Hot soup on a freezing January day
It was cold last week. Very cold. On Tuesday and Saturday, the temperature never crossed zero. When I got up on Tuesday, it was -17 degrees. By noon, it had warmed up to -7. The high on Tuesday at my house was -2.
So, I decided to make soup. I still had a butternut squash purchased last fall at the farmers’ market, and a bag of apples I had picked up at Banker Orchards on a trip to Plattsburgh in December.
On a cold winter day, butternut soup is a velvet-smooth, vibrant, cozy comfort. You can make it in a pot on the stove or use a slow cooker if you’re going to be out all day. It’s adaptable. It can easily be made gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan. Leftover soup can be made into a sauce for pasta.
I love Panera’s squash soup — but it rings in at 240 calories per cup. Many commercial squash soups are high-fat concoctions that achieve a silky-smooth consistency with the help of cream.
Panera uses both squash and pumpkin in its soup. The company also uses heavy cream, which is where most of the calories come from. And it uses a blend of curry and cinnamon to give the soup a depth of flavor. And then garnishes it with pepitas — roasted pumpkin seeds.
I have seen recipes for squash soup made with leftover mashed squash, boiled squash and roasted squash. I decided it was a good day to turn on the oven, so I roasted my squash. Bonus: you don’t need to peel the squash, you can just scoop it out of its shell.
After removing the seeds and roasting, my small butternut squash only yielded two cups … so I added apples.
Butternut squash and apples are both fiber-rich and nutrient-dense. Squash is high in vitamins A, E, and C and minerals magnesium and potassium. Apples are rich in polyphenols. They’re a good source of potassium and copper, vitamins C, K, E, B1 and B6.
Low in saturated fat and packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals, this soup is a healthy choice.
Basic Butternut Squash Soup with variations
You only need a few ingredients for a basic Butternut Squash Soup: Squash, onion, olive oil, and broth. Of course, you’re welcome to add more – salt and pepper, seasonings like curry, nutmeg, cinnamon, garlic, carrots, celery, apple juice or apples, cream or coconut milk or yogurt… and garnishes, like pepitas, chopped and toasted nuts, finely chopped parsley or cilantro, An immersion blender or regular blender are needed to blend your soup.
1 medium butternut squash, or about 5 cups cubed squash. (Note: For an extra-quick soup, use frozen mashed squash).
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Carrots and celery or celeriac; garlic (optional)
4 to 6 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
Apple juice or cider (optional — to sub for some of the broth)
Coconut milk, or whole milk, or half-and-half (optional — adds creaminess)
Additional seasonings: sage, smoked paprika, cayenne, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, curry powder, turmeric.
Optional garnishes: toasted pepitas, nuts, fresh parsley or cilantro, a sprinkle of extra black pepper and/or smoked paprika.
Prepare the pan. Line a cookie sheet or shallow pan with foil or parchment.
Prepare the squash. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut squash in half and remove seeds. You will need a slip-free cutting board and a sharp chef’s knife. Cut the top end and bottom end off the squash. Then, stand the squash upright with the thickest flat side as a base. Cut in half vertically from top to bottom; make sure your fingers are out of the way. Use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and discard into your compost.
Rub squash with olive oil, salt and some of the spices you’re using. Place in pan, skin side up, and roast until soft, about 45 minutes. Do the same if you’re using cut-up squash; the roasting time will be less.
While squash roasts, heat a half-tablespoon of olive oil in the bottom of your soup kettle. Peel and dice the onion, add, and sprinkle with a half-teaspoon salt and a quarter-teaspoon black pepper. Cover and cook on low heat about 5 minutes, until golden.
If you’re adding garlic, carrots, celeriac or celery, wash and chop them; stir into the onion, stir, and cook another 5 minutes.
Test roasting squash to make sure it is soft. Remove from oven and set aside. When cool enough to handle, scoop the squash out of its skin and add to the soup kettle, along with the broth and apple juice, if using. (Note: if you choose not to roast the squash, add cubed, peeled squash and broth to the soup kettle; it will take a little longer to cook and will have less depth of flavor than roasted).
Cook 20 to 30 minutes, or until everything is very soft.
Remove from heat, cool slightly and blend with an immersion blender (or in batches in a stand blender). Taste and adjust seasonings. At this point, you can add half-and-half or coconut milk for a creamier soup, if you wish. Garnish, and serve.
Note: in place of the half-and-half, add a dollop or Greek yogurt when serving soup.
Serves 4 to 6.
Options: For a chai-flavored squash soup, add cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, and cardamom. For a Thai butternut soup, add red curry paste and ground ginger. Garnish with fresh cilantro and lime wedges. For a Mexican twist, add chili powder and ground cumin. Garnish with cilantro and sliced lime.
Apple and Butternut Squash Bisque
Apples and squash are a perfect match in this soup.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion (about 1 cup diced)
Kosher salt, turmeric and black pepper
1 wedge celery root, diced or 1 stalk celery, sliced
2 large cloves garlic (about 1 tablespoon minced)
2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
2 cups roasted Butternut squash
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups apple juice
1 dried bay leaf
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Apple cider vinegar and/or maple syrup
For garnish: Chopped fresh parley, chopped fresh sage, shredded parmesan or Greek yogurt or sour cream.
Heat olive oil in the bottom of soup kettle. Add onion, salt, pepper and turmeric. Cook 5 minutes, until golden. Add carrots and celery and cook 5 minutes longer. Stir in garlic and apples, and cook 5 more minutes.
Add roasted squash, broth, apple juice, bay leaf, cinnamon and ginger. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and cook about 40 minutes or until all the vegetables are soft.
Remove from heat; discard bay leaf.
Use an immersion blender to puree soup, or puree in standard blender, in batches. Taste, and adjust seasonings. Stir in apple cider vinegar to add more acidity or maple syrup if it needs more sweetness.
Return the soup pot to low heat.
Top each serving with Parmesan cheese, chopped fresh parsley or sage. Swirl in a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt.
Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at Words Are My World.