We’re finally coming into fall here in DC after a long, steamy summer and a very rainy September! Friday night, I made my first batch of my favorite seasonal treat: butternut squash soup. There is some flexibility with this soup, so I make it differently depending on what I have on hand and make big batches so there are lots of leftovers. Sometimes I’ll add a green apple for some tartness, sometimes a few carrots for a deeper orange color and some extra vitamins. I used to make this with chicken broth, but I prefer to use homemade vegetable broth or water now so that the flavor of the meat doesn’t overpower the flavor of the vegetables. If you use water, it will basically make vegetable broth as the vegetables cook in it, but you’ll need to add a lot more salt if you’re not using a broth (which would already have salt in it).
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 small to medium butternut squash
2 carrots (optional)
1 granny smith apple (optional)
water, vegetable broth or chicken broth
salt and pepper, to taste (use more salt if you’re using water instead of broth)
a sprinkle of cinnamon and/or nutmeg, to taste (optional)
1. Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Meanwhile, chop up the onion.
2. When the oil is hot, add the onion and the garlic (press it if you have a garlic press, otherwise peel and mince it). Cook until the onion is translucent and beginning to brown. Meanwhile, wash, peel and chop the butternut squash and carrots. You’ll want the butternut squash to be in uniform-sized chunks so they cook evenly. The carrots can just be chopped into thick circles.
4. Add the squash and carrots to the pot and immediately cover by two inches with water or broth. Turn up the heat to high and bring to a boil (you can save time here by pre-boiling the water or broth while you’re chopping everything else). Once it’s boiling, turn it down to medium-low and simmer. Add some salt here if you’re not using a salty broth.
5. Keep it simmering until the squash and carrots are soft throughout (poke them with a fork to be sure) and the water level has come down so that it’s just barely covering the vegetables. If the squash and carrots are soft and the water isn’t boiling away fast enough, you can turn up the heat. Taste the broth and see if you need to add any more salt. Grind in some pepper while you’re at it.
6. Take the soup off the heat and transfer it into a food processor or blender. (I recommend using a cup or ladle to do this so you don’t risk splashing yourself with boiling water and squash.) If you need to, it’s fine to do it in batches; just don’t overfill or you’ll end up with an orange mess all over your countertops. Run the food processor until it blends up all the vegetables and makes a thick soup — they’ll be so soft by this point that this won’t take long at all, even if you do have to do it in batches.
7. Transfer all the soup into a serving bowl and stir in cinnamon and nutmeg, to taste.
Serves about four.