Butternut Squash Soup and Chickpea Cassoulet

Autumn produce is all about comfort food, and butternut squash is the key ingredient for the season’s best recipes.

This month, I teamed up with Melissa’s Produce to come up with some recipes using their new fall line of produce. Melissa’s Pinterest page is positively captivating, and it was hard to narrow it down to a few different types of recipes. I decided to make a full dinner — soup and a hearty entrée — but first, I needed to get into that squash.

The best and easiest way to get the most out of your hard-skinned winter squashes — from pumpkins to butternut squash to red kuri — is to cut them into manageable pieces and roast or grill them. Once the pieces are cool, the rinds come off really easily and you can use the squash for anything.

roasted butternut squash

I usually roast one or two at the same time, then keep the chunks in the fridge to use in soups, salads, stir-frys, even desserts. Just check out all of the recipes that other local food bloggers came up with for this challenge, below!

roasted butternut squash

Using the box of produce from Melissa’s, I decided to make a full meal, including a hearty soup and a fast-cooking spin on a classic cassoulet.

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

  • 1/2 medium butternut squash, roasted and cubed
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, diced
  • 2 tbsp ghee or butter
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp. red Thai curry paste (*or 1 small can of tomatillo salsa for milder flavor)
  • handful of fresh pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 tbsp sour cream for garnish

After the butternut squash is roasted and peeled, cook the pieces in a pot with butter or ghee as well as the garlic and apple. (Sautee the shallots in a separate pan and set aside when caramelized.) When the garlic/apple/squash mixture is heated thoroughly, add the curry paste and stock, and bring to a boil.

Spicy Butternut Squash and Apple soup
(*Note: Thai curry paste is very spicy. If you’re serving people who are sensitive to too much heat, substitute 1 can of green tomatillo salsa for the red curry paste. You’ll still get the peppery flavor without all the burn.)

Once the soup has been brought to a boil, cover the pot, turn the heat down, and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth, then add in the grated cheese and 1 tablespoon of sour cream. Mix thoroughly.

When serving, add a dollop of sour cream, and garnish with the caramelized shallots and toasted pine nuts.

spicy butternut squash soup recipe card

* * *

For the entrée, we have an awesome quick cassoulet. Traditionally a cassoulet is a French peasant dish made with pheasant, mutton, and frankly, whatever meat and beans were available. Traditionally, it’s also slow cooked for upwards of 4-6 hours, using dried beans and employing fancy French cooking pots. Mine uses a simple cast-iron skillet and is heavy on the hearty, fall vegetables and pre-steamed beans from Melissa’s. So, instead of taking 6 hours, my recipe takes less than two hours total – including all of the chopping. Perfect for a cold weeknight.

Fall Vegetable Cassoulet

  • 1/2 medium butternut squash, roasted and cubed
  • 1 package of pre-steamed chickpeas
  • 4-5 baby yellow Dutch potatoes
  • 1 package of your favorite breakfast sausage (I used one with sage and pork)
  • 1 boneless chicken breast, cubed
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 3-4 carrots, diced
  • 3-4 shallots, diced
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 4 slices of bacon, chopped (I used my homemade bacon)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2-3 chives, diced
  • 3-4 tbsp olive oil

Slice, dice and chop all of your vegetables. Add olive oil to your deep-dish cast-iron pan and start to caramelize the carrots, shallot, garlic and onion with the chicken breast, bacon and sausage. Sautee for about 5-10 minutes, until the meat is browned and the vegetables are cooked through, then mix in the chickpeas, butternut squash and potatoes.

cassoulet

Fill the pan with stock and bring to a boil, then cover, lower the heat, and let simmer for about 45 minutes. Try to not peek and let out all the steam — which will be hard to do when it starts to smell really good. When it’s ready, the liquid will have mostly cooked out, and what’s left will be a thick sauce. Serve with diced chive for garnish.

cassoulet recipe card

I’ve never really been a fan of pre-prepared produce before, but I am starting to change my mind. After taking a peek at the delicious pre-steamed blackeyed peas, chickpeas and fava beans, I had to take full advantage. The pre-steamed chickpeas turn allowed me to make a slow-cooked classic in less than a couple of hours, and this awesome, super-fast warm potato salad.

