Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Roasted Squash Soup

With a basement full of squash and an unexpected day off, I decided that today I would come up with a  new recipe. My squash selection is quite varied and includes a few varieties I've never tried before, as well as an unidentified variety from our backyard. We had a sizable harvest of what my wife and I began calling "mystery squash" this fall. We didn't plant it, rather it grew from seeds that had apparently gotten tossed into the compost pile and then redistributed in the garden. In early summer I started seeing squash plants popping up in several places that I hadn't planted them. One turned out the be an acorn squash plant. Another was "mystery squash." The fruits are green and oblong, looking and smelling from the outside much like a watermelon but maturing with a light, meaty flesh that is almost white in color and is very mild. Whatever it is it's delicious, which is a good thing because we have lots! We also had a generous harvest of acorn squash and had recently gotten several squash of various varieties through our food buying club. I settled in on a butternut, an acorn and a mystery squash to make soup out of, along with a bright orange-red gourd called a red kuri squash that I decided to halve and use as 2 serving bowls.

My original intention was to make a soup using a base of chicken stock, topping the finished soup with crumbled bacon. I had a change of plans, however, when I got a call from my friend Tracy who just got back from Alaska and whom I hadn't seen in several months. I invited her over and planned on an extra for dinner. The thing is, Tracy is vegetarian! I was not going to be able to use either the chicken stock or the bacon! I ran down to the freezer and got a quart of the vegetable broth I had made the other day. I also grabbed another acorn squash to provide myself with two more soup bowls.

To begin with, I cut the acorn, butternut and mystery squash into pieces, cleaning out the seeds and discarding them. I lightly sprinkled them with salt and baked them at 425 degrees for about 40 minutes, until the squash was soft and tender. I peeled the squash and scraped out all the meat I could, setting it aside. This step can actually be done ahead of time. You should have at least:
5-6 c cooked squash
If using squash bowls, prepare them now by cutting the squash in half from stem to base. Scrape out and discard insides. You might need to shave a bit off of the bottoms of each half to get them to sit straight. Pierce the flesh with a fork, salt lightly and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake at 425 for about 40 minutes, or until the flesh is tender, while the soup is cooking. 
Using a large stock pot, cook over medium heat:
4 T unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 T chopped fresh sage
Saute the onions until they begin to soften, then add:
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
Cook until the garlic becomes fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in:
3 T flour
Combine flour well and cook for several minutes until flour begins to brown slightly. Add:
1 qt homemade vegetable broth
1 c white wine
1 c water
2 t kosher salt
1/2 t white pepper
Cook over medium-high heat until broth begins to simmer, then add squash meat. Stir well, cover and reduce heat to low. Continue cooking for another 20 minutes or so.
If you have an immersion blender, use it. Otherwise, place the soup a little at a time into a blender and puree it until it is smooth and creamy. Remember to use caution by covering the blender with a towel and holding the lid on while blending! Clean out any bits that might still be in the stock pot and return the soup to the pot. Over low heat, slowly stir in:
1-1/2 c evaporated milk or half-n-half
1/2 t ground nutmeg
Stir well, adjusting seasonings as necessary. Remove the squash halves from the oven and place each half into a bowl or on a rimmed plate. Fill the squash with soup and sprinkle the top with fresh ground nutmeg.

Delicious! The flavor was light and creamy, delicate enough so that the nutmeg just came through. A fabulous vegetarian meal that was surprisingly easy to make, which is good because I will certainly be making this soup again!

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