If you’re looking for autumn in a bowl, this is the recipe for you. I wanted to make a recipe for butternut squash soup that would use affordable and seasonal ingredients, as well as appeal to my husband. It also needed to be healthy, no heavy cream and light on the butter. Not only did I meet all those qualifications, but this is a SUPER simple butternut squash soup because it’s all made in one pot.
I’ve mentioned before that my husband doesn’t let me buy squash. If it comes in our CSA or is given to us then he’ll let me force him to eat it. But I’m not allowed to spend money on squash. In fact last year for our CSA he tried to convince me to just throw the squash away! But it’s been fun coming up with squash recipes that he will actually eat without complaint. Typically his response is, “It’s fine. It’s still squash though.”
My feeling aren’t hurt, don’t worry. I see his food aversions as a challenge. I always tell my class participants that if someone doesn’t like what you cooked for them, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad cook (well usually). It means that there is something about that specific recipe they don’t like. Maybe it’s the texture, maybe it’s the flavor of one ingredient, maybe it’s the combination of two ingredients, or the arrangement of the food. When you start studying the things they say they don’t like, you can learn to adapt recipes to suit their taste.
Eric’s not really a picky eater. Since I started cooking for him over 4 years ago his tastes have definitely become more discriminating, in fact there are a lot of things he won’t eat now because he’s gotten used to eating healthy flavorful food made from whole ingredients. But there are a few things he doesn’t like and two of them are squash and pureed soups. That of course just added to the challenge of coming up with a creamy butternut squash soup recipe that wouldn’t make him feel like he was eating baby food.
I decided on an onion because that’s always a good base for any vegetable soup, red onion tastes fine but if you want a nice bright orange color use a yellow onion, red onion gives a muddier color to the soup. I also added a couple thin skinned white potatoes to thicken the soup and make it creamy. In the Healthy Cooking on a Tight Budget class this week we made it without potatoes and it still tasted great, just wasn’t quite as thick and starchy.
I used my homemade vegetable stock for the broth base. To add some brightness I wanted orange juice and zest, but rather than going with navel oranges I decided on clementines which were a lot more affordable because they’re in season right now. Once everything had cooked and softened (the squash ends up looking like gorgeous chunks of peaches) I pureed it with an immersion blender. Then I started tasting.
I love tasting to add salt because it never fails to amaze my how much just a little salt can bring out the flavors of a dish. I had originally thought of using some spicy seasonings in the soup, but once I tasted it my tongue immediately craved nutmeg and ginger. After adding those I thought it needed a little allspice for an earthy sweetness.
Once I had the soup perfect I needed to figure out how to get Eric to eat it. There needed to something in it to chew on so that he didn’t get the baby food feeling with each bite. First I tried pomegranate seeds, and though I loved the surprising burst of pomegranate juice to wash down every bite of soup, it was too weird for Eric. Next a tried dried cranberries, talk about hitting the nail on the head!!! The dried cranberries made the soup bright and cheerful, like a surprising sunny day in the midst of our cold rainy weather.
Eric LOVED the soup! I paired it with a simple toasted sandwich of whole wheat bread, turkey pastrami and sharp cheddar. We both thought it was the best meal we’ve had recently. It was also the biggest hit in cooking class yesterday! All in all I think this is the best soup recipe I’ve ever made. It’s so perfect for this fall weather and warms me inside and out. Oh and just for fun, if you’re looking for a grown up Halloween party recipe you can even decorate the soup with a sour cream spiderweb.
Butternut Squash SoupMakes 5-7 servings
3 TBS butter
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 med white thin skinned potatoes (or other potatoes peeled), diced
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
¼ cup orange juice (I used seasonal clementines)
1 TBS orange zest (used clementines as well)
3 cups vegetable stock
1 ½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp fresh ground pepper
¼ tsp all spice
¼ tsp fresh ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground ginger
½ cup dried cranberries
Melt the butter in a large pot on medium, then add the onion. Stir to coat the onion in the butter and let cook 3 minutes until it starts to soften. Add the diced potatoes and squash and stir again. Let cook another 5 minutes, stirring every minute or so.
Add orange juice, zest and vegetable stock. Stir and cover the pot. Let simmer for 30 minutes.
Use an immersion blender (make sure it’s submerged, this soup is like napalm!) to blend the vegetables into a nice thick and creamy soup. Once blended, add salt pepper and spices, tasting as you go.
Ladle soup into individual mugs or bowls and sprinkle with dried cranberries (pomegranate seeds are fun too!).
Approximate cost/serving: Squash is so affordable in the fall and early winter, and using cuties is cheaper as well because they’re in season. The whole recipe cost me around $5 to make. It easily fed 7 people with some bread on the side so just 71 cents a serving!
Vegetarian/Gluten Free: Yes on both counts, although I’ve heard some store bought broths can contain wheat so you’re much safer (and cheaper) using homemade vegetable stock. Can be made a vegan recipe by using olive oil in place of butter.