Quick Warm Potato Salad

  • 1 package of Melissa’s pre-steamed, peeled baby potatoes
  • 5 slices of bacon (try homemade bacon)
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp sour cream

Dice the bacon and cook in a cast-iron pan with a pat of butter. Once the bacon is browned (not fully cooked, but close), add the shallots, more butter and the pre-steamed potatoes. Brown the potatoes on all sides for about 2 minutes on each side and season with salt and pepper while cooking.

Remove from heat and put in a bowl with more butter, feta cheese and sour cream. Toss briskly and serve immediately.

Warm Potato Salad with Bacon and Shallot

Disclaimer: Melissa’s Produce graciously provided most of the produce I used in this post, but no other financial consideration was given for my opinions or ideas.

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Enhance the flavors of summer with roasting

Since the invention of fire, humans have noticed that in addition to providing light and warmth, fire and heat makes our food tasty. Roasting isn’t just for meat, though. Next time you find a delicious bunch of plum tomatoes in the farmer’s market, or if you want to give your next fruity jam a kick, try roasting the fruits first.

I set out to make a batch of cherry-berry-jalapeno jam, using ripe strawberries and cherries and a few whole jalapeno peppers, and roasted all of the fruits and peppers first. It adds a whole new and different depth of flavor!

Roasted Cherry-Berry-Jalapeno Jam

This recipe is also good with fresh and unroasted fruits and peppers, and can be adapted to use up whatever you have on hand. Maybe use ancho chiles and blueberries … Habaneros and raspberries …

  • 1 pint berries of any kind (I used strawberries and cherries)
  • 5-6 jalapenos (remove or keep the seeds and ribs according to your taste; remember seeds=spice)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 tbsp. balsamic and/or cider vinegar (balsamic will bring out the berry flavor more, cider will enhance the spiciness of the pepper)
  • 2 tbsp. vodka (optional)

Remove pits or stems from the fruit, and place in a single layer on a roasting pan with other berries and peppers. Coat with 1 cup of sugar and vinegar, and roast at 400 degrees or until the berries and peppers are soft and slightly charred.* Remove from the oven and put into a pot with remaining sugar on high heat, mashing the berries and peppers together. Add vodka if desired. Bring to a rolling boil until the mixture gels. Ladle immediately into hot jars and boil to seal in a water bath for 15 minutes.

This jam has a definite kick to it, but it’s worth it!!

* I should point out here that the act of “roasting” for the purposes of these recipes can be everything from fire-roasting these fruits over a charcoal or propane flame, cooking under high heat in your broiler, or even just baking in a convection oven at 400 degrees or more. All of them produce delicious results.

This time of year is ideal for procuring delicious, fresh and juicy tomatoes almost everywhere. I managed to score some gorgeous plum tomatoes and wanted to try my hand at my own pomodori al forno (after the one I enjoyed so much from the food swap). I roasted them with garlic, basil and olive oil and canned them for later.

Pomodori al forno

This is an excellent addition to casseroles and other dishes, but probably best enjoyed warm with a hunk of crusty bread and a tangy goat cheese.

  • 1 pint plum or other small tomatoes (the very small ones don’t need to be sliced)
  • 1/2-cup (approx) olive oil
  • a handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt and pepper

Place tomatoes in a single layer in a roasting pan. Coat with oil and sprinkle basil, garlic and spices over the tomatoes. Roast for 45 mins- 1 hour, or until tomatoes are slightly charred and have burst if they are whole. Use immediately, or if you are canning them, use a pressure canner. 1 small green basket from the farmers market of tomatoes yields about 2 pints of finished product.

These are  excellent!