Sometimes when I’ve finished a book that I really love, I clutch it to my chest and hug it. It can be for a number of reasons, a beautiful story, a character I really relate to, or a flawless writing style. Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this. Anyone?
In the past it has only been novels that have elicited such a loving response, but that all changed when I read “A Homemade Life” by Molly Wizenberg. This was the first cookbook that when I finished, I closed it, took a deep breath, then pulled it into an actual embrace (I also do this with new shoes and I’m sure my husband wonders how he got roped into marrying me). At first glance, I would not have expected to feel this way about this book because it has my least favorite book/cookbook elements. Short stories and no pictures. But from the first page, I knew I had to have this book. The way Molly writes and the stories she tells all blend seamlessly into one another and are told with such rich descriptions, that you can see what she’s baking even without a picture. This book takes you through the life of the Orangette author from the time she is little until the day she gets married. Each story is followed by a recipe that accompanies it. From the Tarte Tatin she makes after her first horrible heartbreak to the cake that introduced her to her future husband. Each chapter ties her life and love of food into a beautiful book you will never want to end. The only reason I ever stopped reading it was my craving for all of the delicious recipes. I hope you run out and read this book today, and when you’ve finished, if you hug it, tell me okay?
Of all the recipes in this book, the one I’ve made the most is her Butternut Soup. As it is only 70 degrees here today and I have a cold that won’t go away I’m in the mood for a little fall comfort food (And lots of Lemon Chicken Soup).
Butternut Squash Soup with Apples and Vanilla Cream
Adapted from “A Homemade Life” by Molly Wizenberg
3 tablespoons olive oil
One 2 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 inch cubes (about 4 generous cups)
2 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1 inch cubes (about 2 cups)
1 medium yellow onion peeled and corsely chopped
1 cup apple cider
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the squash, apples, and onion and stir to coat with oil. Cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and transparent. Add the cider and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the broth, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, partially covered for about 30 minutes, until the squash is tender. Using a blender or handheld mixer purée until very smooth. Return to pot, if needed, and continue to cook, uncovered, over medium-low heat, until the soup has reduced by one-third it’s original volume. While the soup is reducing, put the heavy cream in a small saucepan. Using a sharp knife, split the vanilla bean in half from top to bottom. Using the back of your knife, scrape the seeds out of the pod. Add seeds and pod to saucepan with the cream and warm over low heat, swirling occasionally, until it steams. Do not allow it to boil. Remove from heat and discard pod. Set aside. When the soup has reduced to you desired thickness, stir in the infused cream. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.