After a rather calm and easy-going Summer, the last quarter of 2011 is turning out to be a rather hectic one, as I find myself hustling to wrap up the year before the holidays arrive. Fall has, so far, been full of trips, projects, new clients and challenges, all of which I love and thrive on, but which have also taken me away from blogging as frequently as I would have liked. I hope to make it up to you as best as I can in the coming weeks. I’m off to Austin on Sunday to spend a week immersed in photography with Penny, Scott and Lynn, and while there’s not likely to be many recipes coming out of that, I do plan on sharing a couple of snippets and images through the week, schedule-permitting. It’s going to be intense and fun, and my first time in Austin. I can’t wait.
Also, I’d like to take the chance to thank Saveur for featuring this blog as one of their “Sites We Love” profiles, as well as the UK’s Fork Magazine for including me in their blog round-up for their Christmas issue. If you’re here because of these recommendations, welcome, and I hope you stay a while!
The weather has turned, overnight, and it feels like we’re well and truly in winter. I’m sitting here with a fleece sweater, woollen socks and a warm cup of chai, resisting the temptation to turn the heater on. It’ll be fun to see how long that resolution lasts. I excitedly dusted off my leather boots for the first time last night, to welcome the first chilly rains of the season, and also in honor of our fourth wedding anniversary. Some folks may view the rain as dampener on festivities, but not for me. I’m excited about the changing seasons. As beautiful as Summer was, with her long, warm days, there’s something to be said for the comfort of Fall and Winter, with their earlier sunsets, woollen scarves, and the intimacy of gathering around the fireplace. In particular, I’m giddy with happiness that its brussels sprouts season again, and to be able to have the oven on without turning the whole apartment into a sauna. I’m relishing the introspection that shorter days bring, to reassess my priorities, and then hunker down and finish all the things that need to be done before sending off 2011. It’s a time for gathering around cosy dinner parties that stretch into the night, for sharing and reconnecting with those dear to us. It’s a time of comfort, and nothing says comfort better than a bowl of soup on a cold day. Doesn’t it?
Pumpkin Soup & Buttered Chanterelles
Serves 6, as an appetizer
This soup is the product of efforts to incorporate more pumpkin into our diet, as its a vegetable that’s still pretty foreign to me. Apart from roasting it and turning it into sweet desserts (which haven’t appealed to me…yet), soup’s the most accessible and convenient form factor for feeding (and comforting) us over a few meals. The Chanterelles were a flash of inspiration one evening, as I thought about potential toppings that weren’t nuts or croutons. We happened to have a host of them in our fridge, so I tossed them with some salted butter and sprigs of thyme in a pan, and the rest, as they say, is history. The chunks of Chanterelle add a soft, meaty texture to this creamy, luscious soup. I think it’s time for me to make another pot.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium red onion (3 to 5 ounces), peeled and diced
- 1 large leek (14 ounces/ 400 grams), trimmed and roughly chopped
- A bunch of carrots (about 14 ounces/ 400 grams), trimmed and roughly chopped
- 1 medium pumpkin (about 2 pounds/1 kilogram), peeled, deseeded and chopped into cubes
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon chili flakes
- 3 tablespoons/ 43 grams salted butter, softened
- 6 ounces/ 170 grams fresh Chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- 4 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
- Over medium heat, combine the oil and onions in a deep pot and sweat, about 3 minutes.
- Add carrots and leek and stir, until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Turn the heat to medium high, add the pumpkin and stock. Bring the pot to a simmer, then turn the heat to low and slowly simmer with the pot partially covered until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.
- While the soup is simmering, prepare the Chanterelles. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium high heat. When it starts to foam, add the mushrooms and thyme leaves, stirring quickly to mix, for about 5 minutes, until fragrant and tender. Set aside and keep warm until ready to serve.
- Bring the soup back to medium high heat. Add the cream and chili flakes and bring to a boil, about 3 minutes, then take the pot off the heat and blend the soup using a regular blender or an immersion blender, carefully protecting yourself from splatters. If the soup’s too thick for your liking, add a few tablespoons of hot water until you get your desired consistency.
- Season to taste and portion into individual bowls topped with a scoop of Chanterelles. Serve with warm bread or your favorite green salad.