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Soup keeps autumn warm

Published 12:56pm Thursday, October 11, 2012

Aside from the incredible, vibrant color array and the crisp clean air, soup is my favorite thing about autumn. Having soup on hand is great because it’s easy to make a large batch in advance on a Sunday, serve it in individual containers for lunch all week, or freeze it for a cold, dark winter evening when you just can’t bring yourself to do anything except curl up under a blanket with a book. Soup is hearty, warms from within and is really hard to mess up.

For those reasons, it is one of my specialties and favorites.

In fact, on Oct. 13, I will be serving u samples of my creamy butternut squash soup at the Designs for Dignity Kitchen Walk and Tour in Harbor Country. Designs for Dignity is an organization based on the belief humans thrive by living and working in creative environments. Since creating energizing and peaceful work environments is often outside the budgets for nonprofit organizations, Designs for Dignity can offer pro bono design services to them. The idea is that with a peaceful and healthy work environment, nonprofit workers can thrive and perform their best.

The annual Kitchen Walk and Tour is a great way to peruse some of the area’s most beautifully designed kitchens while feasting on the bounty of the season. At each stop, you’ll get to sample some delicious local food, Michigan libations and drool over top-of the line appliances.

The tour is from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. starting at Susan Fredman for Home. Tickets are $100 and can be purchased at kitchenwalk.brownpapertickets.com. Following the tour, there will be a reception and raffle with some prizes, such as new Jenn-Air appliances, Kholer sinks and luxury countertops. The reception will be held at Journeyman Distillery in Three Oaks. I will be at 60 Peninsula Drive in New Buffalo, so stop and say hi if you’re on the tour. If you can’t make it, then fear not, I will include the recipe below.

Speaking of recipes, I was having a glass of wine with a friend Saturday night and she said, “I’ve been enjoying your column in Off the Water! But I have to say, I was disappointed this week — no recipe!” So just for her I will include two. The second is for a really simple leek and lentil soup I made this morning. It only takes a few minutes and it’s a great way to take advantage of leeks while we’ve got them! They are like a super chive and I love throwing them in to all types of dishes this time of year. I had never really made a soup that featured them as the main ingredients, but I was really pleased with the outcome.

Leek and Lentil Soup

4 large leeks soaked and the outer layers peeled away

1 potato, peeled and cut into quarter-inch pieces

3 cloves chopped fresh garlic

Grapeseed or olive oil (I used a combo because I ran out of olive oil)

8 cups homemade vegetable stock*

1 cup green lentils

Fresh thyme (about 1 teaspoon)

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh sage, finely chopped

Sea salt (about three shakes)

Black pepper

1 teaspoon white pepper

Heat a large stockpot over medium high heat. Once warm, add just enough oil to lightly cover the bottom of the pan.  While the oil is warming slice the leeks about a quarter-inch thick going almost all the way to the end.

Sautee the leeks until nearly translucent then add the garlic. Once completely translucent, slowly add the veggie stock, potato, herbs and spices.  Boil for 15 minutes or so, covered. Next, add the lentils and cook, uncovered, at a roaring boil for another 15 to 20 minutes or until the lentils are nice and tender. Serve with garlic bread and salad.

Yields about 80 ounces.

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

7 cups homemade vegetable stock*

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

2 butternut squash

1 fresh cayenne or other seasonal hot pepper

2 red jalapenos

1 large red onion

Dried parsley

Sea salt

Black pepper

Heat oil in a large stockpot. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the flour and whisk for a minute. Slowly add the vegetable stock, whisking constantly until the mixture becomes thick and creamy. You’re making a roux here, so you shouldn’t really add more of the stock until it becomes creamy. Bring to a boil, then add the squash and spices. Bring back to a boil before reducing to a simmer for about 15 minutes or until the squash pieces start to become soft.  Next, add the hot peppers. Simmer another 10 to 15 minutes. Allow to cool a bit, then blend thoroughly with a hand blender or a food processor.

*Save the stems, stalks, and rinds of all your veggies for a week. Toss in a large stockpot full of water with two vegetable bouillon cubes, sea salt, black pepper and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Let boil 15 minutes. Allow to cool fully before using. Best to make this the day before! The stock keeps in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for up to two months.

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