My son has made me promise that the next dinner I make will NOT be soup. Oh, but that is so hard. I love, love soup. But I have gone a bit overboard this month. Veggie Bin clean-out Minestrone, Tomato Soup, Chili (I think he counts that as soup too), and probably a Lentil Soup a few weeks back, broken up only infrequently with large casserole of veggie lasangna and a few nights of tacos. But the weather has had that right amount of nip to it, and our days and nights have been just busy enough with school and soccer to make that easily re-heated soup the perfect fall dinner. And so, even though I promised him our next dinner will NOT be soup, I had to make one more: a winter squash soup.
Last week in our CSA bin was a beautiful round orange Kobacha squash just calling out, “Soup! Soup!”. Fnding a couple hours working from home and with the added incentive of a few rainy days, I finally gave into the call. Of course, I didn’t have enough Kobacha so I added in a random can of butternut squash puree I had, and an Acorn squash (that is the way most of my cooking goes), then doctored up a recipe for Kabocha Squash Soup I found online. After my doctoring I was well pleased with this soup, even though it is a bit on the spicy side for the kids (one too many shakes of cayenne). It is different than one of our favorite squash soups, Butternut Squash Soup with Apple Confit, from a favorite cookbook I’ve written about before, Fields of Greens. That soup is lovely, sweet, and appley. A complete and utter favorite. But last week, on a rare and prescious lunch out with my friend Lara, I had a spiced butternut soup. And it was so lovely too. Inspired, I decided this soup must be distinctly different from the other one, and so I jacked up the spice quite a bit.
The suprising, but satisfying, result was a hint of Chai tea spices coming through, and nice little heat. I’ve included my version of the recipe below and although it is mostly my version, I have included their directions for roasting the seeds as next time I will try that as well (remembering not to toss the seeds into the compost before I finish reading through the recipe). I think a little crunch would of been just about perfect. Of course, my son grumbled his way through his bowl tonight. He liked it, he said, but really, really wants something other than soup for dinner soon. I’ve shown him the chicken bought today and set to be roasted tomorrow. And so I’ve promised to make something besides soup. At least for tomorrow.
Chai Squash Soup
3 winter squash- medium sized (I used 1 kabocha, 1 acorn, and 1 can of butternut puree I had on hand)
1 bulb of garlic
4 TBSP olive oil
2 yellow onions, minced
2 celery stalks, minced
3 carrots, minced
4 cups water
2 oz. white wine
3 TBSP honey
2 TBSP cinnamon
1 TBSP all-spice
1-2 tsp ginger
2 pinches cayene pepper (or to taste)
1 cup 1/2 & 1/2, cream, or milk (optional)
salt & fresh ground pepper (about 1 tsp each)
Optional Garnish: parmsan cheese and/or roasted squash seeds
ROAST: Cut squash to be roasted in half. Remove seeds and set aside for roasting if desired (see below). Place squash flesh side down on a well oiled baking pan. Bake for approx. 1 hour at 350 degrees, or until soft and tender. In the same oven, roast your head of garlic. To prepare garlic, cut off the top portion of the head to expose the cloves. Place in a square of foil, and drizzle generously with olive oil. Wrap in foil and place in oven with squash. It should be done at around the same time as the squash–should be tender enough, that when cooled the garlic will squeeze out in a paste like consistency. Cool squash and garlic so you can handle them.
STOVE: When squash is cooled you will be ready to start the soup. Heat olive oil in a large heavy pat over medium high heat. Add onions, celery, carrots and saute until soft. Add in your water. If your carrots are not soft enough to puree yet, then cook the veggies in the water for a short bit. Making sure they are really and truly minced should help with this.
When the veggies are soft and the squash is cooled, add the roasted squash flesh (and any canned squash you are using), along with the roasted garlic (just squeeze the bulb toward the cut end to relase all that garlicky goodness) wine, honey, and spices. Please add all spices to taste. The measurements given are estimates of what I added to mine, but I did do a bit of tasting and adding, tasting and adding, to find the right spice level for me. Start with one dash of cayenne and then add second if desired. Stir and then puree with an immersion blender. Cook over moderate heat until heated through. Add the milk or cream just before serving. Again, this measurement is to taste, so you might want up to 2-3 cups of cream, or leave it vegan with no cream at all. Add s & p to taste as desired. Serve garnished or plain. I thought it was lovely with a nice multi-grain batard.
Optional Garnish: Roasted Squash Seeds
Wash and dry seeds. In a dry, heavy skillet, roast the seeds over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until golden, about 4 or 5 minutes. Transger to a bowl and stir in 1 TBSP oil, a bit of cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper to taste.