Spiced Squash, Fennel & Pear Soup

Squash Fennel & Pear Soup 1

I’ve been secretly referring to this soup all week as my grumpy squash soup. Every time I open the refrigerator door and eye the container of leftovers, I mutter, “grumpy squash.”

I know. I need help.

Yup, this is my grumpy squash soup, because I was mighty grumpy while making it. I participate in French Fridays with Dorie, and I had completely forgotten to prepare the upcoming week’s recipe. I would’ve skipped, but I had already missed last week’s duck recipe and didn’t want a repeat absence.

So, how could soup possibly make SoupAddict grumpy? Well, first, the daylight savings time change threw me off: I was simultaneously exhausted and invigorated all day Sunday. And some impossibly warm November weather had me seasonally confused, wanting to be outside playing in the leaves, not inside cooking comfort food to ward off the cold that was no where in sight.

I already knew I would like this soup, and I had already made a dozen different squash soups so far this Fall. There was no challenge in it. No anticipation. I didn’t care about this squash soup.

I made it anyway. I’m fairly certain that if I had video footage of me making this soup, it would show me shoulder-slumped, pouty-faced and stomping around the kitchen in big flat-footed movements, like a 5-year-old forced to put away her toys.

But I’m glad I did. Even if I didn’t quite stick to the recipe.

Squash Fennel & Pear Soup 2

The recipe is very easy and straightforward, but in my grumpydom, I wanted to cut off as much cook time as possible. Instead of roasting just the squash, I also roasted the pear. Now, that probably neither saved time nor made the soup substantially better, but sometimes you just have to give in to the grump and go with the flow.

I also substituted the spices that Ms. Greenspan calls for with a very similar Chinese Five Spice blend I had sitting in the back of my cabinets. It just seemed the shorter path to measure out one spice rather than three (yes, a whole three spices — I told you I was grumpy).

Squash Fennel & Pear Soup 3

While I inexplicably had a fennel bulb on hand, I did not have an orange (and therefore lacked the peel Dorie calls for), so I had to substitute orange juice. It was still good. How close it ended up to the original, I don’t know, but I’ve been enjoying it for lunch all week long.

And in the end, I guess that’s all that matters. Without further ado, I give you grumpy squash soup.

To see how the other participants fared with their soup, visit frenchfridayswithdorie.com.

P.S.: To all the veterans out there, thank you for your service and self-sacrifice. Whatever good is left in our country, you were responsible for allowing it to happen and persist. To the families of lost soldiers who didn’t have the chance to become veterans, may the peace and love of a grateful nation comfort you. And to my father, proud WWII vet, I’m thinking of you today, as always.

Spiced Squash, Fennel & Pear Soup

adapted from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan

Note: this is my variation of the soup. I suspect the result is close to the original, except that I omitted the very distinctive cumin, which I (a) frankly just plain forgot, and (b) in hindsight sounds out of place with the rest of the dish, at least to my personal tastes. This is also a smaller amount than what Dorie’s recipe makes, but can be easily doubled.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 1 hour

Yield: 2 generous servings

1 1/2 pounds squash, such as butternut, cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed (reserve if using for garnish)
1 ripe pear, halved and cored
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 bulb fennel, cored and chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons five spice blend
2 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
1/4 orange juice
Creme fraiche for garnish
squash seeds for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.

Rub the insides of the squash and pears with olive oil and place them on the baking sheet, skin side up. Roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until a knife easily pierces the skin of the squash. (If roasting squash seeds, clean them to remove any stringy squash fiber, pat dry, coast them in oil, season with salt and pepper, and add to the baking sheet along with the squash and the pears. Remove the seeds after 20 minutes of roasting.)

Remove from oven and allow squash and pear to cool until they can be handled. Then peel and dice both into small squares. Set aside.

Warm 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. When oil is shimmering, stir in the onions and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the fennel, celery, garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, for another 5 to 8 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft but not browning. Season the vegetables with the five spice blend, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Add the squash and pear dices and stir to mix well with the seasoned vegetables.

Pour in the broth, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. Add the orange juice, cover and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. The squash and pears should be soft.

Puree the soup in batches in a blender or use an immersion blender. Taste, and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with creme fraiche and roasted squash seeds, if using.

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