Hi Mike! This one's for you! You asked for this recipe. Here it is. As you'll see, I don't make it the same twice. Bon appétit and much love, – C & A
In recent years we've made variations of winter squash soups: butternut squash, some acorn and pumpkin. Whenever we've served or shared them lately the bowls run empty. Even people who profess to have great disdain for one type or another seemed to like these recipes.
Success wasn't always part of our recipe. I recall one batch that was a miserable failure one Thanksgiving; it was a pumpkin and carrot soup. Even a loving mother couldn't tell me that she liked it. Alan was even less kind and more honest in his critique. I think that fueled my search for a foolproof combination. I didn't like the finished product either, doctored or not. It was not good.
My mother and father were collectors -- collectors of cookbooks that is. As the youngest child of much older parents, some of their cookbooks merged into my little collection and have offered me glimpses into bygone cuisines, tools, and meals my parents prepared. They had a well worn 1961 copy of The New York Times Cook Book. It's strange that so many other classic cookbooks from that era did not make reference to such a great hearty soup. The NYT's "Pumpkin Soup" recipe noted that the recipe was a "specialty of La Fonda del Sol, New York's carnival-bright Latin American restaurant." (Was there only one?) Fresh pumpkin, chicken stock, onion, scallions, light cream, tomatoes, whipped unsweetened heavy cream were included. (I'd need Lactaid, thank you.)
This morning, Alan and I scoured the indices of many dusty cookbooks trying to determine which rendition was our first palatable recipe. The dustier the cookbook the less likely we were to find a winter squash recipe. At first I was surprised since a good squash soup is a fall or winter holiday staple with us. My best guess is that the proliferation of internet published squash soup recipes comes on the heels of the food processor revolution. That could be why we found few references earlier than a 1976 publication by Cuisinart. The first Cuisinart food processors were introduced to North America in 1973. My father, an avid cook, owned one of the earlier models given to him by co-workers at the New York Daily News upon his retirement. I still have it. It still works despite the cracked bowl.
James Beard and Carl Jerome co-authored the spiral bound New Recipes for the Cuisinart Food Processor. Their "Pumpkin Soup" recipe called for: an onion, butter, curry powder, canned pumpkin, salt, cream and chicken stock. They suggested garnishing with sour cream sprinkled with parsley and cinnamon. While that's a big leap from the soup I make today, I have used many of these ingredients successfully in the past. I'm listing them here in order for you to find the variation that suits you. You may have guessed, my taste buds and I like to experiment.
People with medically or personally imposed dietary restrictions should use curry judiciously. Curry is a collective term assigned to combinations of spices and herbs. It's no one thing. The curry powder used for Indian cuisine in our home had to be replaced since we couldn't determine if flour had been used as an anti-caking agent in our bottle's mix of spices. As with any processed food, cross-contamination is always a threat. It's better and more flavorful to work with the whole food components to your spice bottles. Vegetarians should also take note: Some curries contain shrimp paste or fish sauce. Curry cuisine and recipes vary wildly both regionally and globally.
Moosewood Cookbook, a vegetarian classic, includes a "Curried Squash and Mushroom Soup" which did not shy from flavors in 1977. The recipe called for acorn or butternut squash. As much as I love a good baked acorn squash, I prefer butternut squash in my soup. (If I only have acorn squash on hand I will use it, preferably with butternut squash or pumpkin mixed in.) Pretend as if you can catch a whiff of the other ingredients: orange juice, garlic, onion, mushrooms, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, ginger, dry mustard, cayenne, stock, butter, salt, and optional fresh lemon juice. With that symphony of flavors I'd be adding the lemon juice along with the topping of chopped almonds and possibly some type of yogurt (suggested). We've moved beyond plain canned pumpkin.
In 1979, Julie Rosso and Sheila Lukins (with Michael McLaughlin) created a buzz with their release ofThe Silver Palate Cookbook(at this moment free on Kindle with Amazon Prime) named for their Manhattan gourmet food shop. Ingredients similar to the Cuisinart list above appeared there with two notable exceptions: They introduced apples (and apple juice) to their recipe, and they swapped out the canned pumpkin for fresh butternut squash. (Yum.)
For the moment, I'm going to skip ahead to the present day. My brother-in-law, Mike K., has asked for our recipe and he's acquiring this immersion blender today. In photography and cooking there's nothing like new tool to inspire a creative work!
