Monday, September 17, 2007

Of Sisters and Soup: Butternut Squash and Pear Soup

Two years younger, two inches shorter and a pack-a-day smoker, my sister L can (and will, if provoked) kick the everloving crap out of me in a fair fight. Sure, she’s a softball pitcher and ex-lifeguard and I have the biceps of an anorexic Woody Allen, but there’s no worldly explanation for her superior strength, speed, and skill - especially because her diet blows.

Somehow, the woman has become the family jock even though all her meals end in “tot.” A notoriously choosy eater, L actively rejects vegetables, fine cheeses, braised meats, and homemade sauces for cereal, boxed pasta, and Diet Coke. (Not together, like in a slurry. That would be gross.) She made fun of me on Thanksgiving for adding shallots to gravy, and pooh-poohs all edibles that don’t have a mascot. When I told her about this post, L cooed, "Ooo - you have to write how I tell you to stop putting shit in my food." In sum, she hates healthy, home-cooked, perservative-free cuisine.

But she likes this soup.

I wasn’t expecting much when I plopped a bowl in front of her last year, so when L raised those expertly-plucked eyebrows, smiled, and delivered an approving, “This is really good, Kris,” it was as if God himself had given me the thumbs-up from on high. It made me jig in my parents’ kitchen, and I don’t even know how.

Adapted from Dave Lieberman’s Butternut Squash and Pear Soup recipe, it’s sweet but not cloying, and marries the fruit and vegetable with happy, soul-warming results. Plus, it makes a fine first course, but can also act as a main in a pinch. To save cash and calories, I took out Dave’s cream and rosemary, and added a dash of pumpkin pie spice for extra flava.

L's coming to visit this week, and I have a batch all ready for her. I was considering whipping up a whole fancy meal, but this just might do for now. Baby steps, you know.

(P.S. Buying pre-cut vegetables is not the most frugal thing, but butternut squash is hell to butcher. I’ve never been able to slough the skin off with a vegetable peeler, and have come close to losing limbs in the chopping process. If you’re cool with it, go crazy, but if you want to save time and precious blood, grab a box of supermarket-sliced chunks.)

(P.P.S. Must ... work on ... food ... photography...)

Butternut Squash and Pear Soup
Makes 9 servings, 1 cup each
Adapted from Dave Lieberman.

4 tablespoons butter
2 medium onions, diced
1 medium butternut squash peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
4 pears, peeled and chopped into roughly 1-inch pieces
1-quart (4 cups) low sodium chicken (or veggie) stock, or enough to cover
Dash of pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg or cinnamon
Salt, freshly ground black pepper and granulated sugar

1) In a large stockpot or dutch oven, heat butter over medium-high until melted. Drop heat to medium, add onions, and cook until soft and a little translucent. Add squash and pears and sweat for another 15 or 20 minutes.

2) Add stock and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until squash is tender.

3) If you have an immersion blender, great – use it. If not, process half the batch in a blender until smooth. (Be very careful here, lest the blender spill over.) Remove and process the other half. Add both halves back into pot.

4) Season with spice, salt, pepper, and sugar to taste.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
191 calories, 6.4 g fat, $0.63

4 tablespoons butter: 400 calories, 44 g fat, $0.37
2 medium onions: 92 calories, 0.2 g fat, $0.60
1 medium butternut squash: 562 calories, 1.2 g fat, $2.20
4 pears: 322 calories, 0.7 g fat, $1.52
1-quart (4 cups) low sodium chicken stock: 346 calories, 11.5 g fat, $0.92
Dash of pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg or cinnamon: negligible fat and calories, $0.02
Salt, freshly ground black pepper and granulated sugar: 50 calories, 0 g fat, $0.05
TOTAL: 1722 calories, 57.6 g fat, $5.68
PER SERVING (TOTAL/9): 191 calories, 6.4 g fat, $0.63

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Hops said...

So by her liking it, does this mean that your soup tastes like some kind of over-processed, high sodium, prepackaged soup?

Because that sounds awesome.

Kris said...

I only hope.

Maybe I'll try a semi-healthy tater tot next. It would absolutely blow her mind.

paidtwice said...

This soup sounds super yummy!

And it is a nice story :)

eyots said...

I made this tonight and it was awesome! After wrestling with the squash (and having a Sword in the Stone moment when my knife got stuck), I roasted the squash to make it easier to peel and cut.

FaerMaer said...

I nearly lost my life trying to chop that stupid butternut squash. The sword in the stone moment definitely rings true with me as well.

Also, it would be useful if you could specify the type of pear to use. I have never bought a pear in my life, so when I went to the grocery store, you can imagine my surprise at finding THREE different kinds of pears. What was a girl to do? Buy one of each and an extra of the prettiest type (the red one).

Well, I'm in the process of making this now and we'll just see how it goes...

Kris said...

@FaerMaer: I promise, on all that is good and true, the chopping gets slightly easier. As for the pear, I would go with a good ol' Bartlett, but Anjous are nice, too. Good luck!

Cate said...

Thanks for posting this recipe! I have made it twice this fall, and it turned out great both times! My chef Dad, a self-proclaimed hater of both butternut squash and pears, absolutely loved this soup! He was upset I did not save him more!