Autumnalyum: Seckel Pear and Delicata Squash Soup

On one gray Sunday evening with only some rapidly declining seckel pears and a pair of lonely delicata squash on hand, I endeavored to create a quick and easy supper.  And this Saveur-inspired soup turned out to be just the ticket.  It turned a desperate Sunday night into a gastronomical “aah!” with it’s perfectly autumnal balance of delicate sweetness and rich savory.

The dish didn’t look pretty, and hopes certainly weren’t high — but boy were our taste buds pleased.  Even my MSG-addicted boyfriend licked the bowl clean *swear it*.  Too boot: it’s fat-free 🙂  Yum!

Seckel Pear and Delicata Squash Soup

vegetarian, optionally vegan, gluten free

serves 2 as a meal

  • 2 seckel pears
  • 2 small delicata squash
  • 1/2 onion (white or yellow)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups broth/stock of your choice
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • my non-fat crème fraîche substitute*
  • real, tasty, trees on the bottle maple syrup
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Halve delicatas, scoop seeds and roast, open side down, for 20-40 minutes, or until flesh is soft.
  3. While roasting, chop onion and garlic, and quarter pears (if you’re using a high-powered blender no need to remove seeds or stems).
  4. Heat non-stick spray in a large wide pan.  Add onion and saute until soft.  Add garlic and saute more until fragrant.
  5. Add pears and saute until soft.  Add thyme and saute more until fragrant.
  6. Add balsamic vinegar, stock/broth and salt & pepper to taste.  Bring to boil and then remove from heat.
  7. Then there are two options: a) toss it all into a high-powered blender (preferably a Vitamix :)) and keep ‘er going until very smooth, or b) use an immersion blender to puree until the soup is very smooth.
  8. Serve with nice drizzlies of non-fat crème fraîche and maple syrup. YUM!

reduced-fat crème fraîche substitute

  • lemon juice
  • low or non-fat grass fed sour cream or greek yogurt (or the vegan sour cream or yogurt sub of your choice)
  1. Add approximately 1 tsp of lemon juice per 1/2 cup of sour cream or yogurt.  Mix and you’re done!  (If it’s too thick you can add some water)

The Snack Most Worth Waiting For: Dilly Beans

This past summer I picked up a load of green and wax beans from my Aunt’s garden.  Not knowing what else to do with ’em, I took a nod from Marisa of the fantastic canning blog Food in Jars and went for Dilly Beans — an old fashioned pickled treat.  Lucky for me, the finished product was buried so deep in my pantry that I couldn’t be tempted to break in early.  After a full four months (three, even, would have probably sufficed) I opened a jar for the first time.  Verdict?  AMAZING.  My boyfriend and I literally ate the whole jar within an hour — well before we finished anything else on the associated cheese plate.  Even better news: NO BOTULISM!  So go ahead, have some fun.  Dilly those beans.

Dilly Beans

  • Wide mouth pint jars or 12 oz. jelly jars
  • Other associated canning supplies*
  • String beans (a combo of green and wax is nice!)
  • Garlic cloves (2 per jar)
  • Split hot chili pepper – fresh or dried (1 per jar)
  • 1 tsp dill seed (per jar)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt (per jar)
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (per jar)
  • 1/4 tsp celery seed (per jar)
  • 1/4 tsp black peppercorns (per jar)
  • fresh dill
  • water
  • white vinegar
  1. Sanitize jars.*
  2. Trim string beans so that when stuffed upright in jar they are about 1 inch from the top.
  3. Fill jars while still warm with string beans, garlic cloves, split chili pepper, dill seed, salt, cayenne, celery seed, peppercorns and a spring of fresh dill.
  4. For each jar you’ve filled, add 1 cup water and 1 cup white vinegar to a large pot.  Once boiling, pour the hot brine over your beans leaving 1/2 inch headspace at the top of each jar.
  5. Run a chopstick or whatever you have on hand around the outside of the jar to remove any air bubbles. Wipe the rims very clean with a paper towel to ensure a clean seal.
  6. Apply warmed lids, screw on bands, and process in boiling water canner for 10 minutes.*
  7. They’re ready to eat basically immediately, and will last about a year in your pantry.

