- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 21, 2009

If you watch television cooking shows, you know how ingredients magically appear, pared, chopped and ready for assembly.

Unfortunately, having a behind-the-scenes assistant is a luxury few can afford.

Having a companion in the kitchen, however, can be an even greater advantage. You’re not only speeding up preparation; you’re also enjoying each other’s company.

If you’re used to cooking by yourself, giving up your counter turf can take some getting used to.

Start with the small stuff.

Ask the other half of Two’s Company to set out the ingredients you need for dinner. Buy an extra paring knife so you can both peel vegetables - at least an elbow apart. And, once you feel comfortable, hand over the wooden spoon and let your partner step up to the stove.

This recipe for squash-and-parsnip soup is ideal for a twosome to tackle. Have a glass of wine and catch up on the day while the vegetables are roasting.

Then finish the recipe together. Maybe you’ll be willing to share the immersion blender.

(If neither of you likes peeling butternut squash, pick up a package of diced, peeled, raw squash in the supermarket produce department. Use three cups of squash in this recipe.)

Squash-and-parsnip soup

Makes 2 servings

1 small butternut squash

2 medium parsnips

1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 medium leek, white part only, trimmed and coarsely chopped

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

1/4 teaspoon salt, optional

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon chipotle chili powder

1/2 cup half-and-half

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped honey-roasted or salted, roasted cashews

Halve squash lengthwise. Remove fibers and seeds. Peel squash and cut into 1-inch chunks. Trim and peel parsnips. Cut into 1-inch chunks. Place squash and parsnips in shallow roasting pan. Drizzle with oil.

Roast in preheated 400-degree oven for 45 minutes or until fork tender, stirring every 15 minutes.

Melt butter in large pot. Add leek. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes or until tender. Add cooked squash, parsnips, broth, salt, pepper, thyme, cumin and chipotle chili powder. Puree mixture using immersion blender or pour soup, half at a time into a blender and puree. When soup is pureed, return to pot. Stir in half-and-half. Heat through over very low heat.

To serve pour into 2 large soup bowls. Sprinkle half the cashews over each serving.


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