Saturday, October 28, 2006

Winter Squash Soup

For some, the crisp fall weather is fearsome. It means cold weather, leafless trees, heavy jackets, and buckets of snow are on the way. Too worried about the future, they fail to appreciate the present and all the greatness this time of year has to offer. To them I say, be away with you-- move south!

Whatever happened to your love of sledding, apple picking, snowball fights, pumpkin carving, and snow angels? Jumping through billows of fresh fallen leaves or mounds of fresh pure snow? Waking up on a cold morning to icicles covering the windows and pole licking dares (à la A Christmas Story)?

Personally, fall is my favorite time of year. I love the brisk weather, the changing of the trees, and bundling up in sweaters and mittens. I especially love the food of the season: hot cocoa, soups, stews, the spices that emerge (nutmeg, cinnamon, peppermint) and the general hearty warming these things have on the state of mind.

I go into ration mode. I have the summer fruits I bought overripe and cheap, frozen away to be used in the dead of winter for a Caribbean-like fruit smoothie when its bitterly unbearable outside and reminders of warm weather are necessary. I also have my stockpile of soups that begin to accumulate in single serving sized containers, ready to accompany me to the office for a little internal snuggle or a fast dinner when the need arises.

This soup is an exception. Naturally sweet, creamy and delicious, it is hard to put any aside for a later date. A perfect seasonal soup, this dish would look fabulous for a Halloween treat, Thanksgiving feast, or anything in between and beyond. Make this soup, and you may never make another again.

Serving Size= 8-10. Active time= about 40 minutes. Inactive time= about 1 hours.
* 1 White Acorn Squash (or regular Acorn Squash)
* 1 small Butternut Squash
* 1 small Golden Nugget Squash*
* 1 large sweet onion, chopped
* 1 stalk celery, chopped
* 2 carrots, chopped
* 8 cups chicken stock (or vegetable)
* 2 long sticks of fresh Rosemary
* 2 whole cinnamon sticks, about 3 inches long
* 1 teaspoon nutmeg

1) Preheat oven to 350F. Using a heavy sharp knife, slice the three squash down the middle vertically. Gut the seeds (set aside if you want to bake them for eating later, otherwise; discard).
2) Place the squash skin side down on a large cookie sheet and place in middle rack of oven. Bake for 40 minutes, or until soft when poked with a fork.
3) While squash are baking, prepare the other ingredients and begin the soup.
4) In a large stock pot on medium-high heat, warm 2 Tablespoons olive oil or butter (or combination of both). Add onion and sauté until translucent; about 8 minutes.
5) Add celery, carrots, chicken broth, rosemary and cinnamon sticks. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and uncover slightly. The squash should be about done at this time.
6) Remove squash from oven when soft when touched with fork. Using a towel around your hand, or a fork and knife, either peel the skin off the squash, or slice it away, keeping as much meat as possible. Cut squash into 2-3 inch chunks and add to stock pot.
7) Cover and bring to a boil then reduce heat and remove cover.
8) Remove cinnamon sticks and rosemary twigs (leaves will have fallen off). Add nutmeg. Using a handheld blender, or carefully in batches with a regular blender, purée the soup until smooth.
9) Serve plain or with a little heavy cream.
*Note: If you are unable to find these squash in your local market, almost any combination of squash will work. Just Acorn and Butternut would work well, or Acorn, Butternut and pumpkin, etc.

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