Friday, August 31, 2007

Squash Soup!

I have replaced my squash soup recipe. Perhaps not permanently, but at least for near future. I’m hoping that my husband will like this one better than the old one. He wouldn’t eat the old one at all because he said it was too sweet. On careful reflection, I can’t actually replace my old recipe completely, because it was a very healthy version of squash soup, whereas this one is less so.

Previously when I made squash soup, it was from a recipe from an Eating Well magazine. The article had two outstanding soup recipes that both used vegetables that had been roasted in the oven, and then made into soup. One of them was a roasted tomato soup, the other was roasted squash and pear soup. I discovered these recipes back in about 1997, and then lost both of them in a tragic upgrade incident.

I had been using a computer software called MasterChef, which had its own built in cookbook (pre-loaded with recipes from Cooking Light, among other sources), but would also allow you to type in your own recipes as well. It had the usual features that this kind of software does—menu planning, nutritional analysis, grocery list creation. I spent hours happily typing in dozens of recipes so I could be rid of those pesky pieces of paper. Once they were all in, all the paper went straight into the garbage—welcome to the modern world! Who needs those bits of paper floating around? And if really do want a paper version, if someone should ask me for a copy of recipe or something like that, I have a printer!

Then one day, in a moment of sheer insanity, I upgraded our happy little Windows 95 machine to…Windows Me. No, I don’t recall why. All I remember is that from that day forward my MasterCook program, which (as you may have guessed) wasn’t designed to run on Me, wouldn’t work at all. All those recipes, all that work, gone. To this day I refuse to put recipes on a computer, and keep hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pounds of paper (in the form of books and magazines) around to keep track of my recipes.

So, the squash soup recipe was gone. I was sad, but resigned. At one point a website called had many of the recipes from Eating Well (which by then had ceased publication). It had lots of their recipes, but not my soup (now, I find, their “recipes” section just has links to low rent sites like I finally decided it was gone forever. And then years later in a moment of startling boredom, I did a Google search for roasted squash and pear soup. Much to my delight, some blessed soul had entered it in to one of those “share your recipe” sites, and they’d even credited it to the October 1997 Eating Well so I knew for sure it was the right one. Oh joy! (And I would like to say thank you to Gail Shermyer, for posting that recipe and bringing a little sunshine to my life.)

I made it again, and my husband still didn’t like it. It has cinnamon and cardamom and brown sugar in it, and he thinks it makes the squash too sweet. He doesn’t mind butternut squash, but he doesn’t like it sweet. He blames the pears in this recipe, but they’re really not solely responsible. The pears and squash are roasted for about 45 minutes, then pureed and cooked with the spices and some sautéed shallots. It also has curry powder in it, which gives it a wonderful flavor to me.

But just a week or so ago, I discovered a new squash soup recipe in an issue of Fine Cooking magazine (my new magazine obsession—I’ve read Threads magazine by the same publisher plenty of times, and my husband even has a subscription to Fine Homebuilding, but I’d never really explored Fine Cooking before, and now I’m hooked!). This one called for squash, Granny Smith apple, and bacon. The bacon hooked me. I love bacon. I think you could put bacon in just about anything, except maybe ice cream or chocolate cake, and it would be outstanding. So I gave it a try. And it’s great.

The bacon fat is rendered, then the squash is sautéed in it to give it some depth of flavor, and then the apple and some sage are added, along with chicken broth. Then it’s pureed with half the cooked bacon that the fat came from, and the rest is scattered over the top of each bowl. It’s not one for my vegetarian friends, but is simply wonderful if you don’t mind some bacon fat.

I had an awkward moment when pureeing time came around, because I’ve managed to misplace my immersion blender in all this moving we’ve done. I can find the motor, but not the blade or the safety shield, so I was forced to use the blender. I’d rather have used the food processor, but someone grated about four pounds of cheese last night, and all the food processor parts are in the dishwasher, still dirty. I’m always afraid of using the blender because of all those warnings about the lid blowing off with the buildup of the steam from the hot soup. Like all those warnings about old pressure cookers blowing pea soup all over the ceiling—pressure cookers flat out scare me. Fortunately I managed to get the soup smooth without incident.

Anyway, while this recipe is clearly higher in fat and not really as healthy as the Eating Well version, it gets points for being faster. Once you get past the chore of peeling the squash (something I hate doing because I always wind up with a weird slick orange film on my fingers), the soup is ready pretty fast—within a half an hour. The Eating Well one requires the roasting portion, which means your soup takes more like an hour or more to make. Also, this new one has bacon. Did I mention the bacon? It has bacon.

So now I have a squash soup recipe for any occasion—trying to eat more healthfully; throwing caution to the wind; having vegetarians over for dinner; providing for hard-core carnivores. I think my husband will like it—it’s not too sweet, and he kind of has the same philosophy about bacon that I do. Now if I could just get my kids to eat it. But I guess we can’t have everything.

No comments: