Friday, September 3, 2010

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

This butternut squash soup is one of my favorite fall recipes. It's easy and cheap to make and satisfyingly filling. If you're trying to go meat-free, this soup is a great one to start out with. It freezes incredibly well, too, if you like to plan your meals ahead of time. It also reheats well in a crock pot, which makes it perfect to bring to potlucks or to serve at an autumn party. You could set out a variety of toppings and people could make their bowl of soup their own.

Here is today's ingredient lineup. Pretty simple, easy ingredients, don't you think?

The first thing you'll want to do is start sauteing the onion in some butter.
While your butter is melting and your onions are softening, get to work peeling your vegetables and apple.

As this is a squash soup, it's important that you do two things--one, be sure to buy a butternut squash! They have a creamy texture that is perfect for a pureed soup. Do not make a mistake and pick up, say, a spaghetti squash.

Two, be sure to look over all the squash at the store. Buy a butternut squash that is heavy for its size. A light squash is full of seeds that you'll just be throwing away.

I'll tell you one other thing. Peeling a squash can be incredibly tedious and frustrating. They're heavy, the flesh gets slippery once the peel is removed, and they're funny-shaped. Here is where a nice, sharp vegetable peeler will come in handy.

I went through a period where it seemed gnomes were coming into the kitchen and stealing my kitchen tools--I lost a new knife before even using it once, followed by a cutting board, and then two vegetable peelers. I still haven't found the knife or the cutting boards, but the kitchen gnomes must not have liked my peelers. The peelers eventually made their way out of the woodwork. Today I am the proud owner of five different vegetable peelers. Just call me Edward Peelerhands.

The vegetable peeler I used today (and the one I like to use on tougher vegetables, like squash or sweet potatoes, is the Oxo Good Grips peeler. It makes easy work of peeling the hard to peel.

Once your vegetables are naked, it's time to cut them up. I do a chunky cut, since everything will be going into a pot and boiled. There's no need for pretty, tiny dices. As long as everything is roughly the same size, you'll be fine.

Here's how I core an apple. I like to cut it into quarters and then lay it on a flat side. I cut in at an angle.

I end up with a plank of apple that contains all the seeds but not much of the apple itself.

By the time your veggies are chopped, your onions should be softened. You can pour in your chicken (or vegetable) broth, and pile in your vegetables.

Okay, in an idea world, I would have put the vegetables in and THEN poured in the broth. But I wasn't quite done chopping (taking pictures while cooking can mess up your timing, haha) so I reversed the steps. And was extra careful not to burn myself with the hot broth.

Chuck in a bay leaf.

Now sit back and read a book while the stove does the work for you.

Once the vegetables are boiled and soft, it's time to blend everything together.

Be sure to remove the bay leaf first!

This is an immersion blender. It's my favorite tool to use for pureeing soup. It's fairly easy to clean and its long, thin shape makes it easy to store in my pantry. And it's so much safer (and less messy) than using a regular blender.

 One of these days I'm going to buy myself a fancier blender. My mom has one with a detachable stick, so you can clean the blender blade in the dishwasher. Mine isn't detachable so I have to be careful when I clean it--no water in the electric base! But it gets the job done.

And if you think you need to spend the big $$, think again. I'm pretty sure this was a $15 purchase at TJ Maxx.

Be careful when you use your blender. You need to keep the part with the blade under the surface of the soup at all times, or you'll get hot soup splattered on you.

Also, with a thick soup like this, take the pot off the heat while you blend. Otherwise the heat sends up large bubbles that pop--again, sending hot soup onto your face. Ever seen a video of hot lava bubbling? Yeah. It's kind of like that.

The immersion blender is an amazing tool. It turns this ...

... into this. Isn't that about the prettiest color of soup you could imagine?

To make it a little rich and creamy, I like to splash in some half and half.

A healthier option would have been yogurt or silken tofu. Or to add nothing. But, if you've been around the blog long enough, you'll notice that I like to add half and half to things. Maybe it's an addiction.
Now comes the curry powder. I added a big tablespoonful.

I also tried not to breathe in too heavily while taking this picture. I can't imagine curry powder in the nose feels very good.

Finally, I shake in some cayanne pepper, for heat. It adds a little spice to the tail end of every bite.

I like to top my soup with a spoonful of sour cream, some crispy bacon, and a sprinkling of chives. But don't limit yourself to my choices. Some other topping suggestions include Parmesan or cheddar cheese, diced apples, croutons, ham or proscuitto, various herbs (fried sage leaves or fried garlic chips would be amazing), sunflower or pumpkin seeds, and creme fraiche or heavy cream (maybe a curry-spiced whipped cream!). Take this recipe and decorate it any way you see fit. 

Recipe: Curried Butternut Squash Soup
2 tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 2-3 lb. butternut squash, peeled and roughly chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 granny smith apple, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
1 bay leaf

47 oz. (one box plus one can) chicken stock (or enough to cover all the vegetables)
salt and pepper

1 tbsp. curry powder
pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 c. half and half

Garnishes of your choice

Saute onions in butter until softened. Add chopped vegetables, bay leaf, and chicken stock. Salt and pepper to taste.

Let everything simmer gently together until vegetables are softened. Blend everything together until completely pureed.

Add curry powder, cayenne pepper, and half and half. Stir to combine.

Garnish and serve.

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