'm anything other than blessed, honored, and delighted to own - the source being Dorie Greenspan's wonderful, beautiful, inspiring Around My French Table - but because it's the second time I've referenced this lovely cookbook, and both times have been about soup. So why am I only almost embarrassed about the two soups? Because I live in Minnesota. It's cold here. We eat soup. It's not that embarrassing.
What makes this soup so special and stunning? (What makes you ask so many rhetorical questions?) Not cream, not butter, not a heavy dose of cleverly-blended spices. No indeed. What makes this soup so stunning are the following: 1 fennel bulb + 2 juicy pears.
Also, the squash is roasted, and that always ups the sweetness of a soup.
And there are citrusy undertones incorporated.
And everything about this soup is, in a word, divine.
It doesn't even need that drizzle of cream at the end. But I really like cream.
Before we get to the recipe: if I do end up hitting 100 posts by next Monday, congratulations to US! I begged for comments last time because I missed them. But I'm always grateful for the off-the-record affirmations and words of encouragement I receive from those of you who read this blog. I couldn't do it without you. Thank you thank you thank you.
And now, soup!
Pear, Fennel, and Roasted Winter Squash Soup
Adapted just a little from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours
Yield: 6 delicious main-course servings
3-ish pounds of winter squash, halved and seeded (I used one butternut and one acorn)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed, core removed, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper
5-6 cups vegetable broth
2 ripe pears, cored and coarsely chopped
2 strips of orange peel (each about 2-3" in length)
Juice of 1-2 lemons
Cream, for garnish
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place squash halves, skin-side down, on lined baking sheet. Rub a little bit of oil on the flesh of the squash and sprinkle with a little salt. Place baking sheet in oven and roast for about an hour. To check for doneness (after about 45 minutes or so), use a knife: when you can pierce the flesh easily with the tip of the knife, it's ready to come out of the oven. Once the squash is cool enough to handle, remove the peel (it should come off easily just using your fingers) and coarsely chop the squash into about 2-inch chunks.
Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over low heat. Stir in the onions. Season lightly with salt and cook until onions are soft but not browning. Add the fennel, garlic, and a little more salt. Cook, stirring often, until all the vegetables are soft, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in the squash, all the spices, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Pour in 5 cups of broth, increase the heat and bring to a boil, then reduce heat so soup simmers gently. Add the pears and orange peel. Partially cover the pot and simmer for about 20 minutes. Puree the soup using an immersion blender or a regular blender, in batches. Taste and add more salt and pepper if you'd like. Stir in more broth if you'd like a thinner soup and warm on stove until heated through. Just before you're ready to serve the soup, stir in the lemon juice.
Garnish with cream or anything else you come up with.