Squash Soup – What? No Marshmallows?
Until a few years ago, if you asked me, “do you like squash?” I would have told you that I did and in my mind I would see Acorn squash. Not Butternut. Not Spaghetti. Certainly not Delicata or Patty Pan. Just Acorn. If you asked me how to prepare it, I would have described how to bake it, scoop it, smash it and smother it in butter, brown sugar and marshmallows. Delicious! A very concerned look would cross my face if you asked me if I ever made squash soup.
That was then. This is now.
would you like a sample of our squash soup?
If you ever want to get my attention, simply ask me if I would like to try a sample. Seriously, that’s all it takes. When a smiling lady asked me this from her booth at the Des Moines Farmers’ Market last fall, I paid attention. She handed me a small cup filled with a warm and creamy orange purée, drizzled with just a little cream. I expected to taste the sweetness of squash but did not expect the warmth and depth of curry, onions and garlic. Often, free samples are a method to entice you to purchase a larger portion. This time, however, the free sample was sponsored by a local grocery and they were enticing people to eat healthy. To accomplish this, they gave away the recipe.
TYPE AND SIZE OF SQUASH
Butternut and/or acorn squash work great for this recipe. Spaghetti squash might not be the best choice due to its stringy texture (this theory has yet to be tested in my kitchen). You do not have to be overly particular in choosing the “right” size of squash. Look for a butternut squash about 8″ long or use two small ones. Use two acorn squash for this recipe as they are typically about 6″ long.
Happen to have an abundance of carrots or sweet potatoes? They will work in addition to, or to replace, the squash.
Creamy, without cream
The key to a creamy soup is not necessarily cream. In this case, the consistency is dependent on the squash being cooked properly, the right amount of stock to determine the thickness and the ability to purée all the ingredients.
When roasting the squash, make sure it is cooked all the way through. The empty seed cavity will cook faster than the stem end of a butternut squash. Make sure you test several places on the squash for even cooking.
The amount of stock to add to the soup is flexible. Some people like a really thick soup and some prefer a thinner consistency. You control the thickness by the amount of stock you add. Do not be afraid to add more stock at the end if you find it too thick for your liking.
There are many ways to purée the ingredients. The immersion blender is your friend. It will allow you to blend the ingredients right in the pan in a few minutes. Be careful as it takes a little practice to avoid splattering. An apron is your friend too.
No immersion blender? A regular blender will work. Typically, allowing the ingredients to cool before adding to a blender is recommended. Often the blending will be done in small batches. A food processor can also be used to purée the squash before adding it to the other soup ingredients.
over the top
I had no idea making a cashew cream was so easy. The cashews (or almonds, pistachios, walnuts, etc) are soaked in water for 30-45 minutes. This softens the nuts so they blend well. Skipping the soak will result in a finished cream that has a grainy texture. Look for nuts that do not have an outer “skin” or have that had the “skin” removed. Almonds are a good example. Blanched almonds will work better than those with a brown exterior. Either will work but the outer brown skin will add more texture and color to the cream.
Coconut milk is amazing in this recipe and what I would recommend. If you do not have it on hand, feel free to substitute regular milk.
Thai, italian, mexican, and german
The original recipe was vegan. It called for vegetable stock. As I mentioned above, the soup was seasoned with curry powder and the “cream” was made with coconut milk and cashews. The beauty of this recipe is its versatility. I have made this soup with vegetable and chicken stock. The curry/cashew version is outstanding. We love an Italian combination of crushed red pepper, thyme and almonds (this is the version in the recipe below and pictured throughout the post).
Coming soon to the PLF table? A Mexican twist featuring chipotle peppers, cilantro and tortilla chips.
Who says squash soup has to be savory? I think my grandmothers would be pretty proud if I stuck to my German heritage and seasoned the soup with cinnamon and brown sugar, put some toasted marshmallows on top and drizzled it with a little maple syrup.
Now that sounds delicious!
Squash Soup with Cashew Cream
- 1 medium size butternut squash see text above
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil divided
- Black Pepper
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 1/3 cup cashews see text above
- 1/3 cup Milk see text above
- 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
- 1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pinch sea salt
- toasted pumpkin seeds & cashews
- Preheat oven to 400°.
- Wash and dry the outside of the squash. Cut in half, length wise, and scoop out the seeds.
- Drizzle the cut side with one tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Place squash halves, cut side down, on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 30-40 minutes, or until is it very soft and the skin bubbles. Make sure to test the thickest part of the squash (i.e. the end without the seed cavity). A fork or knife inserted in the skin should go through the squash easily.
- Remove from oven and cool. Peel away the skin.
- Sauté the onions with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a soup pot over medium-low heat. Cook for 4-5 minutes. Add garlic, thyme and crushed red pepper flakes and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes. Slowly add the vegetable or chicken stock and bring to a simmer over medium heat for 5-10 minutes. Add squash and return to simmer.
- Purée soup with an immersion blender until smooth. (Also, see text above for alternate methods of puréeing.
- Serve with cashew cream and toasted pumpkin seeds or cashews.
- Soak the cashews in water for 30-45 minutes.
- Drain off all water. Place the soaked cashews in a blender or food processor with the milk, lime or lemon juice and olive oil. Blend or process until smooth. Season with salt to taste.