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Kuri squash soup

A well-prepared soup always pleases guests. On top of this, many soups are very easy to make, and once you have one simmering away as your guests arrive, you can easily finish assembling the rest of the meal without worrying about it. Soup is, in my mind, a perfect entrée that sets the mood for a nice evening meal (entrée translates to “opening/entrance of the meal”, contrary to the “entrees” which have become the main course name on English menues).

Here, I am sharing the recipe for a soup I had the pleasure of making not only for Catherine, but also for her parents, when we had a dinner party last weekend. Despite our busy schedules both as clinical clerks living in 2 different cities, we managed to cook a very fine meal which we’re both excited to share.

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Ingredients – 6 servings

  • 1 kuri squash (aka hubbard squash), sliced in half and seeds removed
    • 2 sprigs rosemary
    • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
    • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 leek, light part only, washed and diced
  • 1-2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp freshly cracked pepper
  • 6 cups vegetable broth of your liking
  • Salt to taste
  • 6 small dollops crème fraiche
  • 100g pecan halves
  • 1/2 package fresh sage leaves
  • 1 Tbsp butter

Directions

Heat the oven to 375F and place the squash prepared with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper, and a sprig of rosemary in each on a baking dish.  Roast for 40 minutes approximately. This can be done even the day before you make your soup

To make the soup: prepare the leek, and heat 1 Tbsp of butter in a large soup pot with a lid over medium heat. Once the butter is bubbly, add the leek, and cook, stirring occasionally and otherwise keeping the lid on until leeks become soft. Add a little more butter if necessary if they begin to brown too fast before softening.

Once the squash is roasted, slice it and cut off the peel as much as possible (a little that remains is fine and will just increase the fibre content!). Add the squash to the leek mixture, and stir. Over this sprinkle your nutmeg, pepper, bay leaves, and a few pinches of salt.

Add the stock and bring to a slow boil, covered. Once it is boiling, reduce heat and simmer 20-25 minutes, leaving off the lid for the final 5-10 minutes. Remove the bay leaves, and then blend the soup in a blender or with a hand blender, until fully smooth.

When you are almost ready to serve the soup, heat the pecans in a dry frying pan over medium-high heat, and toast carefully so they brown but don’t burn.  Coarsely chop the sage in the meantime, and when the pecans are almost ready, melt the other 1 Tbsp of butter in with them, and add the sage for 1-2 minutes once the butter is bubbly, just long enough for it to crisp up a bit and to flavour the butter.

Serve the soup with a dollop of crème fraiche and a spoonful of the pecan-sage-butter topping in each bowl.

Enjoy!

-Sitelle

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For the past several years, I have embraced coming up with new or unusual ways to cook traditional foods usually eaten at and around Thanksgiving. Like Catherine, Thanksgiving is also a favourite holiday of mine. The brilliant colours around me remind me of the changing seasons, and this year, they remind me of a bountiful harvest had at our (now previous) home in Toronto. Although I loved the autumn colours in Toronto, I must admit they are absolutely stunning out here in Western Montréal. I frequently have to travel at least an hour to visit field sites at work, and I am really fortunate because I end up driving along some of the most beautiful roads in Canada. Driving doesn’t feel like a chore, in that case – but rather a treat!

This year I spent Thanksgiving in Ottawa. We decided to have a roast beef (rosbif en français), and so I thought I should try to make something different with squash, because squash are something I can never get enough of. A relative of mine who knows me well gave me a beautiful Kuri squash (aka red hubbard) as a housewarming gift a few weeks ago. What a great idea! It had a smiling face carved into it naturally in a few crevices – and made a lovely meal which I greatly enjoyed sharing with my family. I made this recipe without parmesan because of a dietary restriction – and I think in the end that allowed the subtle squash flavours to really come through. I based the recipe off one found on Bon Appétit‘s website which I bookmarked last year as a must for 2011. This is quite an ambitious project to take on if you’ve never made gnocchi, but don’t shy away just because of that. Especially if you have the helping hands of a mother or friend, it ends up being really fun and the outcome is certainly worth it.

Ingredients – 6 side portions

-1 medium kuri (red hubbard) squash
-1 Tbsp olive oil

-3 small potatoes or 1 large potato – approximately 350g
-1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
-1 egg, beaten
-1/2 tsp (freshly if possible) grated nutmeg
-1/2 tsp salt

-4 Tbsp butter
-2 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
-pinch of salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Cut squash in half lengthwise, and remove seeds. Place cut-side up on a baking dish and brush with olive oil. Cook in oven at 400F for 75-90 minutes, or until the squash is fully roasted and some brown spots begin to appear on it.

Meanwhile, boil the potato whole for about 20 minutes or until a fork can be poked in and flesh is tender. Remove from water, peel, and purée the potato (use a potato ricer if you have  – which my dad and his wife do to my great surprise!). Purée the potato while it is still warm, and if you do not have a ricer, mash it up thoroughly. I like to pass it through the ricer several times because it makes the gnocchi that much more delicate

While letting the puréed potato cool, scoop the squash flesh out of the skin and purée it (I did it by hand because I did not have a food processor – but that would be great if you have one). Then place the purée in a pot and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 4-5 minutes until the mixture is hot and thickens. Remove from heat and let cool.

To the cool potato, add the nutmeg, egg, and salt. Then add the squash, and mix thoroughly. Add the flour in 1/4 cup at a time, mixing well enough that the mixture is even but not over-worked. If the dough is still quite sticky once all the flour has been mixed in, add a couple of table spoon fulls of flour until it is not too sticky to handle.

When you are ready, roll small tea-spoonfuls of the dough on floured hands, and then roll over a fork to create indentations. Place on a well-floured cookie sheet or if you have parchment paper this is the time to use it on the baking sheet.

Once your gnocchi are all formed (congratulations! it’s not the easiest thing to make), place them in the fridge for an hour.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and then cook the gnocchi in batches of 1/4 at a time. Place them into the water carefully, and wait for them to begin to float. Once they are cooked (floating), remove them with a slotted spoon and place in a single layer on a baking dish again. Repeat until all gnocchi are cooked.

To make the brown butter: in a frying pan, melt the butter over medium/medium-low heat. Once it begins to bubble, keep a careful eye. It should eventually foam white, and then the foam should pick up a yellow tinge. This is the point the pan needs to be taken off the heat immediately otherwise the butter will pass the brown/hazelnut stage and burn. Place the chopped fresh sage in the butter and return over low heat for a minute or two.

Place the gnocchi in the pan with the brown sage butter, toss so the gnocchi are fully covered, and serve as an accompaniment to a special meal!

-Sitelle

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