Southern Snacks Cookbook

The Southern Sympathy Cookbook

I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Butternut and Fennel Soup

I read recipes all the time – from magazines, online and books. I cut out the ones the interest me or pin them to a board or mark them with little sticky note flags. Then this happens to me. Something sticks in my mind and the next time I am at the grocery (which is several times a week) I think oh! I want to make that recipe I saw…but I don’t precisely remember what all it calls for. So I try to piece it together and I think, well, I am in the store so I ought to get at least some of the ingredients. So I buy butternut squash, say. Then I get home and realize I don’t have the other necessary ingredients, but I have whatever it is I bought, so I have to do something. And that’s how this soup was born. I saw a recipe in a fabulous new cookbook that glazed the squash with maple syrup and soy sauce. and knew I had to try it. I bought prepared butternut. When I got around to making it, I realized I had only a few of the ingredients in the cookbook recipe on hand. So I punted. I happened to have some fennel (from another poorly thought out plan) and the soy and maple in the pantry, so I gave it a try. When I pureed the soup, I realized it needed a little something, and thought to add a splash of cider vinegar, but when I went to the pantry, it hit me that balsamic would add a lot of depth. I originally just intended this soup to be something I would eat myself (I freeze portions for a quick meal or snack), but it turned out really well, so I wrote down the recipe and have made it several times. And I really think it is worth sharing.

Butternut and Fennel Soup

32 ounces butternut squash cubes

1 large fennel bulb

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup maple syrup

¼ cup soy sauce

4 cups vegetable broth

1 cup water

2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 °. Spread the cubed squash in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Remove the stalks and frons from the fennel, reserving the feathery fronds for topping, and cut the bulb in half. Cut out the tough core from the center and discard, then cut the halves into three wedges each. Add them to the squash on the roasting tray. Whisk the oil, maple syrup and soy sauce together in a small bowl, then drizzle it over the squash and fennel. Toss everything around with your good, clean hands to coat evenly (don’t worry if the fennel separates, just coat every piece with the mixture). Sprinkle over some kosher salt and generous grinds of pepper and roast for 45 minutes, or until the squash and the fennel are soft and browned on the edges. Transfer the vegetables to a large Dutch oven and pour in the broth and water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. With an immersion blender, or carefully in batches in a blender, puree the soup until smooth. Add the balsamic vinegar, stir well and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper if desired – the soy and the vinegar add a lot of oomph already. Simmer a further ten minutes.

Served drizzled with a little balsamic and some chopped fennel fronds.

Serves 4 – 6

Celery Popovers

Celery Popovers

Popovers are sort of kitchen secret weapon. They are so easy to make but produce such impressive results. Watching the simple batter transform into fluffy sculptures is one of the glories of cooking. My sister-in-law was given a popover pan years ago and I used to ask her to make them all the time because I thought she had some special secret. She eventually got tired of my requests and showed me how easy they are to make. I bought myself a popover pan the next day and now I love experimenting with different flavors, like these equally as interesting Pumpkin Popovers.

These celery popovers take on a lovely celadon hue from the celery and have this elusive, delicate celery-scented taste. These are marvelous with any soup, as the light celery note doesn’t compete with any other flavor, but I think they are a special treat with this Cream of Celery Soup. They are a fun treat for a meal anytime you have a little celery hanging around. A popover pan isn’t strictly necessary, but once you learn how easy it is to make them, I consider it a decent investment. I use this version. You can use a deep muffin tin, but the batter won’t rise as high and give you the full popover effect, though they will be delicious. Serve these warm, ready to dip into a bowl of soup or with good butter.

Celery Popovers

2 thin stalks of celery (about 2 ounces total)

2 -3 celery leaves

1 cup whole milk

½ teaspoon celery salt

½ teaspoon kosher salt

4 large eggs

1 cup all-purpose flour

3 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled

Spray a 6 well popover pan with cooking spray and put it in the oven while it preheats to 375°.

Break the celery into small pieces, pulling off any strings. Drop the pieces into the carafe of a blender, then add the celery leaves, milk, celery salt and kosher salt. Blend until smooth and combined. Add the eggs, flour and cooled melted butter and blend until smooth. Scrape down the sides of the carafe as needed.

