My family never ate squash. I mean NEVER. I came to the conclusion that squash must be awful then. I was wrong! I started experimenting with it years ago when I found out that it is a powerful cancer fighter and a super food. I knew I just had to add it it to my cooking repertoire and this is my favourite way to make it.
When my cupboards and fridge were bare last week, one thing I missed most was vegetables. It was decadent to live on noodles and bits of protein for a while but I quickly felt my energy disappearing. The beautiful thing about soup is it is so pure. You just throw veggies into a pot with some broth and herbs and you have the essence of health.
It all starts with the squash. I like butternut squash because of its bright orange colour. Colour in the health food world means vitality. The more colours you eat, the healthier you are. I prefer to slow roast the squash because that way I only have to cut it in half and scoop out the seeds. I do not have to peel it raw and precariously slice the tough flesh into chunks. Nope! I just slice in half, remove the seeds, put it flesh-side-down on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in a 275F oven for 2 hours. I do this early in the day and then take it out once it is soft to the touch.
A processor makes my life so much easier by whizzing up 2 roughly chopped carrots, 3 celery sticks with their leaves on, one onion and 3 garlic cloves. I even did this on the phone with my friend Michelle in a matter of seconds and then put the aromatics into a dish covered with plastic wrap and into the fridge until I was ready to make soup.
When ready to cook saute the mirepoix (carrot, celery…) over medium high heat in some olive oil and season well. After a few minutes scoop out the squash, add to the pot with 2 bay leaves and 2 thyme sprigs. Use a spoon or a spatula to break down the squash a bit. Add a little broth to just cover the bottom and come up the sides a bit. Be careful not to add too much because you want the soup to be too thick rather than too thin. Let it bubble away for at least 15 minutes. I also threw in some thyme sprigs which I removed along with the bay leaves once everything was softened.
This is usually where my handy-dandy Food Mill makes my life easier by grinding up the veggies to make a silky smooth soup but I forgot to change blades to the medium consistency setting and what ended up coming through the other end was just liquid! Argh! Oh well, stuff like this happens. Now too hot to the touch to change blades, I put the soup back in the pot and used my immersion blender. Nope, not good enough. I like it to be perfectly smooth and it was still chunky. I removed the strawberry mango smoothie mixture from my blender into our dinner glasses, washed out the blender and used it to perfectly puree the soup, carefully covered with a tea towel. Then I added just a touch of heavy cream and pureed once again.
Vegetarians can skip this part but I wanted a little topper for the soup so I cut some turkey bacon into lardons and sauteed until crispy. If you are vegetarian and want a topper you can make some homemade croutons. For those meat eaters who want to use REAL bacon, go right ahead! It is your food. Make it your way!
In some ways this is a fast recipe, in other ways it is slow. I like that you can prepare all the veggies ahead of time which is what I did when my mother-in-law Lorraine came for tea. She is a huge lover of vegetables and always is the person making food for others. I had already roasted the squash and processed the veggies so we came home and in about 20 minutes I had this treat ready for her that tasted like it took me all day to make. The best part? She looked so happy as she spooned every last drop.
Although it does not feel like it, spring is around the corner and I will be replacing soups and roasted vegetables with salads. In the meantime, I am going to make as many soups as I can and enjoy their beautiful healthy essence.