Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut squash is in season and we’re excited to bring it back into rotation in our kitchen. This year we kick things off with a soup made from a purée of this versatile, sweet, nutty, autumn fruit. The squash is easy enough to prepare, requiring little more than cutting, scooping seeds, and cooking (boil or bake). We love how easy butternut squash is to prepare. Never mind that it’s full of vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and lots of antioxidants and micronutrients.

Butternut squash is so full of rich flavor that it doesn’t require much embellishment to make a delicious soup. We like to roast it first to caramelize the sugars a bit. The roasted squash is then ready to be eaten as is, blended with roasted onions into stock, and then seasoned with salt and pepper. If you like to experiment with flavors, you can always add herbs and spices to the base soup. Sweet spices like nutmeg, cinnamon and clove are classic American holiday flavors. If you’re looking for something a little different, butternut squash, like pumpkin, loves curry. Or make it more Mediterranean by stirring in a little basil pesto. Believe us, the soup can take it.

We enrich this iteration of butternut squash soup with sweet unsalted butter, a dollop of sour cream, and a drizzle of sage scented olive oil. Toasted pumpkin seeds, fried sage leaves, and a dash of Tabasco add gild to the proverbial lily, but the hearty squash makes for a perfect backdrop to rich flavors. With a fistful of warm, crusty bread, a hot bowl of this butternut squash soup leaves you full and happy!

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Butternut Squash Soup

1 butternut squash
1 medium onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups broth, chicken or veggie
salt and pepper
soy sauce
4-6 tablespoons butter

Special equipment: immersion blender or upright blender

Preheat oven to 450 degree. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray.

Trim the ends off of the butternut squash and cut vertically in half splitting the firm flesh into two rounds pieces – the stem end and the seeded end. Stand each of those halfs on end and cut vertically in half. Spoon out the seeds. Set the butternut squash on the baking sheet, cut-side down.

Peel and quarter the onion and place it on the baking sheet. Drizzle about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil over the flesh of the squash and the quartered onion.

Place the baking sheet in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes. Turn the onion pieces over and continue to roast for another 10-20 minutes, or until the squash is tender and the cut flesh is slightly toasted and there’s a slight char on the onion. Remove from the oven and cool until the squash can be easily handled, 15-30 minutes.

Warm the broth in a large pot.

Once the onions and butternut squash are cool enough to handle, peel the squash using a knife. Some of the flesh may stick, and it’s OK. A little skin in the soup is easy enough to blend. Add the onions and the squash to the broth. Add a good pinch of salt and pepper.

Using the immersion blender, blend squash, onions, and broth, until you get a smooth purée. Once smooth, season to taste with salt, pepper, and a little soy sauce.

With the immersion blender running, add one tablespoon of the softened butter at a time until each tablespoon is fully incorporated into the soup. Continue one by one for the next 4-6 tablespoons, or until the soup reaches your preferred richness.

Button Mushrooms: Cream of Mushroom Soup

As our diets have moved to the veggie end of the omnivore scale, we find ourselves eating more and more mushrooms. They’re a little weird when you think about it. Not really vegetable, certainly not animal. Still, they’re “meaty” to be sure and their flavors help define the taste of umami.

The domesticated button mushroom is the most common mushroom in the world. For most of us, we purchase these guys in shrink-wrapped containers found in the produce market, but they can still be harvested the old fashion way in fields of grass after a light rain from spring to autumn. Still, we recommend that only the expert mushroom hunter identify and pick these guys (they have a deadly doppelganger named Destroying Angel). Foraging for wild and cultivated mushrooms at your local farmers market is much safer.

Culinary mushrooms are relatively calorie free but loaded with vitamins and minerals (vitamin D, riboflavin, folate, niacin and potassium). While a third of their calories come from protein, a cup of diced or sliced mushrooms contains a mere 15 calories, or 1% of a recommended daily adult intake. There’s not much to them. So it’s surprising mushrooms pack so much rich flavor.

That’s what we like best about mushrooms – their meaty, woodsy flavors and textures. They’re more flavorful cooked in a hot dry pan until toasty brown. It’s our favorite preparation before finishing with a sprig of thyme and a little olive oil, or butter in the hot pan. Then topped with crunchy sea salt and a little pepper just seconds before serving. They’re also tasty finished with fresh chopped garlic and served with toast or crusty bread, add them to soup, or serve with steak. However you plan on preparing them, be sure to add mushrooms to your diet.

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Cream of Mushroom Soup

8 ounces button or crimini mushrooms
1 large or 2 small leeks
2 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove
3 tablespoons Sherry
3 cups veggie broth
2 cups whole milk, cream, or half & half
A few dashes (more or less) Worchester sauce
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Salt & pepper

Wipe off the mushrooms using a dry paper towel. Separate the stems from the mushroom caps. Keeping them separated, rough chop the stems and slice the caps.

Slice the leek down the center and wash the inside completely, under running water. Chop the leek.

In a large saucepan over medium heat add 2 tablespoons butter and the olive oil. Once the butter bubbles have subsided, add the leeks and cook until translucent, 2-3 minutes, add the chopped mushroom stems and sauté until the pan is dry but the veggies are not browned, 4-5 minutes. Push the veggies aside and in the center of the pan add the minced garlic. Stir the garlic until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Stir the veggies with the garlic. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper, then add the sherry, deglazing the pan and reduce the liquid slightly, about 3-4 minutes. Add the veggie broth and remove from heat.

Pour the soup into a blender and blend until smooth.

In the meantime, melt the remaining butter in the saucepan and once the bubbles have subsided, add the sliced mushrooms and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper then add the pureed soup and the 2 cups of milk, cream, or half & half. Season the soup with Worchester sauce, thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer the soup before serving, do not boil.