Sunday, January 30, 2011

Organic Vegetarian Roasted Butternut Squash Soup.

I love making soups and stews, particularly in the winter. It must be the Irish in me. I have found though that my family will enjoy a delicious bowl of soup anytime of the year. Whatever vegetable is in season I will take advantage and make soup and freeze it. Of course living in Southern California, other than heirloom tomatoes which come and go, most other veggies are available all year round. Butternut squash is one of those and happens to be a family favorite of ours. Whether we just roast it, puree it or make into a soup, we all seem to love this particular fruit/squash/veggie.

I found this recipe in a Williams-Sonoma Soup for Supper cookbook years ago and I have enjoyed exploring and changing this recipe over the years and each time it seems to be better than the last. I like to make this soup on a Sunday, serve it with dinner on Sunday evening and then freeze the rest for later in the week or another time.

Prep Time: 30 minutes, plus 1 hour for baking squashes.
Cooking time: 20 minutes

Organic Ingredients:
2 medium to large butternut squashes (1/12-2 lb) each
2 celery stalks
2 carrots
2 yellow onions
8 fresh sage leaves, shredded
2 - 3 oz of hazelnuts
3 tablespoons of butter (sometimes I substitute olive oil)
Organic low sodium vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste

Roasting the squash makes it easier to peel and deepens the flavor of its flesh, making a richer, more flavorful soup. Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Wash each of the squashes skin thoroughly before cooking. Using a sharp knife cut each squash lengthwise in half, scoop out the seeds (seeds can be saved and roasted later and enjoyed as a healthy snack). Place the squash cut side down in a glass pyrex or similar dish, add approx 2 cups of water to the dish so that it's just coming up the side of the squash but not covering it. The thing I love about this recipe is I can cook the squash the day before or hours in advance of actually making the soup, just pop it in the oven while you are busy around the house, it's actually better because then it's cool enough to handle. Cook the squashes for about an hour or until tender or soft. Remove from the oven, save the water in a bowl or pot and set aside (this will be used as stock in your soup). Once it's cooled down scoop the pulp into a bowl and set aside.

While the squashes are cooling, in a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the onions, celery and carrots, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender and translucent, 8-10 mins. Add the sage leaves (I always have organic sage growing in my herb pot). Add the squash pulp to the pot, as well as the water/stock you set aside from roasting, then add enough vegetable stock to cover the ingredients in the pot. Bring it to a boil, stirring occasionally to avoid burning the veggies and reduce heat to a nice simmer, continuing to stir occasionally, I like to cook it slow (although the recipe says 20 mins of cooking time) I tend to let it simmer longer and slower I think this adds to the flavor of the soup. While the soup is cooking I put the hazelnuts in a food processor and grind them well till there are no hard pieces of nuts, so just before a powder consistency. Once the soup is cooked, working in batches, puree the soup in a blender and with each batch being pureed add some of the hazelnut so that it all gets blended together. The blended soup has a rich and creamy consistency. Return to a clean saucepan over low heat and serve in warmed bowls.

We usually have a delicious salad and some warmed bread. I don't add salt or pepper in the cooking process of this soup and in fact I don't add seasoning at all to mine when I eat it, I personally don't think it needs it, let me know what you think.

If I'm going to freeze some of the soup which I usually do I will fill 16 oz paper containers like the one in the picture which I have found at either Surfas in Culver City (they don't always carry them though) or at Smart and Final stores, don't forget to buy the lids to fit. I write the name of soup, making a note that it has nuts (in case I am serving someone who is allergic to nuts) and the date on the lid and put it in the freezer for a future lunch or dinner. When you take it out of the freezer, with a sharp knife cut a line down the side of the container at the seam and you will be amazed at how easy it is to peel the paper right off the frozen soup and pop the soup in a pot over low heat so it doesn't burn, it takes about 10 mins. to warm the frozen soup and voila.
Recycle the paper container and lid.

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