Monday, October 25, 2010

Spiced Squash and Pear Soup

Here's my ultimate fall and winter comfort food.  And it's low-fat, high fiber and very easy to make - you can't say that about too many comfort foods!  For the soup pictured here, I actually used squash and about 1 cup of leftover canned pumpkin.  That's the great thing about it - you can vary the vegetables, the spices and the stock.  So whatever, your preferences are, jump in and make it the way you like it!

1 tablespoon olive oil
5-6 cups (about 2-3 pounds) peeled and seeded butternut squash chunks (or carrots or pumpkin)
1 pear, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1/4 sweet onion, peeled and chopped (optional and to taste)
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon of Kabsa spice, optional ( if no Kabsa spice is availabe, add a pinch of cardamom, cinnamon, cumin and fennel - to equal 1 teaspoon)
5 cups low-salt chicken stock
fresh thyme stalks, for garnish

Place the oil in a large stockpot.  Add all o f the chopped vegetables, fruit and spices - except the ginger,  to the pot.  Turn the veggies in the oil so that everything is coated. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes to lightly glaze the vegetables.
Add the ginger, and cook for another 2 minutes.  In case  you've never used fresh ginger before, it's an ugly brown tuber that you find in the produce isle.  It doesn't keep very long, so I buy a knob, use what I need and then peel and chop the remainder and throw it into a jar full of dry Sherry.  It will keep for months like that.

Add the stock.  It should just about cover the vegetables.  If there isn't enough, you can add water or more stock.  Bring the stock to a simmer, cover the pot and cook for about 1 hour until the vegtables are
soft enough to mash completely.
 To puree the soup, use an immersible blender.  Blend completely smooth, or leave some chunks, however you prefer.

Alternatively, the vegetables can be transferred to a food process and processed until smooth.  Process first to a rough chop, and then add a little stock, if necessary, to blend the vegetables to your desired preference.
 Stir the blended vegetables back into the pot.  At this point the soup will be a little thin.

Simmer it, uncovered, for about 10 minutes to thicken it up. If you plan to eat it immediately, you can continue to simmer it to the desired thickness. If making the soup ahead, don't over-thicken it, because it will dramatically thicken as it cools, and will stay thicker even after it gets reheated.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the fresh thyme.

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