Squash soup is a constant on our Thanksgiving table. As a novice cook it was the tried and true Silver Palate version of butternut squash soup with apples and curry that I turned to. This delicious soup with a little bit of sweet and a little bit of spice was always met with rave reviews from friends and family. In recent years I have tried to change it up a little. My basic formula is to combine a winter squash whether it’s Hubbard, butternut, kabocha, with a fall fruit like apples or pears and spiced with flavors that remind me of fall, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice or ginger.
This year’s recipe was developed with inspiration from a visit to the farmers market, butternut squash soup with fresh ginger and Asian pears. When choosing a butternut squash look for one that is evenly beige in color and heavy for it’s size. There should be about an inch of intact stem and the skin should be matte, not shiny in appearance. If the stem is removed, it is easier for bacteria to enter the squash. A shiny butternut squash was picked too young, or worse, waxed. I look for a butternut with a thicker “neck” and a smaller ball. I cut the squash in two pieces, where the neck meets the ball. I find that it’s easier to peel in two separate units. I prefer a vegetable peeler for this task but a thin bladed sharp knife will work as well. I don’t always have the time, but when I do I also toast the seeds for a snack or a garnish.
Butternut squash is a common find at the farmers market in the fall but freshly harvested ginger, that was a new discovery for me. The most visible difference in the freshly harvested ginger was that the skin was soft, not woody and the flesh was much juicier. A little investigation and I discovered it’s not that difficult to grow your own ginger, in our case indoors, since we lack the year round tropical climate. We can try this in the spring when the ginger at the supermarket is at it’s freshest and easiest to root. I’m sure I can convince Joe to try this, maybe growing our own will be the alternative to the shriveled up piece I always seem to have in the fridge.
Asian pears are native to China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan and we even have a few trees in our orchard. The fruit is pome shaped like an apple and unlike it’s European counterparts must fully ripen on the tree. Also, Asian pears are consumed when the flesh is firm and crisp with a somewhat gritty texture, not buttery soft like an Anjou or Bosc.
This is an easy soup to put together, toss the cubed vegetables with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast until they are soft and browned in places. The vegetables are pureed in the food processor with just enough chicken stock to make a thick soup. Cook the puree mixture over medium heat to blend the flavors together. If this soup is made in advance, it will thicken as it sits, just add enough chicken broth to thin it out.
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
- 1 large butternut squash 4-5 lbs., peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
- 1 Asian pear, peeled, cored and sliced
- 1 medium onion in 1-inch dice
- 2 carrots, peeled in 1-inch dice
- 1 large stalk celery in 1-inch dice
- 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled if necessary, cut into 6-8 pieces
- 3T olive oil
- 3-4 cups low sodium chicken broth
- Kosher salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large bowl combine the butternut squash cubes and olive oil. Mix together, coating the cubes well. Sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Spread the squash pieces evenly on a rimmed baking sheet. Be sure not to crowd.
- In the same bowl, toss the pear, carrots and celery to coat with the olive oil that remained in the bowl. Sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Place on a second baking sheet and place both sheets in the oven. Roast for 35-40 minutes, rotating trays top and bottom halfway through the cooking time. Vegetables should be soft and browned.
- In batches, add the roasted cubes to the food processor with enough chicken stock to blend the mixture. Add blended vegetables to a large soup pot and cook over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered for twenty minutes.
- Serve soup warm garnished with pear slices.