Thursday, January 27, 2011

They do the work and I get all the credit

In 2004 Paulette Mitchell's "A Beautiful Bowl of Soup - The Best Vegetarian Recipes" was published by Chronicle Books, San Francisco, California. My younger daughter is vegetarian, and I was desperately looking for some fresh ideas for easy, nourishing, interesting meals. (Even something as comforting as cream of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches can get boring after a while.)

The soups in this book are anything but boring -- "Black Bean Soup with Mango Salsa", "Jalapeno-Corn Chowder", "Caramelized Onion Soup" are just a few of my favorites. Today "Roasted Butternut Squash Soup" is on the menu. 

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine the scent of sweet squash, carrots, onions and garlic caramelizing in the oven while you sit and relax. These heat-softened vegetables then become beautiful silky golden-orange bliss with the help of your blender. A few more moments in a Dutch oven on your stove top and your soup is ready. Your oven, blender, and stove top do all the labor and you reap the accolades.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds), quartered lengthwise and seeded
1 large yellow onion, peeled and quartered
2 carrots, halved horizontally (and also vertically if very thick)
olive oil for brushing, plus 1 tablespoon
1 whole head garlic
3 cups vegetable stock
1 tsp. curry powder
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground pepper, to taste
2 tsp. minced fresh oregano, or 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup milk or half-and-half
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Place the squash segments skin side up, on the prepared baking sheet. Surround with the onion and carrots. Brush all the surfaces lightly with olive oil. Gently remove the lose papery skin from the garlic head. Trim off the top stem and about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of the garlic, exposing the cloves but leaving them intact; brush lightly with olive oil. Wrap the garlic in aluminum foil and place on the baking sheet.

Roast the vegetables in the center of the oven or about 40 minutes, or until they are very tender. Set aside until the squash and garlic are cool enough to handle.

Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins; scrape the flesh from the squash. Add half of the garlic, squash, onion, and carrots to the blender. Add about 1 cup of the vegetable stock and puree until smooth; repeat.

Heat the 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the curry powder; stir for about 30 seconds. Pour the soup into the pan. Stir in the remaining 1 cup stock, the sherry, brown sugar, pepper, oregano, and cinnamon. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally,for about 10 minutes. Add the milk and stir until heated through. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

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