Hello 2012. We are all snuggled in today. The wind is howling outside and I am thankful to be curled up in front of the fire, reflecting on the wonderful holiday season just passed and musing about what’s in store for this upcoming year.
I’m chuckling remembering the conversation I had with my very witty niece right before Christmas. She just turned thirty and loves her job as a professor of sociology at a small midwestern university. She bought her first house but hasn’t spent much time yet cooking in the kitchen. When I told her to check out my blog, her quick retort to me was “What, so I can discover new ways to heat up Hot Pockets?”
I think she’s pretty representative of a generation that no one taught to cook. We rely so much on convenience food, not realizing how simple it would be to make things from scratch instead. Although there is an abundance of great, fresh ingredients at our fingertips and we are inundated with media images of food recipes and cooking instruction, it’s still pretty intimidating to walk in the kitchen and pick up a knife. My wish this year is to inspire you to maybe make a soup from scratch, or whisk up a vinaigrette, or serve a fresh pasta sauce in lieu of opening a jar or roast a whole chicken at home instead of grabbing the rotisserie from the grocery. I promise you you’ll never want a Hot Pocket again.
I think this soup is a great start. Once you make it, you won’t believe how simple it is. You can use any number of winter squashes, I just happened to pick butternut and acorn. The squash makes the soup so creamy and velvety and decadent, it’s hard to believe it’s actually quite healthy!
I roast the squash first to add a layer of flavor dimension to the soup. Plus, it’s so much easier to scoop the cooked squash flesh out of the skin after roasting as opposed to peeling the skin off the raw squash and then chopping it up. You can also roast the squash ahead of time, scoop out the flesh and save it in the refrigerator until you are ready to make the soup. Once the squash is ready, the soup is a snap to make.
4 pounds of winter squash (butternut or acorn or one of each)
2 TBSP olive oil
2 TBSP butter
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 large or 2 small onions, diced
1/4 cup flour
4 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of cayenne, red pepper flakes, cinnamon and/or nutmeg (all are optional)
1/2 cup whole milk or half and half (again, optional)
garnish with toasted chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a sharp knife to cut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds. Place the squash halves on a cookie sheet. Rub with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for one hour or until flesh is soft. When cool enough to handle, scoop the cooked squash flesh out, discarding the leftover skin. This should yield about 4 cups of cooked squash.
Add 2 TBSP olive oil and 2 TBSP butter to a dutch oven or soup pot. Melt the butter over medium heat and add the diced onions and garlic. Gently cook for 8-10 minutes until onions are translucent.
Sprinkle the flour over the onions. Whisk in the chicken stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, stirring constantly until soup thickens.
Add the cooked squash and optional spices if you wish. With a hand held immersion blender puree the soup right in the pot to desired consistency. Salt and pepper to taste. Let the soup simmer for five to ten minutes to blend flavors. If desired, finish off the soup with 1/2 cup of milk or cream right before serving. Garnish with toasted chopped pecans.
This is the soup right before I puree it with an immersion blender.
And after it’s pureed. Enjoy!