My alarm buzzed 6:15 a.m.; I rubbed my eyes and avoided the tempting snooze button … time to start the day. The city was already up and bustling, so I quickly got dressed, wrapped a scarf around my neck, pulled on my boots, grabbed my market totes, and headed for the grocery store. Today, from The Garden-Fresh Cookbook, I’m making Vermont Butternut Squash Soup (page 47). To complement the soup, I decided on Corn Bread With Pine Nuts and Rosemary, on page 256. I was on a bit of a time crunch: Everything had to be done before my close friend arrived for a day of hiking Mt. Si, starting at a trailhead just 30 minutes from where I live.
I arrived at the grocery store with The Garden-Fresh Cookbook to help me pick out a perfectly ripe butternut squash. With winter squashes, look for a firm, heavy body, with dull, hard skin that’s rich in color and a stem that’s dry and firm (for more info, see page 312, “How to Know What’s Ripe,” in Garden-Fresh). I had all the other ingredients back at home, so I gathered my butternut squash (and morning coffee!) and set out to make lunch for the hike.
The Vermont Butternut Squash Soup was incredibly easy to make! After letting the ingredients simmer, I puréed the mixture until smooth. While the soup was simmering, I got to work on the Corn Bread With Pine Nuts and Rosemary, which was also amazingly simple—yet bursting with flavor. For the corn bread, I used fresh rosemary, and for personal taste, did not add the optional half cup of corn.
When the soup was done simmering, I took a taste and was impressed. The black pepper added just the right spice to match the sweetness of the soup.
Both the soup and the corn bread were finished with enough time for me to pack up my camera and put on a few extra layers. Now it was off to an 8-mile mountain hike.
I unfortunately did not have a proper thermos to stow the soup, but a mason jar did just the trick to keep it warm enough as we made our way to the top. Okay, we didn’t get to the very top; we stopped about half a mile before reaching the lookout, both hungry and tired of hoofing through a foot and a half of snow. With a light snow falling and tired feet in need of a rest, we shared the soup, using the corn bread to soak up and complement the flavor.
We didn’t want to get stuck on the trail while it was dark, so we power-walked our way back down, saying hello to fellow hikers while daring the weather. We arrived at the bottom tired, but satisfied with warm bellies and looking forward to the leftover soup stored at home.
Here are the recipes for both the soup and corn bread. This pairing is great for a picnic or simply a cold day! What are your favorite recipes for a chilly day?
Vermont Butternut Squash Soup (found on page 47 of The Garden-Fresh Cookbook)
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups warm chicken stock
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into large cubes
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1-½ cups milk
½ cup light cream
2 tablespoons maple syrup, or to taste
chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
freshly ground black pepper, for garnish
In a large stockpot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion and carrot and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is tender. Sprinkle the vegetables with the flour and, stirring constantly, continue cooking for 3 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and add the chicken stock. Add the squash, garlic, and parsley, and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes. In a blender or food processor, purée the mixture until smooth, in batches. Return the soup to the pot, add the milk, cream, and syrup, stir to incorporate, and heat through. Garnish with parsley and black pepper.
Makes 12 servings.
Corn Bread With Pine Nuts and Rosemary (found on page 256 of The Garden-Fresh Cookbook)
1-¼ cups cornmeal
¾ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
⅔ cup milk
⅔ cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons honey
½ cup corn (optional)
2 to 3 tablespoons warm, melted, unsalted butter or vegetable oil
½ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
½ tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Grease a 9x9-inch baking dish. In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, buttermilk, honey, and corn (if using). Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until moistened. Fold in the butter, pine nuts, and rosemary. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared baking dish. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Serve warm. Makes 10 to 12 servings.
Jane received her Bachelor’s in Fine Arts at Western Washington University where she studied Creative Writing. She now lives in the greater Seattle area, where she writes and drinks copious amounts of coffee. When she isn’t writing, cooking, gardening, or taking photos, you can find her at local shows and concerts, or running to prepare for yet another half marathon.