Carefully take the pan out of the oven and pour the batter between the wells, filling them about 2/3 full. Put the pan back in the oven and cook for 30 minutes without opening the door. Open the oven and quickly poke a hole in the top of each popover with a sharp knife, then close the oven and cook a further 5 minutes.

Serve warm.

Makes 6

Cauliflower, Hazelnut and Brown Butter Soup

Cauliflower, Hazelnut and Browned Butter Soup

I like cauliflower, but I am not obsessed with putting it to all sorts of uses. I don’t pizza crust it or rice it or make bread with it. I like cauliflower for itself, not for how it can trick me into thinking I’m eating something else – something perceived to be better. Food shouldn’t involve fraud. Cauliflower is lovely all on its own. My favortie form of cauliflower is soup, when it is transformed to a silky, rich bowl of deep flavor.  And this soup. I mean, the first time I made this I actually called my mother to say I’d just made the best cauliflower soup. She agreed when she tasted it. This soup turns the snow white heads gloriously velvety, with rich, earthy nutty undertones from hazelnuts and browned butter. This may make you rethink your relationship with cauliflower.

The drizzle of browned butter and the crunchy hazelnuts really make this soup, adding such a lovely, nutty note. I blend this soup smooth, then pass it through a sieve to give it a really silken texture, but you can skip that step if you like. You can use vegetable stock, just chose one that is light in color or the final color will be muddy,  And don’t be put off by preparing the hazelnuts – I always thought it sounded like a lot of trouble and skipped recipes because of it, but it is super simple and easy, I promise. And so worth the effort. Cooking some of the nuts in with the soup adds such a brilliant toasted flavor, but sprinkling some over the top gives a nice textural crunch. And everything is better with brown butter.

Cauliflower, Hazelnut and Brown Butter Soup

¾ cup whole hazelnuts

2 small heads of cauliflower

3 leeks, white and lightest green parts

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

2 Tablespoons olive oil

¾ cup white wine

4 cups chicken stock

3 sprigs fresh marjoram

1 Tablespoon kosher salt

½ cup heavy cream

Put the nuts in a small dry skillet and heat over medium heat until they are warmed through, about 3 minutes. Turn them out onto a clean tea towel, the fold the towel over the nuts and gently roll them around to remove the skins. They don’t have to be completely denuded, just as much as possible. Pick out ½ cup of the most skin free and set aside. Put the rest in a small ziptop bag and give it a couple of bashes with a rolling pin to break them up. Save these for garnish.

Cut the woody stem and green leaves from the cauliflower and cut the heads into small pieces. Slice the leeks in half lengthwise, then into small half moons then rinse in a colander leaving just a little water clinging to them. Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter and the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat and add the leeks. Sauté for about 5 minutes, just until the leeks are wilted and glassy, then add the cauliflower pieces. Stir to coat with the butter and oil and cook until the cauliflower starts to brown just a touch. Pour in the white wine and scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pot. Cook for a few minutes to let the wine reduce, then pour in the stock. Add the ½ cup whole hazelnuts, salt and the marjoram springs and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes, until the cauliflower is very tender. Remove the marjoram stems (some leaves will be left behind).

While the soup is cooking, cut one stick of the butter into small pieces and place in a small saucepan (light colored or stainless is best so you can see the butter as it browns). Heat over medium high heat, watching constantly, until the butter is melted. It will start to spit and hiss, then you will see brown speckles appear. Swirl the butter around to distribute the browned bits, and as soon as the butter has an even brown color and a nice nutty smell, pour it into a measuring jug and set aside.

Puree the soup in batches in a blender, filling the blender about half-full each time. Be very careful as the hot liquid can make the top pop off.  Remove the center cap and hold the top with a dish towel. Pour the pureed soup through a mesh strainer into a bowl. Rinse out the pot, then return the soup to it. Whisk in the cream and 1 Tablespoon of the browned butter. Taste and add salt as needed. Warm through, but do not boil.

Serve the soup drizzled with the remaining brown butter and the chopped hazelnuts. (if the butter has solidified, melt it in the microwave in 10 second bursts until it is liquid again.

