Posted by: Hil | October 16, 2009

Butternut Squash Soup for the Soul

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Southern California suddenly remembered that it is, in fact fall, and offered up a week of cold weather and rain.  On top of that, its cold and flu season the university and I managed to come down with a rather nasty cold that doesn’t seem to want to go away.  I’m not seriously ill, but I’m coughing and sneezing and achey and generally unhappy.  After several days of holding out, the Lemonator has also succumbed to the virus.  Accordingly, there has been lots of soup and hot tea around our house for the last several days.

Before I got sick, I whipped up a batch of butternut squash soup that has been serving us well this week.  It’s a great fall food that works equally well as a light meal, as an accompaniment to half a sandwich at lunch time, or as an appetizer to dinner.  The ingredients list might look a bit long, but most of it is just in spices and flavorings, which you can feel free to experiment with. 

I’ve always been intimidated by whole squash, but I’ve discovered that it’s much easier if I do the chopping and peeling after the squash is cooked rather than trying to do battle with the raw, hard version.  I split my squash in half, remove the seeds, smear the halves with olive oil, and roast them for 45 minutes to an hour at 400 degrees.  When the squash is cool, the skin is easy to cut away or even peel with your fingers, and the squash is soft and easy to cut.  It’s even easier to use pre-cut and peeled butternut squash, but I’m taking advantage of some of the great seasonal sales on whole squash.

Spiced Butternut Squash SoupCIMG3089  

 

Ingredients

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 ribs of celery, diced
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • white wine (optional)
  • vegetable oil
  • cinnamon
  • cardamom
  • nutmeg
  • chili powder
  • cayenne pepper
  • salt
  • splash of cream

 

Instructions

1.  Split the squash, rub with a bit of oil, and roast for 45 minutes to an hour at 400 degrees.  After it cools, peel and cube it.  Alternately, you can peel and cut the squash before roasting–this is more work, but you don’t have to wait for the squash to cool before cutting it and proceeding to the next step.

2.  Saute the onion and celery in some oil in a large pot until the vegetables are soft.  Add the roasted squash.

3. In a separate pan, lightly toast the spices, then add them to the pot.  (I eyeball the amount of spices, but you want enough to create pretty flecks throughout the soup.)  Season with salt.  Add the balsamic vinegar and maple syrup and stir until the vegetables are well coated.  Deglaze the pot with wine and scrape up any tasty bits on the bottom.

4.  Add the broth and water.  Simmer for about 10 minutes until the flavors meld.  Turn off the heat and puree with an immersion blender.  If needed, add more water until the soup is at your desired thickness.

5.  Turn the heat back on low and taste the soup.  Adjust for seasonings.  I think the key to soup is trusting your instincts and not being afraid to add more of whatever you think it needs.  You don’t need to add it, but a splash of cream or half and half at the very end makes the whole thing especially delicious.

6.  Serve.  For fun, you can add toasted pumpkin seeds, yogurt, marscapone cheese, or shredded proscuitto as a garnish.

 

Kale Chips

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I’ve also recently revisted an old favorite:  kale chips.  I heard about these for so long before I tried them.  I was very suspicious of any leafy green attempting to pass itself off as a chip.  Chips, in my book, were crunchy bits of fried starch, end of story.  When I finally tried them, I was really pleasantly surprised.  Kale is a very hearty, chewy vegetable, but baking the leaves turns them into light, crunchy bites that are very easy to eat.  They certainly aren’t a substitute for potato chips, but they are a crunchy version of kale, and who doesn’t want fun, easy ways to eat vegetables? 

I hadn’t made these in awhile, but I had some kale to use up, so I decided to make a batch last night, along with mustard marinated chicken and baked sweet potato fries.  After dinner, I asked the Lemonator if he wanted any more food.  (He loves sweet potato fries and he often has second helpings of whatever protein we were having.)  The following interaction ensued:

Lemonator:  If there is any left, I would love some more kale.

Me:  Kale?  Uh….I don’t have any more chips, but I have a big bunch of raw kale in the fridge and I could whip up a second batch in a few minutes.

Lemonator:  That would be wonderful!

Me:  Sure.  [Pause].  I didn’t think you liked kale so well.

Lemonator:  Well, I like it this way!

I made him a large second batch of kale chips which he polished off single handedly with gusto.

To make the chips, tear or cut kale leaves away from the stems.  Arrange the leaves in a single layer on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt.  Bake them at 375 until the chips are crisp and the edges are brown, but not burned, about 15 minutes. 

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Responses

  1. Sorry about the cold! 😦

    Love your butternut squash recipe, seems so simple, comforting and delicious.

    Feel better soon!


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