Thursday, May 10, 2012

Chilled Bisque of Butternut & Pear

Butternut squash and pears are not usually what come to mind when contemplating a recipe for late springtime, but on a recent promisingly sunny San Francisco afternoon, that's about all there was in the pantry.  With the addition of three aromatic vegetables- leek, celery and carrot, the resulting chilled soup is subtly sweet, fragrant and energizing. Gentle cooking on low heat preserves the fresh flavors of the vegetables; the pears are added at the end of cooking to steam in the soup without additional heat.  Although it is tempting to embellish with additional ingredients, its simplicity is what allows this soup to sing.

Chilled Butternut-Pear Bisque

2 tablespoons olive oil
2/3 cup leek (white part only), thinly sliced
1 rib celery, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
1 medium butternut squash, cubed
2 cups water, more if needed
2 ripe pears, sliced
1 heaping teaspoon Hungarian paprika
2 teaspoons white or light miso paste
organic apple juice or cider (optional)
lemon zest, freshly grated
lemon juice, freshly squeezed

In a heavy soup pot saute leek and celery in olive oil until fragrant but not brown.  Add carrot slices and saute for about two minutes.  Stir in squash cubes,  adding a little more olive oil if needed and saute for about another two minutes. Add enough water to cover the vegetables and simmer gently until squash is just tender, about 15 minutes.  Place pear slices in soup, remove from heat and allow to rest with cover on for about 15 minutes. Stir in paprika. Dissolve miso paste in a little broth from the soup and return mixture to pot. When cooled, puree soup in blender until just smooth, adding a little water or apple juice if mixture is too thick. Serve chilled, garnished with a sprinkling of lemon zest and lemon juice.

Note: For a richer bisque, blend the cooked vegetables with plain unsweetened soy milk instead of water or apple juice. Garnish with a pinch of paprika instead of lemon juice. If the weather turns chilly,  the bisque is delicious served hot.  Store extra bisque in glass jars; it will keep well in fridge for several days.