Serves 6 – 8

Lady Pea Buttermilk Vichyssoise with Crispy Country Ham

 

When I was a kid, my mom would sometimes in summer serve cold soups for supper. Mostly vichysoisse from a can and something called consommé madrilène. I didn’t not like this. The idea of cold soup just didn’t square in my adolescent brain. But like most things, my mother was right. Cold soup is such a perfectly refreshing summer meal. And it is a great opportunity to make the most of summer’s delicious produce, like my summer squash Vichysquash, or Cold Vidalia Onion Soup. And my favorite summer produce is unquestionably field peas. Add a touch of buttermilk and I am in chilled soup heaven.

Delicate lady peas are perfect for pureeing into a light and creamy soup. Tangy buttermilk and soft leeks add layers of flavor. The crispy country ham adds the perfect salty note and crunchy texture to finish it off. This soup can be an elegant dinner party starter, and I can also see it as one of those soup shooters serves at a cocktail party, with a pretty shard of country ham balanced on the glass. But I also like it for a simple summer dinner, maybe with some sliced tomatoes on the side, and having some in the fridge over a weekend to sip for lunch or a snack is a treat.

Lady Pea Buttermilk Vichyssoise with Crispy Country Ham
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 2 pounds leeks, white and light green parts only (about 3)
  2. ¼ cup butter
  3. 1 pound fresh lady peas
  4. 3 celery stalks
  5. 2 shallots
  6. 6 – 7 stalks of thyme
  7. 2 bay leaves
  8. zest and juice of one large lemon
  9. 1 ¼ cups whole buttermilk
  10. 6 ounces thinly sliced country ham
Instructions
  1. Slice the white and lightest green parts of the leeks into halves lengthwise, then into thin half -moons. Place the leek slices in a strainer submerged in a bowl of water and shake around a bit to loosen any dirt. Let the leeks sit for a few minutes while you melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Remove the strainer and shake out excess water. Drop the leeks into the pot and stir. Sauté until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Do not let the leeks brown.
  2. When the leeks are soft, add the lady peas, the celery stalks (broken in half if needed) and the shallots. Pour over 6 cups of water. Tie the thyme sprigs together with kitchen string and drop in the pot with the bay leaves. Zest and juice the lemon and set aside both. Drop the squeezed out lemon halves in the pot, bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the peas are very tender, about 1 hour.
  3. Fish out the bay leaves, the thyme bundle and the lemon halves, then cool the soup to room temperature. Transfer the soup to a blender (in batches if needed), add the lemon zest and juice and puree until completely smooth. Season well with salt – it may take quite a bit. Pour the soup through a wire mesh strainer, scraping it through, into the cleaned out pot or a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until chilled. Whisk in the buttermilk until smooth and creamy. Taste and season with more salt if needed.
  4. Cut the country ham into thin slivers and cook in a skillet over medium high heat until brown and crispy. Remove to paper towels to drain.
  5. Serve the soup topped with the slivers of country ham.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Roasted Onion Dip

Onion dip is a perennial favorite. From my high school days of powdered soup mix and sour cream or the convenience store tubs that found their way into the college dorm fridge, I have always had a soft spot for the creamy, savory classic – particularly with salty ridged chips. I’ve grown up though, and now I make my own fresh spin. I absolutely love a dip made with sweet and sticky caramelized onions. Truthfully, I love caramelized onions with just about anything. But I’ll be honest, sometimes slicing and dicing all those onions and waiting patiently for them to turn that lovely caramel cover is a just a little more work than I’m ready for. This particular onion dip is the result of a kitchen failure. I had planned a really fancy appetizer for a small dinner party and it was an absolute disaster, but I still had guests coming and not enough time (or energy) to head to the grocery store again. So I surveyed what I had on hand, and I always have onions. But there I was, after cleaning up a mess from my previous fail, not really in the mood for the caramelizing process. I decided to give roasting a try, and boy am I glad I did.

