Food Memories – Butternut Pear Curry Bisque

So the other week when I introduced you to Debra from SmithBites, I didn’t know at the time that she was going to become the very first Food Memory contributor with multiple entries in the project. Here’s how it happened. I badgered her until she agreed to let me use The Professor’s Black Beans and Rice in the hopes that I would move on to harassing someone else. And I did. And then I made an abrupt U turn and headed back to her inbox.

Because when I read her post about Butternut Pear Curry Bisque, it was as though the Universe had taken all the good things about Food Memories and tied them up with a pretty bow. Greedy like I am, I had to have it. Ever gracious, Debra said yes.

I would like to thank her for not changing her email address or running away screaming every time she sees my name in her inbox.  I’d also like to thank her for capturing the very essence of why I believe Food Memories are important and sharing a big bowl of it with us.

Butternut Pear Curry Bisque & Food Memories

They say a picture is worth a thousand words but I’m here to tell you that a recipe or a meal is also worth a thousand words.  For some, that dish might be a special birthday cake, cinnamon rolls or bread; to others it might be a meatloaf, pot roast or onions and garlic sauteing in a skillet.  A particular scene in Ratatouille captures this point so well – the hardened, stoic, food critic Anton Ego, takes a bite of Remy’s simple Ratatouille and the audience is immediately transported back to Ego’s childhood home where the boy Anton is served ratatouille while being comforted by his mother.

And for me, this bisque is one of those dishes.  I know it’s officially fall when The Professor breaks out the dutch oven, grabs a butternut squash from our garden and picks an armful of pears from our tree.  The first time he made this bisque, I was in Washington staying with my parents – my dad had been diagnosed with cancer a couple of months prior and I was helping them pack for a move.  I remember The Professor calling very early in the morning to tell me he had found a delicious recipe for a bisque that had pears and butternut squash in it . . . I also remember thinking that the recipe didn’t sound very appealing.  Notice I said I thought – I didn’t say I voiced my opinion – which is shocking I know, but he was cooking for me again, so don’t rock the boat, right?  (Plus, he was making his case for vegetarianism.) But I also remember coming home to this fabulous fall bisque – and The Professor has made it every single year since 2000.

In writing this post, we discovered something new about our relationship – he’s all about the tried and true familiar recipes while I’m all about flipping through my mountain of food magazines and/or cookbooks discovering unique and exciting ones.  He’s always the one to make Black Beans and Rice, grilled cheese sammies with tomato soup, scrambled eggs, grilled pizza, the Thanksgiving smoked turkey breast and this butternut pear curry bisque; he follows the recipe to. a. tee; always measuring exact amounts, never eyeballing an ingredient – meticulous and precise.  I, on the other hand, am racing through the directions, capturing the essence of a recipe and then I’m off doing my own ‘loose’ interpretation; and I have only a handful of recipes I’ve made more than once.

We’re all connected through food in one way or another; and while it would appear that The Professor and I would clash in the kitchen, we actually compliment one another.  There are times when I’m in charge and he’s the sous chef; then he’s in charge and I’m the support.  That is the dance.  That is the magic.  And that is how all of us create our own individual memories and stories.

What favorite food takes you back to a particular memory?

BUTTERNUT PEAR CURRY BISQUE
Cooking Light Magazine, October 2000

BAH Note: I made a few modifications to the recipe that Debra was kind enough to supply.  Since this is Debra’s memory, I’m showing the recipe she used.  But lean in and I’ll tell you what I did different.  First, I used all of pulp I got from a 3 pound squash.  I didn’t measure out exactly how many cups this was but I was happy with the results.  Next, you’ll want to remember to roast your squash cut side down.  I didn’t and had to double the oven time for my butternut.  Also, I changed up the amount of liquids.  I used a 12 ounce can of pear nectar, one can of vegetable broth, and 2 cups water.  Lastly, I didn’t have another pear to use for garnish so I improvised by crisping up some prosciutto and sprinkled it on the top like confetti.

  • 1 butternut squash (about 2 3/4 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cups chopped peeled Bartlett pear (about 1 pound)
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced onion
  • 2 1/3 cups water
  • 1 cup pear nectar
  • 2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans vegetable broth
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1 small Bartlett pear, cored and thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 375°.

Cut squash in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membrane. Place squash halves, cut sides down, on a baking sheet; bake at 375° for 45 minutes or until tender. Cool. Peel squash; mash pulp. Set aside 3 1/2 cups pulp, reserving remaining squash for another use.

Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chopped pear and onion; sauté 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Add squash pulp, water, and next 5 ingredients (water through pepper). Bring to a boil; partially cover, reduce heat, and simmer 40 minutes. Place one-third of squash mixture in a blender; process until smooth. Pour puréed mixture into a large bowl; repeat procedure with remaining squash mixture. Return squash mixture to pan; stir in half-and-half. Cook over low heat 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Ladle soup into bowls, and garnish with pear slices.

{printable recipe}

Food Memories – The Professor’s Black Beans and Rice

Debra was one of the fabulous bloggers I met over the summer at the Potluck.  Her blog, SmithBites, was one of my summer finds.  Through our twittersations, I learned that not only is Deb the life of the party but she has a heart (and I’m guessing a house) big enough to love an entire clowder of cats.  Yes, I did have to turn to my good friend Google for that term.  Thank you very much, now we’ve all learned something today.

Her food memory originally appeared on her site, which just happens to have the tag line “Food That Connects Us”.  I had emailed her about participating in the Food Memories project and when she offered this story, the story of the first dish that her future husband ever made her, I couldn’t type out my thanks fast enough. It also came to my attention that Debra has special ninja powers protecting her posts.  The details of that discovery aren’t pertinent to anything other than I think having ninja powers is pretty cool.

The Professor’s Black Beans and Rice

There is a running joke in the family that The Professor and I never dated . . . and we didn’t . . . even though we spent quite a bit of time together, it was never, ever called ‘a date’. Once we decided we were getting married, the wedding took place within 10 days – yes, you read that correctly, 10 days and it was quite lovely.  But the first meal The Professor ever cooked for me (on a ‘non-date’ night of course) is still one of my all-time favorites and always takes me back to that house on 38th Street, the galley kitchen and the cute little dining room with hardwood floors.

Black Beans & Rice, packaged salad mix, non-fat bottled Italian dressing, a roll with ‘lite’ butter and non-fat ice cream for dessert; he was eating a low-fat, vegetarian diet and I was eating a full-on fat, lots-of-meat diet.  It gives us both a good laugh whenever we talk about it  but he cooked for me people, and he was wooing me even if he didn’t realize it.  I moved into that house after we were married and together we created a home.  There were a multitude of meals made in that kitchen – some triumphs and some major fails . . . uhm, like the dish created by The Professor which included barbecue sauce and dried chickpeas that hadn’t been soaked . . . but hey, I count myself lucky – his mother reports that, as a young boy, he used her blender to grind up worms, seeds and heaven-knows-what to feed a baby bird he had found.  And that’s exactly what I love about The Professor, he’s fearless when it comes to trying new things!

But there were also some terrific meals prepared in that kitchen as well; things like Crab Cakes with Red Pepper Remoulade, Hummingbird Cake, Strawberry Angel Food Cake, Pork Chops with Sour Cream Horseradish Sauce, coconut cream pies, strawberry jams and Spaghetti.  We had wonderful gatherings and parties in that house too:  Grandma’s 80th birthday party, Mother’s Day Brunches, a sister-in-law’s birthday that involved a ‘Jenny Gymnast’ doll (get Cheryl going and it’s laughter so hard that tears stream and you find yourself wishing you’d worn Depends), Easter suppers and a Thanksgiving meal for 15 where we were packed so tight in that dining room, that if anyone needed a potty break, everyone had to stand up to let you pass.  Happy sigh . . . such wonderful, wonderful memories and ones that I will always cherish.

I’m still a meat-eater but much, much less these days; The Professor now eats meat as well and I’ve recruited him over to the dark side of full-fat, real food (using less) rather than a bunch of artificial and chemically altered fats.  Our palettes are always eager to explore the culture and world around us.  Oysters, duck, bison and vegetables like ramp, patty-pan zucchini, kale or tomatillos and even some of the old standards like meatloaf or pot roast have been given a unique twist using a few new ingredients or techniques.  And 12 years later, he still cooks for me.

What food memories do you have about dating or ‘non-dating’ whether it’s one you cooked or ate at a restaurant?

The Professor’s Black Beans and Rice

BAH Note: I’ve never been a beans and rice gal but I really enjoyed this dish. I may have added a few items that weren’t authentic to what The Professor served Debra that night but when I told her about adding cubed turkey and sliced avocado, she was all in favor of my decision.

  • 1 small onion diced, about 1/2 cup
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1 15 oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 1 teaspoon cumin (optional)
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped green onion or cilantro (for garnish)

Heat the oil in a nonstick frying pan over medium heat and saute the onions and garlic until the onions are soft. Add the rice and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Cook for about 5 minutes, until the rice is heated, and add the beans and cumin (if using). Cook for another 3 to 5 minutes until everything is heated through, adjust seasoning, and serve garnished with green onions or cilantro.

{printable recipe}