We were treated with a few weeks of lovely spring weather starting around the end of January. Sixty degrees, sun, not much wind. Even the trees and flowering plants got confused and started sprouting their buds. Chris and I took advantage with a few long bike rides on the American River Parkway and a hike in Napa Valley. And then, this week, the temperature dropped and the rain came in. Now, I'm not complaining, because I know we need the rain and all of that, plus the rain gives me the opportunity to wear my green rain boots (which I just adore). Also, it gives me the opportunity to cook some more comfort foods, because 45 degrees and raining requires comfort food.
Butternut squash soup is really a divine form of comfort food. Not heavy or dense, this soup is velvety soft and incredibly smooth, with a hint of woodsy maple syrup to just lightly enhance the sweetness of the squash. I use just a small amount of cream and butter; enough to give it softness but without drowning out the flavor of the soup (which is what I feel happens with recipes that use too much of these ingredients). Served with a slice of homemade crusty bread and a glass of equally smooth Chardonnay, and you're ready for a cozy evening.
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Makes one big pot of soup
1 2-lb butternut squash, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 onions, sliced thin
36-oz vegetable stock or broth
2 tbsp real maple syrup*
Salt & fresh ground pepper
1/4 c heavy cream
2 tbsp butter, diced
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil or a non-stick mat.
Place butternut squash in a bowl with the garlic cloves. Add 2 tbsp olive oil and a pinch each of salt & pepper; toss to coat. Turn the squash onto the baking sheet and spread across the baking sheet into a single layer. Put in the oven and roast for 15-20 minutes or until soft.
While the squash is cooking, heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and saute until soft and brown, about 10 minutes. Once the squash is done, add the squash to the pot. Pour in the vegetable stock and use it to deglaze the pan. Add maple syrup, stir to combine. Turn off the heat.
Spoon the mixture into a food process or blender, trying to get as even an amount of squash and liquid as possible. Puree until smooth. Place a fine mesh sieve over a clean soup pot; pour the pureed mixture through the sieve. Using a wooden spoon, push the puree through the sieve. If anything does not go through, return it to the other saucepan to be pureed again. Repeat this process until all the soup is pureed and strained through the sieve into the new soup pot.
Place the new soup pot (of the pureed soup) on the stove over low heat. Add cream and butter, stir until butter is melted. Taste, adding more salt, pepper, or maple syrup as needed (it should not be sweet, but you should get a hint of the syrup). Continue to stir until the soup is heated through. Serve hot.
*Please use real maple syrup in this recipe. Many syrups available at grocery stores are combinations of corn syrup and caramel color and will add a painful sweetness with absolutely no flavor. The only ingredient should be "pure maple syrup."