This recipe is easy as can be – simply peel and quarter the onions and let the oven do the work. The onions pick up some lovely sweetness in the slow roasting, but the time in the oven also gives a slightly smoky hint from the char. Let the onions get really soft – a knife should just slide right in – and turn dark brown or black at the edges. I always (always) have buttermilk in the fridge and I love the tangy note it adds, but you could also use sour cream. My favorite sidecar for onion dip is plain, salty chips, but this is also great with corn chips or crackers. This is now a favorite in my entertaining repertoire and it is always vaccumed up – and people always want the recipe.

Roasted Onion Dip
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Ingredients
  1. 3 medium sweet yellow onions
  2. 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  3. 5 - 6 sprigs of fresh thyme, plus 2 teaspoons finely chopped thyme leaves
  4. salt and pepper
  5. 1 cup mayonnaise
  6. ½ cup (4 ounces) cream cheese at room temperature
  7. ½ cup whole buttermilk
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or non-stick foil.
  2. Peel the onions and cut them into quarters. Place them on the prepared pan, then drizzle over the olive oil, coating all sides of the onions with oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Place the thyme sprigs on top of the onions, then roast for 50 minutes to an hour until the onions are charred in places and soft throughout. Turn the onions over halfway through the cooking time.
  3. Cool the roasted onions and remove the thyme stalks. Place the onions in the bowl of a food processor and process until well pureed. Add the chopped thyme leaves, the mayonnaise, cream cheese and buttermilk and process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Scrape the dip into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for a few hours to let the flavors meld. The dip will keep for a day.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/
 

Farro and Herb Minestrone

There are one million and one delicious versions of an Italian style bean soup that it is almost impossible to narrow down a favorite. So the best thing to do, in my opinion, is to start from scratch, and that is what I’ve done here. I don’t really know if this is technically a minestrone, a pasta e fagioli or what, all I do know is that it is really delicious. I have become a huge fan of farro as I work to add whole grains to my diet, and decided it would be an interesting replacement for pasta in a brothy soup. The nutty flavor and slightly chewy texture make it hearty and interesting.

Let me explain my process. Cooking the farro separately keeps the soup from becoming thick or pasty. I love the herbal flavor of this soup – I think that’s what makes it more than broth with beans – but I find chopped rosemary can be too woody in a soup, so I like to simply infuse the broth with rosemary (and crisp celery leaves) then add the other freshly chopped soft herbs at the end so they are bright. I read for years about using a parmigiana cheese rind in soup and thought it was some sort of trendy, over the top silliness, but turns out it is really a great idea. It adds some depth and saltiness, and a hint of nuttiness that goes so well with the farro. Buy a wedge of real parmigiana for the fricos and cut off the rind. But you can (and should) save the rind of any wedge in a Ziploc in the freezer, though I have now found that the better cheese counters at the grocery now sell rinds. I love Italian borlotti beans, and sometimes find them at stores or online, most easily at Hispanic markets where they are labeled Roman beans. If you can’t find them, lovely white cannellini are perfect. Topping this soup with crispy cheese fricos is pretty and interesting, but feel free to just grate some cheese directly over the bowl.

Farro and Herb Minestrone
Serves 6
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For the Soup
  1. ½ cup farro
  2. 1 ½ cups water
  3. 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  4. 1 carrot, finely diced
  5. 1 stalk of celery, finely diced
  6. 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  7. ¼ cup vermouth
  8. 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  9. 5 cups of chicken stock
  10. 3 – 4 stalks fresh rosemary
  11. 5- 6 celery leaves
  12. 1 (2-inch) piece of rind of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional but worth it)
  13. 1 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
  14. 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
  15. 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
  16. 1 (15 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  17. 1 ( 15.5 ounce can) borlotti beans or cannellini beans
For the Fricos
  1. 12 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano -Reggiano cheese
  2. freshly ground black pepper
For the Soup
  1. Put the farro and water in a small saucepan with a good pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cover the pot and cook for 20 minutes. Check to see that the farro is cooked through, but still has a little bite to it (yes, al dente). If there is still some water left, drain it off, though the grains may absorb all the water.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium and add the carrot, celery and onion. Stir to coat with olive oil, then cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, then splash in a 1/4 cup of vermouth or water and cook until the liquid has completely evaporated. Continue cooking until the vegetables are a light amber color, soft and glassy, another 10 minutes or so. Add the garlic to the pot, stir well and cook 1 – 2 minutes – don’t let the garlic brown. Pour in the chicken stock, then drop in the cheese rind. Tie the rosemary stalks and celery leaves in a piece of cheesecloth or place in a mesh tea ball and add to the pot. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and simmer the soup for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove the herb bundle and the cheese rind and give the broth a go with an immersion blender. You don’t want to completely puree, but it gives the broth a little more body, so just 4 -5 whirs around the pot. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and the chopped herbs. Stir in the farro. Rinse and drain the beans then stir them into the soup. Keep the pot on the heat just until the beans and farro are heated through.
For the Fricos
  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and place 1 Tablespoon mounds of finely grated parmesan cheese about an inch apart on the baking sheet. Grind over a little black pepper. Neaten up the edges, slightly flatten the tops and cook for 8 – 10 minutes until golden brown around the edges. The fricos will crisp as they cool.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup with Rum and Citrus