*I’ve never bothered to put together a nice primer on canning but they are certainly available out there. For something comprehensive, try the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning – it’s a bible of sorts.  Alternatively, here’s a quick and simple Canning 101 from Simple Bites!

Make These Now: Easy Airy Kale Chips

Tuscan kale – aka lacinato kale or dinosaur kale – is hands down my favorite kale variety.  It’s tender, scaly, flat leaves are perfect for eating raw or crisping up into deliciously delicate chips.  Unlike curly varieties of kale, whose ruched edges mean a tough texture and uneven baking tendency, these babies melt in your mouth raw, and toast to to perfection without any unpleasant chewiness or char.

20111114-144708.jpgMaking tuscan kale chips is just about the easiest thing to do in the kitchen there could be, and you seem super fancy when you do it.  They are one of the best entertaining snack foods I’ve ever encountered.  Keep in mind, though — the combination of their dangerous addictiveness, crumbliness, and tendency to leave green bits in between teeth you didn’t even know you had mean they don’t make the best date food.  Just sayin’.

Kale Chips

  • 1 bunch lacinato kale
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
  2. Remove the stems from the kale leaves.
  3. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil (you need less than you think!) and sprinkle of salt.
  4. Arrange flat on a baking sheet and bake for approximately 30 minutes.

Sunshine (Kabocha) on a Cloudy Day: Ginataang Kalabasa at Hipon

The one nice thing I can recollect from my dark, dank and horrible October (besides it becoming November) is this Headhouse purchase-promted dish: warm, creamy, comforting Ginataang Kalabasa.

I came home from the market one week with an irresistible sunshine kabocha.  Kabocha — also known as Japanese pumpkin — is a fantastic squash variety from, you guessed it, Japan (though originally Cambodia). It has a wonderful sweet chestnut flavor that is certainly one of my favorites.  The sunshine varietal doesn’t have a distinct taste profile, but it sure does look pretty, don’t you think?

On one of those cold blustery days it beckoned — “Stew me…..steeeewwww me.”  So I did.

In an effort to bring the kabocha back to it’s roots, I went for a Filipino-style preparation called ginataang, which basically means “stewed in coconut milk.”  The only protein I had on hand were some lovely large shrimp from Whole Foods stashed in the freezer, so the dish became Ginataang Kalabasa at Hiponkalabasa referring to the “pumpkin” and hipon to the “shrimp.”

Aside from the initial effort needed to cleaver the kabocha in two, this is a super easy dish to throw together — under 30 minutes from squash to table.  And like that’s not enough, it’s basically the culinary embodiment of the large, generous and warm Filipino mother you likely never had – well, the one I never had, at least.  On a cold, blustery day, nothing could be more comforting.

Ginataang Kalabasa at Hipon

(Kabocha Squash and Shrimp Simmered in Coconut Milk)

gluten free, can be vegetarian/vegan

Serves 2-3

-1 kabocha squash,* peeled, seeded and cut into 1-1.5 inch cubes
-1 small white/yellow onion, diced
-4 garlic cloves, crushed
-1 cup broth or stock
-2 chili peppers, tops removed
-1/2 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined (can use cubed tofu to make vegan/vegetarian)
-2 cups coconut milk**
-1/2 tsp fish sauce (optional)
-Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Heat a wide pan coated with nonstick spray. Add the onion and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the chicken broth, whole chili peppers (although you can split open and remove the seeds if you’d like less heat) and squash pieces – along with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and then lower to simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the squash is tender but still holds shape.
  3. Add the shrimp, coconut milk and fish sauce. Simmer for another 3 to 5 minutes, stirring, until shrimp is opaque.
  4. Serve over nice fresh rice 🙂

*Feel free to use any winter squash you have on hand!

**I, of course, use reduced-fat coconut milk.