Due to health and dietary concerns some formerly fun ingredients are no longer fun for me. I evolved to a hybrid soup: mostly butternut squash, a bit of pumpkin. I swapped out any cream for coconut milk. I added apples, limes and a touch of pure maple syrup. I tried other standard butternut squash soup recipes but limes, salt and maple syrup became the trinity of my seasonings. I maintain a 100% medically sanctioned gluten-free diet and I'm necessarily dairy free. (Occasionally, I used to cheat with a little dairy and a lot of digestive enzymes. It's just not worth it. I feel it all over.)
I don't think it's fair for me to suggest that you use a handful of this or a splash of that when your hands and my splashes are different sizes. So, in fairness to you, I'm including a great recipe from the web so that you have a list of ingredients with amounts already balanced for you.
Tessa has created and maintained a wonderful website: Tessa, the Domestic Diva. The site is a gold mine of tips and treats for gluten-free, allergy-free and Paleo recipes. She shared her version of this soup which is very similar to mine. As a starting point here's her delicious "Creamy Paleo Pumpkin Soup." Her recipe will be infinitely easier for you to follow than mine! Tessa's link: "Creamy Paleo Pumpkin Soup - Dairy Free."
My current recipe is similar. I'm following Tessa's list of ingredients in bold below and showing you some alternatives for different diets in the plain text. Besides she measures; I splash.
If you're looking to prepare this in chronological order, skip down to the cooked squash first. Do that step then return to the top.
3 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and begin heating on low to medium heat. Use a lighter oil if that's your preference.
2 carrots chopped. You decide whether to peel them or not. If they are not organic I'd definitely peel them. Start to saute the carrots early as they take longer to soften than the other ingredients. You're going to be softening up some ingredients before adding others.
You have a choice now. Tessa adds a chopped medium yellow onion. If you don't have trouble with onions go for it. If you do have trouble, or you're doing a FODMAP challenge, read below.
If you can't have onions, add the green part of some scallions, or some fresh chives. If unavailable, add dried chives. I used to add them early in the cooking process to flavor the oil. I no longer do. Add dried chives a little bit later. I probably add a tablespoon max. It depends upon how old or fresh they are and how much punch is left in them. A little goes a long way. Using too much will alter the color of your soup. Start with 1/2 to 1 teaspoon and work up if need be. You will be adding many more flavors.
1 medium apple, cored and chopped
Really, who can't have apples? Well, there are times that I can't, so I'll use sweet red peppers instead. (Do not use green peppers!) I probably use one whole sweet red pepper minus a nibble or two.
2 cups veggie broth or chicken broth
Whichever I use, I make my own whenever I can. It helps that I often have broth cooking from yesterday's meal. I feel your pain if you can't have garlic or onions. Try asafetida (aka hing) as a substitute, especially if you're testing your FODMAP tolerance. Be sure to start with just a tiny bit of asafetida. Even 1/32 of a teaspoon can add a lot of flavor. Go light. It's great for other dishes. I probably wouldn't use it in this unless I didn't have any good broth on hand.
Commercial broths can surprise you with headache-inducing MSG or even gluten (or possible cross-contamination). Be careful.
1 1/2 cup pumpkin or winter squash puree. (Follow the link to Tessa's recipe for her notes.)
I use a fresh butternut squash. Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Save the seeds to toast, if you'd like. Oven roast the full butternut squash cut into halves, lightly oiled, peel side up. I add a little water on the roasting pan (optional). I prefer oven roasting to the microwave, stove top or instant pot, as the roasting really releases the sugars. I usually wait until the squash is completely roasted. If you want to cut corners, buy it chopped up, canned, or remove it from the oven early as it will continue to cook with your other ingredients. I use an ice cream scoop to remove the squash.
I love this about Tessa's recipe. I had some success with different herbs and spices. She nailed the subtle sophisticated notes with sage. I've tried rosemary, a touch of allspice, garlic, ginger and others at different times. What I learned from Tessa was to use sage. It's a perfect undertone! Fresh ginger has been delightful in other squash soups. This one is best with sage.
Mike, I think we used your Italian spice blend when we made it with you. That worked as well.
THESE INGREDIENTS ARE ADDED LATER:
2/3 canned coconut milk
This gets added later. Although I often use this to make the soup "creamier," I find it optional. Don't be afraid to try it. This soup is delicious both with and without the coconut milk. Do not use the lowfat version; that defeats the purpose of adding it. Add some canned coconut cream if you can't find the canned coconut milk. Don't use the coconut milk that comes in a carton. Don't use coconut water. Look for a can. In your supermarket it might be with the Chinese, Mexican or Thai foods.
