Butternut Squash Soup w/ Thyme & Labneh

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Butternut squash soup.

It screams Fall.

It screams delicious.

It also screams overplayed and overdone.

I have a pretty solid b-nut squash recipe that I go to time and time again and it has been taste-tested and approved by the homies.

But, I figured if I was gonna put it on the blog I had to set it apart from all the basic butternut squash bitches soups.

I kept the base of the soup the same, because if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, but I decided to get creative with the garnishes since that’s the most fun part of soup anyway.

To begin you need the following:

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Once you have your squash and onion chopped up, sweat the onion in butter with a pinch of salt. Do this on low heat for about 10 mins, stirring occasionally until translucent and slightly golden, like this:

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While that happens, make the bouquet garnis.

A bouquet garnis is just a bunch of spices wrapped up in a cheesecloth and tied with twine. You could totally just toss the spices in loose (I used to do that before culinary school) but it just makes it easier to fish out later if you make the bouquet garnis.

This is what I like to use but use your own combination of spices if you prefer.

This one is savory and sweet/warm.

Perfect for Fall.

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Once the onions have cooked, add the squash and a quart of chicken or vegetable stock.

I used chicken stock, if you’re wondering.

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Bring this to a boil, cover and reduce it to a simmer (low heat).

Cook until the squash is tender, mine took about 20 minutes.

Once that happens, strain the squash and onions but make sure to reserve the stock, you will use it when pureeing the soup.

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From the photo above you can see that the aroma of this soup will bring creatures out of the woodwork that stare at you will longing eyes reeking of desperation.

I gave him a little chunk of squash.

That bastard.

Anyway, remove and discard the bouquet garnis.

Begin pureeing the soup with a ladle or two of the stock at first.

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Once it’s pureed, add more stock if needed to get the consistency you want.

Then season with S&P, to taste.

Now comes the fun part.


I wanted to add a little tang to the rich soup so I decided to take some labneh, which is a kefir cheese/strained yogurt so you could either buy some labneh at the grocery store (I found some at Safeway) or you can make some by straining regular yogurt. Here’s a super easy recipe.

Also, if all that seems like too much, just use greek yogurt. It’s easier to find and you might already have some in your fridge. You can even use crème fraîche.

Either way, take a generous dollop of the labneh/greek yogurt and mix it with a splash of water. You want it the consistency of heavy cream.

Now garnish and decorate with the labneh sauce and whatever herbs you like.

I experimented with thyme and edible flowers until I settled on the swirly design.

Here is my garnishing journey:

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Which one was your favorite?


1 butternut squash
1 onion
1 bunch of thyme
few bay leaves
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
1 quart chicken/vegetable stock
1 dollop labneh (or greek yogurt, if you can’t get labneh)
2-3 tbsp butter
S&P, to taste

Peel and chop up the butternut squash and the onion.
Melt a tbsp of butter in a pot and add the chopped onions and a pinch of salt.
Cook on low heat till translucent and slightly golden, about 10 mins.
In the meantime, combine the labneh with enough water to get it to the consistency of heavy cream. Add the water a little at a time. Set aside.
An optional step is to make a bouquet garnis, a.k.a seasoning pouch. You can just throw spices in loose instead but make sure to fish them out before pureeing the soup. Using a bouquet garnis makes removal of the spices easier.
To make the bouquet garnis, wrap the a few sprigs of thyme, the bay leaves, peppercorns and cinnamon stick in a piece of cheesecloth and wrap with twine. (See images above)
Once the onions have cooked, add the squash, stock and bouquet garnis to the pot and bring to a boil.
Once boiling, reduce to simmer and cover.
Cook for about 20 mins, or until squash is tender.
Once the squash is tender, strain the soup into a bowl to make sure to reserve the stock. Remove and discard the bouquet garnis and transfer the the squash and onions into a blender with a ladle of the reserved stock.
Puree the soup, adding stock as needed until desired consistency is reached.
Add the remaining butter and season with S&P, to taste.
Blend until silky smooth and transfer to a bowl. Garnish with thyme leaves and swirl in the labneh using a spoon.

Grape & Goat Cheese Focaccia

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Hey, guys … big news!

I’m getting my blog redesigned!

It’s gonna be a hotter, cuter version of itself but it’ll still be the blog you know and love on the inside.

I was gonna hold off on posting till the new design went live (around the end of October) but I just couldn’t do it!

I’ve been cooking a lot and I’ve been really happy with some of the recipes so I just decided to share them here cuz ain’t nobody got time to wait for a new design.

This recipe is a twist on the classic grape focaccia from the Italian region of Abruzzo.

