Squash and Crab Bisque

I know it’s still hot in many parts of the country, but here in northeast Ohio autumn has arrived.  Temps have been in the low-to-mid 60s during the day (that’s the mid-to-upper teens for you Celsius folks), and it’s been downright chilly at night.  The leaves are beginning to turn, and the last two days have brought us drab, rainy days.

Yes, it is soup weather.

We made what we call a “squash run” last week – basically, we drove out the farm where we got Pete the Goat and picked up $20 worth of winter squashes.  Since they charge by the squash, not by weight – a helluva deal, really – that’s a lot of squash.  Two boxes worth, in fact.

Among this treasure trove were 3 baby blue hubbard squashes.  Blue hubbard squashes can grow to be quite large – upwards of 20 pounds – but our baby squashes run about 5 pounds each, which is still pretty big, compared to all the butternut, spaghetti, acorn, sweet dumpling and delicatas that are part of our current squash collection.  They have a thick, inedible, greyish-blue outer skin, a brilliant orange, fine-textured flesh and are marvelous for soups.

Combined with a mirepoix of vegetables, homemade chicken stock, coconut milk and crab meat, is makes a seafood bisque that even The Young One will eagerly devour.  Frankly, I know of no higher praise for any dish, much less a soup.

You don’t have to use a hubbard, of course – butternut would work well, as would a pumpkin, though you should keep in mind that pumpkins are not as fine-textured as hubbard or butternut squashes.  Once I’d cleaned and roasted the hubbard, I got about 4 or 5 cups of the flesh for the soup, so if you use a smaller squash you might want to roast 2, or adjust the remaining ingredients accordingly for a smaller batch of bisque.  And if you don’t eat shellfish, this would be equally good with some leftover chicken or turkey.

Fairly low in calories, the bisque is as an excellent source of potassium and vitamin A, as well as a pretty good source of magnesium.  Oh, and the servings are huge.

Squash and Crab Bisque
Squash and Crab Bisque
Squash and Crab Bisque

Serves: 6
  • 1 small blue hubbard squash, about 4 or 5 pounds
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces
  • 2 large celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter
  • 4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 pound crab meat, picked over
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
  • Red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Split the squash in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds and stringy material in the center. Pour enough water to cover the bottom into a shallow baking dish large enough to hold both halves of the squash. Place the squash, cut sides down, into the baking dish. Roast until the squash is tender and easily pierced with the tines of a fork, about 45 minutes.
  3. While the squash is roasting, melt the ghee in a large, enameled Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook the onion and celery until the onion is tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the carrots and chicken stock; reduce the heat slightly. Cover and cook until the carrots are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  4. Once the squash is roasted, allow it to cool slightly and scoop out the flesh into the Dutch oven with the chicken stock and vegetables. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth and return to the pot. Or leave the soup in the Dutch oven and, using a stick blender, puree until smooth.
  5. Stir the coconut milk and crab into the soup and return to a medium-low heat until heated through, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper; garnish with red pepper flakes, if desired, and serve.
  6. Nutrition (per serving): 363 calories, 15.9g total fat, 88.3mg cholesterol, 578.7mg sodium, 1403.5mg potassium, 36.1g carbohydrates, 1.3g fiber, 4.9g sugar, 24.6g protein


Make Ahead Monday: Chicken Squash Chowder

It’s Monday, y’all, so that means it’s time for

So join the fun and link up your real food recipes that can be made ahead!

Today’s recipe makes good use of leftover chicken and squash and, in our case, some of the home-canned foods we put up this summer – most notably chicken stock and sweet corn (part of our 80/20 indulgence).  It’s always a good thing when you can grab a bunch of tasty things that you’ve already cooked. toss them into a pot and serve up something delicious in about 20 minutes.  If that isn’t a good definition of something that was made ahead, I don’t know what is.  And, like most soups, it is even better the next day.

Beloved really, really liked this.

Chicken Squash Chowder

Chicken Squash Chowder

serves 4

2 tablespoons lard or butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups butternut squash, roasted and mashed
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup fresh corn kernels, optional
2 cups chopped, cooked chicken
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

In a large heavy pot, heat lard or butter over medium-high; add onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the curry powder and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 2 minutes more.

Reduce the heat to low; add the chicken stock, coconut milk, chicken and corn (if using) and simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Nutrition (per serving): 400 calories, 23.1g total fat, 13.3mg cholesterol, 848.2mg sodium, 1089mg potassium, 41.1g carbohydrates, 7g fiber, 10.1g sugar, 12.5g protein.

