Tuesday, February 3, 2009


BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP is a favorite on a cold winter's day.  It conjures up days sailing in and around Grenada, where we fell in love with their local gastronomic treat, Pumpkin Soup.  Fresh nutmeg from this "spice island" was always grated over the top, right before serving.  That aroma sends me images of tropical beaches, trade winds and swimsuits and warms my soul. 
Turns out their "pumpkin" is more like the butternut, which is available locally. 
Kept in a cold spot, but not the fridge, butternut squash will keep from its late fall harvest through most of the winter.  It's easy to roast, just by halving and seeding, or even to peel and saute in a bit of oil, then adding a bit of water, simmering until it's soft enough for using in recipes.  Added to risotto, it makes for such a rich dish full of flavors.  
But our favorite is SOUP. I like to roast the squash, because it seems to be sweeter and have a more intense flavor.
My family is fairly lactose intolerant, so we do not add cream or milk to the recipe below, making it a very healthy, low-cal dish.  However, for those of you who can tolerate both the dairy and the extra calories, you could add at least one cup of cream or milk.  
Just make sure you grate some fresh nutmeg over the top before serving.  One whiff can send me all the way back to Grenada.  
Serves 6 as a first course, or 4 for lunch
1 medium butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium to large onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic, peeled
about 1 quart or more of chicken broth or tock, or vegetable stock, or water
optional: 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, minced fine, or 1 teaspoon ground, dried ginger
salt and pepper to taste
Garnish Options: dollops of soft cheese or chevre; swirl of cranberry oil; chopped 
pistachios or walnuts; or plain or herbed croutons

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.
2. Slice butternut squash in half. Using a spoon, scoop out seeds. Rub olive oil 
over the cut surfaces, then place squash cut-side down on the foil.
3. In a small square of aluminum foil, place onion and garlic. Seal, and place 
beside the squash on the baking sheet.
4.  Bake until the squash is very tender, about 45 minutes to an hour.
5.  Peel skin from the flesh of the squash, which should come off easily, or else 
scoop flesh with a spoon.  Place squash in the bowl of a food processor.  (Or use a potato masher and chop onions and garlic).  Add onions and garlic, and process until a smooth puree.  Add chicken stock a bit at a time while machine is running, until you have the desired soup consistency.  Be careful, however, not to overfill machine, as it may ooze!
6.  Place puree and broth in a large saucepan or smaller stock pot.  eat, over medium to low heat, and simmer until mixture has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.  Taste and add seasonings, including ginger, as desired.
7.  Serve in large soup bowls, and add preferred garnish to the center, or serve plain.

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