Healthy Eating: Enjoy soup season with butternut squash

Butternut Squash Soup
Butternut Squash Soup

We have entered the season of soup. Halloween arrives. The rains begin. The leaves fall from the trees. Daylight savings time comes. Definitely “soup season.” I love it! One of my favorite Sunday rituals is to make a big pot of soup that feeds the family during the week. I love a dinner of soup, bread and salad. It’s easy and delicious.

Here is one of my favorite soups with a homemade garnish. If you have pumpkins leftover from Halloween, then I encourage you to cut up your pumpkin! Winter squash is flooding the markets right now. This is a wonderful soup to serve anytime and always feels nourishing. I have created a version that is dairy free. But if you want a richer soup feel free to add cream or coconut milk.

In addition, you can change up the herbs and spices. Maybe add coriander and curry. Perhaps a little red pepper flakes, chili pepper and smoked paprika. Thai seasonings would work. As always, use your imagination to transport yourself to another part of the world simply by changing the seasonings that you use in this recipe. This soup is an excellent beginning to any meal or make it the main attraction.

Happy souping. (I just made up that word, but I think it should be a real one!

Butternut Squash Soup**

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
Sea salt
3 pounds butternut squash, cut into cubes
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon thyme
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock (plus more if needed)
2 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon Grade A Dark Amber maple syrup (optional)

Instructions

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat, then add the onion and a pinch of salt and sauté until golden, about 4 minutes. Stir in the cubed squash, cumin, thyme and 1/4 teaspoon salt and sauté until well combined. Pour in 1/2 cup of the broth and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the remaining 5 1/2 cups of broth and another ¼ teaspoon salt and cook until the squash is tender, about 20 minutes.

Put the lemon zest in a blender and puree the soup in batches until very smooth, each time adding the cooking liquid first and then the squash mixture. If need be, add additional broth to reach the desired thickness. Return the soup to the pot over low heat, stir in the lemon juice, maple syrup, and a pinch of salt, and gently reheat. Taste; you may want to add another squeeze of lemon, a pinch or two of salt, or a drizzle of maple syrup. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days or in the freezer for up to three months.

When you are ready to serve, serve hot and garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds.

**Special Note: You can use any winter squash: pumpkin, butternut, buttercup, and delicata are great options. This soup is also delicious made with carrots.

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Ingredients

Seeds scooped from a pumpkin (or any other winter squash like butternut, delicata, or acorn)
Olive oil
Sea salt
Dried spices, your choice (Examples: smoked paprika, cumin, cinnamon, etc.)

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Rinse the seeds in a bowl of water, separating as much of the of stringy squash pieces. Add the seeds to a pot, size dependent on how many seeds you’re cooking. Add enough water to cover the seeds. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a vigorous simmer, and cook for 5 minutes. Strain seeds from water. Add to a towel, and rub off excess water.

Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper. Scatter seeds on pan. Add a drizzle of olive oil, sea salt and spices, if using. Spread seeds into a single layer. Roast for 10 minutes, stir and spread back into a single layer. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes more, until seeds are dry and crisp.

— By Deborah Binder

Deborah Binder lives in Edmonds with her family. She is “dancing with N.E.D.” (no evidence of disease) after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2009. She is a foodie who loves to cook from scratch and share her experiments with her family and friends. She attended culinary school on the East Coast and freelances around town for local chefs. Her current interest in food is learning to eat for health and wellness, while at the same time enjoying the pleasures of the table. As Julia Child once said, “Everything in moderation including butter.” Deborah can be contacted at [email protected].

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