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.
Croutons, grated mozzarella and pepitas
A bowl of soup
Cream of Globe Squash Soup
- 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
- 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)
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Ladle the soup into serving bowls, and garnish with croutons, grated mozzarella and pumpkin seeds. Serve
One of the things I found in the freezer was a big plastic bag of vegetable scraps – carrot peelings, celery bottoms, onion skins and roots, bits of tomatoes – which I had been saving from a couple of months’ worth of cooking projects. For years I have made chicken stock from chicken parts and bones and beef stock from bone. But I never made my own vegetable stock until I picked up a tip from Sara Moulton on her television show, “Sara’s Weeknight Meals”. Save your scraps in the freezer, and when you have enough, put them in a pot, cover with water, and simmer for thirty minutes to an hour, cool, strain, and freeze into cubes to be used whenever you need vegetable stock. Works like the proverbial charm, and forms the beginning of today’s recipe.
The other thing I found in the freezer was a package of shrimp (21-30/pound size), and they became the inspiration and base for shrimp creole. In Louisiana, shrimp creole can be a simple country dish or a fancier version for company dinners and buffets. For that reason, some folks think it is just too complicated for a quick dinner. Too bad, because it is easy to make and fairly fast. This version took me about two hours to prepare, but that was because I was running around finding props and making images. You should be able to whip it up in a flat hour or so. Served with cooked rice, this recipe should serve 2 to 4 persons.
Making vegetable stock from frozen vegetable peelings and scraps
Thawed frozen shrimp with shells still on
Making shrimp stock by boiling shrimp shells in vegetable stock
Green pepper, one of the “Holy Trinity” of Creole and Cajun cooking
Celery and onions, the other parts of the cooking “Holy Trinity” along with tomatoes
Scallions, white and green parts, ready to be choppe
Paprika – this is mild, but you may use a hotter variety if you like
Canned tomato sauce makes for easy cooking, but chop up a few fresh tomatoes for texture
Shrimp have been added to the sauce and cooked for just a few minutes until they have become pink and lost their translucence
Finished shrimp Creole sauce served over cooked white rice. Add classic Louisiana hot sauce if you like.
Something you need to know before you start this recipe is that shrimp creole can be as piquant as you like. For family reasons, we don’t put much heat into Cajun and Mexican dishes, but if you enjoy heat, by all means use the hot sauce with abandon. For this dish – since it is from Louisiana – I suggest either Tabasco or Trappey’s.
- fresh or frozen shrimp (21-30/pound), shells on – allow 5 to 6 for each serving
2 cups vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoons bacon drippings
- ½ large yellow onion, chopped
- 2 scallions, chopped, including green tops
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/8 teaspoon ground bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon ground thyme
- 1½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (optional or to taste)
- 1 can (14 ounces) tomato sauce
- 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- juice of ½ lemon
Peel and clean the shrimp. Refrigerate the peeled shrimp until ready to add to the cooked sauce. Save the shells.
- Prepare shrimp stock by combining the vegetable stock and shrimp shells in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 15 minutes. Strain. You should have about 1½ cups of shrimp stock.
- In a 4 quart stockpot, melt the bacon drippings over medium heat. Add the onions, cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and sweat the onions for 5 minutes or until they are translucent.
- Add the scallions, celery, and green pepper, raise the heat again to medium and cook the vegetables until tender, about 10 minutes.
- Stir in the shrimp stock, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, salt, pepper, paprika, and optional Tabasco sauce. Bring to the boil for 5 minutes.
- Then add the tomato sauce and reduce heat to the simmer for 10 minutes or so.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and simmer just long enough until the tomatoes are softened
- Correct the seasonings, add the sugar and lemon juice. Then add the shrimp and stir them into the sauce until they are cooked and pink – no longer than 5 minutes.
- Serve immediately over cooked rice. Allow about ½ to 1 cup of rice for each serving.
I had some napa cabbage left over from my New Year’s Day braised cabbage, so I decided to make some soup.
Napa cabbage (also spelled nappa cabbage) is an authentic Chinese cabbage. The name comes from a Japanese word that means something like vegetable greens. So far as I have been able to figure out, the name has nothing to do with the Napa Valley in California. I think that name is probably from the Spanish, meaning an aquifer or gas layer. The taste of the cabbage is milder than regular cabbage, and the leaves are crisper
Regular cabbage dates back to the Egyptians, but probably cabbage heads did not appear on the culinary scene until the twelfth century in Germany. For this recipe, you can use regular cabbage, but I think you will like the flavor better with Chinese cabbage.
The soup makes a simple lunch or dinner. We had the added pleasure of a slice of Srah’s new bread, Douglas fir scented levain topped with fresh butter. A perfect winter-time light lunch
Napa Cabbage and Bread Soup with Croutons and Parmesan Cheese
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- ½ large head napa cabbage, cored and shredded
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- ½ teaspoon beau monde seasoning, or to taste
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 ½ inch slices good quality white bread cut in ½ inch cubes
- 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- ¼ cup minced parsley
- In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan or stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onions, stir, and cover. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the onions are wilted and translucent. Do not allow them to brown.
- Add the shredded cabbage to the pot, cover and continue to cook until completely wilted. Do not brown. Then add the vegetable stock, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Add the beau monde seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper.Cook for 40 minutes or until the cabbage is soft. Add more liquid if necessary.
- In the meantime, place one of the diced slices of bread on a small baking sheet and dry in the middle of an oven preheated to 225°. Bake for 30 minutes, turning frequently, until the bread cubes are completely dry and crisp. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- When the cabbage is fully cooked and tender, stir in the remaining cubed slice of bread. The bread should dissolve and thicken the soup. Add more liquid if needed.
- When ready to serve, plate the soup in 4 wide soup bowls, top with the croutons, sprinkle with the grated Parmesan cheese and parsley. Serve immediately.