Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Eats Sheet: Butternut squash soup

In the name of keeping we might be windmills from stinkething again, I offer the following:

My oldest sister introduced me to the wonders of squash-based soups after I first moved to the Washington, DC area. She made a butternut squash concoction with tart green apple blended in to offset the natural sweetness of the gourd, seasoned with nutmeg. I've been making it every autumn since then, adapting the recipe and trying to find its complements. Here's what I've got so far--

Ingredients

1 yellow onion, chopped
1 rib of celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 Tbsp butter
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, chopped
1 tart green apple, peeled, cored, chopped
(squash and apple should be at a 3 to 1 ratio)
3-4 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth if vegetarian)
1-2 red hot chili peppers
nutmeg, cinnamon, salt and pepper
coriander (if desired)
Gruyère cheese

Butternut squash, like most of its winter squash cousins, is pretty hard when it's ripe, so it helps to cook it a little before trying to chop it up. Cut it in half with a large knife or cleaver and place it in a lightly greased pan in a 375-degree oven for about 30 minutes.

When the squash is softened, cooled, peeled, and chopped, combine the butter, onion, celery, and carrot in a large saucepan or small stockpot and sauté them over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until the onions begin to be translucent and the celery and carrot start to soften. Add the squash and apple and pour enough broth in to just cover the top of the ingredients in the pot. Bring the whole thing to a boil, then let it simmer for 10 minutes or until the squash is soft.

While the mixture in the pot is simmering, halve and seed the peppers and rub a little olive oil on them. Place them in a dish directly under a low broiler and roast them until the skins just begin to blacken. This is something I innovated into the recipe at the suggestion of a friend. The roasted red pepper adds a very, very small bit of spiciness to the soup, and really complements the squash flavor.

When the simmering pot is ready, toss in the peppers and puree the whole thing (I highly recommend a stick (or immersion) blender for this--I used one for my first time last night and it greatly expedited the process (much better than transferring the soup in small portions over to the blender)).

Add spices to taste, paying particular attention to the salt. The pepper, nutmeg, and cinnamon (and coriander) are all important to the spice combination, but the salt will really make the whole mixture arrive in a pleasant way.

Grate up some nice Gruyère cheese (or some generic Swiss if you're on a budget) and put a generous pinch on top of a bowl of soup when you serve it. The cheese is another of my innovations added to this recipe, inspired by a heavenly soup served at a local restaurant called Fireflies. It really makes all the difference. Last night I ate one bowl with the cheese and one bowl without; the soup I ate with the cheese was twice as good.


As a side, serve a light green salad and make some simple crostinis by slicing thin pieces of baguette, covering them with a little Gruyère, and placing them under a low broiler until the cheese melts and the bread browns around the edges. Add a little crushed red pepper before broiling if you want to add a little extra kick.

5 comments:

amanda said...

That all sounds absolutely delicious and perfectly autumnal.

Sidenote: Butternut squash is also perfect for use as indoor bowling pins. The bowling ball? Giant grapefruit. It was a hit at my Halloween party last year. :) And you can thank Martha Stewart for that idea. (Butternut squash: it's a good thing.)

The Shark said...

... and good FOR you!

Erin-ann said...

Ditto. Jared, you are a remarkably precise cook--I admire that. I still cook like I did when I couldn't cook, and that is I cut some things, cooked some things, and mixed them together, topping the deal with a variety of seasonings. I just seem to have a bit more luck these days then in the past.

Amy said...

Yummy! I have never eaten or made a squash-based soup. I must try it!!!

Do you have any other yummy squash recipes?
Love,
Amy

ke said...

Also: I love roasted squash as a spread on good crusty bread. You can add some butter and S&P...creamy and delicious.