I hope all of you had a great start on 2012 after a fabulous holiday season. I think I'm ready to face the challenges and joy that the year ahead has in store. When a new year comes around it feels like we have a clean slate to begin with and mistakes of the past can be set right. There is a sense of rejuvenation and the want to do good and be good. Have you made any resolutions for the year ? I can never stick to a resolution long enough and so don't attempt to make one these days. I reckon, if the resolution is good enough I can take it up any day of the year and not have to wait for Jan 1st to come around...or may be I'm just to lazy! But I do hope I can begin to improve my fitness levels and enjoy more fruit.
With all the feasting over the last few weeks, eating healthy seems to come as a natural reaction whether you resolve to do so or not. Our mind and body craves for fresh, vibrant produce making up light & healthy meals. But with the cold weather making it through into the new year along with rest of us a warm soup much preferred over a cold salad. I cannot seem to get enough butternut squash this season and I'm going to start off this years posts with a stunning soup. Butternut squash is great in stews, simply roasted or sauteed but they really do shine through in soups. The squash is mildly sweet but it its robustness allows for use of strong herbs & spices too.
Roasting squash is the easiest option for me - toss it in a little olive oil, season with herbs & spices and in it goes for 35-40mins. Since you have the oven going you could choose to roast other veggies like carrots, peppers, onions, zucchini and even garlic to add to your meal. Just make sure you don't overcrowd the pan. My sister-in-law mentioned a recipe she came by for a roasted veggie dip which sounded really good -simply blend up the seasoned roasted veggies with cream cheese and its good to go.
When the squash is out, turn it into a salad on its own using this recipe, add it to greens with some feta cheese, its also good on cooked pasta/couscous/quinoa. This time around I blended the squash with some vegetable stock to get a silky, richly flavored soup devoid of any cream, milk & butter.
Roasted Butternut Squash, Garlic & Thyme SoupPrep time-20minsCook time- 45-50minsServings- 4-5Ingredients:
- 4 cups - Butternut Squash, cubed
- 6 - Garlic cloves, with skins on
- 4-5 - Thyme sprigs
- Salt & Pepper
- 1 cup - Pumpkin puree (optional)
- 3-4 cups - Vegetable stock (low sodium & organic)
- 1/2 cup - Onions & Red pepper, finely diced
- 1/2 tsp - Cumin
- 1/4 tsp - Ginger powder
- 1/8 tsp - Nutmeg, grated &
- 1/2 tsp - Paprika & Cayenne (optional)
- 3 Tbsp - Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Note: You could experiment with using different herbs like rosemary & sage instead of thyme.
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Carefully peel, de-seed & cube butternut squash into fairly uniform pieces. Spread them on a lined baking sheet and coat evenly with 1-2 Tbsp olive oil, salt, pepper and a sprinkle of fresh thyme leaves.
- Coat 6 cloves of garlic with a few drops of oil and fully enclose in parchment or aluminum foil. (You could also use a whole garlic bulb, sliced in half here and use the extras for another recipe)
- Bake in the oven for 30-40mins until the squash is lightly browned around the edges.
- In the mean time, leisurely dice onions and red peppers. Heat around 1/2 Tbsp of olive oil in a pan and add cumin seeds. Once they begin to splutter add onions, peppers, salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional). Cook for 4-5 mins until softened but still having a bit of crunch. Take off heat and reserve.
- When squash is out of the oven and cool enough to handle, transfer to a blender jar adding a cup of stock to the jar first. Squeeze garlic pulp directly into the blender along with pureed pumpkin. Cautiously blend the squash, adding more stock as you go to help out the blender and to get the consistency you like. I left the soup coarse, with a bit of texture and fairly thick.
- Transfer blended soup to a saucepan on medium heat and add spices - dry ginger powder, grated nutmeg, paprika. Taste test and add salt, pepper & cayenne accordingly. A tiny pinch of powdered cardamom/cloves/allspice would also work well here. Stir to combine and simmer for a few minutes allowing the spice to meld together.
- To serve, ladle warm soup into a bowl, top with a couple of spoons of reserved onion-pepper mixture, a few fresh thyme leaves and a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
- Seeds from the squash make a great snack too. Clean and spread them out on a plate, cover with a paper towel and microwave for 40-50seconds until you hear them pop. Sprinkle with salt & pepper if desired.
This soup is absolutely fantastic, if I say so myself, and you cannot deny how gorgeous it looks in a bowl. You could serve it with homemade croutons or toasted bread on the side to dunk into it. The strong spices go very well with the mild squash and make for a warm and hearty soup that could very well be a meal in itself. As you draw in a bit of onions & peppers into each spoonful they make for a nice textural difference that keeps thoughts of baby food far far away. Don't skip the cumin seeds in them either because you'll welcome the occasional crunch they lend to the soup. I also tried a tiny drizzle of pomegranate molasses and it was surprisingly good, so if you have some do give that combo a try as well. Leftovers keep well in the refrigerator tightly sealed for a few days.