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Abrazos! xox Penny

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cooking it up with My Pot Pal

On the 9th day before Halloween, my True Ghoul gave to me...a squash soup and some great mem-or-ies...

I thought this the perfect day to introduce you to Stuart. No, not my cyber pal and no, not "that" kind of pal either! Stuart and I "met" because of a Colombian black pot. How October-right is that, given the 10-day countdown to the Big H has begun. Mercy, I do LOVE Halloween! Hard to believe some people do not share the thrill!

Anyway, long story sort of short, while in New York last spring, a restaurant was passing out samples of a lovely Colombian stew cooked in a lovely Colombian black pot. The moment that stew hit my lips, I was back in Bogota. I was an exchange student there when I was 17. LOVED it. Sadly, I had to come home as all the drug trafficking (!) became better known and the program I was on shipped all North Americans out.

Colombia is wonderful...absolutely gorgeous and full of scrumptious food and generous, spirited people. I wish I could have enjoyed more of everything. Part of my fun was squelched anyway because I had a pretty nervous bodyguard the whole time. Pretty weird to have a bodyguard when you are 17 and totally not famous, just red-headed.

traditional Colombian bus

Plaza de Bolivar, Bogota

Colombian countryside

The restaurant put me in touch with Stuart who is a professional chef on the West Coast and we have exchanged several food-full emails. Here is a recipe of his that sounds fabulous and would look oh-so-pretty in a black pot, Colombian or not. It's high time I bust out my cauldron.

Butternut Squash–Pear Bisque

Stuart's note: "I used winter pears from my garden for a subtle fruity sweetness when I developed this delicious version of a golden squash soup. It is superb served with a garnish of shredded extra-sharp Vermont or Canadian Cheddar cheese. Or, scatter over toasted Garlic Sourdough Croutons or crispy toasted squash seeds." (My note: love the non-cheese garnish option!)

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large Anjou pear, peeled, halved, cored, and cut into chunks
1 parsnip or carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
1 quart homemade or canned low-sodium veggie broth
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream or whole milk or unsweetened nut milk of choice
1/2 cup shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese or Garlic Sourdough Croutons

In a large pot, melt the butter or oil over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, 8 minutes. Add the squash, pear, and parsnip and sauté for a few minutes longer. Raise the heat to high and add the broth, bay leaf, honey, and thyme. Season lightly with salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the squash is very soft, about 15 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf and let the soup cool slightly. Working in 2 or 3 batches, in a blender* or food processor fitted with the metal blade; process the soup to a smooth purée. Alternatively, use an immersion blender to purée the soup in the pot. Return the soup to the pot if necessary and stir in the cream. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Stir over low heat until the soup is hot throughout. Ladle into bowls and garnish with the cheese or croutons. Serve immediately. Serves 6

*Note: The Blender of All Blenders is about to arrive at my fave Little Rock kitchen store, Eggshells, Can't wait!!!

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