December in the kitchen – Pear and butternut squash soup

December in the kitchen – Pear and butternut squash soup

Heavy rain was forecasted for the San Francisco bay area today, I think there was way too much media hype about this storm. It frightened everyone, they even closed the schools. This is how winter used to be before the drought of the last three years. A tree came down at the end of our street and there is some minor flooding in the neighborhood because of fallen leaves in the storm drains. It’s a perfect day for staying in and making soup.

I’ve wanted to make this recipe for some time; it is adapted from one in the cookbook “plum gorgeous” by Romney Steele. The original recipe calls for a medium butternut or kabocha squash, and curry powder. As usual, I ended up improvising. I couldn’t find the curry powder (the spice drawer needs a major overhaul) and my fridge only had 2 cups of cut-up butternut squash, not enough. I wasn’t about to brave the storm for a trip to the grocery store. I used the butternut and added 2 small sweet potatoes. As a substitute for the curry powder, I used Ras el Hanout. It’s a spice blend I purchased a few weeks ago from the Oaktown Spice Shop. You’ll find a link to their website here. If you get a chance to visit, don’t miss it. It’s heavenly just walking in the door, the aromas are amazing! Ras el Hanout is a custom blend of paprika, cumin, ginger, Ceylon cinnamon, cassia, turmeric, grains of paradise, allspice, nutmeg, mace and cayenne. Wow! They recommend using it to season chicken, lamb tagines, or scent rice. Using the curry powder suggested in the initial recipe would also be excellent. Mine eventually turned up in the back of the drawer, too late for the soup.

To make this recipe vegan, I used coconut water instead of chicken broth and added a cup of coconut milk at the end for richness. It ended up being both warming and delicious, perfect for a stormy day.

Soup - pear, butternut squash, and sweet potato

Pear and butternut squash soup

Pear, Butternut Squash, and Sweet Potato Soup

  • 2 cups cubed butternut or other squash
  • 2 small sweet potatoes
  • 2 large or 3 small pears, peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons of Ras el Hanout or curry powder
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, skinned and finely grated
  • 4 cups of coconut water or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup of coconut milk
  • chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Cut the squash into large chunks and arrange in a baking pan, cut side down. Prick the sweet potatoes and add them to the pan (cut them in half if large). Add about ¼ cup of water to the pan, drizzle with coconut oil, and roast for 45 minutes to 1 hour. They should be soft.
  3. Cool, then scoop out the flesh into a bowl.
  4. Heat 2 tablespoons of the coconut oil in a heavy pot. Add the onion, carrot and garlic and cook on medium heat until lightly browned and soft. Do not let the garlic burn.
  5. Stir in the Ras el Hanout or curry powder and fresh ginger. Mix with the vegetables for about 30 seconds, until aromatic.
  6. Add the squash, sweet potato, pears, coconut water or stock, and ½ teaspoon of salt to the pot.
  7. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 25 minutes until the vegetables and pears are soft.
  8. Puree in the blender or with an immersion blender.
  9. Add the coconut milk and gently reheat, thin with water or stock if needed.
  10. Serve garnished with chopped cilantro.
Pear soup

Pear and Butternut Squash Soup

This soup was perfect, a little sweet but with a spicy kick.

I think the folks at Gluten Free Fridays will like this one since it is both gluten free and vegetarian. Come see what else is cooking.

November in the kitchen – everything-but-the-kitchen-sink salad

November in the kitchen – everything-but-the-kitchen-sink salad

Leftovers can be a life saver as far as dinner is concerned. It was a busy day on Monday and I hadn’t had much time to even think about what to serve for dinner. In addition, the ladies were pleading for a walk. How could I resist those faces? Dinner would have to wait.

Australian Shepards

Quinn and Casey, the Aussie ladies

Enter leftovers, clean-out-the-fridge and everything-but-the-kitchen-sink salad.

When I stuck my head in the cold box, I found…leftover farro, some cold chicken, a bit of cheddar cheese, last of a jar of pickled green beans, a few pomegranate seeds, and half each of an avocado and red onion.

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I also found half of a butternut squash, the rest had been used in the pumpkin humus.

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I decided to roast the butternut squash to give the salad a bit of temperature variation. Combined with the cheese and avocado, it would give the salad a creamy and buttery texture and flavor. The green beans would add a tart note. I had just purchased a package of Trader Joe’s Candied Pecans, there’s the sweet and crunchy note.

Trader Joe's Candied Pecans

  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cube the butternut squash, toss with a tablespoon or so of olive oil and some kosher salt. Roast for 40 minutes or until brown and tender. Cool slightly.
  2. Cut the cheese into small cubes.
  3. Slice the onion and avocado.
  4. Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces.
  5. While the butternut squash is still warm, toss everything together with some greens (I used arugula and baby kale from the garden) and add a splash of vinaigrette.

Toss gently…ta da! Fanfare!

Assembled salad.

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This type of dinner is actually one of my husband’s favorites. Leftovers have always spurred my creativity. He fell in love with me over my Brie omelet (just a small picked over slice remaining from a cheese platter earlier that week). The saddest thing about these dinners are that they are rarely repeated, I never have the exact same leftovers waiting in the fridge.

Do you have a favorite clean out the fridge creation?