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Among the Great Revelations you can have in college, one of my personal favorites is that soup doesn’t have to come from a can.

Also, only wash colors in cold water. Just in case you were wondering.

Anyway, it’s cold out and soup is what you want. Chilis, stews, and so forth are all great, but for lunches I’m a big fan of puréed soups. They’re also ridiculously easy, which is a plus. The basic methodology is something like cook an onion, add spices and/or garlic, throw in some cubed vegetables and enough stock to cover, simmer, purée. Voilà: soup.

I found this recipe browsing online and happened to have all (well, most of) the ingredients. Since I’m the sort of person that apparently doesn’t mind taking an hour to make lunch, I came home, thawed some homemade stock, and did battle with an acorn squash. Half an hour or so later: soup. Again, voilà.

And this soup is crazily good. Sometimes puréed soups are flat and taste like liquid mashed potatoes, but this as turmeric and ginger and sweetness from the apple and yet it still goes well with sharp cheddar on toast (because what is soup without a sandwich?)

The photos don’t do it justice. You’ll just have to make it and see.

Winter Squash and Apple Soup
adapted from Saveur
serves 4 or so

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. ginger, minced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tart apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 1 acorn squash, seeded, peeled, and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

 In a large stockpot or dutch oven, heat the oil and cook the onion until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for one minute. Add spices, salt and pepper to taste, apples, squash, and stock. Bring to a boil; cook, covered, on medium heat, until squash and apples are tender, about 15 minutes.

Purée with an immersion blender or (carefully) in batches in a standard blender. 

(If you find it hard to peel the acorn squash, cut it into sections following its natural curves, then peel each section individually).

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Picnics are the best. With the exception of the occasional unwelcome insect, I can’t come up with many downsides to eating (and, okay, drinking) outside. Al fresco dining, much like pasta salad, is as humble or glamorous as you make it.

You see what I did there? Well, I also did make pasta salad, and it’s kind of toeing the line between fancy and simple. My weekly dinner with friends is going potluck for our final round before summer break, and I had half a bag of pasta in the pantry that I needed to use up. From the ashes of former dinners rises the phoenix of…pasta salad!

Maybe I am making it into too big a deal. It’s really just thrown together. But this is not your mom’s pasta salad. Even though I’m not anti-mayonnaise, the thought of dumping it all over innocent pasta feels wrong, especially for a lighter dish. Instead, I made a creamy vinaigrette with shallots with my immersion blender and added goat cheese, which I think gets the desired effect across.

Roast your own red peppers, too: it’s really easy. Either pop them right on a gas flame on your stove, turning them with tongs as the skins blister, or stick em on a sheet in the oven at 400º for about half an hour to 45 minutes. Rinse under cold water, peel off the skins, and chop. If I had thought of it, half a chopped red onion wouldn’t be bad either (unless you’re one of those people who can’t stand them, to which I say wha?)

Early Summer Pasta Salad
serves six as a side

  • 2/3 lb. short pasta, like penne or fusili
  • 2 red peppers, roasted (see above)
  • A few big handfuls baby spinach
  • 1 log (roughly) crumbled goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 shallot, diced
  • Salt & pepper to taste 

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and cool in fridge. Meanwhile, combine olive oil and vinegar in a blender until a creamy emulsion forms. Add shallot and pulse to combine. Taste, and add salt and pepper as needed. Combine chopped red peppers with cooled pasta and spinach. Toss with vinaigrette, add goat cheese. Enjoy outdoors.