Soup du Jour: Puréed Butternut Squash Soup

As autumn continues to tighten its grasp, I’ve been doing my best to eat concurrently with the given season. Root vegetables have taken the place of ripe tomatoes and greens and even my fruit intake has changed ever so slightly, lending itself to more apples and pears instead of fresh berries. Root vegetables are grounding for both the mind and palate and have been a prominent ingredient in my fall culinary adventures.

I am always wary of the impending fall season, partly because summer is by far my favorite of them all and I also get that “sick to your stomach back-to-school” feeling in my gut as summer draws to an unfortunate close. Last autumn was the first one I can ever truly remember appreciating from start to finish, due in large part to the frequency of my cooking. I took my first, adult cooking class last October and it definitely furthered and sparked my curiosity of the culinary realm.

I am also fortunate in that there are quite a few farms within striking distance of my home, so fresh fruits and vegetables are only a car ride (or even walk) away. The autumn season signals a return for hot soups, which are something I actually miss dearly during the spring and summer. Butternut squash, while not a root vegetable like sweet potatoes or carrots, still serves as an essential base for fall and winter soups. I recommend buying the pre-cut butternut squash in the containers, or else you’ll end up like me during this recipe. I had rarely handled butternut squash before and definitely never on my own, but I’m fairly certain I broke a sweat while trying to meticulously cut the squash into 3/4 inch cubes. Removing the seeds also adds to an already arduous process. A word to the wise: do yourself a favor and buy the pre-cut squash, even if it costs a bit more.

This recipe suggests an optional dollop of sour cream and spicy pumpkin seeds. I must say, I regret not taking the time to buy the pumpkin seeds and bake them. I think it would have added a great deal of flavor in addition to a subtle crunch. I added the sour cream, for sour cream is one of those foods that I don’t eat often but if there’s a container around you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll eat a fair amount of it. The other ingredients are pretty straightforward: butter, onion, ginger, garlic, squash, and a bit of orange juice to sweeten the soup a bit after it cooks.

Make sure when you’re puréeing during this recipe that you allow the heat to escape from the blender to prevent spattering. I recommend utilizing one of those many dish towels you have (or should have) in your kitchen. You can also substitute other squashes and even pumpkin if you can’t find butternut. Additionally, excess spicy pumpkin seeds can be sprinkled over a salad or enjoyed as a fulfilling snack. I also added some fresh rosemary to the final dish, but fresh sage works just as well. Enjoy!

Puréed Butternut Squash Soup
Recipe taken from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food, 2004
Serves 4

Butternut Squash Soup

2 tbsp. butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 piece (2 in.) peeled fresh ginger, chopped
garlic cloves, chopped
2 3/4 lbs. small butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, and flesh cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
Sour cream (optional)
Spicy Pumpkin Seeds (optional; see recipe below)

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, and squash; cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat. Simmer until the squash is tender, about 20 minutes.

Purée the soup in two batches. Stir in the orange juice and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Serve hot, with sour cream, pepper, and pumpkin seeds, if desired.

Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

1 cup raw green pumpkin seeds
1 tsp. chili powder
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
2 tsp. fresh lime juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients and toss to coat. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet; bake until puffed and browned, about 10 minutes.

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