For some time I knew the last post of 2011 would be sticky toffee pudding. At first I was going to make it Christmas Eve, but in the end it was a quiet night with my Mom and we had appetizers and watched Mildred Pierce on HBO (brilliant!), and ate that caramel popcorn. Then I was going to make it when my sister came a calling but it seemed there was already so much sweet stuff in the house, like these cookies, and my Mom's super awesome Jam-Jams, which the kids go nuts for. And frankly, I don't know about you, but there was some heavy indulging over the past few weeks, and just looking at a sauce that required 2 cups of whipping cream and a sizable chunk of butter, made me a wee bit queasy and I couldn't do that to you. Or me! Not yet. Given that I've pretty much been living in stretchy pants for the better part of a week, I thought I'd give the sweet stuff a rest. But all hope is not lost, the recipe will appear here in the next couple of weeks I'm sure. So far it's on the New Years' Day menu, unless I'm still on a sugar holiday (historically, these holidays are short-lived).
When I was thinking what else I could cook up for a year-end finalé, a novel concept hit me. Cook some vegetables! It's been ages since one graced the pages of this blog - not since these mushrooms, in fact. Crazy hey? Further digging around the freezer located some pumpkin I roasted back in November, when I was in full throttle Christmas baking mode and had no time or inclination to do anything with it then. There were some beautiful organic Anjou pears on the counter, I thought how fitting. My first post of 2011 (and first post, ever!) had pears in it, so it seemed somehow cosmic to cook with pears in the finalé. It all has a certain symmetry to it, which I kind of like. And with that a soup was born, and an elegant one at that. It's simple, not fussy, but contains leeks and brie so it sounds all fancy pants.
My sister has a gigantic garden and grows gigantic pumpkins. This is one of hers. The flesh was a light yellow when it finished roasting, hence the light colour of this soup. Don't think I be foolin' ya! There's really pumpkin in those bowls, though the pumpkin flavour doesn't shout out at you. It's balanced with the slight sweetness coming from the pears and maple syrup; the aromatic leeks and thyme; the lushness of a little bit of whipping cream at the end. I know, I added cream. Adding milk would have just been wrong. All wrong. And whipping cream is so, so right.
What I really love about this soup is the bit of brie in the bottom of the bowls. Hot soup is spooned over top and when you give it a stir, the brie melds beautifully, and you wonder why you never put brie in the bottom of your soup bowl before.
So it's almost New Year's Eve. Are you ready to say goodbye? I totally am. While 2011 was incredibly good to me, and every day I count myself lucky and grateful to be where I am, doing what I do, I'm also happy to let it go. I've been taking stock of all the good things and writing them down in my little Moleskine. Like when I saw Dave Grohl up close at the Foo Fighters show (okay, not close enough to touch, but we shared a moment, for reals); and when I was the featured food blogger here; and when Mushrooms Canada loved my recipe; and when my garden gave me such amazing bounty; and when old friends came to visit; and when new friendships blossomed; and when everyone I love continues to be healthy and doing so very well. Looking back, some good stuff happened this year. Yes, indeedy.
Exactly one year ago I was looking at Blogger and reading about how to start a blog, and frankly freaked out of my mind and overwhelmed with all of the techie lingo. But I soon got over any hesitations, and just did it. Starting writing and taking pictures and letting little pieces of my world unfold for you. Among the many shining moments of 2011, seeing sweetsugarbean live for the first time was one of the biggest and happiest. Thank you for stopping by and making my recipes and leaving me with the kindest comments. You've pretty much made my 2011 rock. Here's to an even better 2012, full of more food, recipes and stories from my little green kitchen. xo Renee
Roasted Pumpkin and Pear Soup with Brie
10 cups of pumpkin, or any other squash, like butternut or buttercup, peeled and chopped into 1 inch chunks
2 tbsp butter
1 carrot, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 leeks, light green part only, washed very well and sliced
8 cups chicken stock
2 tsp dried thyme
coarse salt and pepper
2 ripe pears, peeled and diced
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 cup whipping cream
8 ounces of Brie cheese, rind removed, and sliced
snipped chives for garnish
On two parchment lined bake sheets, toss the pumpkin in a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in a 375* oven until soft, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
In a large soup pot, heat butter over medium heat. Add the carrot, leeks and onion. Sauté until soft, about 5 minutes, careful not to brown. Add the cooked pumpkin, thyme, salt and pepper, and about 7 cups of chicken broth. Stir well and bring to a boil. Let it simmer for 25 minutes, add the diced pears and simmer 10 minutes longer. If it seems too thick, add more stock. Remove from heat, and with an immersion blender, pureé the soup until smooth. Add the maple syrup and whipping cream, and more stock if too thick. Adjust seasonings. Place slices of brie in soup bowls and ladle the hot soup over top. Garnish with fresh chives. Serves 8
Have a very Happy New Year! All good things to you in 2012!