She’s Got the Knack

Some people just have the knack for making things look effortless, but you know it’s not.  Dinner at this friend’s house is an occasion where you know it’s all going to be done right.

I loved walking into the dining room and seeing a dimly lit table festooned with bittersweet atop an ethnic table runner.  The only thing upsetting was that she wouldn’t tell me where she got the bittersweet!

While the table was casual, touches of beautiful antique silver added a hint of sophistication.

With candles glowing softly, we were beckoned to the table where kitchen smells caused our mouths to water.

First course was a delicious butternut squash soup which had our hostess’s usual clever garnishes.

I would have been happy to stop right there, but the main course of hangar steak, risotto and roasted vegetables quickly replaced the soup bowls and was equally tantalizing.

Take a look at these vegetables.  Beautiful, no, rich with the colors of fall?

To cleanse our palettes before dessert was a salad with roasted golden and red beets, two of my very favorite veggies, and local goat cheese.  And, yes, there was dessert, two as a matter of fact, but they disappeared before it was possible to grab my iPhone!  By the way, taking food photos with a phone camera in dim light doesn’t yield the best results, but I hope you’ll get a feel for our hostess’s knack for creating a perfect dinner party.

Since I am still thinking about butternut squash soup, here is one of my favorites which is adapted from a Williams Sonoma soup cookbook.  You may even have touches of your own to add.

  • 2 large butternut squashes, each 1 1/2 to 2 lb.
  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts
  • 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 8 fresh sage leaves, shredded
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock or canned broth
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Ground nutmeg, to taste, if needed
  • Pinch of sugar, if needed


Preheat an oven to 400°F.Prick each squash with the tip of a knife so it will not explode when it bakes. Place the whole squashes on a baking sheet and roast until they feel somewhat soft to the touch and a knife penetrates the skin easily, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and, when cool enough to handle, cut in half lengthwise and remove and discard the seeds and fibers. Scoop out the pulp into a bowl and set aside.

While the squashes are cooling, reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant and the skins have loosened, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and, while still warm, place the nuts in a kitchen towel. Rub the towel vigorously to remove the skins; do not worry if small bits of skin remain. Chop and set aside.

In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the onions and half of the sage and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender and translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the stock and squash pulp, raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for a few minutes to combine the flavors. Remove from the heat.

Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Return to a clean saucepan. Alternatively, pass the soup through a food mill placed over the pan. Reheat gently over medium-low heat. Season with salt and pepper. If the squash is starchy rather than sweet, a little nutmeg will help. If the nutmeg does not give the proper flavor balance, add a pinch of sugar.

Ladle into warmed bowls and garnish with the hazelnuts and the remaining sage. Serve immediately.

Serves 6.

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12 thoughts on “She’s Got the Knack

  1. Oh my…what a wonderful dinner….so beautifully presented and love that table runner….Even when using my better camera…can’t do well in dimly lit areas…so the iPhone pics are just fine!!!

  2. The rich silver candlesticks on the red folkloric runner speak to confidence in design. Elegant nonchalance. Superb menu…I’d have gained ten pounds. iPhone photography?…I’m impressed. Thanks for inviting us for a peak. Cherry Kay

  3. What a lovely evening! So pretty and the food looks delicious! I know it made for a marvelous evening.

  4. What a wonderful meal at such a pretty table. Thanks for sharing your soup recipe, too. Aren’t iPhones the best for quick photos??

  5. She does indeed have the knack! Very pretty! What was that in the middle of the soup? It looks to maybe be butternut squash that was carved out with a melon baller? And strips of chives? It all really adds a lot of personality to the soup presentation. I have never heard of hangar steak, so I have learned something today. It’s always a good day when I learn something! 🙂 And serving the salad after the entree….how very Continental!!!!!! I love it!!!

  6. What a lovely dinner…love the table centerpiece…and all the recipes here are so delicious.

  7. Love the beautiful table decoration! Serving the salad after the entree, how cool!

  8. Gorgeous table and colors and all your decorations and the fabulous meal, wow!. The soup looks amazing and I love the idea of serving the salad after the entree..that is new to me and it’s a nice idea. Thank you for your sweet comment. Happy weekend.

  9. Your photos are beautiful and certainly have my mouth watering. What a treat to enjoy such a lovely meal with friends.

  10. What a beautiful table and a beautiful meal, who wouldn’t love this special evening. Have a great weekend and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

  11. Wow! I want a friend like that-ha! 🙂

  12. perfect! Thank you for joining in the fun at the Thursday Favorite Things hop. Happy Tuesday wishes xo P.S. sorry I’m so late visiting 🙂

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