Spiced Squash Soup

Remember all that nice stuff I was saying about autumn a couple of weeks ago? Well, sometime between then and now, winter has struck. What had been a crisp chilliness has quickly turned into a dry, bone-freezing cold that calls for no less that seven layers of sweaters and a winter coat stuffed with all sorts of avian feathers. The Blistex has re-claimed its loyal spot in my North Face pocket and I’ve even invested in a humidifier.

The other morning, I woke up to a snowy sky with flakes of frozen water cascading past orange, red, and brown leaves. I thought, “Something’s not right here.” See, it’s not winter. It’s November for crying out loud! Someone up there didn’t get the memo, though, so it’s nothing but Cuddle Duds and circle scarves for me from here on out. Oh, and soup.

Soup is winter’s only redeeming quality. A bowl of piping hot soup is just enough to cure the winter blues, even when it’s still fall. In celebration (see, I’m trying to be an optimist!) of this retched weather (still failing, though) I decided to try my hand at Butternut Squash Soup.

Here I found the perfect combination of fall and winter, melding rich autumn flavors like squash and cinnamon with chilly weather stuff like sage and, well, soup. When searching for a recipe, most options suggested boiling the squash, but I am really in love with the toasted flavors that come from roasting, so when I landed on this Chowhound recipe, I headed straight to the kitchen.

I changed up a few things to embolden the flavors and took a healthier route by using much less cream than the original recipe called for. The result was magical. Like, seriously, I am way proud of myself for this one. The texture is silky and smooth (without seeming like baby food) and each individual flavor component is easily decipherable. I even did a taste test with Matt, asking him to guess the ingredients and he named all of ‘em. Either he’s a clever guy or I rock at making soup. I guess I can settle with both.

Topping the soup with my homemade breadcrumbs and some crumbled goat cheese seals the deal, adding a salty crunch and sour creaminess with each bite. The soup also heats up beautifully, so ladle the leftovers into a plastic container and bring it to work (and then tell your co-workers where you got the recipe).

Breadcrumbs Ingredients (makes 1 ½ cups breadcrumbs)

  • ¼ French baguette

  • 1/8 cup EVOO or olive oil

  • Sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Tear baguette into approx. 1-inch pieces. Pulse through a food processer until desired crumb size is reached. (I like mine super fine)

3. In a bowl, toss breadcrumbs, olive oil, and a sprinkle of sea salt so that crumbs are well coated.

4. Spread breadcrumbs on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes then remove from oven and stir so that the crumbs bake evenly.  Continue baking until golden and crunchy, about 10 more minutes.

5. Let cool and store in an airtight container.

Soup Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 medium butternut squash

  • ½ medium yellow onion

  • 1 small-medium tart apple

  • 5-7 fresh sage leaves

  • 2 ¼ cups chicken or vegetable broth

  • Salt & pepper to taste

  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 2-3 tablespoons light cream

  • Goat cheese

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds. Melt ½ tablespoon butter in the microwave and brush over squash flesh. Bake, flesh side up for 50 minutes to an hour, until a knife is easily inserted.

3. Meanwhile, peel, core, and dice the apple. Dice the onion.

4. In a small skillet, melt ½ tablespoon butter. Once bubbling, add apple, onion, and sage and sauté until onion is translucent, 5-7 minutes.

5. Transfer sautéed medley to a large pot over medium heat. Add broth. Use a metal spoon to scoop squash from skin and add to the pot.

6. As soup simmers, break up any large pieces of squash with the back of a spoon.  Add cinnamon and salt and pepper to taste. Continue cooking, stirring every so often, allowing flavors to meld, for 15 minutes.

7. Remove from heat and mix in light cream.

8. Using a blender, work in small batches to combine all ingredients. Once complete, run through blender one last time.

9. Serve in individual bowls, sprinkled with breadcrumbs and goat cheese.