Slow Cooker soups are one of winters greatest treats. For very little effort, you get big results, with the added bonus of a house that smells deliciously of warmth and comfort. And in the middle of winter, this black bean version has a tropical, sunny profile that perks things up considerably. Add some colorful toppings and everything will seem brighter. This soup is hearty and fresh all at the same time.

I love the Caribbean profile of this version of black bean soup – a little Cuba, a little Jamaica, a little Mexico – but all flavor. A nice dose of rum adds a good punch and tangy citrus brightens the rich soup up considerably. I like to serve some lime wedges for squirting on the top and add a sprinkle of chopped cilantro, but you can mic a little sour cream with some of the citrus juice and float dollops of that, or top with some diced avocado or red onion. I think this would be great beside a Cuban sandwich or a piece of avocado toast. If you like things spicy, add a finely diced jalapeno or two with the vegetables or serve with some hot sauce on the side.

Slow Cooker Black Bean Soup with Rum and Citrus
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 1 large yellow onion
  2. 1 carrot
  3. 1 green bell pepper
  4. 3 cloves garlic
  5. 4 (15-ounce) cans black beans, well rinsed and drained
  6. 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  7. ½ cup dark rum
  8. 4 cups vegetable stock
  9. 1 orange
  10. 1 lemon
  11. 1 lime
  12. 2 bay leaves
  13. 1/4 cup citrus juice
  14. 2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
Instructions
  1. Finely chop the onion, carrot and bell pepper. You want very small pieces. Finely mince the garlic and place them all in the crock of a slow cooker. Add the beans, cumin, rum and vegetable stock and one cup of water. Stir well.
  2. Peel a thin strip from the skin of each of the orange, lemon and lime using a vegetable peeler. Place the citrus strips and bay leaves on top of the soup, cover and cook on high for 3 – 4 hours or on low for 7 – 8 hours.
  3. Thirty minutes before the cooking time is completed, squeeze the juice from the orange, lemon and lime. Remove the strips of peel and the bay leaves from the soup, then measure out ½ cup of juice and pour it into the soup. Add the chopped cilantro and stir to combine. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup, or transfer it to a blender and give it a whirl. Finish cooking the soup until it is warm through.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Camembert and Apple Soup

One of my favorite sandwich combos is creamy brie or camembert with sliced apples or pears. There a couple of places around town that serve these – toasted or pressed or cold, on brioche, ciabatta or baguette. I can’t resist ordering when I see it on the menu, but of course I also make them for myself occasionally. When I was planning out soup month on The Spoon, I was at first trying to think of a soup I could serve with a brie and apple sandwich. Then it struck me to flip the script and use these two great ingredients in a soup. I decided to use camembert instead of brie (though you could switch), for its more distinct, earthy flavor. I am remarkably pleased with the rich, creamy results.

This soup is sophisticated enough to serve in delicate china cups at a dinner party, but also makes a wonderful rustic meal, served with a classic jambon beurre, a baguette layered with butter and ham or an open faced toasted ham tartine. You could also float a thin toasted baguette slice on the top of the soup. Use a lighter colored apple juice or cider, such as honeycrisp, as the darker or unfiltered versions will muddy the lovely pale color of the soup.

