Overflowing my pantry, my winter squash harvest is a treasure that I pluck from when I get the urge to cook something savory and good for you. I have new squash favorites like Kaboucha and Delicata, but I always revert back to Butternut as my go-to winter squash for soups or creamy pasta recipes.
Kaboucha, which is a Japanese pumpkin, has a fluffy, chestnut texture widely used in Asia. I would compare it to a cross between a sweet potato and pumpkin. All winter squashes are full of beta carotene, iron, vitamins, and other good stuff.
So many delicious fall recipes lend itself to these versatile tasty squashes, that I have increased the space devoted to growing them in my veggie garden. And yes, it does take some serious space! A sprawling vine, it can spread up to 10 feet horizontally or vertically, but I consider this a well-earned space in my garden as winter squashes are quite prolific and easy to grow.
When the rinds of winter squash are tough enough to resist being punctured with a fingernail, cut them with a short stub of vine attached, like their cousins, pumpkins. Be sure to wait until they are fully ripened and sit the squash out in the sun to fully cure before storing in a cool place indoors. Keeping for months, squash are handy to pull out from storage when you need something for dinner as a main or side. The only downside to winter squash is preparing them. They are very tough to chop and I once cut the tip of my finger off when chopping one up! To avoid this, you can buy the pre-cut pieces at the supermarket, plus save a ton of time on prep.
Butternut squash soup is a favorite during cold months and once you cook up a batch, you can make several tasty meals from it. My absolute favorite soup cookbook, The New England Soup Factory Cookbook has the best squash soup that I have ever tasted, called Butternut Squash Soup with Calvados, Gorgonzola Cheese, and Prosciutto. I have adapted it somewhat, most notably, adding the sage leaves and using Feta cheese to the garnish.
The recipe is below:
Butternut Squash Soup
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
6 slices of prosciutto, cut into small chunks
1 green apple, thinly sliced
Handful of fresh sage leaves
Crumbled feta cheese
4 T butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 c diced onions
2 c diced carrots
1/2 c diced celery
1/2 c diced parsnips
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and diced – a medium squash
8 c chicken stock
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 T Worcestershire sauce
3 T brown sugar
1 1/2 c light cream
2 to 3 T Calvados, an apple brandy, optional
Garnish: In a saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the prosciutto and pan fry until crispy. Remove from the pan and set aside. In the same pan, add the apple slices and sage leaves and saute lightly until the apples are crisp tender. Set aside.
Soup: In a stockpot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, onions, apples, carrot, celery, parsnips, and butternut squash. Saute for 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about an hour.
Puree the soup in the pot using a hand blender or working in batches with a regular blender until smooth. Return the soup to the pot if using a blender and season with salt and pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and brown sugar. Add the cream and incorporate. Return to the heat and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the Calvados right before serving. Top each serving with a sprinkling of Feta. Garnish with slices of sautéed green apple, the prosciutto and sage leaves on top.
Makes 8 to 10 servings
I guarantee that this will be the best butternut squash soup you have every had!