In Maine, spring seems to have taken a leave of absence. The relatively warm days of late March have given way to some pretty brisk weather, and indeed my blog friends in New Hampshire and Massachusetts have gotten three to six inches of snow. Oddly enough, in central Maine, we only got a frizzing of snow.
Nevertheless, yesterday I found that the dog’s outside water dish had frozen solid. A chill wind blew through the backyard, and above the bird feeder, the birds on the branches swayed back and forth. A good thing, then, that the yellow of the male goldfinches is becoming ever brighter, a welcome flash in a landscape that is still lacking color.
In the face of such cold weather, what to do, what to do? Why, make squash soup. In a basket in a back room, I had several of Farmer Kev’s squashes that had made it through the winter. Two were butternuts, in perfect condition. My, what good keepers that squash is.
Better still, as far as squash goes, a butternut is relatively easy to cut and peel, and it only has a small pocket of seeds to clean. In no time, one of Farmer Kev’s butternuts was cut in chunks and simmering with potatoes, carrots, onion, garlic, spices, and chicken broth. The whole house was fragrant with the smell of bubbling soup.
After the vegetables had simmered for an hour or so and were really, really soft, Clif took out the trusty immersion blender—surely one of a home cook’s best friends—and puréed everything so that the soup was lovely and thick and smooth.
Now, with the addition of, say, homemade croutons or oyster crackers or toasted squash seeds, that smooth soup would have been good as is. But Clif is the kind of guy who likes soup to have ingredients, so into the puréed mixture I added browned chicken sausage, cooked white beans, and sautéed mushrooms and let everything simmer for fifteen or twenty minutes..
I also made cheese muffins to go with the soup, but that is a recipe for another week.
Clif’s verdict? “Pretty darned good,” and he went back for seconds. He did, however, make an unexpected comment. “This soup is so flavorful that I don’t think it needs any extra ingredients.”
There you have it—a puréed soup that is good enough on its own. Never did I expect to hear this assessment coming from my husband, who has been known to add so many Saltines to his bowl that the whole mess looks like cracker soup.
So to add ingredients to the puréed soup or not to add?
As you like it.
Butternut Squash Soup
- 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
- 2 carrots, peeled and cut into rounds
- 2 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut in half. (If present, remove green center sprout.)
- 1 onion, peeled and chopped
- 32 ounces of chicken broth or water
- 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper
- 1 teaspoon of dried tarragon
- 1 teaspoon of celery seed
- 1 teaspoon of cumin
- Salt to taste
- Optional: beans, mushrooms, sausage, chicken or whatever cooked addition seems good to add to the soup after it has been puréed.
- In a large stockpot, heat a tablespoon or two of oil and add onions, sautéing until they are soft.
- Add the squash, carrots, and potatoes and sauté a few minutes with the onions.
- Add the garlic and sauté for a minute.
- Pour in the chicken broth or water and stir.
- Add the spices and let the mixture simmer for at least an hour, until the vegetables are very, very soft.
- Purée the mixture with a blender, and I strongly recommend an immersion blender. Do put the pot in the sink if you use an immersion blender. You will save yourself a lot of mess.
- Add other cooked ingredients, if so desired, and simmer for 20 minutes or so.
- Before eating this flavorful soup, give thanks for squash and for spring, whenever it may come.