I remember the first grape focaccia I had, it was in culinary school and I tried to hide my bitch face as a student from the pastry section (there’s a great divide between the pastry and culinary students) offered me her freshly baked, steaming grape focaccia. “It has grapes in it,” she said. “Grapes,” I murmured as I shoved a piece into my mouth. The crunchy sea salt and olive oil were familiar and comforting flavors, but the pop of sweetness from the grapes were an unexpected delight. “Damn,” I say, my eyes lighting up. “Let me get another piece,” I grab it before she says, “Sure!” I walked away with focaccia crumbs around my mouth and on my chef’s coat, feeling inspired.

Fast forward to a week ago at Whole Foods when I decided I wanted to make bread from scratch at around the same time I saw the prettiest grapes and I remembered that girl from culinary school and her grape focaccia.

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I remembered the salty sweet flavors and the pillowy focaccia and decided I was gonna make my version of grape focaccia.

What goes with bread and fruit?, I thought to myself.


What kind of cheese?, I wondered.

Goat kind!

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And so it began.

I hurried home full of excitement and this is what happened.

I needed flaky salt and an herb, and so I decided to use thyme and some Pinot Noir salt because wine and grapes go together, right?

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Try this salt.

Just try it.

Google it.

Then buy it.

Ok, so the first thing you need to do is activate the dry yeast.

You do this by mixing the yeast with a liquid between 105-115F and some sugar to feed the yeast and activate the beast.

I used water with some milk for richness.

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Once the mixture is at the right temperature, let it it proof in a warm place for about 15 minutes then put it in a mixing bowl fitted with a dough hook attachment. (If you don’t have a stand mixer use a bowl and spoon to combine and I will show you the manual kneading process a bit later.)

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With the mixer going on low speed, combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and add that to the yeast mixture.

Make sure your husband and husky are slow dancing in the background.

Do not skip this step.

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Once the flour is incorporated the dough will be dry and crumbly, olive oil to the rescue!

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Knead this dough on medium speed for about 6 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Like this:

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Here is the manual way to knead the dough:

First, place the dough on a floured surface and using the heel of your palm, push the dough forward, fold it over on itself, turn it a little clockwise and repeat.

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Do this for about 7-10 minutes or until your arms fall off.

Once you’re done, your dough should look like this:

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Smooth, shiny and elastic.

Like my butt.

Except it’s not really that smooth.

Shout out to all the cellulite.

Now place the dough in a bowl, coat with olive oil and cover. Allow it to proof and rise for about 45 minutes, it should almost double in size.

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Once proofed, punch it down and place the dough in a liberally oiled baking sheet.

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Now you want to play the piano on your dough to create holes and grooves and crevices and stuff.

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(Disclaimer: The image above is from my first trial of this recipe, that’s why you see little flecks of black pepper in there, I forgot to have pictures taken of this part the second time around but it’s the same exact process.)

Once your dough has been thoroughly poked and prodded, add your toppings and allow it to proof again for about 15 minutes (optional). Then bake it to golden brown perfection.

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Don’t be stingy with the toppings. I did that the first time I tested this recipe and it was a really sad time.

Load it up, like this:

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It looks like too much but when you bake it the bread’s volume increases and the ratio of bread to topping is altered.


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It looks like less toppings when it’s baked.

Also, don’t cut into the bread right away, let it cool a bit.

I know it’s hard but trust me here.

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Look at the fluffy focaccia.

Eat the fluffy focaccia.

Focaccia is life.


1 cup water
3/4 cup milk
1 T sugar
1 T salt
1 package dry active yeast
5 cups of flour
1/2 cup evoo, plus more as needed
1 bunch of grapes
1 log of goat cheese
a few sprigs of thyme
pinot noir salt (optional, use any flake/sea salt instead)

Combine milk, water and yeast and heat until 105F -115F.
Add the sugar and set aside in a warm area for about 10 – 15 minutes.
Once the yeast has had time to activate, combine the salt, flour, yeast and olive oil in a mixing bowl with the dough hook attachment and beat on medium speed for 6 minutes to knead it until smooth and elastic.
Dust with flour on a board and knead a few times more until the dough is coated with enough flour not to feel sticky anymore.
Coat with oil, place in a bowl and cover to proof in a warm place for about an hour.
Once proofed, punch down and place in a evoo lined baking dish/sheet and make holes/indents in the dough as if you are playing the piano (see photos). Be liberal with the oil here, this is important.
Now add whatever toppings you like, in this case, goat cheese, grapes, thyme and pinot noir salt (yum!).
Proof in the pan again for about 15 mins and preheat the oven to 425F.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.
Try to wait a bit before tearing into the dough (it’s not easy, I know).
Enjoy with a glass of Pinot Noir!