Saturday, October 15, 2011

Nothing a good pot of soup won't cure

There's something magical about soup, in my mind. We - the hubster and I - just finished a nice supper featuring a big pot of homemade butternut squash soup. It didn't hurt to have a few slices of homemade honey wheat bread alongside.


I was thinking about soup today. I know, I know...but thinking about food puts me in a happy place. And soup is special food.


It's warm, usually. It takes a while to make, usually. I can make a quick pot of soup, but why? Part of the attraction is the slowing down. Chop this, simmer that, taste and season. Repeat.


Soup generally doesn't take my full attention, either. It takes me a while to work up to it, but once I get started, I can step in and out of the kitchen as needed.


I love the smell of the house when soup simmers on the range, and the smells change as the ingredients begin to come together into soup. First, the nutty scent of melting butter in the pot, then the fresh spicyness of onions and celery. As those soften, I get out a little jar of roasted garlic and add a scant teaspoon to the mix - not too much!


By the time the ingredients are assembled and the soup is bubbling toward completion, the whole place smells like autumn. Then a sprinkle of nutmeg, and I'm dreaming of pumpkins and looking forward to Thanksgiving with my son and daughter-in-law.


Texture is another important quality of soup. Brothy soups are my husband's favorites - the more broth, the better. Me, I like thick, chunky soups. I have been known to use a stick or immersion blender to puree soups, but I think the texture is improved by using a potato masher instead. Lumpy is good.


Tomato basil soup has long been my favorite to make, but tonight's butternut squash soup may well have taken over first place. Here's the recipe - tell me what you think.


Connie's Butternut Squash Soup
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
1 scant teaspoon chopped garlic
1 quart chicken stock, divided
1 bay leaf
1 butternut squash
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 to 1 cup cream or evaporated milk
Nutmeg


Melt butter over medium high heat. Add onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and translucent. While onion and celery cook, peel and seed squash; cut in 2-inch chunks.


Add garlic, 2 cups chicken stock and bay leaf to pot. Add squash, season with salt and pepper. Bring to boil, then cover and simmer 20-30 minutes, until squash is tender. Add more stock as needed.


Remove and discard bay leaf. Mash squash in pot until thick (or use immersion blender). Slowly stir in cream or evaporated milk, alternating with stock, until soup is the thickness you prefer. Sprinkle liberally with nutmeg. Taste and adjust seasonings.


Serving suggestions: Top with toasted nuts or seeds (sunflower seeds and almonds work well), croutons, or a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt, and a sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg. Good with hearty bread on the side, perfect for wiping your bowl clean.


Makes 4-6 servings.