Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Squash Soup

I totally feel like a cheater today because I'm posting someone else's recipe in its original form. I usually mix it up a bit, improve on it, and do some alterations before I get a recipe exactly where I want it and pass it on to you, but I'm willing to sink so low because I love this soup. Granted, it's a soup, so if you're male, there's still a good chance you won't like it, and if you're female, there's a terrific chance you will. Why is that?

Anyhow, Jamie Oliver has a new show on the Food Network, and I'm thrilled to watch it. Unfortunately, the recipes are only available inside the U.S. and they don't post all the recipes from the show...I'm sure it's all Jamie's doing, and it's all very understandable. However, the show is fantastic because he grows nearly everything he uses except meats and grains in his backyard (and perhaps some of the meats...definitely the eggs). Everything is fresh, local, and organic. So splendid! I just love it...it's my own personal dream, really. But I digress.

This squash soup is so good...it's warm and hearty, especially hearty for a puréed soup, and has just a touch of heat from the chile. While my carrot soup is lovely and delicate (and can be used for a simpler squash soup substituting squash for carrots), this soup tastes more reminiscent of a winter stew. I didn't make the parmesan croutons to go with it this time, but you may as well go for it. I'm sure they're delicious. Also, I learned a very valuable lesson from this episode: if you chop up butternut squash, simmer it for soup, and purée it, you don't need to peel the skin off of it first. It gets nice and soft and leaves no trace behind once it's puréed. Seriously. In fact, before I tossed everything in the blender, I checked the skin for tenderness, and it was more delicate than the carrots that had been cooking for 25 minutes.

One word of warning: make sure you remove the sage leaves after frying them in the oil (to season the oil). While they enhance the soup with flavor, they don't purée into a smooth consistency, and you'll have to strain them out later if you forget. My only alterations to the recipe were substituting serrano chiles and doubling the amount of celery and carrots. Also, I only made a half recipe and it made more than enough...probably 6 or 8 cups.

Last of all, enjoy. Squash is one of the best parts of the winter foods, and this soup shouldn't be missed.


Butternut Squash Soup
by Jamie Oliver

This fantastic soup is best made with varieties of squash that have dense, orange flesh, such as butternut or acorn squash. It's important to use good chicken stock and season the soup well to bring out the nutty, sweet flavor of the squash. Once you've mastered this recipe, you can take the soup in different ways by adding pearl barley, dried pasta, or some chopped bacon. Even the smallest amount of dried porcini. P.S. I made this in my pressure cooker the other day, with really great results - it's so quick!

Olive oil
16 fresh sage leaves
2 red onions, peeled and chopped
2 sticks celery, trimmed and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves picked
1/2 fresh red chile, to taste, seeded and finely chopped (I substituted serranos)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 1/4 pounds butternut squash, onion squash, or musque de Provence, halved, deseeded and cut into chunks
2 quarts good-quality Chicken or vegetable stock
Extra-virgin olive oil

For the croutons:
Extra-virgin olive oil
16 slices ciabatta bread
1 chunk Parmesan, for grating

Put a very large saucepan on a medium heat and pour in a couple of glugs of olive oil.

Add the sage leaves and fry for around 30 seconds or until dark green and crisp. Quickly remove them with a slotted spoon to a bowl lined with paper towels - you'll use these for sprinkling over at the end. In the pan you'll be left with a beautifully flavored oil, so put it back on the heat and throw in your onion, celery, carrot, garlic, rosemary leaves, chile and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Cook gently for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are sweet and soft. Add the squash and the stock to the pan, bring to the boil and simmer for around 30 minutes.

While the soup is cooking, make your croutons. Drizzle a little olive oil over the ciabatta slices, and press some grated Parmesan onto each side. Place in a non-stick pan without any oil and fry until golden on both sides.

When the squash is soft and cooked through, whiz the soup with an immersion blender or pour it into a standard blender and pulse until you have a smooth puree* (but you can leave it slightly chunky if you like). Most importantly, remember to taste and season it until it's perfect. Divide the soup between your bowls, placing 2 croutons on top of each. Sprinkle with a few of your crispy sage leaves and drizzle with a swirl of good-quality extra-virgin olive oil.

*When blending hot liquids: Remove liquid from the heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Transfer liquid to a blender or food processor and fill it no more than halfway. If using a blender, release one corner of the lid. This prevents the vacuum effect that creates heat explosions. Place a towel over the top of the machine, pulse a few times then process on high speed until smooth.


1 comment:

michele said...

I made this last night, so I can now add to Rachel's endorsement for this soup. It is delicious, if you like butternut squash (which is what I used). I also made the croutons and they are especially tasty with this soup.