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25 Jan 2010 - 16:25
15 Jan 2010 - 18:53
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chestnut pear soup

Friday, 20 Nov 2009 | recipe inside
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Roasted, candied, whipped into a gelato, pureed into a soup-- I salivate for chestnuts in any fashion, at any time.  Throughout the streets of Europe in the fall and winter, you'll find vendors on every corner selling freshly roasted chestnuts.  I love to snack on these-- they are tasty and nutritious, and I somehow feel virtuous for choosing to munch on them.   

We spend quite a bit of time in the northern Adriatic Istria region.  El Burrito is from Slovenia, and when we're there, we like to cruise around sniffing out the choicest spots for snacks and drinks in the area.  There's a gelateria in Trieste, Italy named Zampolli. No matter how cold it is, when it's chestnut season, you'll find me asking for scoop after scoop of their sensuously creamy candied chestnut gelato if I'm anywhere within 100 kilometers on any given day.  The arrival of candied chestnuts (marron glacé, castagne candite, whatever you choose to call them) is just about the only thing that soothes me when I start freaking out over the fact that winter is coming.  Gelateria Zampolli doesn't have a website, but if you ever find yourself in Trieste, make your way to Via Carlo Ghega No. 10, just a couple of blocks from the train station. I've professed my loyalty to the candied chestnut offering, but I can heartily recommend pretty much everything they make.

A while back I set out to make something incorporating this seasonal favorite but that wouldn't send me into glycemic shock.  So, a soup was born, and though it has a hint of sweetness, this chestnut-pear combo provides a perfect savory start to a homey fall meal.  It's creamy but not heavy, hearty but completely unique.  It's not your everyday combination, and I think you'll find it incredibly comforting and exciting to your palate in equal dimensions.  You have various options for the chestnuts. Most difficult: start with raw, whole nuts. Easiest: use pre-peeled, vacuum sealed, par-boiled nuts.  For an additional flavor profile, you can roast some chestnuts in your fireplace or just buy some roasted nuts from your favorite street vendor.

Chestnuts are the only nuts that contain Vitamin C, and they are full of fiber and low in fat.  Pears have these same qualities, and their pairing in this soup gives you a welcome boost now that the sniffle season is revving its motor.  Served in shot glasses, this could be an unconventional amuse-bouche for a funky Thanksgiving meal.