2 Tablespoons of pure maple syrup. ** Have more on hand. (Don't cheat yourself. Skip the high fructose corn syrup unhealthy junk. Get the flavorful real deal.)
2 teaspoons lime juice, to taste. ** Have more on hand.
If you've only used the little "Real" bottles you've missed out. Buy fresh limes. Squeeze them or juicer them; use a fork or knife over a strainer if you don't. If you don't use the squeezer or juicer linked above, my favorite juicers for lemons and limes are hand held reamers. They're very inexpensive, magical and easy to use.
A bit of sea salt to taste. Start with 1/4 teaspoon. You can always add more later! Go easy at first. ** Have more on hand.
Have some cooked fresh or canned pumpkin on hand.
Optional: Try an extra lime, nuts or seeds for a small optional garnish. Dairy free yogurt or a dollop of your yogurt or cream of choice. Perhaps a small piece of a sweet red pepper or apple. A fresh leaf adds a festive touch. Don't add too many different garnishes. Keep it simple.
Place the butternut squash in a preheated 350° oven and bake as noted above until the flesh has softened and is scoopable, perhaps 40 to 45 minutes.
After you've heated the oil in a dutch oven or deep sauce pan add the chopped carrots. Cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat.
If you're using an onion and an apple add them next.
Saute until softened, another 5 minutes.
If you are substituting red peppers (for the apple) or chives (for the onion) add them now and cook for 3+ minutes.
Add fresh (or a pinch of dried) sage leaves and stir with the above ingredients and flavoring the oil.
Add your delicious broth, and the freshly cooked squash. Don't worry if the squash is still a tad undercooked from how you'd usually serve it. It will soften in the broth. Stir all of your ingredients and simmer covered for about 15 minutes, possibly longer.
(Gluten note: If you're using an enameled cast iron dutch oven you'll probably want to use a wooden spoon so as to not scratch your enamel. Good idea unless you have a food allergy or sensitivity. Be sure to use wooden spoons and spatulas that have not been used in gluten-containing dishes. Stay safe!)
If you used whole sage leaves you should remove them and set them aside now.
You have some options now. You can use a good immersion blender directly in your dutch oven or deep sauce pan. You could also transfer your soup to a food processor or blender for high speed pureeing.
Most times that we've made this we have transferred the soup to a counter top food processor or Cuisinart. The texture is lovely. Once I used a sub-par immersion blender which didn't treat the soup evenly. The results were okay, not great. The kitchen was a mess. When Alan and I made this with Mike we used his tools. Our soup had a lovely creamy base and several smaller chunks of carrots and bigger chunks of apple. It was nice. Still, I prefer to puree the entire soup and, for optional texture, add a garnish of toasted seeds or nuts to the top. A small bit of cooked apple chunks would also work.
Try using a moderate or high end immersion blender first if you have one. It will reduce the number of appliances you have to clean. (Your splash will vary with price.) A Cuisinart or other counter top food processor will cost you more dishwashing time but less preparation time. They do great work and save time cleaning up splatter. The choice is yours.
If you taste it at this stage it might taste like baby food to you. It needs seasoning!
I add my remaining ingredients: lime, maple syrup, sea salt as soon as I've completed the pureeing. It you want to try other herbs and spices (such as nutmeg or allspice) then omit the sage upfront. Frankly, I think the sage is perfect.
Season to taste! For us, that mean adding 2 more teaspoons of freshly squeezed lime juice, 2 more tablespoons of pure maple syrup, and another bit of sea salt. Taste again. You may want a bit more of the combination.
Optionally, add the canned coconut milk now.
Because I cook with a handful of this and a splash of that I often expand this recipe 1.5 times. Invariably, I add at least a 1/4 cup of pumpkin to the soup. I like combining the flavors of the squash and pumpkin, too. If I need to thicken the soup I add a lot more pumpkin. If the taste starts to dull I add more lime, maple syrup and sea salt. (Occasionally, I'll add a touch of white pepper, too.)
If you used an immersion blender continue to heat your soup on low. If you used your food processor return your soup to your dutch oven or other pot and heat gently.
Gather your friends. If you're a bread eater then add some lightly toasted bread. Optionally, top the soup with a squeeze from a lime wedge.
Please let me know if you like this or some variation of soup.
How do you like your squash soup? What's your favorite winter soup?