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Squash and Ricotta Casserole

Last night I made a meatloaf out of a combination of ground pork and ground venison, wrapped in bacon and brushed with barbecue sauce.

Yes, it was as good as it sounds.

We also had steamed broccoli (which The Young One buried in cheese – but hey, at least he ate it) and this dish, which I just sort of pulled out of my…refrigerator.

Beloved and I had gone on a cheese shopping spree at a large, natural foods store in Akron last weekend, looking primarily for sheep’s milk cheese.  I’ve come to love the stuff, and since I tolerate it reasonably well I keep some on hand most of the time (sheep’s milk gouda?  To die for).  One of the varieties we brought home was a small hunk of sheep’s milk ricotta salata – ricotta cheese that’s been pressed, salted and dried.  Because it’s much firmer and drier than fresh ricotta, it can be sliced, shredded, grated or crumbled and it has an amazingly smooth, creamy taste and texture – I just love it.

Again this year, we have a ton of winter squash.  We’re keeping it in the basement as opposed to the garage; I just love that I can run downstairs, grab one of many varieties and figure out to do with it.  At first, I thought perhaps a custard or savory pudding, but decided not to go to all the trouble.  Then I considered a souffle, but I’ve already posted two winter squash souffles.  Mashed squash is kind of boring (albeit delicious).  So I decided to do a casserole-type preparation, and it was delicious.  Creamy and savory with just a hint of sweetness from the squash, even The Young One ate a few bites and Beloved inhaled it.

I used a butternut squash for this dish, but you could use just about any winter squash and it would be fine – acorn, sweet dumpling and kabocha would be good choices.  And if you can’t find ricotta salata, 1/2 cup of fresh ricotta would probably work really well, too.  If you roast the squash in advance, this dish will come together quickly and easily.

Squash and Ricotta Casserole

Squash and Ricotta Casserole

serves 6

2 1/2 pounds winter squash
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup coconut milk mixed with 1/4 cup water OR 1/2 cup half and half
2 tablespoons bacon fat or butter
2 ounces ricotta salata, crumbled
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly grease a 2 quart soufflé or casserole dish.

Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Brush lightly with olive oil and place cut-side down on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, or until the squash can be easily pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.

Once cooled, scoop the flesh of the squash into a large bowl; add the egg, coconut milk or half and half, bacon fat or butter and ricotta salata. Mix together well; taste and season with salt and pepper. Pour into the prepared soufflé or casserole and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until set and lightly browned on top.

Nutrition (per serving): 146 calories, 8.4g total fat, 39.9mg cholesterol, 33.5mg sodium, 471.6mg potassium, 16.5g carbohydrates, 4.8g fiber, 3g sugar, 3.7g protein.

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Pumpkin Sausage Soup

Happy Halloween!

We ultimately decided not to participate yesterday when the trick or treaters were out and about in our neighborhood (yeah, we live in one of those places), but there were far more kids out than in previous years and we ended up regretting our decision not to buy a bunch of inexpensive Halloween party favors to give out.  The kids were just too stinkin’ cute.

On a more positive note, I became a little weary of my clothes falling off of me and went shopping Saturday for new shirts and underwear; pants are problematic because I’m so short – Liz Claiborn is just about the only brand these days that makes jeans and slacks that fit me well and don’t look like they belong on a 17-year-old streetwalker (or my grandmother), and we didn’t want to drive an hour and a half to the outlet mall.  At any rate, I am officially down 4 sizes since beginning our new way of eating.  Boo-yah.

Anyhoo, it’s Halloween, so what better recipe to post than one that showcases pumpkin?

Variations of Pumpkin Sausage Soup have been floating around the internet for years; I’ve heard people say that it’s the next best thing to warm chocolate souffle with homemade vanilla bean ice cream, and I’ve heard people say it’s pretty “meh.”  I’d never tried it myself, and since there are so many different recipes for it I decided I’d just wing it and make something that sounded good to me.

And boy, howdy – is it good.  It’s not a terribly creamy soup, like the Curried Squash Soup I posted recently, but it is rich and hearty and VERY filling.  Since I used hot Italian sausage as opposed to a sage-flavored one, I also seasoned it with basil, oregano and thyme; nor did I bother with any onion or other aromatics, since the sausage and herbs gave it more than enough flavor.

You can substitute fresh pumpkin with canned, if you prefer – 3 cups should suffice – but you’ll miss out on the lovely roasted sweetness cooking your own will impart.  And, as always, you can use a turkey sausage if you wish to avoid pork.

