Thursday, January 6, 2011

Harlequin, two are better than one!

A serious labor of love for a loved-one. Growing up an only child, I relied on extended family to act as my siblings. One particular cousin and I have been extremely close. During middle school and into boarding school, I tried to be like her. I followed her to New England and back to the South again, I’m currently trying to follow her steps into law school, and once, I even tried to become a vegetarian in solidarity with her dietary restrictions. This soup is for her, as we struggled to make it together.

Included in this Post:
1 recipe for Very Green Broccoli Soup
1 recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Very Green Broccoli Soup
1 1/2 pounds broccoli
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 cup (1/4-inch) diced onion
1/2 cup (1/4-inch) diced celery
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
5 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
2 cups packed spinach
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
1 cup heavy cream, buttermilk, or cool-whip for vegans.

CUT the broccoli florets from the stems. Peel the tough outer skin from the stems and trim off the fibrous ends. Cut the stems lengthwise into slices about 1/2-inch thick and then crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces.

HEAT the olive oil and butter in a soup pot over medium-high heat until hot. Add the garlic and cook until light brown. Add the onion and celery, lower the heat to medium, and season with salt and pepper. Cook the vegetables slowly until tender, about 10 minutes. Regulate the heat so the vegetables cook without taking on color. Add the thyme and stir. Add the broccoli stems, stock, and salt and pepper, to taste, and bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, for about 3 minutes. Add the florets and continue to cook until very tender, about 5 minutes more.

PUREE the soup in a blender in small batches. Add some of the spinach and some of the lemon zest to each batch and then puree it. (The soup can be made to this point, covered, and refrigerated for up to 1 day or frozen for up to 1 month.)
Return the soup to the pot and reheat over gentle heat. Stir in the cream or substitute. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Keep warm.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
The first step in making this soup is to roast the squash. Follow the first recipe below.

Roasted Winter Squash: (Puree)
About 3 pounds butternut squash (preferably 1 large squash)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup dark unsulfured molasses

PREHEAT the oven to 400 degrees F. Peel the squash with a vegetable peeler. Halve lengthwise, discard the seeds, then cut into 1-inch dice. Place in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.

HEAT the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter ceases to foam and has turned a light brown, pull the pan off the heat and immediately add the sage, sugar, vinegar (stand back so as not to get splattered), molasses and toasted spice rub. Mix well and let simmer over medium-low heat for 1 to 2 minutes to meld the flavors.

POUR the vinegar mixture over the squash and toss well, then transfer to a heavy rimmed baking sheet or baking dish large enough to hold the squash in a single layer. Place in the oven and roast, tossing at least once, until very tender and caramelized, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Set aside until cool enough to handle but still warm, so the liquids are runny.
Working in batches, if necessary, transfer the warm squash and all the cooking liquids to a food processor and process until smooth. Use immediately, refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.

Extra Puree? Serving suggestions: Serve the puree on its own as a side dish for roast chicken, turkey, or pork; use as a stuffing for ravioli; make into additional soup; or use to flavor pastina.
Yield: about 2 cups puree

For the soup:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup (1/4-inch) diced onion
1/4 cup (1/4-inch) diced celery
1/4 cup (1/4-inch) diced carrot
1 cinnamon stick
Sea salt, preferably gray salt and freshly ground black pepper
About 4 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon ground toasted coriander, optional
1 1/2 cups Roasted Winter Squash Puree
1/2 cup half-and-half or Cool-Whip, optional

HEAT the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add the onion, celery, carrot, and cinnamon stick and saute until soft but not brown, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

ADD the chicken stock and the coriander, if using, and bring to a boil. Simmer for several minutes. Stir in the squash until smooth, then simmer gently to let the flavors meld, about 10 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick.

PUREE the soup in a blender until smooth. (The soup can be made ahead to this point, cooled, covered, and refrigerated for several days or frozen for about 1 month. It will thicken as it cools and may need thinning with stock or water when reheating.)

RETURN the soup to the pan and reheat gently. Add the half-and-half, if using. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Keep warm until service.

Both soups should be warm at this point if being served together. It is important that both soups be of the same consistency, or the presentation will fail. Ladle the soup into serving bowls. Garnish evenly with pumpkin seeds, if desired.

NOTE: Ladle (via measuring cup) some of each soup into bowl. It is important to pour both soups simultaneously into each of the bowls so as to create a paralleled appearance. A toothpick can then be used to swirl the two into a design.

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