Monday, February 22, 2016

Southwestern Butternut Squash Soup!

It was a cold damp day, like today, and soup was on my mind.

            I’d had several recipes I had wanted to try, and invited a few friends to come sample and critique.  One new-comer to the group hinted that he really would like to be able to cook along with me.

            So rather than getting everything mostly done ahead, I waited until everyone was there and we all pitched in to make several new dishes.  Some you will see later.  A couple you will never see.  That’s just the way it goes.

            What an interesting experiment.  By the time we’d finished, I do believe that every pot, pan, wooden spoon, spatula, whisk, prep bowl and potholder in the kitchen had been used and was piled on my kitchen cabinets.  We may have to rethink this “let me help” idea.

            But this soup is the dish that one guest pronounced “best of show.”

            It was wonderful done with butternut squash, but it does take some time to peel; using a vegetable peeler is the best way to go.  It’s an awkward shape to deal with as well.  You could also use another winter squash, such as acorn or pumpkin.  Or even, I think, canned pumpkin; two 16-ounce cans of pure pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling, which is pre-spiced) should do the trick.

            I’ve used the chipotle Tabasco sauce often.  It’s not as hot as the original red variety, and gives a great smoky flavor to this soup.

            We had it as a first course, but it would make a great winter supper, either as is, or with leftover shredded chicken added.  Some sort of nice green or vegetable salad and some crusty bread and you’ve got dinner!

1 medium butternut squash, about 4 pounds

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (or 1/2 teaspoon pre-ground nutmeg)
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons chipotle Tabasco sauce, or to taste
2 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 ripe but firm avocado, diced
3 green onions, thinly sliced, including some of the green part
The juice and zest of one lime
Cilantro, for garnish

            Peel the squash with a vegetable peeler.  Cut in half lengthwise.  Scoop out and discard the seeds.  Cut the squash into 1” cubes.  In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, bring the stock to a simmer.  Add the squash, cover and simmer until the squash is tender, about 15 minutes.

            Meanwhile, in a heavy skillet over medium heat, melt the butter,  Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent. Add the spices and continue to cook, stirring frequently, another couple of minutes.  Scrape this mixture into the pot with the squash.

            Simmer to soup for another 10 minutes or so.  With a hand blender or in a blender or food processor, pulse several times to just barely puree the squash.  A few small chunks left in will give a pleasant texture to the soup.  Add the cream and Tabasco sauce.  Taste and add salt if desired.

            In a small bowl. combine the tomato, avocado, green onions and lime juice and zest.

            When ready to serve, bring the soup to a simmer.  If necessary, add stock to thin to desired thickness (this should be a thick soup).  Ladle into soup bowls.  Garnish with the tomato mixture and a few leaves of cilantro.  Serves 6-8 as a first course, or 4 as a main course.