Turnips and fennel get most of my hate mail, but they belong to a very small minority. I swoon over fresh beets, and I get positively misty-eyed over asparagus. I can’t get enough basil and flat-leaf parsley in my life, and I’ve never met a green I didn’t like. I’ll eat zucchini and summer squash until I pop, and I’m sure most people would agree that you can’t go wrong with anything potato. Oh, and cauliflower and broccoli and Brussels sprouts, yum, yum, yum.
But, and here comes Embarassing Admission Number 97, there are still vegetables that I’m not well-acquainted with. I have an uneasy relationship with radicchio, but I haven’t given up that we will find common ground eventually. Eggplants have caused me some consternation, but I still have hope there as well. And I’m still trying to find a local source for broccoli rabe as it is something I’ve never even had the pleasure of meeting (and I’m a little cranky on this since I really needed some for a recipe I wanted to try tonight).
When it comes to the dizzying variety of squashes out there though, I get a bit flummoxed. I’ve got a myriad of delicious recipes for yellow crook-neck squash, but then there is acorn squash, butternut squash, delicata squash, kabocha squash, spaghetti squash, turban squash – oh, you get the idea. I stumble across these at the farmer’s markets and the supermarket and I just stand there with my head cocked to the side like a dork. I mean, sure, I’ve read about many of these different varieties, but I have zero intuitive knowledge when it comes to these things. And I can’t just pick one of them up and bring it home and then do an internet search for an appropriate recipe to go with that night’s menu. Because remember, I’m the only vegetarian in the house. And The Carnivore has been known to openly mock me when I serve something that strikes him as a little too hippie.
I walk a fine line here.
But I will not be bested by a gourd. And it was with that in mind that I felt urged on by forces stronger than me when, within the span of two days, I came across both a delicious sounding recipe for butternut squash in Cooking Light and handy instructions for peeling and cutting them in Bon Appetit. It’s as if all the stars were aligned just so…
Alright, so I felt the teeniest bit of trepidation. After all, I was planning to serve a squash soup to The Carnivore for an entrée, and I didn’t have the slightest experience with what butternut squash even tasted like, but I’ve been feeling rather snarky lately anyhow, what with being cooped up in the house with small children all winter, and I was craving, even lusting, for a little challenge to wake up the senses.
And soup just made sense for yesterday’s dinner anyway. The Carnivore had no idea how late he would be working, Little Miss Piggy has been fussier than usual lately, and The Big Boy has a bit of a cold, so clearly I wasn’t going to be able to pull together a fancy meal in which timing would be critical. I needed something that I could tinker with ahead of time a little, and then be able to keep warm for as long as necessary without compromising texture or flavor.
So I gave it a shot. The recipe was featured on the cover of the January/February issue of Cooking Light and it just looked divine. And, oh my stars, it did not disappoint. This was the most luscious, the most creamy, yet still light and delicate soup I’ve had in ages. You could taste all the flavors in each glorious slurp, and the butternut squash added such an interesting sweet note without being cloying at all, if you know what I mean. Even The Carnivore groaned happily over it, and The Big Boy greedily took a few spoonfuls before he, like all nearly-four-year-olds forgot what he was doing and ran off in a different direction. As for me, well, I woke up craving the leftovers for breakfast.
Such a winner, this soup – I can’t recommend it enough. I didn’t change a thing in the original recipe (other than substituting vegetable broth for chicken broth, of course), serving it with Gruyere toast, as recommended, and a salad of mixed greens with a quick, homemade vinaigrette.
GOLDEN WINTER SOUP (from Cooking Light, serves 5 or 6 as a main course)
- 2 Tbs butter
- 5 cups (roughly 1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash, about 1 1/2 lbs, seeds scooped out and discarded
- 2 cups (roughly 1/2-inch) cubed peeled russet potatoes, about 12 oz
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp finely ground black pepper
- 2 cups sliced leeks, about 2 medium leeks (white and light green parts only)
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup half-and-half
- 3 Tbs chopped chives
- Baguette or French bread, sliced on the diagonal
- 3 oz shredded Gruyere cheese (eh - I actually doubled this, I think - I really love cheese)
- Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
- Add squash, potato, salt and pepper to pan. Saute for 3 minutes.
- Add leek; saute 1 minute.
- Stir in broth; bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes or until potato is tender, stirring occasionally.
- Puree the soup, either using an immersion blender in the pan, or whirring 1/2 the soup at a time in a regular blender (removing the center piece of the lid and covering with a towel to let steam escape without splattering the entire kitchen). I chose to only slightly blend the soup, as I prefer a little bit of chunky texture - to do this, I put all of it through the blender in a couple of batches, but I only pulsed it a few times so that each piece of vegetable was broken up, but was not completely pulverized.
- Return soup to pan; stir in half-and-half. Keep warm over very low heat.
- Arrange bread slices in a single layer on a baking sheet; sprinkle with cheese. Broil bread for a minute or two, until edges are golden and cheese is melted.
- Top each serving of soup with a little chopped chives.