Camembert and Apple Soup
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 8 ounce wheel camembert
  2. 4 Tablespoons butter
  3. 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  4. 2 tart green apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
  5. 1 yellow onion, chopped
  6. 1 Tablespoon marjoram leaves
  7. 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  8. 4 cups chicken stock
  9. 1 cup apple juice or cider, such as honeycrisp
  10. salt
Instructions
  1. Remove the camembert from its packaging and cut away as much of the rind as possible. You don’t have to be too meticulous, just remove the thickest parts. Cut the cheese into cubes and set aside. It is easier to do all this while the cheese is cold and firm, but you want it to come closer to room temperature before adding it to the soup.
  2. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the chopped celery, apple and onion and stir to coat. Cook, stirring frequently, until everything is soft and the apples are beginning to break down. Try not to let anything brown. Sprinkle over the marjoram leaves and a generous pinch of salt and cook for a few more minutes. Sprinkle over the flour and stir to coat the vegetables. Cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Pour in the broth and the apple juice and stir to combine. Raise the heat and bring to a boil, then cover the pot, lower the heat and cook for 30 minutes, until everything is completely tender. Stir in the camembert, a little at a time, stirring until each addition is melted before adding the next.
  3. Leave the soup to cool for 10 – 15 minutes, then transfer to blender and puree until smooth. Be careful if the soup is still hot, vent the blender lid and hold it down with a tea towel. You may need to do this in two batches. Blend until completely smooth. Wipe out the pot to remove any stray pieces, then pour the soup through a strainer back into the pot. Heat through on low heat season to taste and serve
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Roasted Butternut and Onion Soup

One of my favorite grocery innovations of the last few years is the ready availability of pre-cut butternut squash. I love butternut, but peeling and seeding it myself for a quick weeknight meal more trouble than I am generally willing to undertake. So butternut squash dishes used to be a special occasion food for me. But now, so many stores offer peeled and ready to use pieces, it’s a regular menu item in my kitchen. And this soup is in frequent rotation in my kitchen, because for very little effort, the result is surprisingly complex and deep.

Roasting both the squash and the onion brings out the sweetness and adds an almost smoky note. Don’t be shy – the onions should get a little black in places and deeply browned in others. Just make sure it is very soft all the way through. Keep an eye on the squash – the size of the pieces you start with will determine how long it will take to get nice brown edges and a soft center. I like to pour everything through a strainer to produce a silkier result, but it is not a deal breaker. Top this soup however suits your fancy. A dollop of sour cream or crème fraiche, a swirl of olive oil, a sprinkling of toasted nuts, or simple croutons floating in the bowl.

Roasted Butternut and Onion Soup
Serves 6
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Ingredients
  1. 3 medium yellow onions
  2. 2 pounds peeled butternut squash pieces
  3. olive oil
  4. kosher salt and black pepper
  5. 6 cups chicken broth
  6. ¼ cup sage leaves
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with non-stick foil to make clean up simple.
  2. Peel the onions and cut into quarters. Leave the stem end intact to hold the quarters together. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, just enough to lightly coat the onions. I use my hands to spread just a light coat of oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast the onions for 1 hour, or until charred in places and soft so that a knife slips right through.
  3. Place the squash cubes on the second baking sheet. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, again, just enough to barely coat the pieces. Toss them around with your hands to coat with the oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast the squash for 45 minutes to an hour, just until lightly browned in places and very soft. The time this takes will depend on the size of the squash pieces, so check frequently and remove from the oven when done.
  4. Let the onions and the squash cool slightly, then begin pureeing with a few cups of broth and the sage leaves. You will probably need to do this in several batches – use about 2 cups of broth with each batch. Pour the puree through a strainer into a large Dutch oven. Season with salt and pepper as needed and heat through. You can add a bit of water to thin the soup out if you would like.
The Runaway Spoon http://therunawayspoon.com/blog/

Good Luck Gumbo

Enjoy this repost one of my favorite New Years’ Day recipes from 2011.

