Creamy Squash and Tomato Soup

Vermont Creamery provided ingredients for this recipe.

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Butternut, acorn, kabocha, pumpkin––squash season is upon us! It's easy enough to roast a couple of winter squash while you catch up on e-mail or watch tv. Just crank the oven to 450, slice the squash in half and scoop out the seeds, lightly oil it, and roast it on a cookie sheet until a fork can slide right in, or your finger can make a soft dent, about 30-60 minutes. Now you've got a side dish, the makings of pie filling, or the base for Creamy Squash and Tomato Soup.

Once you've roasted the squash, you can make this soup using just one pot. Dice an onion and saute it in a tablespoon or two of butter until it becomes translucent. If you've got some wine––red or white, it doesn't matter––add a glassful and let it simmer for a few minutes (it's optional). Now add a big can or box of tomoatoes; I like the Pomi ones that come in a tetrapak. Use the can or box to measure out the same amount of roasted squash (just the flesh, no peel), and then twice that amount of water. 

If you have one of those stick blenders, blend the soup right in the pot. You want it thick and creamy, but not baby food smooth, so leave a little texture. If you don't have one of those, you'll have to get the blender or food processor dirty. Now add a big pinch of salt, and simmer the soup for a few minutes, at least, until the flavors blend. Stir in crème fraîche to make the soup creamy, thick and tangy––the amount should be to your taste, but I reccomend using a lot. Add a generous amount of cracked pepper. Taste a spoonful: does it need more salt? more crème fraîche? more pepper?

Serve the hot soup with fresh herbs, if you can. This reheats well, and crème fraîche is much more stable than cream, so you don't have to worry about it curdling. If you're just cooking for one or two you can enjoy this soup for days.

 

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Pasta with Peas and Salmon

French Lentils with Crème Fraîche and Chives

 

French Lentils with Crème Fraîche and Chives

Vermont Creamery provided ingredients for this recipe.

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Here's a recipe to prove that the lowly lentil can be fancy and sophisticated, and really delicious. You could serve this for a casual dinner party, with a simple salad and a bottle of wine––won't you seem chic!? But they are easy (and cheap) enough to cook for a night when you're feeding only yourself. If you're lucky, you'll have leftovers to eat for lunch: warm them and toss them with grainy mustard, more olive oil, a little vinegar and some peppery greens––they're reinvented! And the extra crème fraîche and chives you have left will be as beautiful on scrambled eggs or omelets as they are on this elegant bowl of lentils.

French Lentils with crème fraîche and Chives

serves 3 as a main course, 4-6 as a side dish

  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 large shallot
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 pound (1 heaping cup) French lentils
  • sprig thyme 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • crème fraîche, for serving
  • chopped chives, for serving

1. Cut the celery, carrot, and shallot into very fine dice, nearly as small as a lentil: this is your mirepoix. In a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, sauté the mirepoix in 1 Tablespoon olive oil until the vegetables brown a little. Add the wine, and simmer until it reduces by half. 

2. Add the lentils, a sprig of time, and 2 cups of water. Simmer until the lentils are tender but firm, and much of the water is gone. If the water disappears before the lentils are tender, add a bit more and keep simmering. Er on the side of undercooking when you turn off the stove.

3. Season the pot of cooked lentils with salt and freshly ground pepper, and the remaining 2 Tablespoons of olive. Cover the pot and let the seasoning settle in for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm lentils in shallow bowls with a generous dollop of crème fraîche and liberal sprinkling of chopped chives on each bowlful.