Friday, October 21, 2011

A New Favorite Farm Soup

Recently, my friend Kimberly (who has a terrific blog, by the way) proposed/challenged trying a new soup each week for a month.  Well, I'd been planning to try making a winter squash type soup for some time so I decided this was just the "kick-in-pants" I needed to get started!

Vegetable peelings

Recipes for some type of squash soup are everywhere this time of year and most of them are very, very similar. If you do an online search and then read reviews of some of them, you'll often find comments about the soup being too bland and some suggest the use of potato adds to the bland-ness. Well, I think you probably need the potato to add to the thickness but what I did was to substitute a couple of carrots for some of the potato. I’m not sure how much difference it made, but it all tasted great! Then because squash speaks to me of needing autumn flavors, I just added the same set of spices that I put in my home made Tomato Soup. I read one recipe that used curry powder as the seasoning and I’ll bet that would be good, too. Something else I want to add to this next time is red pepper – either just sautéed along with the main vegetables or roasted and then added to it. For some reason, I was thinking adding sage to the seasoning would be great. You’ll notice that I added fresh pressed cider as part of the liquid and so that got me to thinking that you could include an apple or two to the sauté.

Really fresh pressed cider!  My grandsons pressing apples they picked with Aunt Mo and Uncle Chris - they had a blast!
This recipe offers itself up to so many possibilites!  I think you could add all different kinds of liquid to help flavor it.  I did the apple cider but you could try some orange juice.  And instead of maple syrup for flavoring, how about a nice rum?  just a splash....

Anyway, this came out a huge success and my husband now has a new favorite soup!  I have plenty more Butternut Squash and lots of other vegetables to throw in the mix, so I know it will be in our bowls many more times this winter.  Here it is, our version of a classic ;)

My own adaptation after studying several different blogs and recipes, using what I had on hand and seasonings we are partial to

1 whole garlic bulb, roasted

1 medium butternut sqush, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks*

1 large potato, peeled and diced (I used a freshly dug and scrubbed Kennebec potato from my brother’s garden. I’ll bet a Yukon Gold would be nice, too, or even a sweet potato)

2 large carrots, (also freshly dug and scrubbed from my brother’s garden!) cut into chunks

1 large yellow onion, chopped (you guessed it, this came from my brother’s garden, too)

1 stalk celery, including the leaves (this was from my garden)

3 Tbsp butter

3 cups water (I added half a cup cider to ours, so a total of 3 1/2 cups liquid…I happened to have on hand some that was freshly pressed by my brother-in-law and my grandsons. Yummy)

1 14-1/2 oz. Can chicken broth (I used the low sodium kind) I think you could substitute vegetable broth

1 ½ tsp kosher salt, ¼ tsp fresh ground pepper

½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp each ground allspice, ground nutmeg, ground cloves

½ cup cream, half and half or evaporated milk

Maple syrup

Crumbled feta cheese (hey, Kimberly has a great tutorial on her blog for making a Farmers Cheese that would be delicious here!)

* If you find it a hassle to peel the squash, I don’t know why it wouldn’t be just as easy to go ahead and roast your squash (or do it in the microwave, if that is how you prepare it), scoop it out of the skin and add the cooked squash to the already sautéed vegetables. In fact, now I am thinking that maybe roasting all of the vegetables and then making them into the soup would add a whole other depth of flavor to the finished product. And oh my, what about adding parsnips to the mix?!?

If you don’t already know how to roast garlic, here is the simple way I do it. Don’t peel or separate the cloves, but do take off the papery outer skin and cut just the top off the garlic bulb. Drizzle with olive oil and wrap it up in heavy duty foil. Bake at 425 degrees for 30 minutes or till softened. Have this in the oven while you are preparing the rest of the vegetables for the soup, and let it cool a bit before you have to handle it.

In a large soup pan, Dutch oven or something similar sauté the squash, potato, carrots, onion and celery in the butter until crisp-tender. Add the water, broth, salt and pepper and spices to the vegetables then squeeze the softened garlic into the mixture. Bring it all to a boil then reduce the heat; cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes or till vegetables are tender. Cool slightly.

Using an immersion blender or a food processor, blend into a thick and creamy soup (be careful, the soup is hot!).  At this point, return to the pot and add the cream or milk and maple syrup and allow to heat through. I think I only used two or three tablespoons of syrup for this amount of soup, just enough to sweeten and add that earthly flavor (we like the darker maple syrup). If you don’t want to add cream and maple syrup, don’t. The soup was fine before I added those, but then these two things just took it to the next level - over the top, at least in my opinion.

Ladle your soup into bowls or mugs and top with some crumbled feta cheese (again, a matter of preference. If you don’t like feta cheese, don’t add it!)

Oh, and I didn’t puree the soup until it was entirely thin – it certainly wasn’t runny or anything, and we definitely didn’t feel like we were eating baby food (a complaint I read about a lot of recipes) On the contrary, my husband and I just looked at each other in delight and kept eating. In fact, we finished off most of the pot for supper then each had another soup mug full before bed!  This is destined to become a regular at our table.

If you give my version a try, would you let me know how you like it?  Next up for my soup experiment is a Sausage and Pasta Stew, with lots of good things like tomatoes, peppers (I have a lot of peppers right now) and Italian sausage (made from our own lamb)  I'll certainly let you know how it goes ;)


Joanne said...

Your soup sounds wonderful! Yumm.

Cindy said...

Cary - my mouth is watering! I'm not much of a cook, but I'm trying to turn over a new leaf, about making fresher, less processed foods. This looks like a fantastic dish for a chilly autumn evening! Thank you!

Jody said...

Thanks for the recipes. I will surely try the Squash soup!
I love squash and eat lot of it :-)

Kate said...

This looks great. Thanks for posting. On another note, I picked up "Knit Local" at our library and saw your place listed in the midwest section. Congratulations!