I am not an overly suspicious person. Sure, I have my little quirks, but I don’t worry about black cats, walking under ladders, throwing spilled salt over my left shoulder. But there are a few traditions that I adhere to because, well, it can’t hurt. Particularly if that tradition involves delicious food. So on New Year’s Day, I always eat black-eyed peas and greens. For luck and prosperity. Sometimes I eat them separately, but this gumbo includes all the ingredients for a good year. The traditional ingredients of good-luck hoppin’ john (rice and black-eyed peas), which is another New Year tradition in the South, plus greens for prosperity. Here’s a little more information on Southern luck traditions.

This gumbo can be made the day before and reheated, which is a boon if you have been out all night celebrating. Just reheat, cook some rice and add the collards. I highly recommend using smoked ham hock stock. It really gives the gumbo a smoky, earthy, rich flavor. Making it in the slow cooker is a breeze, and you can do it ahead of time. If you can’t manage, look for ham stock at some grocery stores, or use the combo of chicken and beef.

Good Luck Gumbo

1 pound smoked sausage, such as kielbasa

2 Tablespoon olive or vegetable oil

1 onion

1 green pepper

4 stalks celery

1 Tablespoon flour

1 teaspoon creole seasoning (I use Tony Chachere’s)

6 cups ham hock stock*, or 4 cups chicken stock and 2 cups beef stock

1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 pound black-eyed peas, fresh or frozen and thawed

1 ½ cups long grain white rice

3 ½ cups water

1 small bunch collard greens

Cut the smoked sausage into bite-size cubes. Heat the oil in a 5 quart Dutch oven, add the sausage and cook over medium high heat until the sausage begins to brown. Finely chop the onion, seeded bell pepper and celery. I do this in a small food processor, one vegetable at a time, pulsing to chop the vegetable finely. Add the “trinity” vegetables to the pot and stir. Cover the pot and cook for five minutes to soften the vegetables, then remove the cover, stir well and cook until everything is nice and soft and any liquid has evaporated. Stir in the flour and cook a further minute, then stir in the creole seasoning. Pour in the stock and the canned tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes uncovered, reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas and continue cooking for another half an hour. The gumbo should reduce and thicken slightly. The gumbo can be made up to this point, cooled and refrigerated, covered, overnight.

When ready to serve, cook the rice. Stir the rice into the water in a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to a boil and boil until almost all the water is absorbed and little air bubbles form in the rice, about 10 – 12 minutes, stirring a few times to prevent sticking. Remove from the heat and tightly cover the pan.

Cut the collard leaves in half and cut out the stems. Stack the leaf halves, three at a time, on top of each other and roll up like a cigar. Cut the leaves into thin ribbons. You can further chop the collard ribbons if you’d like.

Heat the gumbo to a low boil over medium high heat. It will thicken as it sits, but loosen up when heated. But add a little water if you need to get things moving. Add the collards, stir, and cover the pot. Cook until the collards are tender and wilted, about 5 minutes. Serve over cooked rice. If you have saved some ham hock meat from making the stock, dice that and stir it into the gumbo as well. And if you’d like, sprinkle some hot sauce over the gumbo.

*Smoked Ham Hock Stock

Hock Stock is an amazing cooking medium for field peas, beans and greens, as well as a great base for soup or gumbo. I always look for a naturally smoked hock (not one that has no artificial smoke flavoring added). I get these from farmers market vendors when I can, and make a batch of stock to freeze. I can then have to the long, slow cooked taste in quick versions of my favorite southern dishes.

1 large smoked ham hock, cut into three pieces

1 onion

2 carrots

2 celery stalks

1 Tablespoon black pepper corns

3 bay leaves

Place all the ingredients in the crock of a large slow cooker. Add 10 – 12 cups of water to fill the crock. Cook on the low setting for 10 – 12 hours. Strain the solids from the stock and refrigerate for several hours. When the stock is cold, skim any solidified fat from the top and discard. Strain the stock through cheesecloth to remove any last bits of debris.

If you’d like, pull the meat from the ham hock pieces and dice. It is a great addition to any soup or beans you are cooking with the stock.

The stock will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week or can be frozen for up to a year. The same goes for the hock meat, in a separate container from the stock.

Makes 6 – 8 cups