I “Fall” For Squash
Blog provided by Chef Charles Parker
The “crunch” of the leaves underneath your shoes, with every step. The Halloween decorations gracing the streets, the shops, and the neighborhoods. The colors. Oh, the colors: yellows, oranges, ambers, that cover the trees, the sidewalks, and everywhere in between like a cozy blanket. These are just some of the reasons that Fall is my favorite season, and I know that I’m not alone. As our wonderful Summer begins to fade, it gives way to cooler temperatures and a bounty of delicious seasonal harvest! So what are some of the fruits and veggies that we are so lucky to gain during the Fall, here in beautiful Southwest Virginia? If I were to list everything, this would turn into a 2,973 page blog, and I don’t have the patience to compile such a list (and I have my doubts that anyone reading this would have the stamina to read and process it all). So, I will list some of the staples. Apples & pears, pumpkins, broccoli & cauliflower, fennel, arugula, peppers, onions, artichokes, potatoes (especially sweet potatoes), garlic, okra, beets, cabbage, and squashes (which is what I am writing a recipe about today)! Again, this is a very minimal list and you are likely to find a plethora of additional produce at any farmers market in Southwest Virginia, on any given day.
Squash comes in many different shapes, sizes, colors, and taste. You have zucchini, acorn, patty-pan to name a few, but today I am going to focus on the butternut squash. According to “Wikipedia”, butternut squash ‘is a type of winter squash that grows on a vine. It has a sweet, nutty taste similar to that of a pumpkin. It has tan-yellow skin and orange fleshy pulp with a compartment of seeds in the bottom. When ripe, it turns increasingly deep orange, and becomes sweeter and richer.’ According to me, butternut squash is versatile and DELICIOUS (feel free to quote me)! You can roast it, you can boil and mash it, you can fry it, saute it, you can even make decadent desserts with it (I worked with a young man who would make butternut squash crème brulees with it each season, and WOW was it delicious!) Today I am going to give you my recipe for roasted butternut squash soup. It’s easy, and I find that roasting it really accentuates the sweetness and “nuttiness” of the vegetable (technically it is a fruit, but we are not having that debate today…don’t @ me)
- 1 large butternut squash, halved length-wise, with the seeds removed (save the seeds, we will use them as a tasty garnish)
- 1 small carrot, peeled and diced (we are looking for about a half cup)
- Half of a sweet onion, diced (we only need a quarter cup for this recipe)
- 4 cups of good broth (chicken broth gives it a good depth of flavor, but if you are wanting to keep this recipe vegetarian you can use a good vegetable broth)
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup (I love “Aunt Jemima” pancake syrup just as much as the next person, but I really have to implore you to use real maple syrup here…you will notice the difference in the end)
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter (again, use real butter)
- Cracked black pepper, to taste
Preheat your oven to 425. While its preheating, go ahead and cut your butternut squash in half, length-wise, and remove the seeds with a large spoon (rinse the seeds off very well and let dry on paper towels…we will be back for these later!). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place your squash halves, flesh side up, on the baking sheet. Drizzle the flesh with the olive oil, followed by a sprinkle of 1 teaspoon of salt and as much black pepper as you like. Now, turn the squash halves flesh-side down and roast in the preheated oven for approximately 45-60 minutes (it is done when it is completely tender all the way through). Once roasting is complete, let the squash cool until it is easy to handle. While your squash halves are roasting, get a medium pot and let it get warm over low heat. Put your butter, diced carrot, and diced onion in the pan with the remaining half teaspoon of salt. Stir frequently until the carrots are soft and the onion is translucent (about 10 minutes). Now that your squash has cooled enough to handle, take each half and simply scoop out all of the flesh into the pot with your carrot and onion. Now add your broth and maple syrup and stir to combine well. Continue “cooking” over medium heat for about 15 minutes to let all the flavors “marry” (…we are gathered here today to join this squash and this…sometimes my corniness amazes even me). Now, in batches, puree this mixture in a really good blender (I highly recommend ‘Vitamix’). Once all batches have been pureed, your soup is done. Just check for seasonings (salt and pepper). Now lets get back to those seeds that you saved. Again this is super easy and just adds a nice nutty crunch to the finished product. Take your washed and dried seeds (make sure there’s no stringy bits still attached to the seeds) and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast in a 300 degree oven for about 15 minutes. You will know when they are done by seeing the seeds “pop” or at least “fluff up”. When serving your soup, put just a few of these delicious seeds right on top and…ENJOY!
There are so many variations that you can try with this soup recipe; you can do a very creamy soup with heavy cream, you can get rid of the butter, use vegetable broth and coconut milk to make a delicious vegan variation, and so on. Make this recipe and change/add whatever you like then let us know how it turns out!