Plainclothes Feast

A weekly peek at one dinner table, in the heart of one home, in the center of the country

Plainclothes fast

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If, eight years ago, someone had told me the story that has unfolded at my house during the past ten days, I would have reconsidered whether, really, procreation was all that important to me.  After all, if I failed to send my own genetic code out into the cosmic future, would it really matter in the grand scheme of things?  On the other hand, having children virtually dooms you to a few weeks like the one we’ve just endured.

Three words: the stomach bug.  It was brutal and systematic, attacking us in stages, and leaving me alone for several days after the others had been felled, inviting my folly, almost daring me to say that I had escaped.  I had not.  This is a food blog, and I will spare you the horrible details except to ask this: Why do children throw up only at night?

The one day I spent sick in bed, my husband–who wields many talents, but who has little culinary experience–fed the children (all at various stages of recovery) dinner, pulling together from the badly depleted pantry his best attempt at something bland but nurturing.  The next day, when I asked what Daddy fed them, my daughter looked confused and then said, “Uh, spaghetti soup?”   He says it was a particularly “noodle-intensive” chicken soup.   I’ll leave it to him to blog about that recipe.

The one I offer you here isn’t noodle-intensive, isn’t fancy, and isn’t especially seasonally appropriate either, but for my family, at the end of this week, it was a perfect invitation back into the vibrant world of health.

Butternut Squash Soup

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Golden butternut soup with a house salad and toasted garlic bread.

3 tablespoons butter

1 large butternut squash or two small ones, peeled and chopped

2-3 leeks, halved lengthwise and sliced thinly

2 medium baking potatoes, peeled and chopped

4 cups of vegetable or chicken broth

salt to taste

1/2 cup whole milk, half-and-half or cream

1. Chop your veggies.  This is the most time-intensive part of the recipe.  Butternut squash are tricky guys to get into.  Look for ones with long “snouts,” since the nose of the squash contains no seeds and is easiest to peel and chunk.  Check out the nosy fella I lucked into today!

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The nosiest butternut squash I’ve ever seen!

Leeks also have a reputation for requiring wrangling, but they aren’t bad as long as you concede that they are going to be full of dirt and grit, and that the dirt and grit is going to get all over your cutting board.  Don’t even try to wash them until you’ve chopped them up.  (Slice them lengthwise and then chop into half-moons.)  Then toss them into a strainer and use your fingers to separate the half-rings under running water.  Wash your cutting board and get back to work. If, on the other hand, you try to wash them when they are still intact, you will probably wind up uttering words you shouldn’t say in front of your children and swearing off leeks for good.  Save yourself the trouble.

2. Melt your butter in a big soup pot over medium-high.

3. Dump in all of your veggies and a good amount of salt. (This soup doesn’t have spices: it needs salt!)  Stir every couple of minutes until the leeks wilt and squash and potatoes get a bit of color. Maybe this will take 10 minutes.

4. When they smell toasty, add your broth.  Stir well, and cover.  Simmer for 15 or 20 minutes, until the veggies are soft.  Turn off the heat.  You can let it steep at this point for a while if you want or need to.

5. When you are almost ready to eat, use an immersion blender to whizz it all up.  (Of course, you can also use a regular blender if you need to, but immersion blenders are so much easier–and easier to clean.  If you don’t have one, you should get one.  Seriously.)  Then stir in your milk or cream.  Taste it, and probably add more salt and some pepper.

I know it sounds unlikely, but this soup is wonderful with a bit of chipotle pepper in adobo, chopped finely and then sprinkled on top.  The warm, slow heat is a perfect complement to the velvety, slightly sweet puree.

Also be sure to provide a nice crusty-toasty bread for dunking.  Yum.

In the fall, when my local farmers’ market is waning and all of the merchants are offering baked goods and apples and a few blighted tomatoes, I can find butternut squash for less than a dollar each.  Because I know that we love this soup, I buy bunches of them and spend a couple of hours chopping them all.  Then I throw them in freezer bags and keep them around until I’m ready to make this soup.  That’s how often I make it.   Enough said.

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One thought on “Plainclothes fast

  1. Pingback: Whipped-up Autumn | Plainclothes Feast

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