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Spiced Squash, Fennel & Pear Soup

Spiced Squash, Fennel & Pear Soup

adapted from Around My French Table [1] 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.