I love soup. It's just so simple, yet so satisfying. I love puttering around the house on a Sunday afternoon, spending time with family and making a big pot of soup, especially on a chilly day. One of my recent favorites comes from Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison's Kitchen, a birthday gift from a dear friend. It's infused with pears and ginger, without being too spicy, and is low in fat while offering up a serving of yellow veggies. My daughter loves to help me make this velvety soup. Here's my version of Deborah's delicious creation:
Roasted Squash, Pear, and Ginger Soup
One 2 1/2 # Butternut Squash
3 ripe but firm pears, quartered and seeded (or apples)
1 chunk fresh ginger, about 2" long, thinly sliced
2 T butter
1 onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup creme fraiche or plain yogurt (whole milk is to die for!)
1 t cinnamon
1 star anise
Preheat the oven to 425F. Cut the squash in half, scrape out the seeds, then cut each half into thirds (DON'T peel). Put the squash pieces on a large baking sheet that's been covered with foil. Add the pears and all but a few slices of the ginger. Toss gently with olive oil, season with salt and bake until fragrant and tender, about 40 minutes to an hour. Turn pieces once or twice so they can caramelize on each side (this gives them a sweet yumminess). Transfer to a bowl, and let cool. Once cool, scrape the flesh from the squash skins. You should have about 2 cups.
To make stock, bring 6 cups of water to a boil and add the star anise, the squash seeds and skins, the remaining ginger and 1/2 t salt. Lower heat and let simmer, covered, for 20 - 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in the soup pot. Add the onion, give it a stir, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until it begins to brown and is fragrant (about 10 minutes). Add the pears, ginger, cinnamon and squash. Strain the stock into the pot. Bring all to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes. Cool briefly, then puree until velvety smooth in a blender or with a food mill. Serve as is, or swirl with creme fraiche or yogurt and add another sprinkling of cinnamon.
* For an extra special treat, dice an apple or pear, sprinkle with a little sugar, and caramelize in a little butter to make "croutons" for this delightful, silky soup.