This week Autumn arrived, finally! Cool breezes, chilly drizzle and low-lying flat clouds that obscure the mountains from view. And now I’ve done it again. For having so much to say, why is it that I always start out talking about the weather? You would think I would have something a little less mundane to chat about. But I see it as this – when I write, I am having a conversation with you (albeit a bit one sided until the comments) – and honestly, I guess I just think about the weather a lot – the weather drives my mood, what activities we do, and yes, even what food I cook. So as banal as it is, yay Fall! yay cool weather! yay drizzly rain! (ok, maybe not for that last one).
This cold blustery weekend was also our 4th wedding anniversary – weren’t we cute back then??
Given that long candlelit dinners are likely not in our set of dinner possibilities for awhile, we opted to cook at home to celebrate. I’m not really that sort of romantic sap anyways, and cooking is part of the fun of eating a nice meal. We went to the market and got one of the really nice poulet to roast in the oven, and once a cranky overtired baby was finally happily asleep in bed, we stood over the stove, eating our anniversary chicken in all its glory right out of the roasting pan while staring at the monitor hoping she was really asleep for the night. She’d had a long day, made some large intellectual and physical strides all at once, and unfortunately we had missed the very narrow time window of putting a happy baby to bed (it’s still a bit of a guessing game). But it was our first anniversary as new parents, the chicken was melt in your mouth moist, and we are one happy new family.
The next day, as I had reserved all of the bones and veggies used to stuff the chicken, I put it all in a large pot and made some stock on the stove. I had purchased loads of squash at the market, all different kinds – I had no idea what some of them were at the time, and just took the “I’ll take some of each and try them” mentality. Growing up in New England, I ate a lot of winter squash as a child. My absolute favorites are acorn squash and pumpkin, but I have yet to find either of those here in Switzerland. The variety most common here are a large giant greenish looking pumpkin called “courge” that is usually sold by the slice, and I really don’t like it very much. However, this was one of those rare weekends where all sorts of different squashes were available, and I took advantage of it buying as many as I could persuade my husband that we could carry back. So since I was already making homemade chicken stock, I decided it was a good excuse to use some of them for soup.
I roasted some carrots, parsnips, and the potimarron (red kuri) to go into the soup, and some of the kabocha squash for the bowls. Root veggies and squash, once roasted, went into the pot with some stock and water, and then were puréed until velvety smooth. And yes, I even added carrots in there, and by choice! The soup was simple and still festive, and we decided to call it part two of our anniversary dinner
This soup is also for a couple of blogging events – this month, Dara of Cookin’ Canuck is hosting Monthly Mingle, and her very appropriately chosen theme for the month is squash – and this recipe has two kinds of squash! I’m actually really excited to see all of the squash recipes that will be submitted, if you cannot tell squash is one of my favorite Fall foods.
Also, even though I’m not competing, I still like to do the challenges for fun – the photos are for Simone’s Food Styling and Photography Challenge – she chose a theme this month of pumpkin and orange to celebrate the Autumn festivities. The story behind the shot and styling is that when my husband and I were engaged and planning for our wedding, we went out with my parents to a restaurant that ended up being the location of our rehearsal dinner. While it’s been nearly 4.5 years since that meal, I’ve always remembered this soup we were served as an appetizer – it was an acorn squash soup, served in roasted acorn squash bowl, creamy and velvety – that soup has stuck out in my mind ever since, and even though there is no such thing as acorn squash in Switzerland (to the best of my knowledge) and I have no hope of recreating the recipe, I wanted to at least create a tasty soup served in a squash bowl. I was surprised at how easy it was and how well the bowls held together after being roasted – it was really a treat to eat the soup this way too.
As for the photo itself, my setup was pretty simple. Everything is on my kitchen counter. I had one squash bowl in the foreground, lid removed, and one in the background on my cutting board to complement it. The soup was nice and thick so garnish was easy – I could place a few slices of parm and tarragon on top without issue (as you can guess my husband ate the soup garnished with parm since I am dairy free at the moment). The carrots in the back and the cutting board I hoped would bring some warmer tones to the image, without being expressly styled for Autumn. Lighting was a bare speedlight about 5m away behind the image – I use my old crappo tripod as my speedlight stand, and angle the flash so that it will bounce off the ceiling and onto the food as backlighting. Then a white bounce in the front helped keep a little definition of the squash, and I was done. Oh almost. I held my circular polarizer in front of my lens – that blocked any glare from light bouncing off of the countertop – apparently rock countertops reflect polarized light. There was no ambient light, this shot was 100% artificial flash light. The only thing I would have liked is to figure out how to clean up the reflection on the spoon…at least me and the camera aren’t in the spoon reflection! It’s really distracting to me when I can see the photographer or the setup right there in spoon reflections… but sometimes it’s hard to find the right angle to stand with the light where you want it and the composition where you want it and still avoid that reflection. The answer to this problem is a smartly placed gobo, and I just haven’t found that “smart” location for one yet.
Carrot and Squash Soup
Prep Time: 15 min to wash, clean, and cut the vegetables
Total Time: 1.5 hrs
- 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 parsnips, peeled and chopped
- 1 potimarron (red kuri) squash, peeled, deseeded and sliced into 1″ thick slices
- salt, pepper, olive oil
- 2 cups chicken stock
- water as needed
- salt and pepper to taste
- tarragon, chopped, for garnish
- parmesan or other hard cheese if desired, for garnish
- bowl sized squashes for serving in if desired (I used kabocha squash)
- Preheat an oven to 350F. One one baking sheet, arrange carrots and parsnips. On another baking sheet, arrange slices of squash. Salt and pepper the vegetables and drizzle a little olive oil on top. Roast vegetables about an hour or until they are soft and tender.
- Dilute chicken stock by two and add to a large pot. When vegetables are ready soft, remove from the oven, and peel the skin off of the squash. Add all of the vegetables to the pot and bring to a boil, then simmer about 20 minutes.
- Using an immersion blender or food processor, purée the soup until smooth. If it is not smooth enough, add in more water a little at a time and purée again until desired texture.
- Add salt and pepper to taste, and garnish with tarragon and cheese. To be extra festive, you can also chop off the tops of a couple other squashes, hollow them out and roast them whole – just fill with the soup and you can even eat most of the bowl too – enjoy!