Saturday, 18 August 2012

Butternut Squash Soup

            I love the change of seasons so much. August is when I really start to feel it, because the nights get cooler, Football Season starts and all the lovely fall clothes come into the stores. That is my favourite part, because by the end of August I’m sick to death of sundresses and sandals, I just want to put on gorgeous sweaters and coats and boots and feel like I really have an OUTFIT together. And the colours of fall! Jewel tones abound, and I really love that too.

This isn’t a fashion blog though, so I’ll stop talking about all of that. The other main thing that is great about fall is that I feel like I can really cook again, a.k.a use my stove and oven without turning my house into a sauna. So, just the other day in Loblaws, my two loves of food and jewel tones came together when I saw something I had never seen before, purple peppers! Heirloom organic purple peppers that is, and at $5.99/lb, I felt they were quite a steal! Well at least worth the money. They were a lovely eggplant colour, aubergine, if you will, and I was delighted I looked around to see if anyone could join in on my joy. No one could though. The only other people around were a mother and her two little boys, and they were concentrating on which celery to buy, so I was left alone in my love affair with the purple peppers. But that, of course, is when inspiration hit. I felt it was time for a good old-fashioned fall meal. Butternut squash soup, roasted purple pepper salad with goat cheese, and some cherries and chocolate for dessert. Jewel tones for all!
Let’s start with our soup. Chop up a butternut squash into small cubes, removing the skin. I’ll tell you a secret- Loblaws sells them like this already. Sure, it’s $2.99 instead of $0.79, but I promise you that it is worth it, unless you are particularly skilled with large knives. The squash rolls around on the cutting board and it’s extremely tough to cut. Plus it takes about ten hours to get all the peel off, so I don’t really recommend it. Just don’t be chintzy and buy the pre-cut one and tell yourself you’re worth it. You’ve just spent $5.99 on peppers anyway. The rest of the ingredients are:
  • Squash (but you already knew that)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp of butter or bacon fat
  • 2 tbsp of cumin powder
  • 1 cup of milk
  • Chicken stock (enough to cover the squash, about 2 cups)

If you are going to way of bacon fat, you can actually just fry some bacon in your pot and save it to sprinkle on top later. Or you can save your bacon fat in the freezer and use it for flavour in times such as this. You can also use cream instead of milk if you prefer it. I promise, it is much richer and more delicious like that, but I was trying to be healthy because as I have about 17 weddings to attend in the next months and I can’t afford to buy new dresses because I can’t fit in the old ones (because I spend exorbitant amounts of money on food).

Here’s how you make the soup: Put your butter in the pot and add your onion. Allow your onion to soften and then add your squash. Season with the cumin, then salt and pepper to taste. Pour in your chicken stock and then bring it to a boil. Cover and simmer until the squash has softened, about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, turn on your barbecue or broiler and place your peppers on the grill. Char each side until the skin is blackened, about 10 minutes per side. Once they’re black, put them in a Tupperware and leave them covered for about 10 more minutes. This makes the skin come off easily. Peel them and then julienne them, removing the seeds and other bits you won’t want to eat.

Time to deal with that soup. Once the squash is soft, take out your handheld blender, or pour it in a food processor. What doesn’t work particularly well is a blender, as my father and I once found out the hard way. Puree your soup until it is smooth, and then add your milk or cream. Give that a stir and taste the soup. Add any other seasonings you may need.

I realise this looks like squid or something here. 
Now let’s plate. Put some mixed greens down on a plate. On top, place your roasted peppers with crumbled goat cheese on top. You can mix a salad dressing up, or for this, you can drizzle with just olive oil too. Your soup can go in bowl and you can garnish this in a number of ways. If you’ve done the bacon thing, chop up your bacon and crumble that on top, with a dollop of sour cream (this is not of the 17 weddings in two months diet). If you want something lighter, drizzle a little olive oil on top.
For dessert, just put out some nice dark chocolate, I opted for one with chili powder in it, and some cherries. Serve with a nice red; my favourite is the Ravenswood Shiraz. Plus, I love the design on the bottle.  This meal, plus a blanket on the couch with a good book, and you have yourself a very nice fall evening! 

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