10.16.2010

Roasted Squash Soup & Grown-Up Grilled Cheese

I went home to Maine for work last week and while I was there my mom hosted her monthly book club group for dinner. She chose to host the gaggle of ladies while I was home so I could help cook. She knows I love to host a dinner party.

The hosting lady usually tries to cook a meal that relates to the book in some way, however tenuous the relation may be. This month's book group read "Father of the Rain," which was in part written from the view point of a child. So when my mom flipped to the "Grilled Cheese with Quattro Formaggi" in her Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook, she knew that the child-like grilled cheese with a grown-up twist was just the thing to serve the the ladies. Plus, it would pair well with the roasted squash soup she planned to cook with a variety of squashes she grew in her garden this summer. Paired with a salad of mixed greens with toasted pecans, craisins and gorgonzola, this was a fabulous book club dinner.

Anyone can throw together a salad with the ingredients I listed above (it pairs nicely with a sweeter dressing) so I'll share the soup and sandwich recipes here. The soup is very low in calories so it balances out the four cheese sandwich, which is decadent to say the very least. The two together are the perfect cool weather meal, and make an especially easy menu when you're serving a gaggle of good friends.

Note that the squash soup recipe calls for four squashes of about two pounds each, but it's totally unnecessary to weigh them at the store since the whole recipe is adjusted to taste at the end.

Roasted Squash Soup
serves 10-12

2 acorn squash (about 2lbs each)
2 butternut squash (about 2lbs each)
8 t. brown sugar, packed
3 carrots, peeled and halved
1 large onion, sliced thinly
10 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 t. mace
1 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
Salt to taste

1. Cut the squashes in half lengthwise and scoop out and discard the seeds.
2. Arrange squashes in a roasting pan, cut side up. Place 1 teaspoon of brown sugar in the center cavity of each squash. Place onions and carrots in the pan around the squash. Pour 2 cups of the chicken broth in the pan and then cover tightly with foil (you want the stock to steam the squash).
3. Bake at 350 degrees for two hours, until squash are soft. Remove from oven and cool.
4. Scoop out the squash into a stock pot. Transfer onions, carrots and any remaining stock from the pot.
5. Add remaining chicken stock and spices. Bring to a boiling, stirring well. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for ten minutes.
6. Puree the soup with an immersion blender, or in batches in a regular blender, returning to the pot after blending.
7. Adjust seasoning to taste. I prefer a spicier soup so I often add at least double the spices, however, remember you can always add more spice, but you can't take it away, so add spice a little at a time, tasting as you go. Thin out the soup with more stock, if necessary

Serve hot in a bowl with a dollop of light sour cream and a snip of chives in the center.
adapted from "The New Basics Cookbook," Rosso & Lukins

The sandwich recipe makes one sandwich, which I suggest serves two when served with the soup above. Adjust ingredients accordingly for your crowd.

Grilled Cheese with Four Cheeses
makes one

1 T. butter
2 thick slices of firm white bread (try your local bakery for a rustic white)
1/2 t. garlic powder
1 oz. fontina slice
1 oz. provolone slice
1 oz. mozzarella slice
1/2 oz. crumbled Gorgonzola

1. Melt the butter, mixing in garlic powder.
2. Arrange cheeses on bread and using a pasty brush spread each side of sandwich with garlic butter.
3. Grill over medium-low heat in a grill pan until golden on each side, making sure not to cook for too long since doing so will cause the cheese to melt too much and too much cheese to ooze out of the sandwich.

Serve warm
adapted from "The Sliver Palate Good Times Cookbook," Rosso & Lukins

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