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CREAM OF GLOBE SQUASH SOUP

The weather has definitely shifted to autumn, and the farmers market has begun to wind down. The other day, one of the vendors had piles of different squashes, none of them with labels. I saw a beautiful winter squash that would make a great soup. I thought I was buying a calabaza, but when I got it home it turned out to be a zucchini-like globe squash. Yes, I can hear you saying, “Another zucchini recipe.” I split the squash in half, and roasted it anyway, and it turned out to make a savory soup that was just right for a cool autumn lunch. You can make it vegetarian by using vegetable stock. You could even make it vegan by substituting vegetable oil for the butter and silky tofu for the cream.

RECIPE

Cream of Globe Squash Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 large globe squash
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/3 cup long-grain rice
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • ½ cup cream
  • nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 1 slice French bread, crusts removed and cut into cubes
  • mozzarella cheese, grated
  • salted, roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

Method

  1. Cut the squash in half, stem to blossom end, and remove the seeds. Brush the melted butter on the cut surface, and place cut-side down on a lipped baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes in the middle of a 350°F oven. Check for doneness with a kitchen fork. If the flesh is soft, remove from the oven and scoop the squash into a bowl. Set aside
  2. Meanwhile, in a 4-quart covered saucepan sweat the onions in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Do not allow the onions to brown. Add the rice, and stir until the grains have become translucent. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce to the simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until the rice is completely cooked and soft. Stir in the squash, return to the boil, and then simmer for another 5 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat, and cool enough to work with easily. Puree with a blender. You may need to work in batches. Return the soup to the saucepan,, add cream, and bring to the simmer. Do not boil. Add nutmeg to taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
  4. In a small sauté pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium flame. Add the garlic and stir until the garlic starts to brown. Remove the garlic and add the bread cubes. Sauté until crisp and lightly browned. Drain the croutons on paper towels and salt lightly.
  5. Ladle the soup into serving bowls, and garnish with croutons, grated mozzarella and pumpkin seeds. Serve
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HAM, POTATO, AND ONION GRATIN – CLEARING OUT THE FREEZER, PART THREE

In my quest to get to the bottom of our freezer, I found a plastic bag containing four thick ham slices separated by waxed paper. I managed to break one of them free and decided to make a gratin of potatoes, onions, and ham. One of our family favorites is Julia Child’s râpée morv andelle (Mastering the Art of French Cooking, volume 1, page 153). In that recipe, though, you are supposed to grate the potatoes and finely dice the ham. The ham steak from the freezer seemed too big and thick to suffer the indignity of fine dicing.

I was reminded of a wonderful dish that a Swedish friend of ours always prepared for her Christmas smörgåsbord: Jansson’s frestelse (Jansson’s Temptation). Potatoes and anchovy filets were arranged in alternating rows and then topped with onions, cheese, cream, and eggs. The casserole was baked until the mixture was puffed and golden.  I decided to try that same thing, substituting thinly sliced potato for the grated potatoes and ham cut into bâtonett instead of dice. Scallions would serve as the onion representative.

RECIPE

Ham, Potato, and Onion Gratin

Ingredients

  • 1 medium russet potato, unpeeled
  • 1 ham steak, ½ inch thick and about 8 ounces
  • 3 scallions including green tops, cut into ¼ inch rings
  • 4 ounces Swiss (Emmental) cheese, grated
  • 3 extra-large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • nutmeg
  • salt
  • pepper

Method

  1. Using a mandoline, slice the unpeeled potato crosswise into 1/16 inch thick rounds. Soak in water until ready to assemble the casserole.
  2. Remove any fat and bone from the ham steak and cut into strips ½ inch x ½ inch x 2 inches. Set aside until ready to assemble the casserole.
  3. Combine the beaten eggs with the cream and season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
  4. In a well-greased 8 x 8 x 2 inch ovenproof glass pan, arrange an overlapping row of potato slices that have been drained and patted dry.
  5. Next to the row of potatoes, arrange a row of the ham slices. Then begin a second row of potatoes, another row of ham pieces, and finish with another row of potato slices.
  6. Sprinkle the top with half of the cut-up scallions, half of the grated cheese, and cover with half of the egg and cream mixture.
  7. Make a second layer of alternating potato and ham slices, using all of both. Sprinkle with the remaining scallions and grated cheese.  Cover with the remaining egg and cream mixture
  8. Bake in the middle of a pre-heated oven at 350° (175°C) for 1 hour and 15 minutes. If the top becomes too brown, cover with aluminum foil.
  9. When the casserole is golden brown and the potatoes are tender (test with a small knife), remove from the oven, let rest for 5 minutes to set up a bit, and serve immediately while still warm.

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