Thursday, September 15, 2011

Cream of Butternut Soup

As promised in the meal plan, I served squash all week long. I even updated my spaghetti squash recipe and wrote about it in my weekly column for the Strongsville Patch. You can check out the article and the new and improved step-by-step pictures HERE. But somehow, it has taken me all week to get around to posting a single squash recipe on this blog.

Tonight, with my daughter's very first sleepover party on the agenda for tomorrow and the start of a nasty cold slowing me down, I have grounded myself to the couch on this fine, crisp, fall Friday night in order to share my Cream of Butternut Soup recipe with all of you and to rest up for tomorrow's birthday festivities. Wish me luck! : )

As is the case with many of my favorite foods, this one comes with a memory.

I lived in Dublin, Ohio for 9 months in 2004. My husband had been transferred there for work. It was summertime and I was 5 or 6 months pregnant with our first child when I moved. I say "I" instead of "we" because my husband had moved before I did. (Lucky him, missing out on my entire nauseous first trimester!) I stayed behind to pack up our household and finish teaching my students until the end of the school year.

I didn't know a single person in our new town and my husband worked long hours, so once I had unpacked, I explored the shops and restaurants of Dublin's pretty downtown. Oscar's Restaurant and their welcoming outdoor patio quickly caught my attention.

My mother-in-law came to visit soon after we settled in. I knew exactly where I wanted to take her for lunch. I can't remember anything else that we ordered at Oscar's on that lunch date, but their butternut squash soup (or was it a bisque?) left an impression on both of us. Smooth, creamy, and delicious- the soup was definitely a winner! We visited Oscar's and ordered this soup on a number of subsequent visits.

After my mother-in-law headed back to Indiana, I set out to re-create this recipe in my own kitchen. I can't remember where I initially found this recipe, but I've tweaked it over the years to make it my own. The following spring, I left Dublin with a beautiful 8 month old daughter and the ability to make my very own butternut soup. I've carried the recipe with me through moves to 3 states and I still look forward to it every fall.

Fast forward to the present. My mother-in-law is visiting this weekend for my daughter's 7th birthday. We're living in Ohio again. With an abundance of squash atop my kitchen counter, I can't think of a better way to commemorate the occasion than to cook a batch of the soup we fell in love with 7 years ago when that baby was still kicking against my tightly stretched tummy.

It feels like I have known this amazing little girl forever (maybe because she is my mini-me in both appearance and personality?) and at the same time, it feels like just yesterday that I held her in my arms for the very first time. Ahhh. Where did the time go!?

Look at me, all nostalgic on the eve of my daughter's 7th birthday party...

Okay, I've allowed myself a "moment", now it's time to put away the Kleenex and write about soup!

Here's how it came together.

I began with a Butternut Squash.

I like to cut it into more manageable portions by cutting off the neck, then slicing the round, lower portion in half.

Scoop out the seeds from the middle and discard.

Then, peel the tough skin from the flesh of the squash. Warning: this requires a sharp paring knife and a bit of persistence.

Here is the peeled squash.

Cut it up.

Now begin the base of the soup. Start by sauteing some onion and celery in butter or oil until tender.

Stir in all of the spices: Salt, pepper, tumeric, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a bay leaf.

With all of those spices stirred in, your house will smell amazing! When I smell this soup simmering, I can't help but embrace the cooler fall temperatures. It makes the house seem so cozy!

Once the spices have heated up, stir in some chicken broth.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then add in the chopped squash and a few peeled, cubed, potatoes.

Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15-20 minutes until the squash and potatoes are tender.

If you've got an immersion blender, put it into the pot and start blending!

Otherwise you can transfer the soup in batches to a traditional blender or food processor.

Blend until smooth.

Finally, stir in sherry (for a punch!) and milk (for a creamier texture).

Serve with a baguette for sopping or homemade garlic croutons. Garnish with a sprinkle of nutmeg or fresh parsley.

Cream of Butternut Soup

1 medium onion, diced
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2-3 (14.5 oz) cans chicken broth
1 tablespoon sugar
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon tumeric
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg + more for garnish
1 (2-1/2 to 3 lb) butternut squash, cubed
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1-1/2 cups milk
2-4 tablespoons sherry

Saute onion and celery in butter. Stir in spices and heat through, then add broth. Bring to a boil. Add squash and potatoes. Return to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until squash and potatoes are tender. Remove from heat. Cool slightly. Remove bay leaf. Puree. Stir in milk and sherry. Heat through. Divide into serving bowls and garnish.

Notes: I used cooking sherry, versus regular sherry. I needed to use more. If using "real" sherry, add a lesser amount and then add more according to taste.

If the soup is too thick, thin with additional broth or milk. I've made this soup too thick in the past. It resembled baby food. Not good!

Don't be afraid to play around with the spices, adjusting the amounts until the flavor of the soup suits your personal taste.


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