The Fabulous Foodie

The Fabulous Foodie, hosted by Chef Aimee, is an online account of one amateur chef's kitchen successes and mishaps, recipe and product roadtests, and food experiences. Chef Aimee's philosophy is that Food Is Love, and her blog contains reflections on the connection between fabulous food, a happy marriage and solid-gold friendships.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Autumn in the Kitchen: Butternut Squash, Pumpkins and Apples

I love Autumn... I always have. And while many foodies lament the passing of summer by dreading off-season tomatoes, crummy fruits and bland vegetables, I look forward to any excuse to cook with colder weather ingredients like squash, pumpkin and apples.

We had a dinner party planned for Saturday night, so I began preparations early with a big pot of butternut squash soup with star anise and ginger. This is the type of dish that is warm and yummy as a starter (or just as a great lunch with a nice salad and hunk of crusty bread); but it's so easy, and smells so good, and tastes so much better after it sits for a day. I came home late on Friday and still managed to get the soup on; it's that easy. Do try this fabulous fall recipe!

Butternut Sqaush Soup with Autumn Spices

2/3 cup finely chopped shallot
1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 whole star anise
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 extra virgin olive oil
1 3/4 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (5 cups)
4 cups chicken stock or broth
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Garnish: cream, chives

Cook shallot, ginger, garlic, and anise in butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until shallot is softened, about 5 minutes. Add squash, stock, and water and simmer, uncovered, until squash is very tender, about 20 minutes. Remove star anise.

Purée soup using an immersion blender (or a regular one in batches) until very smooth.

Serve garnished with cream and chives.

So onto the pumpkins... which are another of my favorite fall ingredients. The great thing about pumpkin it comes canned... and while I don't typically dig opening tins to get at my food, the truth is that there is no difference in taste, according to some great chefs, between cooking your own and opening a can of good old reliable and cheap Libby's.

This recipe for a wonderful bread is one of the best recipes I have... and I make this frequently throughout the fall and winter. And I make them in mini-loaves to give away. Left to my own devices, I'd eat the whole thing... so for me, Mini is the way to go!

Binge-Worthy Pumpkin Bread

3 1/2 c. flour
2 t baking powder
1 t of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and salt
1/2 t of ground cloves
1/2 t of baking soda
3/4 c skim milk
1/3 c vegetable oil
1 1/2 c brown sugar, packed
1 15-ounce can of pumpkin
2 large eggs
2 t pure vanilla extract
chopped walnuts, raw sugar

Preheat oven to 325.

Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, salt, cloves and baking soda in a large bowl. Make a well in the center.

In a separate bowl, wisk together brown sugar, milk, vegetable oil, pumpkin, eggs and vanilla until well combined. Pour into well of the dry ingredients. Mix JUST until thoroughly moistened. Do not overmix or else bread will be tough. Batter may look a little lumpy.

Spoon batter into loaf pan -- or 4 mini loaf pans -- sprayed with cooking spray. Sprinkle the top with chopped walnuts and raw sugar. Bake for 1 hour (or 35-30 minutes for mini loaf pans) or until toothpick test is clean.

Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool on wire rack until completely cool.

And finally... apples... as in, Apple Tart Glazed with Lavender and Vanilla... as in the beautiful dessert for our dinner party. It looks very impressive, but is actually quite simple to make and arrange. I served it warm with some vanilla ice cream, which in my very humble opinion, should be the gold standard presentation of all apple deserts.

Apple Tart Glazed with Lavender and Vanilla



1/2 t dried lavender

3 T vanilla extract

1 T sugar

2 T maple syrup


3 cups flour

1/2 t salt

1 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 egg, beaten

6-8 T of ice water


4-5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, halved, and cored

1 T chilled unsalted butter, cut into tiny squares

1 T granulated sugar


To make the glaze, combine lavender, vanilla and sugar in a small sauce pan over medium low heat. Whisk until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and whisk in maple syrup. Cover and let steep for an hour. Strain out lavender.

To make the pastry, combine flour and salt in a food processer, pulsing twice of mix. Add butter and pulse until it resembles course meal. Transfer to a bowl and make a well in the center. Beat egg with 2 T of the water, and using a fork, begin to lightly mix into the flour. Add more ice water until the mixture hold together. Pat into a ball, wrap in plastic and chill for 1-4 hours.

To make tart, roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface, transfer to a tart pan. Turn under edges and fit into the sides of pan. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork and cover with aluminum foil. Freeze for a half hour.

Preheat oven to 400. Cut off the ends of the apples, and chop coursely. Cut the apple halves into 1/4 inch slices. Remove crust from freezer, remove foil and mound chopped apples in the center. Beginning at the outer edge, arrange apple slices in concentric circles until crust is filled. Dot with the butter and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 10 minutes until the butter melts.

Glaze generously, and return to oven for about an hour. If the crust begins to brown too quickly, cover with foil. Glaze ever 15-20 minutes while baking. Coat with glaze immediately upon removal from oven. Cool and remove from tart pan.


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