Two nights ago I made dinner for a group of friends. I had promised a special spicy chicken soup I often make when friends are sick, known as "Rainy Day Soup," as one of the group members had not been feeling well for a few days. However, I realized after planning the meal that some of the others are vegetarians, and the plans changed.
During the past few winter months, I've been stashing away winter squash from the farmer's market. They're delicious and easy to prepare for a quick meal, stay good for weeks on end, and look lovely sitting on my countertop. I picked up a few each weekend when I went to the market, as I was scared that one day I would show up to the market, and POOF, all the squash would be gone and the season would be over.
Stockpiling squash worked out in my favor this week. I decided to make Winter Squash Soup from Smitten Kitchen, which used up my entire butternut and acorn squash stockpile. But worry not! There's still spaghetti and delicata squashes to be made, and one of my favorite farmers still have butternuts available even this far into January.
Winter Squash Soup with Gruyere Croutons
Winter Squash Soup with Gruyere Croutons
Adapted from Bon Appétit, December 1996
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
3 14 1/2-ounce cans low-salt chicken broth
4 cups 1-inch pieces peeled butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)*
4 cups 1-inch pieces peeled acorn squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)*
1 1/4 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
1 1/4 teaspoons minced fresh sage
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
24 1/4-inch-thick baguette bread slices
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon minced fresh sage
Melt butter in large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Add broth, all squash and herbs; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until squash is very tender, about 20 minutes.
Working in batches, puree soup in blender. Return soup to same pot. Stir in cream and sugar; bring to simmer. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill. Rewarm over medium heat before serving.)
Preheat broiler. Butter 1 side of each bread slice. Arrange bread, buttered side up, on baking sheet. Broil until golden, about 1 minute. Turn over. Sprinkle cheese, then thyme and sage over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil until cheese melts, about 1 minute. Ladle soup into bowls.
Top each with croutons and serve.
Notes: As Smitten Kitchen writer Deb recommends, I roasted all my squash beforehand and then scooped out the cooked squash into the soup pot, rather than have to dice and peel raw squash, which takes forever. I also used milk instead of cream, but then found the soup not to be creamy enough, so added a bit of sour cream. I also used plenty of salt and pepper -- I was worried it wasn't flavorful enough.
I also made my own stock for the very first time! I'd never done this before, but had a ton of celery and carrots in the house, along with parsley and thyme, and decided this would be the day. I used Deborah Madison's Quick Stock recipe from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, the best vegetarian reference guide I know. She suggests that you can add certain veggies to flavor the stock in a particular way to match the meal you're making, so I added the seeds from all the roasted squash. Yum! I felt very proud to have done this on my own.
Quick Vegetable Stock
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 celery rib, coarsely chopped
2 bay leaves
4 or more garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
8 or more parsley branches
Heat oil over high heat and add the onion, carrot, and celery. Then add any other vegetables and trimmings that you are using, along with garlic and herbs. Brown vegetables over medium to medium high heat for about 10 minutes. Scrape up and incorporate any brown bits that stick to the bottom of the pan. When vegetables are browned, add 2 teaspoons salt and 2 quarts cold water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer 30-40 minutes. Strain stock through cheese cloth lined colander.