Ah, the long weekend. Is there anything better? Long weekends are for laziness, no commitments, and no agenda. They also happen to be a great time for silliness.
Let me let you in on a little secret: Andy and I go to great lengths to make ourselves comfortable, even if it means being a bit silly in the process. We rearrange furniture from room to room, we pile couch cushions on the floor in front of the fireplace, we pitch an actual tent in the living room, we put air mattresses on the patio. Our latest creation in comfort is what we call “The Pump-It-Up Room” and it is absolutely fantastic. (For those of you without children or the mindset or a child, Pump It Up is a place for children’s parties that is essentially an entire building of bounce house.)
Here’s the scenario: we have an L-shaped sectional couch in the living room. The space between the couch and the wall that the television hangs on just happens to be a perfect fit for our queen-sized air mattress. It also happens to be the same height. So, you see, the air mattress was practically begging to be wedged into that space. The result is an enormous expanse of cushiony comfort that gets covered in pillows and blankets. Now you can basically lie (or sleep if the mood strikes) ANYWHERE in the living room. Does this not sound like one of the best ideas ever???
We so look forward to The Pump-It-Up Room that we even have an abbreviation for it: The PIUR. Sure, it’s silly. And maybe we’re silly too. But I love it for what it stands for. It means the weekend, laziness, fun, comfort, and best of all, togetherness. It’s hard not to be happy when you’re in The PIUR…it’s just too good.
Now, none of this has anything to do with acorn squash soup expect that I made it this weekend. And it was really good, kind of like The PIUR.
Maple-Roasted Acorn Squash and Fennel Soup
1 large acorn squash, about 2 - 2 1/2 pounds
1 large fennel bulb*
1 head garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped shallot
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon maple syrup
salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Chop the top third off of the head of garlic. Lay two large pieces of foil on top of each other. Place the bottom part of garlic in the middle of foil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap foil up around garlic and seal at top and sides.
Cut acorn squash in half and scoop out seeds. Place both halves, skin side down, in a glass baking dish. Drizzle flesh liberally with maple syrup and olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Cut fennel bulb in half. Cut out core and remove any tough outer pieces. Slice fennel into strips. Place in another glass baking dish and drizzle liberally with maple syrup and olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Put garlic, squash and fennel on middle rack of oven. Roast until tender. Times will vary depending on size, about 40 minutes for fennel, about 50 minutes for garlic, about 75 minutes for squash. Remove and let cool.
When cool enough to handle, squeeze roasted garlic cloves out of skins, scoop acorn squash out of skin (about 2 cup yield), and chop fennel (about 3/4 cup yield).
In a large pot, heat olive oil and sauté shallot until soft. Add fennel and garlic, season with salt and pepper. Deglaze pot with white wine, scraping the bottom. Stir in acorn squash, then chicken stock and syrup. Using an immersion blender, puree in pot. (Add more chicken stock if thinner consistency is desired.) Check seasonings and add more salt, pepper or syrup to taste. Heat through to serve immediately.
*Note: If the fennel is very thick, it can be a bit fibrous, so make sure to chop into very small pieces and puree well.
And don't even think about using any syrup that isn't real, pure maple syrup. Sorry Mrs. Butterworth, but you have no place here.
When I tasted the maple-roasted fennel, I was sold. I don’t consider myself a huge fennel lover, but maple-roasted fennel could convert me. In general, the maple syrup made everything better. The soup has a savory sweetness that I loved. It was creamy with no cream added in. It’s hearty and makes you want to curl up In front of the fire. Or in The PIUR. You know which one I’d choose...