Ottawa

Winter squash two ways on D is for Dinner

Whether you're a busy parent or a single person on the go, making home-cooked meals can sometimes seem like a real challenge. That's where Michele Piironen comes in.

Michele Piironen is the owner of Food To Grow, a personal chef service

Michele Piironen's Winter squash soup with gruyere croutons. (Morgan Piironen)

Whether you're a busy parent or a single person on the go, making home-cooked meals can sometimes seem like a real challenge.

But before giving up and heading over to the microwaveable food aisle, Michele Piironen has some advice.

Piironen, the owner of Food To Grow, prepares made-from-scratch meals in her kitchen and delivers them to the time-crunched Ottawans who subscribe to her personal chef service.

This week on D is for Dinner, Piironen stops by CBC Ottawa's All In A Day studios with a couple of practical, homemade dishes that highlight a common winter vegetable: the humble squash.

Winter Squash Soup with Gruyere Croutons

Ingredients (soup):

  • ¼ cup butter.
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped.
  • 4 large garlic cloves, chopped.
  • 3 -14½ oz. cans chicken broth, low-fat and reduced-sodium.
  • 4 cups butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1-inch pieces.
  • 4 cups acorn squash, peeled and diced into 1-inch pieces.
  • 1¼ tsp. fresh thyme, minced.
  • 1¼ tsp. fresh sage, minced.
  • ¼ cup whipping cream.
  • 2 tsp. sugar.

Ingredients (croutons):

  • 2 tbsp. butter.
  • 1 cup Gruyere cheese, grated.
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme, minced.
  • 1 tsp. fresh sage, minced.
  • 1 baguette cut into ¼-inch thick slices (24).

Instructions:

  1. For the soup: melt butter in a large pot over medium heat.
  2. Add onion and garlic and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the broth, squash and herbs and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until squash is very tender, about 20 minutes.
  5. Working in batches, puree soup in a blender.
  6. Return to the same pot and stir in the cream and sugar and bring to a simmer.
  7. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Soup can me made up to one day ahead — in which case, chill and reheat prior to serving.
  9. For the croutons: butter one side of each bread slice and arrange, buttered side up, on a baking sheet.
  10. Place under broiler and broil until golden, about 1 minute.
  11. Turn over and sprinkle bread slices with cheese, then thyme and sage, then salt and pepper.
  12. Broil for about 1 minute, or until the cheese melts.
  13. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with croutons.
  14. Serve.
Michele Piironen of Food to Grow's roasted butternut squash and pear salad with candied pecans. (Morgan Piironen)

Roasted Butternut Squash and Pear Salad with Gingerbread Candied Pecans and Balsamic Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups salad greens.
  • 3 cups butternut squash, diced into ¾-inch cubes.
  • 2 cups pecan halves, chopped.
  • 1 small ripe pear, sliced.
  • ¼ cup red onion or shallots, finely sliced.
  • ⅓ cup olive oil, plus 2 extra tbsp.
  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar.
  • 1 tbsp. butter.
  • 2 tbsp. honey.
  • 1 tbsp. sugar.
  • 1 tbsp. dijon mustard.
  • 2 tsp. brown sugar.
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger.
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon.
  • 1 pinch cayenne.
  • ¼ tsp. ground cloves.
  • Kosher salt.

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 F.
  2. In a medium saucepan, add honey, sugar, spices and a pinch of salt and heat and stir until combined.
  3. Remove from heat, add pecans and stir until evenly coated.
  4. Arrange nuts in a single layer on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until fragrant and crisp.
  5. Allow to cool completely, then break apart any nuts that have stuck together.
  6. Place the diced squash on a heavy-duty baking sheet.
  7. Drizzle 2 tbsp. of olive oil over the squash and sprinkle with ¾ tsp. salt. Toss to coat.
  8. Roast the squash until browned on the bottom, about 20 minutes. Flip with a metal spatula and continue to roast until browned on the other side — about 5-10 minutes more.
  9. Set aside to cool.
  10. Place the onion or shallots in a large bowl, cover with water, let soak for 15 minutes and then drain in a colander.
  11. Combine the vinegar, mustard, brown sugar and ¼ tsp. salt in a bowl and whisk vigorously while pouring in the remaining olive oil.
  12. Place the onion or shallots and salad greens in a large bowl, sprinkle with ½ tsp. salt, and drizzle just enough of the dressing to give it a light coating and toss gently.
  13. Divide the greens among six plates and scatter the pecans, squash and pears over the greens.
  14. Drizzle with more dressing if desired and serve.