05 September 2012

Maggie's Savory Butternut Squash Soup

Well, the semester is in full gear. And by "full gear" what I really mean is "hold on tight or you're bound to fall off and we won't wait for you so suck it up." Same thing, right? It toooooootally feels the same. In all honesty, this semester is going to run me ragged, even though I am really excited about everything I'm doing. My classes are going well (and the students seem to think so, too), the multiple research projects I'm overseeing (19, which doesn't count my own research) are looking like they will be really interesting, my "campus leadership" seems to be manageable, and I'm even learning new things (basic html and Gregorian Chant music/notation).

It should come as no surprise that with all of this going on, I'm sometimes overwhelmed to think about adding "make dinner" to my never-ending to do list. Luckily, on Monday I didn't have to make dinner! Shana was off from school for Labor Day and she agreed to make dinner for us. We picked a meal that I knew she could make and that she felt comfortable with, as she doesn't cook nearly as often as I cook. Plus, Labor Day means September, which means squash and sweaters and apples and crunchy leaves and cold noses and pumpkins and and and... Even though most of those things aren't happening quite yet, the tables were turned when I was able to come home from work to smell of a lovely autumnal soup, which we paired with crusty bread dipped in olive oil.

The napkin in this picture was woven by a student at my school!
This soup is very straightforward to prepare, even more so if you can find pre-cut butternut squash. Plus, it's an interesting twist on a soup with butternut squash, as I find those tend to be a bit on the sweet side. This one has sweet undertones, but the other ingredients and spices included really kick this soup up a notch! I even have an alternate version in the Helpful Hints that increases the protein content while maintaining deliciousness.


Maggie's Savory Butternut Squash Soup
Ingredients
1, 10(ish) inch long butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped (though see Helpful Hints)
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 small onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4-8 c. broth (see Helpful Hints)
1/8 tsp. cumin, black pepper, cayenne (each)
1/4 tsp. curry
1/2 tsp. paprika

Directions
1. Saute onions in a bit of olive oil in a large stock pot until translucent, then add garlic and saute for another couple of minutes.
2. Add all other ingredients.
3. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until carrots and squash are very tender.
4. Blend soup in the pot using an immersion blender, or carefully process in batches in a counter-top blender.

Helpful Hints
  • Alternate version: to increase the protein content of this soup, I sometimes leave out one carrot and add 1/2 c. of uncooked red lentils. The red lentils will cook in the same time (or less) than the squash and carrots and will blend beautifully with the other ingredients. There's really not even a textural difference between the two versions. 
  • If you are in the land of Wegmans, you will often be able to find tubs of "cleaned and cut" butternut squash in the produce section this time of year. If you do find them, one tub is enough, or get two and double the soup to feed some friends. 
  • When you get to the broth, the four to eight cups is clearly a rough estimate and completely depends on how much squash you add. What you really want to do is have enough broth to just cover the veggies in the pot (for the regular version) or an extra 1/2 c. if you do the alternate version with the lentils. This will lead to a soup with a lovely thick texture. I generally use Better Than Bouillon's Vegetable version for this soup. It is gluten-free but has soy in it. If you use a soy-free broth, this is gluten- and soy-free.
  • We don't eat a ton of spicy stuff in our house, but this dish has some warmth to it. If you are doing this with mini-munchers (or others who do not enjoy spicy foods), it will likely be a good idea to add just a dash of cayenne pepper or omit it completely.
  • In my opinion, an immersion blender is an essential kitchen tool. It makes great blended soups and smoothies really easily. Since we eat soup regularly (and often blend some or all of it), this tool has been amazing to have around. 
  • This soup might be great topped with something crunchy (croutons?), but the crusty bread we use is a great pairing. 

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