Ubiquitous Butternut Squash Soup
It was a little exciting and a little sad today, when I went by Bartlett’s and saw their radish/carrot/beet display changed out to their fall/winter squash extravaganza. I’m sure many cooks out there are still finding new and brilliant ways to impress their eaters with corn, tomatoes and zucchini. I for one, am a little tired and saturated with summer foods.
I haven’t been a private chef for that long (heading into 10 years, which now that I say it, sounds acceptably long!), but I do know that the pressures of coming up with delicious, new and exciting food can get challenging right before the change of season. I breathed a small sigh of relief as I saw the evidence of our gradual move into fall, all those yellows, burnt oranges and deep greens. My knee jerk response to seeing that beauteous pile of squash was of course, SOUP!
With a recipe like this one, I always wonder, doesn't everyone in the world know how to make this soup? I will tell you a truth I’ve learned over the years and that is NO! Many people don’t even know how to start making a soup from the bones. So, I try to keep my thoughts in a positive spin and assume that even if you have a tried and true Butternut Squash recipe, maybe yours is very different from mine. Or maybe yours uses dairy and you’d like a vegan version, or your spices differ from mine, or perhaps you’re looking for a new swirl-in topping to jazz yours up…Who knows?
As with all food instructions that I am most passionate about, this is another blueprint for ANY kind of winter squash soup, with ANY stock you like, ANY fruit variety you’d like to try out, and ANY allium you may have hanging about in the pantry. Same goes for the fat used to cook the allium, and spices are also completely up to you! The one tool that will change your soup game for the better (or best) is a Vitamix. I tried using the hand blender yesterday and gave up quickly. So worth spending a little $ on a powerful blender if you spend a lot of time in the kitchen. The link provided takes you to the certified refurbished models, which are cheaper and still under warranty. I’ve had mine for seven years now (knocks wood)!
Creamy Butternut Squash Soup with Arugula Pesto
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
1 tablespoon of yellow (canola variety) oil 1/2 medium sweet onion (like Vidalia), diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
1 big pinch each of ground allspice and nutmeg (freshly grated, if possible)
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1 inch chunks
1 apple, on the less-sweet side (think Granny Smith), peeled, cored and diced
3 cups of the stock/broth of your choice (or water!)
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 whole, peeled cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of toasted nuts (I used slivered almonds today)
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
3-4 cups of arugula (for this purpose, it’s okay if it’s a little past it’s peak!)
1/2 cup or so of EVOO
In a nice large saucepan, heat the butter and oil over medium/low heat. Add the onions and stir for a couple of minutes, not letting them brown. We are thinking soft and translucent here. Add the garlic and spices and stir for another minute. Throw in the butternut squash and apple and stir for another few minutes. Pour in the broth, crank the heat and wait for the soup to boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to simmer and cover the pot. Leave for about 20 minutes or so and test the squash-you want it nice and soft. Dump the contents of your pot carefully into the Vitamix container (I do this in the sink to avoid splashing and burning). Start low and end on high speed until you have a lovely and silky puree. Return to the pot, taste for salt and pepper and keep warm.
While the soup is cooking, blitz up the pesto in the Vitamix, food processor, or mortar and pestle (more of a grind than blitz!). Or chop everything up very finely for a more rustic approach. Start by grinding up the nuts, garlic and salt. Add the arugula and pulse a few times. Then add the EVOO until the consistency is nice and creamy. *Save and use on pasta, rice, grilled or roasted veggies or smear on your next grilled cheese sandwich for a hidden treat!*
Serve your beautiful soup (vegan or not, depending on your broth and fat choices) with the pesto swirled decoratively on top. You can also add some toasted nuts, seeds or croutons for crunch if you like.