Back to Busy: Maple Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

pureed soup 2 text Back to Busy: Maple Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

The last hours of summer. Time yet for butternut squash soup?

It can’t go without saying that the novelty of not having a kitchen has officially worn off. It’s no longer like camping, and I’m tired of having cold noodles swishing around my feet when I have a shower.

(On account of doing our dishes in the bathtub.)

No longer nestled in the protective bosom of summer, when people expect you to be at the beach and not answering your email, I wake up early every morning in a full-on panic that it’s September! It’s mid-September! It’s almost late September! and then kick my coffee consumption into overdrive, thinking that caffeine levels somehow incrementally translate to productivity. This of course is not the case, and by mid-afternoon I generally come to the realization that I’ve had approximately a litre of coffee and half a muffin, and dive into a pizza for dinner, swearing tomorrow I’ll do better.

Squash Collage Back to Busy: Maple Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

I’m sure it’s mostly my Pavlovian need for something warm to sip on at my desk – the grown-up office version of a security blanket – and it occurred to me that this thing does not have to be coffee. (Nor tea, which I’ve given up on – I want to love it, I really do. But I steep it and let it go cold after a few sips every. single. time.) And why not take the opportunity to ingest some nutrients and fibre, rather than just (soul-affirming) caffine? Also – I need to stop relying on muffins and raisin toast for lunch. The fact that parka season is quickly approaching is no excuse.

And so I’ve taken to going over to my mom’s kitchen and simmering big pots of soup to keep in my fridge to warm up when I need it – without a kitchen (it’s going at glacial speed – update soon) it’s kind of like living at the office, with a fridge and microwave. I’m a fan of sippable soup, but my hand-held immersion blender, one of my can’t-live-without kitchen tools, died a (timely) death in the spring. My mom doesn’t own one – she purees soup my ladling it into her blender and blitzing it in batches. How archaic.

Screen Shot 2014 09 08 at 3.01.09 PM Back to Busy: Maple Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

And so because I need a new one anyway, and because my mom has gone far too long dripping and splattering hot soup all over her kitchen, not only did I choose a new hand-held immersion blender, I went out and bought – yes, with my very own money – the Cuisinart SmartStick. (My first lasted well over a decade.. the one that succeeded it about a week – and so I wanted one with a similar lifespan to the original. I also like that it has a beater on it – I often find myself attempting to whip a small bowl of cream by sticking a single beater in my hand mixer. Why do I need a small bowl of cream? Nevermind.) I may have to buy another once (if?) this kitchen is ever finished. Of course she lives close enough that we could just start a SmartStick timeshare.

A hand-held immersion blender is also ideal for blending a pot of red sauce, which I find irresistible in the fall, and ultra-useful when things get busy and days get short. It’s also perfect for smoothies, which make for a fast breakfast or after-school snack, and also act as insurance that W actually gets some fruits and veggies into him over the course of a day. And if you find yourself with surplus roasted veggies during this harvest season, just about any kind can be covered with stock and pureed into soup – the ultimate disguise for leftovers, and the work is already halfway done. As good a reason as any to roast extra squash next time the oven is on.

Maple Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

1 medium butternut squash
canola or olive oil, for cooking
pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp. butter
1 onion, chopped
1 tart apple, peeled and chopped
1/2-1 tsp. sage or curry powder
4 cups (1 L) chicken or veggie stock
1 cup apple cider (optional)
½-1 cup half & half, 18% coffee cream or heavy (whipping) cream
salt and pepper, to taste

Cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, drizzle with oil and maple syrup and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 425F for 20-30 minutes, or until golden. (They won’t be cooked through yet – you just want to get a bit of colour on them.)

In a small pot, heat another drizzle of oil and the butter over medium-high heat. When the foam subsides, add the onion and saute for 3-4 minutes, until soft. Scoop the softened squash out into the pot (or peel it and cut it into cubes), add the apple and the sage or curry powder and cook for another minute. Add the stock and cider and bring to a simmer; cook for 20-30 minutes, until the squash is soft.

Add the cream, season with salt and pepper and puree with a hand-held immersion blender. (Alternatively, puree it in a regular blender, or mash it in the pot with a potato masher until chunky.) Add a little water or extra stock if it seems too thick.

Serve hot. Serves 6.

* This post was sponsored by London Drugs to help get through the back to school crunch – and to help me pay my web hosting fees – but all words and thoughts are my own. Thanks, London Drugs!

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September 21 2014 | soup | 1 Comment »

Easy Plum Tarts

plum tarts 3 Easy Plum Tarts

Plums are in.

Not in fashion, but in the market. Although my tongue for food is far more developed than my eye for fashion, and I’d love a pair of pants or some wallpaper in dusty prune plum. Right?

plum tarts 1 Easy Plum Tarts

These came to be the morning after a particularly late night, when a small group of fun people gathered for a cooking class and sleepover at a beautiful retreat out in the foothills, and I was in charge of feeding everyone breakfast. We fired up the pizza oven, which was still warm from the night before, and baked a frittata, and roasted plums with butter, sugar and rosemary from the pot outside the window, and sliced a few more to turn into tarts just by baking them on squares of puff pastry, with a bit of sugar and sliced almonds as a buffer in between.

plum tart Collage Easy Plum Tarts

It’s as easy as it looks – roll out thawed puff, cut into squares, top with sugar/almonds/plums, and fold the edges over to contain any wayward juices. If there had been some cream cheese, soft goat cheese or mascarpone, I might have sweetened and spread it over the pastry to nudge the plums into.

plum tart Collage 2 Easy Plum Tarts

These could be considered dessert, and would make a fine vehicle for a scoop of ice cream, or breakfast pastries a little more fruit-heavy than the usual jam-dabbed Danish. And if plums aren’t in season, thinly slice apples or pears would do just as well, although you may want to consider adding a pinch of cinnamon to your sugar. If you happen to have a jar of vanilla sugar, all the better.

plum tarts 2 Easy Plum Tarts

Easy Plum Tarts

1/2-1 pkg. puff pastry, thawed
2-3 plums, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sugar
2-3 Tbsp. sliced almonds
1 egg, beaten (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry out 1/4-inch thick (or less) and cut into 3-4 inch squares. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, sprinkle each with about half the sugar and the almonds, then top with thinly sliced plums. Fold the edges over about half an inch and if you like, brush with some beaten egg.

Sprinkle with the remaining sugar and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden. Serve warm.

Makes 4-6 pastries.

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September 18 2014 | dessert | 4 Comments »

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