Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

 

A bowl of spiced butternut squash soup

Autumn is the perfect time to make soup.  The air is growing cool and crisp, the leaves are changing colors, and as winter draws closer, we yearn for savory, warm, and filling fare.  No doubt you’ve seen the grocery stores full of pumpkins and gourds and squashes, and now is the time to try this simple butternut squash soup recipe that is just bursting with wholesome ingredients and delicious flavor.

There are many varieties of butternut squash soup, but this recipe has a rich and complex flavor: tart green apple to balance out the sweetness of the squash, a touch of cayenne to give some heat, and a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg to give it that warm and comforting taste of autumn – the taste that just makes you want to eat it while curled up in front of a roaring fire, watching red and gold leaves slowly drifting off the trees outside.

This week’s recipe: Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

Why we like it:

Butternut squash is a winter squash -- a seasonal fruit (not a vegetable!) that is great for a multitude of recipes and is the star of many different autumn meals.  Its taste is similar to a pumpkin; it’s got a buttery sweetness and a nutty flavor that makes it perfect for sweet or savory dishes.

It can be cooked in many different ways: roasting, toasting, pureeing, or mashing. It  is often used in everything from stew and risotto to muffins and tarts. It can simply be roasted and eaten on its own or added to salads, pastas, curries, casseroles, and more.

Not only is it delicious and versatile to cook, butternut squash is also low in sodium and saturated fat and rich in complex carbohydrates.  It’s a great source of vitamins and minerals, too, containing vitamins A and C, beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium, and calcium.  Talk about a well-balanced food!

What you need:

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 rib of celery, diced

1 large or 2 small carrots, diced

2 tablespoons butter

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, chopped into ½-inch chunks

1 tart green apple (like Granny Smith), peeled, cored, chopped into ½-inch chunks *

3 cups chicken broth

1 cup water

Pinches of nutmeg, cinnamon, cayenne, salt, and pepper

* There should be a ratio of 3 parts squash to 1 part apple

You can usually save yourself time later if you make sure to have all your ingredients ready to go at the start, although with this recipe you’ll have time while certain elements are cooking to prepare what’s needed next. Gather all your produce for chopping, but leave the chicken broth, water, and seasoning for later if you’d prefer.

Ingredients of butternut squash soup

It’s best to tackle the butternut squash first, especially if you’re going to be using a whole one. Cutting up a squash can be difficult (and even a little intimidating!) if you’ve never done it before, so you can always purchase a squash that’s already been partially prepared. You can opt for a pre-cut halved squash, available in the produce department, or if you’re after even more simplicity, choose a ready-to-go tray of peeled and cubed squash, which can be found in 1lb trays under our Sunset Garden Cut Label for $3.99.  Both of these options will save you some prep time without compromising on the quality of the squash.

If you are using a whole butternut squash, the first step is to cut off the top and bottom (about ¼-inch) with a large chef’s knife. Make sure your knife is strong, as the squash can be hard to cut into.

Slicing the ends off of the squash

Then, holding the squash with one hand, use your vegetable peeler to peel off the squash’s outer layer.

Shaving off the outer layer of squash

Once peeled, stand the squash upright on your cutting board, making sure it’s standing nice and sturdy.  Using your chef’s knife, cut the squash down the center lengthwise. Your squash is now cut into two halves, and you can use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and pulp from inside.

Scooping out the seeds and halving the squash

Next, lay one half of your squash on the cutting board, flat side down. Cut that in half, then use your knife to slice each section into pieces.

Slicing the sections of squash

Once your squash is sliced, you can move on to cubing the slices.

Cubing the squash slices

For this recipe, the smaller you chop your ingredients, the faster they will cook, and when cubing your squash, aim to chop it into ½-inch chunks.  Place your squash cubes into one bowl and set that aside for later.

Setting aside the squash cubes

Now that your butternut squash is cubed and ready, you can move on to chopping up your other ingredients.  This recipe is more about ratios than exact measurements when it comes to the produce, so if you’ve got large carrots, use one, and if they are a smaller size, use two.  With the carrots, celery, and onions, it works best to dice them into small pieces so they will cook more quickly.

Chopping the carrots

After you’ve diced your carrots and celery, you can add them to the same bowl until you’re ready for the next stage, since you’ll be cooking them all together.

Dicing the celery stalks

Cut the ends off your onion so you can easily peel off the outer layers.

Peeling off layers of onion

Next, slice and then dice the onion into small pieces and add it to the same bowl as your carrots and celery.

Diced onions, carrots, and celery

The last thing you’ll need to cut up is your apple.  It will need to be peeled and cored first, so if you’ve got an apple corer, you can use that, though a paring knife will also work just fine.  Chop the apple into small pieces (approximately ½-inch pieces, just like the squash), and then your recipe prep is complete!

Chopping green apple into cubes

Now you’re ready to start cooking.  Place a large saucepan on the stove over medium-high heat.  Add your butter and heat for 1-2 minutes or until it’s completely melted; just be careful it doesn’t burn.

Melting the butter

Next, you’re going to add the carrots, celery, and onions, and sauté them for about 5 minutes.  If the vegetables start to brown, simply reduce the heat on the element.

Sauteing the vegetables

Once the carrots, celery, and onions are heated and slightly softened, add the apple, squash, chicken broth, and water to the saucepan.  If you are vegetarian, you can easily substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth, and the recipe will also work equally well with homemade chicken stock, store bought broth, or chicken bouillon cubes. If you do use bouillon cubes, just make sure to check your measurements, as different cubes may have different water requirements, and you might need to do some calculating to make sure you have 3 cups of broth.

Adding broth to the pot

Bring the liquid to a boil, then cover the saucepan with a lid, turning the element down to a low heat to simmer. Leave it to cook for about 30 minutes or until the squash and carrots have softened.

Vegetables simmering over heat

Now you’ll need to remove the saucepan from the heat and purée the soup.  You can use a blender, a food processor, or even just a simple hand blender (also called a stick blender) to get the smooth, silky consistency you’re after.  If you are using a hand blender, you can purée the soup right in the saucepan, starting off with a low setting and gradually increasing the speed until you’re happy with the texture.

Using a food processor to smooth out the soup

The final step is to add your seasoning.  This recipe doesn’t call for a specific amount of each because it really is to taste, according to your personal preference.  If you like your dishes with heat, add a little extra cayenne.  If you love the warm, spiced flavor of cinnamon and nutmeg, add a touch more of those spices.  Table salt and pepper will work just fine, but for an added finesse, use coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Spicing up the butternut squash soup

You can also garnish the soup with some fresh chives or parsley to finish it off.  Now serve yourself a bowl of your freshly made spiced butternut squash soup, settle down on the sofa (or in front of that roaring fire), and enjoy the smooth and savory taste of this perfect autumn dish.

A bowl of soup garnished with parsley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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