Autumn is the time for both winter squash and pears, and the two pair nicely in a soothing soup with just a touch of sweetness. You can substitute acorn or the local "African" squash (available in farmers markets) for the butternut squash; and if pears aren't available, use apples instead. For a simple supper, serve with crusty bread and a salad of bitter greens.
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 carrots, diced
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1 medium butternut squash (about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 pears, peeled, cored and diced small (divided use)
10 sage leaves (divided use)
1 cup vegetable stock or water
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon butter
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the carrots and onions and sauté until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the squash, half of the pears and half of the sage leaves. Cover the pot and steam until squash is tender, stirring once or twice to prevent burning, about 15 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and cook an additional 5 to 10 minutes. If soup is too thick, add a little water to thin to the desired consistency.
2. Using an immersion blender, a food processor or a regular blender, puree the mixture until smooth. (If you use a regular blender, puree in small batches and take care not to let the liquid splatter.) Return the liquid to the pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. In a small sauté pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the vinegar and cook about 2 minutes, until the mixture is syrupy. Add the remaining pears and sage leaves and cook until pears are tender, about 2 minutes.
4. To serve, spoon the soup into serving bowls. Top with the pear mixture.
Makes 4 servings. Preparation time: 20 minutes. Cooking time: 35 minutes