Saturday, October 5, 2013


I adore autumn. Between it and Spring is nano-points. Between it and winter is 10 points. Between it and summer is 50 points, unless the summer turns out to *not* be hazy, hot and hellish, then we'll say, just 20 points. 

Autumn features my favorite color palette: burnished reds, deep oranges, blazing golds, flashes of bright green (generally when and where you least expect it) and all fading into rusted reds, deep browns and golds that make you want to drown in them. 

Autumn is also the season when I married Spouse, first moved to The 'Shire, and have met many of my oldest and dearest friends. 

Autumn is also my favorite FOOD season. Being that apples seem to come to the height of crispness, gourds of all varieties are everywhere (PUMPKIN, WHAT?), and soups are in vogue yet again (I've never mastered being able to eat soup in summer. It's just not right.). 

It seems odd to me, since I've been writing so infrequently of late, to skip the latter portion of summer [one more beer fest, garden updates, etc.] but today I made butternut squash soup. It rained. Football dominated my television viewing. It was just really autumn......

Oh and Spouse & I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary yesterday but y'know, minor details. [It was awesome].

When I was small, I would turn my nose up at anything squash - unless it involved zucchini bread. That was my only allowance of a gourd or gourd variety. And yet now, I just can't get enough. 

Within the last few weeks, between the weekly CSA bag and bi-weekly Green BEAN Delivery, I had amassed 3 butternut squash and with a trip looming, knew I better come up with a plan, so none of them went to waste. 

Enter butternut squash soup. 

It is incredibly simple (insofar, as any squash recipe is) and just scrumptious, as far as color, texture and final product. When I make that first cut into the squash, it just smells like autumn to me. The smell is earthy but hints at the yumminess to come. So hard to describe but, as cheesy as this sounds, smells like home when I cut into it. (I know, barf - sorry.).

Now, a quick note: I prefer a savory butternut squash soup. No nutmeg, no *any other spice one might add to make it more sweet and dessert-like*. Hellz no. Keep is simple. 

My first step is to preheat the oven to 350 degrees and get out a good sized baking sheet. Then I cut my butternut squash lengthwise into halves and scoop out the pulp & seeds. Personally, I really love roasted butternut squash seeds, so I keep it all on the side so while the squash is roasting, I can prepare the seeds. See next post for those notes........
My kingdom for anything this color.
With the squash halved, pulped, and seeded, I drizzle about a teaspoon's worth of olive oil over each half and then rub it into all of the exposed flesh, including the ends (since I cut off the top and bottom of the gourd). 

I lay each half, outer-skin side down in the pre-heated oven and roast it for 40 minutes or so. My oven sucks (it's going on 20 years old) so 40 minutes seems to be the trick without burning the edges. In a newer oven, 25-30 would probably be sufficient. 

When done, I let them cool to so that they can be handled, y'know, with my hands. I peel them and transfer the good parts to a plate or cutting board. 
Now here's the dealio with me: I don't have an immersion blender and I hate the traditional blender I have (it's just so dang LOUD). So being kinda lazy and not wishing to render my ears any more deaf than they are (thanks, Violent Femmes circa 1988!), I employ my Oxo potato masher and mash each half until it's mush. Frankly, it's excellent upper body work + it does retain a bit more of the delightful texture I love about squash. 
With everything all mashed up, I move onto the other flavors: I mince up some shallot and garlic. For this batch, I used one fairly large shallot (the whole thing) and about 4 cloves of garlic. 

In a nice sized sauce pan, I drizzled about 2 T of olive oil and heated it over medium-high heat. When nicely heated, I tossed in the shallots and garlic, and sauteed them until the shallots were translucent - about 3-4 minutes. 

I added the butternut squash mush and stirred it all around so the squash had shallots and garlic evenly mixed in, then added 2 quarts of chicken stock. I mixed it all up nicely, put on a lid and let is simmer for 20 minutes. At that point, I added freshly ground black pepper, fleur de sel as well as about a teaspoon of ground rosemary and powdered sage. Some more mixing to make sure all of the soup had the favor of seasoning and add 10 more minutes of simmering. 
Close-up of the yumminess
At that point, the kitchen smelled like heaven, so I took the sauce pan off of the heat and moved it onto a trivet with the lid tilted so the soup would cool without condensing too much. 

After 90 minutes or so, it was cool enough to move into servings, i.e. into small plastic/glass containers for portions. 
Square containers hold 2 servings, so 8 altogether
This made 8 nice sized portions (about 10 oz. each). I eat my soup as my entrée  so add either a green salad or my homemade yogurt and fruit, so bigger portions than if you were going to eat the soup with a sammich or other heavier entrée

Since trip is looming, I only put 3 portions in the frig and managed to shoe-horn the others into the (quite literally) burgeoning freezer. 

Takes a few steps with cooling and waiting in between, but I still made this entire batch in less than 90 minutes. Not bad for 8 large servings of autumnal delight, if you ask me.

What is your favorite season? Do you have a favorite autumnal food?

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