Sweet squash soup for cold nights

1Butternutsquashsoup

Lake Tahoe got a light dusting of snow at lake level last week. Night temperatures are dipping into the high 20s and I’m thinking about turning my heater on for the first time since May.

My thoughts have turned to warm meals that are easy to put together. I made this Roasted Butternut Squash Soup to keep me warm last week. I cut the recipe in half — but used the same amount of apple, onion and cream — because I only had one squash. It still made enough soup for four meals.

I’ve used Granny Smith apples in soups before, and they lend a certain tartness to them. This time I used a Fuji apple because it’s all I had. I liked the mellower flavor and feel that a Granny Smith apple would have made the soup more tart than I wanted it to be. The soup is sweeter and thicker than many other kinds of soup, but I liked that.

If you roast the squash ahead of time, this soup can be made quickly on a weeknight, when most people tend to look for meals that are easy to make after a day of work. I enjoyed it with a slice of sourdough bread and a spoonful of sour cream.

Ingredients
1 medium butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeds removed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium Granny Smith or Fuji apple
1/2 medium yellow onion
1 1/2 teaspoons rubbed sage or 4 fresh sage leaves
1 1/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Dash of black pepper
1/3 cup heavy cream
Sour cream

Heat the oven to 425 degrees F and arrange a rack in the middle.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the squash pieces cut-side up on the baking sheet. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and brush all of it over the tops and insides of the squash halves (alternatively, you can rub it on evenly with your fingers). Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast until knife tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Meanwhile, peel, core, and dice the apple. Dice the onion. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the apple, onion and sage, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.

When the squash is ready, set the baking sheet on a wire rack until the squash is cool enough to handle. Using a large spoon, scoop the flesh into the saucepan with the sautéed apples and onions; discard the skins.

Add the broth, water, and measured salt and pepper, stir to combine, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally and breaking up any large pieces of squash, until the flavors meld, about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream.

Using an immersion blender or regular blender, purée the soup in batches until smooth. If using a regular blender, remove the small cap from the lid (the pour lid) and covering the space with a kitchen towel (this allows steam to escape and prevents the lid from popping off). Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve garnished with the sour cream, if using.

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Shrimp pasta suited for summer

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Summer has me in the mood for seafood, since it tends to be lighter than red meats or poultry.

After making pesto last week, I’ve been jumping at any opportunity to use it. When I was looking for ways to use some shrimp I purchased, I came across Robert Irvine’s Fresh Pesto Shrimp Pasta.

I’ve seen Irvine on “Restaurant Impossible.” At first I thought he was pretty callous, but after watching more episodes I’ve realized he really does care about the people he helps. I hadn’t made any of his recipes until I tried this one, and it’s simple, delicious and can be made quickly.

The original recipe called for two pounds of shrimp, but I only had a half pound, so I changed the amount of each of the ingredients. This version makes enough for two servings, which was perfect for me for dinner one night and to have leftovers for lunch the next day. I also substituted white pepper for the black pepper, since black pepper tends to be too harsh for my taste.

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tablespoons minced red onion
1/8 cup dry white wine, plus more if needed
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 pound spaghetti, cooked
2 tablespoons pesto
Salt and white pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons thin-sliced tomato skin, julienned

In saute pan over high heat, add the olive oil and allow to come to the verge of smoking. Next, add the shrimp and reduce the heat to medium. Continue to cook the shrimp until medium doneness, about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. After the shrimp are medium, add the onions and allow to cook until translucent, another 2 minutes. Add pesto, stir, and then deglaze the pan with the white wine. Add the heavy cream and allow to reduce by half the volume, 2 to 3 minutes. Finally, add the pasta and stir. Finish seasoning with salt, pepper and additional wine if necessary. Allow to warm for 2 minutes, and then portion and serve. Top with the parsley and tomatoes.