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Butternut Squash and Pear Soup

If you lived in or near Bennington, Vermont in the mid-2000s, you might remember a tiny little breakfast/lunch place on Main Street called Izabella’s Eatery. Known for their small, seasonally based menu, they were only around for about a decade, but their food was beyond delicious! Everything on the menu was locally grown and sourced from within a 100-mile tri-state radius. The ambiance was decidedly cool, the music always good, and they made it a point to use their wall space as a revolving gallery for local artists. They had a wonderful selection of teas and a state-of-the-art espresso machine that made the very best lattes and cappuccinos. They also had a fantastic baker who concocted some of the most delightful pastries around. It was always a delicious experience to visit and we were all sad when they closed.

It was one of our favorite places, and we are lucky enough to know one of the previous owners. We asked if she still had her recipes and could help us with a recipe for our recently harvested butternut squash. Imagine our delight when she said, “yes, of course!” She searched her Izabella’s recipe binders and found this amazing Butternut Squash Soup to share with our blog readers! Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Roasted Butternut Squash & Pear Soup
with Fontina Basil Croutons

1 large or 2 small butternut squash (3-4 lbs total)

1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 cups chopped leeks (white part only)

1 minced shallot

1 tbsp minced/or microplane-grated fresh ginger

1 tsp salt

¼ tsp black or white pepper

2 ripe pears, peeled, cored, and chopped into small chunks

6 cups chicken or vegetable broth 

1 tsp fresh local honey

¼ tsp nutmeg 

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

¼ cup heavy cream

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Butternut Squash

Roast the Squash:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut squash in half lengthwise and place cut side down in a lightly oiled roasting pan or baking dish. Add ¼ cup of water to the pan and roast for about 45 minutes to an hour until the squash is tender when pricked with a fork. Remove from oven and allow to rest until cool enough to handle. Scoop out the seeds and peel the squash. Place the cooked squash in a medium bowl and mash coarsely. Set aside. This can be done the day before preparing the soup.

Prepare the Soup:

In a 12-quart stock pot, heat oil at medium-high heat until sizzling hot. Add leeks, shallot, ginger, salt and pepper, and sauté until the leeks are soft and begin to turn slightly golden brown. Add the pears and cook for another 5 minutes. Stir in the mashed squash, broth, thyme, and honey. Bring to a slow, rolling boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes stirring occasionally. Puree in small batches in a blender or Cuisinart, holding the lid firmly in place. Return the soup to the pot and stir in the cream and nutmeg. Serve warm. Pairs delightfully with Fontina & Basil Croutons 

Fontina & Basil Croutons:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Slice a fresh baguette into 8-10 ½” slices and rub each with a little olive oil and a bit of minced garlic. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the baguette slices on the tray. Bake for about 5 minutes, turning the slices midway through until toasty but not browned (you don’t them too crunchy). Grate ½ cup of fontina cheese or buy shredded fontina from the market. Add to a small bowl with 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil and a dash of crushed red pepper. Top each toasted baguette slice with a bit of the cheese and basil mixture and return to the oven. Bake for about 4 minutes until the cheese is melty and slightly bubbly. Remove from oven and top each bowl of soup while the croutons are still warm.