Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Comfort Food - Butternut Squash Soup

My memory of butternut squash as a child was in a frozen square package that I only saw on Thanksgiving; it was nasty stuff with no flavor that my mother would try to make palatable by adding brown sugar.  Fast forward... now squash is one of my favorite fall foods with butternut squash at the top of the list. It has a subtle sweet nutty flavor that is perfect for fall and winter recipes with the added bonus of high in vitamins and minerals. Just one cup has 298% of the daily recommended value of Vitamin A; YAY for my eyes that are starting to experiencing the "I am about to turn 40 and spent my life on a computer" vision.  It also has a significant amount of Vitamin C, E, B6, Folate with daily recommended values of 49%, 10%, 11%, 9%, respectively; plus a mineral content of magnesium (12%), potassium (14%) and Manganese (14%).  Not only is this squash tasty it has some great health benefits. 

For a quick and easy side dish, I will remove the skin with a potato peeler, cut in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and cut into bite size chunks.  Drizzle a little olive oil, salt and pepper, then roast in the oven until fork tender.  I have also been known to add spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, gloves and even curry powder.  Add some root vegetables such as beets and parsnip for a heavenly combination of flavors.  Another favorite of Kris's is butternut risotto; this takes patience but worth it.

On a chilly autumn evening, it is hard to beat the smooth silky texture of a butternut squash soup.  While preparing the soup the smell calms the body and mind of all the days tensions.  The past week I made 2 different soups; a curried butternut and a roasted butternut squash soup.  I enjoyed both soups but the roasted soup has a more rich deeper flavor and color; the molasses, sage and balsamic vinegar aid in the development of the rich soup.  For both recipes, they are from the food network with my little twist to reduce the fat and sugar while trying not to reduce flavor.

The curried butternut soup is an easy soup recipe that simmers the squash until tender.  The changes I made to the recipe are added a cup of celery and carrots to the onion and garlic mixture to saute together.  Next I omitted the honey; I tasted the soup and it did not need the extra sweetness after the addition of carrots.  During the time the soup was simmering, I roasted the seeds with a drizzle of oil and salt; then roasted seeds were added to the soup for some texture and garnish.

Glaze for Roasting
The roasted butternut squash soup is more involved but worth the effort.  My freezer always has the spice rub ready to use on vegetables, pork, chicken or anything I feel like.  The recipe to roast the squash has a few changes in it to for healthier choices.  1/2 cup of butter, YIKES, I reduce to 1/4 cup and instead of all butter a mixer of butter and coconut oil gives the soup a slight coconut taste.  The sugar again was not included; the molasses in the recipe give it enough of a sweetness plus some extra iron; which I am always looking for ways to add iron into my diet. 

Once the roasting sauce & squash are well mixed, the roasting begins... creating a fragrance of sage and sweetness of the balsamic vinegar and molasses that fills the kitchen. WOW, how much longer my stomach is starting to speak to me?
Roasting the squash
The magic is beginning in the oven; time to start the soup and ready to finish when the squash is fork tender.  I do not use the half and half but instead add 1 cup extra of the squash.   

An immersion blender is used to create the smooth silky texture...time to EAT! 

Finally, if you have never made a soup or cooked with a squash the first recipe is easy and hard to make a mistake.  I love the second recipe it is worth the extra effort.  I am now hungry just writing about it and need to make some more soon!


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