Butternut Squash Soup

This may come as a shock to many of you (insert intense sarcasm), but I did not always make nice with vegetables. We were never buds. I was one of those stereotypical kids that kicked and screamed when my mom tried to force me to eat my vegetables. I just never liked them. The only thing my mom could get me to eat without an argument was broccoli smothered in Cheez Whiz (hey, it was the 80’s!) and a tossed salad. Anything else was off-limits as far as I was concerned. I’m not sure why my taste buds were so averse to vegetables – my mom loves them and always ate them regularly, and my sister has always been a fan as well. My dad never liked vegetables either though, so I guess I picked up his vegetable-hating habit.

Nowadays I have gotten slightly better. I still turn my nose up like a 5-year-old at the site of asparagus, green beans, brussel sprouts, and a host of other things. But I have become much more willing to at least give things a chance. Like butternut squash. The first time I tried it was last fall. I was admittedly nervous. All I knew was that I wasn’t a fan of most other squashes, but I hadn’t tried this yet so I gave it a shot. (Mostly because I was at someone else’s house and didn’t want to appear rude, but that’s beside the point.) It was roasted in olive oil, brown sugar, maple syrup and thyme. It was heaven, and I was hooked.

I enjoyed butternut squash roasted a few more times last fall and then around the holidays I made a fabulous butternut squash salad with mixed greens, walnuts, dried cranberries, and a cider vinaigrette (look for that recipe here on the site soon!), and again, I just loved it. So once fall rolled around a few weeks ago, I knew that I definitely needed to give butternut squash soup a try. And boy am I glad that I did.

This is a fairly easy and simple soup. The recipe does call for steaming the squash in the pot with a steamer basket. If you don’t have a steamer basket that fits your soup pot (I didn’t) you can go makeshift here. I just inverted a colander and put it in the pot, then placed the pieces of squash on top and covered it tightly with foil. Good enough! There aren’t many ingredients to this soup; the small amount of dark brown sugar and nutmeg are just enough to accent the squash and really make the flavor pop. The cream adds a bit of texture, and on the whole, this is a very filling soup. One bowl with a few crackers was definitely enough for dinner for me. And although I didn’t think of it at the time, this would be fabulous served with a piece of toasted cinnamon bread!

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Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large shallot, chopped fine

1 large butternut squash (about 3 pounds), cut in half lengthwise, and each half cut in half widthwise; seeds and strings scraped out and reserved (about ¼ cup)

6 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon dark brown sugar

Pinch of grated nutmeg


Directions:

1. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven (or heavy pot) over medium-low heat until foaming. Add the shallot and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the squash scrapings and seeds, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter turns saffron color, about 4 minutes.


2. Add the water and 1 teaspoon salt to the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, place the squash cut-side down in a steamer basket, and lower the basket into the pot. Cover and steam until the squash is completely tender, about 30 minutes. take the pot off the heat, and use tongs to transfer the squash to a rimmed baking sheet. When cool enough to handle, use a large spoon to scrape the flesh from the skin. Reserve the squash flesh in a bowl and discard the skins.


3. Strain the steaming liquid through a mesh strainer into a second bowl; discard the solids in the strainer. (You should have 2½ to 3 cups of liquid.) Rise and dry the pot.


4. Puree the squash in batches in a blender or food processor, pulsing and adding enough reserved steaming liquid to obtain a smooth consistency. Transfer the puree to the pot and stir in the remaining steaming liquid, cream, and brown sugar. Warm the soup over medium-low heat until hot, about 3 minutes. Stir in the nutmeg and adjust the seasonings, adding salt to taste. Serve immediately. Soup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for several days. Warm over low heat until hot; do not boil.


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(Recipe adapted from The Best Soups & Stews by America's Test Kitchen)


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