Pumpkin Sausage Soup

Pumpkin Sausage Soup

serves 8, generously

1 whole pumpkin, about 3 pounds
2 quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade
1/2 cup coconut milk or heavy cream
1 pound hot Italian sausage
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cut the pumpkin in half lengthwise; scoop out the seeds and strings in the center and discard. Rub the cut side of the pumpkin with a little olive oil and place, cut side down, on a foil-covered, rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the pumpkin in easily pierced with a fork. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Cook the sausage in a heavy skillet over medium heat, breaking it up with a spatula, until it is lightly browned and cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside. Pour all but one cup of the chicken stock into a medium-sized stock pot and set over low heat. Scoop the pumpkin out of the shell and place it in a food processor with the reserved cup of chicken stock; process until it becomes a smooth puree.

Whisk the coconut milk or cream into the chicken stock, then stir in the pumpkin mixture and sausage; add the oregano, basil and thyme. Continue to cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until hot. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Nutrition (per serving): 356 calories, 23.9g total fat, 50.3mg cholesterol, 761.5mg sodium, 1013.3mg potassium, 20.6g carbohydrates, 1.1g fiber, 6.1g sugar, 16.2g protein.

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Roasted Squash with Apples, Fingerling Potatoes and Bucheron Cheese

This week’s Spin Cycle is “dream date.”  When Jen handed out our assignment on Friday, as she is wont to do, I commented, “My life has been one, long romantic date since I’ve met Beloved.”

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Now, having said that, I am now carrying on a passionate affair.  A week ago this past Saturday, we went to harass talk with the very lovely lady who makes the artisan goat cheeses we buy.  I was tickled to see that she had three new cheeses out to sample – two flavored chevres (pumpkin spice and cranberry orange – the cranberry orange is to die for, by the way), and a cheese shaped into a log with a rind that was reminiscent of a brie.  I took a bite of this new cheese and just about fell over in a swoon, it was so good.

Oh, if I only knew what I was in for.

It was a Bucheron Cheese, a semi-aged cheese native to the Loire Valley in France, and it makes me very, very glad that I can tolerate goat cheese if I don’t overdo it (consuming large amounts of goat/sheep dairy, or consuming them too often, results in a similar reaction to cow’s milk, albeit not as severe).  The goat cheese lady was selling 1/4 logs, but we were so enamored we bought an entire one.  She also told us that it could age for up to another 3 weeks, so I put it in the fridge and more or less forgot about it until last night.

According to Wikipedia, the center of a  Bucheron will become drier as it ages, while the edge near the rind becomes creamy, but that was not my experience at all.  The entire thing was creamy, almost gooey like a good brie, and it tasted even better than it did when we tried it at the farmer’s market.  It was excellent in this recipe, lending the sweet, roasted vegetables and apples a much needed tanginess.

For the record, I plan another dream date with my Bucheron tonight for dinner, when he will go back into the cheese drawer of the refrigerator and age for another week before our next liaison.

Note:  the squash I used in this dish was a sweet dumpling; an acorn will also work well.  And yes, the recipe calls for 16 cloves of garlic – use them.  Roasting made them sweet and mellow; the garlic flavor was not overpowering at all.

Roasted Squash with Apples, Fingerling Potatoes and Bucheron Cheese

Roasted Squash with Apples, Fingerling Potatoes and Bucheron Cheese

serves 8

1 medium sweet dumpling or acorn squash, cut in 8 wedges, seeds removed
1 pound fingerling or other small potatoes, washed thoroughly
2 small onions, ends trimmed, peeled and cut into wedges
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
16 cloves garlic, peeled
1 medium apple, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup Bucheron or other aged goat cheese
1/4 cup pistachios, toasted and chopped

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the acorn squash, potatoes, onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the thyme and a little salt and pepper. Lay them out evenly on a shallow baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes.

Toss the apple with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and a more little salt and pepper and distribute evenly over the pan of roasting vegetables. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes.

Drizzle the vegetables with the balsamic vinegar, and crumble the goat cheese over the top. Return to the oven for 2 or 3 minutes, just to lightly melt the cheese. Sprinkle the pistachios over the top and serve immediately.

Nutrition (per serving): 199 calories, 10g total fat, 6.5mg cholesterol, 60.5mg sodium, 543.5mg potassium, 23.7g carbohydrates, 3.4g fiber, 4.1g sugar, 5.7g protein.

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