“His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, said it best, The world will be saved by Western women. I believe that with every fiber of my being,” claims my wise friend and teacher, Julie Steelman.
Just between us, saving the world seems like a pretty big job right about now and I suspect we’ll get there faster if we all pitch in, East, West, North, or South! Fortunately, I’ve been working on my SuperPower SelfPortrait workshop!
First, I voted. Well, the mail-in ballot is all filled out. Bill’s going to hand-deliver it tomorrow. I feel about equal parts proud of doing my part and anxious about things like, you know, voter suppression. I live in Georgia where this is not just a quaint story from the old days.
Blessedly, my second super power is butternut squash soup. And it’s time for that, too!
There’s broth thawing. And lots of veg waiting in the kitchen. It’s guaranteed to take the edges off the situational anxiety of our world. And, while it won’t end the pandemic, it’s really good for anybody you might know who’s struggling. Hence, the recipe…
World’s Tastiest Butternut Squash Soup
Soup puts the heart at ease, calms down the violence of hunger, eliminates the tension of the day and awakens and refines the appetite. – Escoffier
Makes about 6 quarts of soup. Leftovers freeze well.
Equipment: You’ll need a 10 quart stockpot and a couple of pans for roasting veg. I use heavy gauge stainless ½ sheet trays. An immersion blender, food processor, or Vita-Mix type blender are really handy. In a pinch, a food mill will work. Or a hand potato masher.
Ingredients: I try to pick organic squash that are more cylindrical in shape, than those that have the bulbs on the bottom. They’re easier to cut up and peel! Also look for smaller squash, about 2 lb. or less in size. They have thinner skin and smaller seeds. Plan ahead for this soup and buy pears about 5 days ahead of time so they’ll be ripe. If you need to purchase stock, the varieties in the shelf stable boxes, no salt added, organic if you can find them, are usually the best choices. A small, local butcher may have broth periodically. That would be a great choice! This soup is comforting in the same way that the m-m-good tomato stuff from the can seemed when you were six. But way better!!!
Note: Additional ingredient suggestions are listed below under Garnishes.
- 2 quarts bone broth or veg broth, preferably homemade. Chicken, turkey, or pork are all great. Veg works really well, too, for an easy vegan dish.
- About 6 – 8 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with a bit of kitchen string.
- 1 – 2 bay leaves, preferably fresh.
- 3 – 4 lb. total butternut squash (about 2 smallish ones), washed and peeled, with seeds removed. (If the squash are really small and tender, sometimes I skip the peeling!) Chop into chunks about 1 inch square. The pieces don’t have to be pretty. They just need to be about the same size. (If you want to save the seeds, rub orange strings from them with a clean, dry dish cloth. Rinse well. Spread on paper towels to dry.)
- Good olive oil.
- Good grey Celtic sea salt.
- Freshly ground pepper…black, mixed, or pink.
- 3 – 4 ripe organic pears, washed, cored, seeded, and chopped to about the size of the squash pieces. (Substitute organic apples if they’re more local or pears aren’t available.)
- 2 large or 3 medium organic red, yellow, or orange bell peppers, washed, cored, seeded, and chopped.
- 2 large onions, peeled and roughly chopped.
Preheat oven to 450 F.
Cover 2 sheet trays with unbleached parchment paper, if desired to help keep veg from sticking.
In a 10 quart stockpot, place the broth you’ve chosen and heat gently, adjusting heat as stock thaws or warms from fridge. Bring to very gentle boil. Skim any foam that appears on top, and continue to simmer slowly while you prepare the veg. Add thyme and bay leaves to broth.
Place squash pieces in a large bowl. Drizzle with good olive oil to coat lightly and season with salt & pepper. Toss together well. Be a bit generous with the s&p. It will be most of the seasoning for a big pot of soup. Hold on to the bowl. You’ll need it again in a few minutes!
Spread squash on prepared sheet tray, in single layer. Place in oven at 450 F for 15 min.
While squash begins to bake, prep veg and pears or apples as noted above. Add to bowl. Drizzle all with good olive oil and season with s&p. Toss together well and arrange in a single layer on 2nd sheet tray. Add tray to oven and continue to roast, along with squash, another 20-30 min.
You’ll begin to smell the veg as they get close to done. Check with fork for tenderness. They should brown to about a medium tone. The squash will get darker than the pears and onions. Remove trays when done.
Check simmering soup stock. Raise temp a bit so it’s simmering fairly boldly, but not boiling. Remove bay leaves and herbs if used. Transfer all the veg into the stockpot CAREFULLY. An extra set of hands is helpful for this. Mix well and allow to simmer to blend flavors, 10 or 15 min.
Prepare desired garnishes. Get creative! Here are some thoughts to start:
- Chopped pumpkin seeds. (Save squash seeds until fully dry and use, lightly toasted, in other soup or salad, or save them to plant in your garden.)
- Popped corn, lightly salted.
- Finely chopped fresh parsley or other herb or green of choice.
- Crumbled, cooked sausage-preferably local in spiced pear flavor or Italian sausage, mild or hot, to taste.
- Good, homemade toasted bread croutons, pan fried in a bit of melted butter.
- Crumbled local goat cheese.
- Really fine, aged Balsamic vinegar for drizzling just a bit.
- A dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche.
- Chopped avocado.
Just before time to serve, puree mixture. A hand-held immersion blender is easiest. Other wise, transfer in batches to a food processer or VitaMix (blender). Use caution with hot liquids – only fill containers ½ full! If using a food mill or potato masher, allow liquid to cool a bit first to avoid burns. Working in batches, mash and blend soup well.
Stop when you like the texture you’ve achieved. Chunky, really smooth, whatever works for you! If you want it super smooth and velvety, you can pass the puree through a fine screen sieve. The cone shaped ones work well and you can push soup through with a wooden spoon. It’s all a matter of personal preference. I’m fine with a little texture left in mine!
Return all soup to pot, if necessary. If using hand-held blender, be sure plug does not fall into soup! Stir to blend well.
Taste for seasoning. With a good, homemade broth base and generous seasoning along the way, it probably won’t need any additional seasoning. I like the pure, clean taste of all the veg! If you like a little heat, try:
A few drops of hot sauce, to taste, or a pinch of cayenne or chipotle pepper. Warm spices like cinnamon, curry, or nutmeg are another good choice.
When it tastes perfect to you, it’s ready! Small children may like to do their own garnishes and are more likely to actually eat the soup if they do.
Set your imagination free on serving options, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish. Traditional bowls and spoons are great. Try shot glasses in a small bite appetizer setting. If you don’t have enough soup bowls for your crowd, teacups or coffee mugs will work. Add a slice of really good bread and perhaps a piece of good cheese and you have a fabulous meal. Have fun!
Save those leftovers!!! Cool soup before placing in freezing containers. Glass jars break a lot. We use BPA-free plastic but never pour hot food into it. I freeze soups like this in quart, pint, and even ½ pint size containers. Then you can thaw what you need for a family dinner, a comforting lunch on a crazy day, a care package for a friend, or even a creative way to add extra veg to any soup or sauce. Try thawing a small container and using the warmed soup instead of cream or olive oil to mash potatoes! Leave an inch of headspace before placing the lids to allow for natural expansion when it freezes. Label clearly including whether the broth base is meat or veg. And be sure to date it. That’s a freezer full of comfort food and all you did was cook dinner!
ps… the art for today is a glimpse of my SuperPower SelfPortrait Work-in-Progress, nicknamed Mystical Me.