Cooking With Honey – Roasted Butternut Squash Soup With Honey, Pancetta, and Fried Sage Leaves

butternut soup

There are wonderful butternut squash available in the local markets, and today, cool and sunny, is a perfect day to prepare this tasty soup!

It’s what I’m having tonight!!

Yield:  Serves 4-6.

Ingredients:

1 (2 to 3-pound) butternut squash, halved with seeds removed

4 medium shallots, peeled and left whole

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

2 ounces pancetta (about 12 paper-thin slices), diced

1 cup diced leeks, white part only (about 1 large leek)

1/3 cup finely diced carrots (about 1 small carrot)

1/3 cup finely diced celery (about 1 small stalk celery)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage

1 tablespoon dry white wine, of drinkable quality

2 quarts rich chicken or vegetable stock, plus extra if needed

1 teaspoon honey, or to taste*

Splash of sour cream and/or hot sauce, for serving (optional)

Canola oil for frying

1/4 cup sage leaves

Fine sea salt, to taste

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Coat the squash and shallots with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season generously with salt. Place  the squash and shallots onto the lined baking sheet and roast until the squash and shallots are tender when pierced with a skewer or the tip of a small knife, about 40-60 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside until needed.

Heat a large sauce pan or dutch oven over medium heat; add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and heat through. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring, until the fat has rendered and the pancetta is crisp. Remove from the heat, then use a slotted spoon to transfer the pancetta to a paper towel-lined plate; set aside until needed.

Return the pan to the heat and add the leeks, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, but not browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and sage and cook, stirring, until very fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add the wine, scraping up any browned bits that have formed on the bottom of the pan (deglaze). Cook until the wine has evaporated, then add the stock.

Scrape the squash pulp from the skin and add the pulp, the shallots (scraping up any browned bits) and honey to the pan; bring the stock to the boil. Immediately reduce to a simmer and cook until all the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

Use an immersion blender to puree the soup completely. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper and honey as desired. Keep the soup warm until service. (This is where you’d add the splash of sour cream to taste, if desired.)

For the Sage: In a small, heavy-bottomed sauce pan, heat 1-inch of oil to 365°F; fry the sage in batches, stirring to separate the leaves, until crisp, about 3 to 5 seconds. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain; season with fine sea salt while still hot.

For Serving: Ladle the soup into warmed soup bowls or cups. Top each serving with some of the crispy pancetta and a few fried sage leaves. Serve immediately.

*The honey doesn’t sweeten up the soup; it just enhances the caramel flavor of the roasted squash.

Honey Roasted Winter Vegetable Soup

“Do you have a kinder, more adaptable friend in the food world than soup? Who soothes you when you are ill? Who refuses to leave you when you are impoverished and stretches its resources to give a hearty sustenance and cheer? Who warms you in the winter and cools you in the summer? Yet who also is capable of doing honor to your richest table and impressing your most demanding guests? Soup does its loyal best, no matter what undignified conditions are imposed upon it. You don’t catch steak hanging around when you’re poor and sick, do you?”
Judith Martin (Miss Manners)

Ingredients:

2 butternut squash (about 2 lbs each)
4 carrots, peeled
½ pound parsnips, peeled
1 onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup honey
3/4 stick butter
9 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon mace
2-3 teaspoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
Pitch of cayenne pepper
Sea salt, to taste

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350.

Halve the squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash, cut side up, in a large roasting pan. Cut the carrots and parsnips into small pieces, and scatter them, along with the onion, around the squash. Sprinkle the cut surfaces of the squash with the honey and dot all over with the butter. Pour 2 1/2 cups of the broth into the pan and cover it tightly with aluminum foil.  Bake until all the vegetables are very soft, about 2 hours.

Carefully remove the foil and let the vegetables cool slightly. Scoop the squash out of the skins and place it in heavy soup pot. Add the other vegetables, juice from the pan and the remaining 6 ½ cups of broth. Season with the mace, crystallized ginger, cayenne and salt. Stir together and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, covered for 10 minutes.

Puree the soup with an immersion blender or by batches in a blender or food processor until it is very smooth. Return the soup to the pot and add extra broth, if necessary, to thin it to the desired consistency. Heat it through. This soup can be refrigerated or frozen, but there is unlikely to be any soup leftover.

Serves 10

Cranberry Week – Wild Rice Pilaf With Honey, Dried Cranberries, and Pecans

Wild Rice is an aquatic cereal grain that grows “wild” in isolated lake and river bed areas located primarily within the continent of North America. It is also native to ecologically similar regions located on the continent of Asia. This evolutionarily ancient grain has been found in layers of the earth dating back some 12,000 years. In addition to its role as an important food staple for ancestral peoples, it has provided a unique habitat for fish and waterfowl for thousands of years.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 Tb. canola or grapeseed oil
  • 3 large shallots, minced
  • 2 cups wild rice or 2 cups short-grain brown
    rice, or a mixture
  • 1⁄2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs or 1⁄4 tsp. dried thyme,
    crumbled
  • 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt, plus more, to taste
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground white pepper, plus
    more, to taste
  • 1⁄2 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1⁄4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 375°F. In a saucepan over medium-low heat, bring the stock to a simmer.In a heavy 2-qt. flameproof casserole over medium heat, melt the butter with the oil. Add the shallots and sauté until translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir until the grains are well coated, about 3 minutes. Stir in the simmering stock, dried cranberries, honey, bay leaf, thyme, the 1/2 tsp. sea salt and the 1/8 tsp. white pepper. Bring to a simmer, stir and cover. Transfer the casserole to the oven and bake until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender, 40 to 45 minutes.Remove from the oven. Remove and discard the bay leaf and the thyme sprigs, if used. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Stir in the pecans and parsley. Serve hot or warm.
Serves 8 to 10.

Honey Caramels

I made these for my daughter’s Bridesmaids’ Luncheon!

Ingredients:

1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 cup honey (mild honey works best here)
1 cup raw sugar (or granulated sugar)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Fleur de sel or other sea salt for topping

Special Equipment: 8×8 pan, candy thermometer (optional)

Procedure:

  1. Line an 8×8 pan with aluminum foil, letting the edges of the foil hang over the side of the pan, and spray with cooking spray, or butter generously.
  2. Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan.
  3. Add the honey, sugar, and heavy cream. Stir over medium heat until the sugar has mostly dissolved.
  4. Turn the heat to medium low. Clip your candy thermometer onto the side of the pan….carefully.
  5. Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches firm ball stage, which you can determine in one of two ways: a. the mixture reaches 248ºF (give or take a degree or two) on a candy thermometer (it will be marked with “FB” or “firm ball”) or b. Drop a bit of the mixture into a small bowl filled with ice water. It should immediately form a ball that you can squeeze together with your fingers without it dissipating.
  6. Immediately remove from the heat, quickly stir in the vanilla (it will bubble slightly) and pour the mixture into your greased pan. Sprinkle with fleur de sel or other sea salt.
  7. Let cool, lift out of the pan using the foil, then cut into squares and wrap in squares of parchment paper or cellophane.

Note: If you happen to accidentally take your caramels past the firm ball stage (i.e., if the caramel mixture gets a little too hard after it has cooled), remelt the candy over low heat with 1/4 cup of heavy cream. Stir until the mixture is totally combined, then do the ice water test to check the consistency of the mixture (dropping the mixture into cold water is a reliable indicator of what the texture/consistency of the caramels will be when cool). Immediately pour into a newly-foil lined and greased pan, and cool completely.