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When the weather turns blissfully chilly I think of comfort foods, nothing to fancy, just bowls of soup and bits of bread.

 

I have been in a soup making frenzy lately. It’s the season of course. I switch gears in the kitchen to winter squash, root vegetables, figs, apples, and braised meats. I notice I reference braises a lot, even in warmer months of the year. I like braises, I like the rich homey aroma they give. Like soup how could one not feel at home?

To celebrate the arrival of mellower days, I keep to the kitchen making soup and lots of it seems. It’s that time of year when you don’t have the urgency of the plants and the garden. The start of each season is a flush of new flavors reviving the tired day to day meal.

 

Apple & Fig Salad w/ hazelnuts

Fig & Goat Cheese Tartines

I think I had soup every day this week and hearty meals to keep that inner fire going. I experiment, play around with ideas, but I always fall back on simple easy soups, no fuss. A butternut, root vegetable soup like this one is just right. Perfect comfort food.

Besides soup and braises, I made recently a chicken sausage & shrimp “dirty” rice. A not so typical rendition, something I just put together. It was delicious!

 

Enjoy!

Butternut Squash, Celeriac, Parsnip & Apple Soup [serves 4-6]

1 ½ cups leeks, halved & thinly sliced

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter

4 ½ cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded & chopped

1 cup celeriac, peeled & chopped

½-1 cup parsnips, peeled & chopped

4 cups homemade chicken stock

2 sprigs thyme

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 medium apples, peeled, seeded & chopped [I used a red & green variety]

1. Saute leeks in butter on medium-low heat until tender and translucent.

2. Add squash, celeriac, parsnip, stock, thyme and salt.

3. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until nearly tender.

4. Add apple and continue to cook until everything is tender enough to puree.

5. Puree soup in a blender and season with additional salt to taste.

Chicken Sausage & ShrimpDirty Rice” [serves 4]

½ cup basmati rice [3/4 cup chicken stock -or- water]

¼ cup wild rice [1 cup water or more]

¾ pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded & cubed

2 Tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon Cajun seasoning

½ pound cauliflower, cut into florets

1 Tablespoon olive oil

¼ teaspoon Cajun seasoning

½ medium yellow onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

½ large green bell pepper

2-3 Tablespoons olive oil

1-2 large garlic cloves, minced

1-14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes

½ cup homemade chicken stock

½-1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning

¾ teaspoon paprika

¼ teaspoon crushed chilies

¼ teaspoon dried thyme

Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 Andouille chicken sausages [bake in oven until cooked, cool & sliced]

8 jumbo shrimp [such as Tiger shrimp]

2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 375°F.

1. On separate baking trays toss butternut squash with oil and seasoning; cauliflower with oil and seasoning. Roast in oven until tender.

2. Meanwhile cook the rice in the amount of water specified. Drain wild rice if needed after it is cooked.

3. In a roomy pan sauté sausage in olive oil until browned. Remove from pan.

4. In the same pan, sauté onions, celery and bell peppers until tender, adding more olive oil if necessary.

5. Add garlic, cook for a minute then add remaining spices and cook for another minute.

6. Add tomatoes, stock and thyme. Simmer on low until mixture has thickened, approximately 15 minutes.

7. Add shrimp, cover and cook through.

8. Fold in cooked rice, sausage, squash and cauliflower adjusting seasoning to taste. Sprinkle with parsley.

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