Halloween has come and gone, and I have nothing to show for it.
It seems like every food blogger out there was doing a pumpkin series. Except me. Why? To tell you the truth, I have never used pumpkin in anything. Ever.
I’m not sure why. When I was growing up in New York, there was pumpkin pie everywhere during the holiday season, but I was never a fan. Once, when I was five, my kindergarten class took a trip to a pumpkin farm just before Halloween. We were allowed to pick one pumpkin each from the patch and bring it home. I chose the biggest one I could find, so huge I could barely wrap my arms around it and carry it back to the schoolbus. My mom turned it into soup – soup that lasted for days and days. By the end, I was sick of pumpkin soup.
So, no pumpkin pie, and no pumpkin soup. And it never occurred to me that pumpkin could be used in any other way. Until I started foodblogging and discovered the wonderful preparations everyone came up with this month. Pumpkin bread, pumpkin doughnuts, pumpkin macarons, pumpkin shortbread, pumpkin cupcakes – and yes, soup and pie, too. Seeing so many people turn to pumpkin made me think that maybe it was time I revised my opinion on the Big Orange Guy.
But time got away from me, and before you knew it, Christmas decorations were being put up at the drugstore. Phooey.
So, still no pumpkin-related experimenting. However, I did get around to trying out another vegetable (technically a fruit) that I’ve been dancing around for a while now: the butternut squash.
I know. Everyone has cooked something with butternut squash at least once in their lives. Except me. I just seem to have something against cucurbitaceae. I’ve avoided pumpkin and squash and, while I do like melons, I rarely go out of my way to buy them. Cucumbers are the exception: I could eat cucumbers every day.
Honestly, the only time I ever bought a butternut squash was years ago, when I was an undergrad. My roommate and I were having a Halloween party, and I had bought some pumpkins to decorate – and also a butternut squash. I didn’t even know what it was called back then, I just thought it had a funny shape.
And then I tried to carve it.
How was I supposed to know a butternut squash doesn’t have the same structure as a pumpkin? I ended up with a sprained wrist, and a strong dislike of “whatever the hell that weird, pear-shaped vegetable was.”
But time has passed, and the proliferation of butternut squash recipes piqued my curiosity. So, a couple of weeks ago, I decided to try out this simple soup recipe from Christine Cushing. It was a bit rough getting the hang of peeling the squash, and I half-sprained my wrist again – but it was worth it this time.
It was delicious! I often make soups, whenever I have extra vegetables lying around, but this one was a real hit. I made it again barely a week later, and froze the (massive) leftovers for a rainy day. It has such a wonderful flavour! Laurent and I have decided that the butternut squash is a keeper.
I ended up tweaking the original recipe, namely omitting the pear C.C. puts in: while it certainly sounded good, I found it didn’t add much, and actually subdued the flavour of the squash. However, the inclusion of toasted pine nuts was definitely a plus.
Butternut Squash Soup
Slightly adapted from Christine Cushing
30 g (2 tbsp) butter
1 leek, white part only, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 celery nibs, chopped
1 large butternut squash, or two small ones, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 1/2-1 3/4 liters (6-7 cups) chicken or vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup pine nuts
Melt the butter in a large pot, over medium heat. Add the onion, leek, carrots and celery, salt lightly, and sauté until they begin to soften.
Add the stock, bay leaves and nutmeg, bring to a boil and simmer until the vegetables are very soft, almost done (about 15 minutes). Add the squash and continue simmering until tender (about 5-10 minutes).
Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts. Put them in a skillet over high heat, stirring constantly, until they begin to brown. Do not let them burn. When ready, immediately transfer the nuts to a bowl or plate, and let cool.
When the vegetables are done, remove the bay leaves. Purée the soup in a blender, or with a hand mixer. Reheat the soup and salt to taste. Divide into bowls, decorate with a few toasted pine nuts, sprinkle some freshly cracked pepper and serve immediately.