Butternut Squash Soup

Perhaps you noticed I’ve been M.I.A. recently. Funny thing; it’s hard to cook (much less even think about) food when you are moaning the days away on the couch with morning sickness. That’s been my life for the past six weeks. That’s right, our nest of three is expanding next spring. I am working on getting back into the swing of things, but realistically I will probably be posting less often for the next few months until we settle into our new normal. I am committed to keeping this blog focused on whole foods prepared in a way that respects the planet and the pocketbook and doing so in a way that keeps the whole family coming back for more. Enough of that though–on to Butternut Squash Soup.

This soup is probably my oldest standby recipe. It’s a simple, flavorful, wholesome version of a Fall classic prepared without all the fuss and complications. While most squash soup recipes are laden down with cream, sugar and spices, this one has no cream, no added sugar, and no spices except fresh ginger. I discovered this recipe during a particularly memorable Halloween day in 2002. I was in London for the first time and my first stop was a store called Books For Cooks in Notting Hill. It is just about the most perfect place on earth for a foodie. The front of the store is a cookbook store and the rear is a test kitchen and small restaurant. During the day, the kitchen serves a three course lunch at a set price (£12 back in 2002).The best part is that everything prepared in the kitchen is out of the books they sell. My meal consisted of three courses; pumpkin soup, pork roast over lentils and then my choice of puddings served with tea (of course!). Nine years later, I still remember every bite, but the soup was the clear standout. It was rich and flavorful without being syrupy sweet or cloying with cinnamon and other spices. It tasted like like pumpkin dressed up in an elegantly simple black dress. It was pumpkin yumminess. I was surprised to find out that the soup recipe was not from some exotic European cookbook, but from my go-to all-purpose cookbook, The Joy of Cooking, or as I refer to it, the gospel according to Joy.

Since my introduction to this soup, I’ve tweaked the recipe and made subtle changes. The original Joy of Cooking recipe calls for butternut squash not pumpkin, and I use butternut squash most of the time. I wanted this post to be about the original pumpkin soup I had at Books for Cooks, but I decided it’s not a good idea to cut up a pumpkin picked from the patch just the day before by an eager preschooler; they tend to get a bit attached.

So, while I highly recommend trying this recipe with a fresh sugar pumpkin, I’ll stick with the butternut squash I used to make the soup this time.

Other changes I’ve made through the years include subbing out shallots for leaks, and using olive oil instead of butter. You can easily use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth to make this a meatless meal, but I prefer the mellower, rounder flavors of chicken broth. I think the most important change I’ve made is a nod to the Book’s for Cooks version. Their version was topped with a healthy dollop or crème fraiche; since then I’ve found that the tang of plain Greek yogurt is the perfect complement to the sweetness of the soup. I serve each bowl with a spoonful of the yogurt and a hearty chunk of crunchy bread. Enjoy!

Butternut Squash (or Pumpkin) Soup – Click here for a printer-friendly version of this recipe

adapted from a recipe in Joy of Cooking
makes 8 cups

3 tablespoons olive oil (or butter)
1 cup shallots, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons ginger, peeled and finely minced
2 pound butternut squash or sugar pumpkin, peeled, chopped and seeds removed
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
plain Greek yogurt for serving

Heat olive oil in a stock pot over medium heat. Add shallot, salt and pepper and cook until the shallots are soft and translucent; do not let the shallots brown.

If you’re one shallot short of having enough a little sweet onion.

Add ginger and continue to cook until fragrant, about one minute. Add squash and stir to evenly coat with oil.

Add broth and bring to a simmer.

Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until squash is very soft.

Using a blender and working in batches, puree the soup until smooth. Be sure to remove the center piece of the lid of your blender and cover with a kitchen towel when blending to prevent the hot soup from exploding from the blender. If you have an immersion blender, it works very well for this step. When all the soup is pureed, return to the pot and bring back just to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top each with a rounded tablespoon of Greek yogurt and a serve with a large piece of crunchy bread.


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