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Some rainy days are cold and miserable. Not today. Today’s rain is seems cozy and is tapping a beautiful music on my metal roof. Today is just the day I need to recover from the stresses of work.

Lately it seems like I am noticing the miserableness and negativity of many people. Food, on the other hand, is always a kind and comforting refuge from the anxieties of the world. The rhythmic slice, slice, slice-ing of onions, the gorgeous smells of yeast and flour, and the beautiful colors of the roasted squash are a balm to my soul. Even though these recipes are time consuming, they are worth it.

Because each of these recipes have multiple steps, there is some coordination required for them to be ready at the same time. I suggest you start your onions, roast the squash, and then start the bread.

The butternut soup I made today is inspired by Buried Carrots’s recipe Roasted Butternut Squash and Chipotle Soup. I really like the contrast of the sweet and spiciness in the original recipe. I tried to reflect those flavors in my spice combination.

For a really good picture tutorial about how to caramelized onions, see Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide article- Caramelized Onions. I was inspired by Rufus’s focaccia recipe using rosemary and the onions, though I prefer to stick to my own recipe for the actual bread. Focaccia is fantastic with so many different toppings; there is no wrong answer.

Butternut Squash Soup

  • 1 medium butternut squash, roasted
  • 2 Tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 russet potato, peeled and largely diced
  • 1 small pear, cored and largely diced
  • 6 chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Slice the top and bottom off of the squash, then slice the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Brush the cut sides of the squash with oil and place, cut side down, on a foil covered baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes or until squash is soft. Remove from oven and cool. Once cooled, scoop out the squash from the skin and discard skins.

Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the onions, carrots and celery and cook for about 5 minutes with the lid on, stirring occasionally. Add the potato, squash, pear and brothand bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes and carrots are soft. Using a blender or food processor, puree soup in batches until smooth. Return to the pot over low heat and whisk in the cream and spices. Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with paprika.

Caramelized Onion and Rosemary Focaccia

  • 1 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package instant yeast
  • 1 1/3 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese
  • 2 springs of fresh rosemary, chopped
  • Caramelized onions
  • Sea salt

In a large bowl, stir together the flours and salt. In a glass measuring cup, measure out 1 1/3 cups of warm water. Carefully pour the sugar and yeast into the water. Allow the yeast to work, over about 5 minutes. Add the yeast mixture and 2 tablespoons of the oil to the flour mixture. With a wooden spoon stir the mixture in the center of the bowl. Gradually widen the circle of stirring to take in all of the flour at the sides of the well. Turn out on a floured surface (I place a large sheet of wax paper on the counter to minimize the mess), and knead just until smooth. Keep the dough soft.

Pour 1/2 teaspoon of the oil into a clean bowl. Place the dough in the bowl, turning once to oil the top. Cover. Let rise until doubled, 30 to 45 minutes. Punch the dough down. Use 1 teaspoon of the oil to coat a baking sheet, and place the dough on the baking sheet. Gently press the dough out to about 1/2 inch thickness. Pour the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil over the top of the dough. Use the handle end of a wooden spoon to dimple the dough at 1 1/2 inch intervals.

Sprinkle with the rosemary, onion, Parmesan cheese, and sea salt . Drizzle with olive oil, as desired.

Place in a cold area and let rise until doubled, 20 to 25 minutes. Preheat on the oven to 375 degrees. Bake the focaccia for 20 to 25 minutes, or until browned on top. Remove from the pan, and cool on a wire rack. Serve warm.

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