Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Roasted Squash Soup

Zucchini being the exception, I have never been a fan of squash. I hated the bitter yellow squash often sautéed along with my beloved green zucchini and the cloying sweet butternut squash soups that were more suited for dessert. One soup I tasted this summer changed my mind. It was from Genoa, that paragon of Portland dining that is nearing its last service. The menu called it "Summer Squash Soup with Marsala and Cream". To my delight, it was savory, not sweet. I ate it up and started to reconsider my squash qualms.

Last week a nice lady from the John Ross gave Brian a butternut squash. Then, a delicata squash arrived in my Organics to You box. I decided to try my hand at roasting the squash and making a soup.

After perusing the web and asking my ex-linecook fiancé, I determined the best way to roast these squashes.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or your Silpat and preheat the oven to 400° F.

Slice the stem end off of the squash, then cut it in half the long way. It will smell like pumpkin! Scoop out the seeds with a sharp spoon. Make sure to clean it well and get all the threads.

Place the squash halves cut-side down on the parchment. Add water to the baking sheet. I didn't know how much to add, so I just dumped about 2 cups on it.

Slide the baking sheet into the oven. I set the timer for 30 minutes to start. After 30 minutes the delicata was ready to take out of the oven. Since the butternut was bigger, it took an extra 15 minutes. You'll know when they are done when you can pierce them easily with a fork and they are kind of squishy. (Or squashy.)

I set the squashes to cool on the cutting board. When they were cool enough to handle, I began to remove the skin. I mostly tried to scrape out the insides with a spoon, but they broke apart into smaller pieces. I found it easiest to peel the skin off with my fingers. Some stubborn pieces wouldn't budge, but they were tender enough to eat, so I just left them. After skinning the squash, I placed them in a container and froze them till I was ready to make soup.

Roasted Squash Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced small
4 celery ribs, diced small
2 roasted squash, peeled and diced
1 red pepper, roasted, peeled and diced
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock*
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons black pepper
1 cup evaporated milk**

Place a heavy pot over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil, onion and celery. Cook about 10 minutes until tender. Add the roasted squash and pepper, stir to combine and heat. Cook 5 more minutes. Add the chicken stock and parsley, salt and pepper. Let it come to a slow boil, then reduce the heat to the lowest setting and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes.

When the squash has broken down and all the vegetables are tender (it should look like bubbling mush), use your immersion blender to puree the soup. If you don't have an immersion blender, puree the soup in batches in a regular blender. (Don't fill the blender more than 1/3 full lest you burn yourself.) I like the texture a bit rough, so we didn't puree it until absolutely smooth. Also, you don't want to overdo it. Like potatoes, squash are very starchy and can become gummy if over-processed.

When the soup is pureed to your preferred texture, stir in the evaporated milk. Turn the heat back up to medium-low and heat it through. Don't let it boil.

We served it plain, but it would be quite good with some herb oil, gremolata or even walnuts.

*Add more stock for a looser soup, and less for thicker.

**Don't get it mixed up with sweetened, condensed milk! Half & half or cream would work here, too.

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