Squash Central

Nothing says autumn like a rusty orange-colored thick broth.  With the overabundance of squash, what else can one do but whip out the hand blender and make some deliciously hearty soup?  Moreover, what better way to present a great recipe than by intermingling it with a ridiculous anecdote?

My Butternut Squash Soup was really an impromptu idea.  A friend was coming over for dinner and I had to think fast.  My clarinet/oboe student was about to come for a lesson and I would have about 15 minutes to throw something together before the arrival of my friend.  I quickly did a mental inventory of my fridge.  I had a leek, shallots, about 98 pounds of squash and a boatload of peppers I had recently purchased. I also had a container of mascarpone cheese that was on its second week of sitting unopened in the Jenn Air.  The answer came to me.  I’d make butternut squash soup.  The most time consuming part was roasting the squashes, so I took the largest one and sliced it in half, breaking a sweat – darn, those things are hard to cut open!  I placed them in a roasting pan, cut side down, and tossed them in a 425˚ oven, figuring they’d be soft by the time the lesson was over.

After my student left, I started with the shallots and leeks, chopping somewhere between rough and fine (I was in a hurry, of course) and threw them into a pot that had been preheated with some olive oil.  I added a smashed clove of garlic and some sea salt and pepper.  Next, I commenced with the pepper-chopping.  I had these small red “Jamaican Peppers” I bought in a package at C-Town.  I tasted one, not knowing what to expect, and it was sweet, with a slight bite.  Perfect!  I went to town, chopping up about seven of them, with the intention of using the whole package.  Just then, I realized that the bathroom might not be clean, so I ran across the apartment to survey the area.  It seemed fine and just needed some picking up.  In the midst of this, my eye needed rubbing, so I rubbed it.  Seconds later, it became violently apparent to me that the peppers I had been chopping were spicier than I thought.  Much spicier.

I checked the time and, unfortunately for my eye, realized that I had none to spare.  With a wet paper towel pressed up against my eye, I continued to prepare the soup, now with much fewer peppers than I had originally planned.  In went the squash, which had finished roasting; in went the butter and coconut water.  And finally, the hand blender, to create that great, creamy texture.  Oh, I also dumped some curry in for an earthy note.  Mind you, I was doing all this with one hand.  And then I got a call from my friend, who was running late, of course. Sighing with relief, I slowed down a mite.  As I allowed the soup to finish, I got the idea to top each bowl with a large spoonful of mascarpone, to offset the unplanned spiciness, which actually worked out quite perfectly.  We enjoyed dinner and had a lovely visit.  Oh, and by the way, my friend poured milk into my eye, which worked rather nicely.

Butternut Squash Soup

1 large or 2 small butternut squashes

1 medium shallot – chopped

1 large leek – chopped

2 small Jamaican red peppers – diced

1 medium garlic clove – smashed

1 cup coconut water (coconut cream would be better but I didn’t have any)

2 Tbsp butter

1 Tbsp curry powder

sea salt – to taste

white pepper – to taste

mascarpone cheese, room temperature

Roast the peppers, cut in half, in a 425˚ oven for an hour, or until flesh can be easily pierced with a knife.  While squash is cooking, chop shallots, leek and peppers.  Sauteé in a small amount of olive oil.  Add garlic, salt and pepper.  Once the squash is ready, scoop flesh (not seeds) into the pot.  Add the coconut water, butter and curry powder.  Stir to incorporate all ingredients.  Pureé with hand blender until smooth.  Serve in a beautiful white ceramic bowl.  Top with a large dollop of mascarpone cheese, which should be room temperature by now.  Garnish with a rosemary sprig.


Another quick idea for spaghetti squash:

Roast a halved spaghetti squash in the oven at 425˚ until soft.  Scoop the flesh into a bowl.  Toss with:

1 medium garlic clove, pressed

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup finely chopped dill or any other fresh tender-leafed herb (even arugula)

a small amount of those leftover Jamaican red peppers

Salt and pepper to taste

Eat at room temperature or cold. Mix in with a green salad for something a little different!  The mascarpone goes really well with this also.  In fact, that mascarpone is great straight from the container by itself.


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