We're getting ready for Halloween around here. We don't go ape about it. I'm sure the kids wish I did, but it's just so much WORK. I figure if we keep the expectations low, everyone's happier. We carve two pumpkins and go trick-or-treating in Columbia City. We trick-or-treat in the daylight, which I find much more satisfying. There are some cute-ass babies out there whose parents put a lot more work into the Adorable Factor than I do. We didn't celebrate Halloween when I was little. It's a long story, but suffice it to say I'm seriously determined that my kids will at least come home with loot, get all cracked out on sugar, and have fun tripping on ridiculous costumes.
Halloween means squash, and squash means soup. No doubt countless versions of squash soup are flooding the blogosphere. But when you've got some languishing squash in the basement plus a few gems from friends' gardens, is there anything easier and tastier?
I'll do anything to get around the absolute tedium of peeling squash. Recipes cavalierly say, "5 cups peeled and cubed squash." That's an hour of prep and a possible trip to the emergency room. I discovered a trick recently, though, which is to put your squash halves in the microwave for a minute, which softens them and makes it much less lethal to separate the skin from the flesh. (This sounds appropriately gory for a Halloween post.)
But I just roast everything together on one of my workhorse baking sheets--unpeeled squash cut-side down, some peeled apple, carrot chunks, onion, and garlic cloves, all tossed with a bit of curry powder and sugar. (At least that's how I did it this time. I've never made the same soup twice before starting this blog.) The house smelled amazing when I got back from retrieving Wyatt and Oscar at the bus stop. If Chai Spice Apple Bundt Cake is autumn incarnate, it's got some seasonal competition from this soup. I've made versions of it so many times--for our housewarming seven years ago when I was pregnant with Wyatt, for loads of volunteers where I used to work, for a first course when we've had dinner guests.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when you're making pureed soups:
- Don't be afraid of salt. (I think I'm always giving this tip about everything. Bear with me.)
- It's MUCH easier to thin a soup than to thicken it. For that reason, I always start with less liquid and add as I like.
- I don't like my spoon to stand straight up in my soup, and neither do I like it brothy. Somewhere in-between.
- This soup, because of the great roasted flavor and depth, didn't need cream. I put some in anyway, though, because it gives it a perfect touch of richness. Coconut milk would have been another good choice.
- If you're reheating it the next day, it will likely need more liquid.
- I rarely use chicken stock as the base for pureed soups. Water does just fine--it's cheaper and satisfied the vegetarians. Vegetarian water. That sounds like the next marketing ploy: "Water: Gluten free! Fat free! Guilt free! Meat-free!"
For those of you that sometimes wonder aloud whether my children eat things like this soup, no. They didn't. They complained, pushed their spoons around. I didn't feel bad and I didn't offer them anything else. But here's one little important detail--we did have these biscuits, and that made up for a lot. Wyatt should be Carbohydrate King for Halloween. How would I do that?
Roasted Squash and Apple Soup
I think butternut really is the Prince of Squashes for soup, but I had various ones--delicata, blue hubbard. As long as you use SOME butternut here, you'll be okay. And you can sub coconut milk for cream (just don't boil it vigorously after adding the coconut milk--it will curdle) or leave out the cream/coconut milk altogether. And you can make it spicier. I was trying to entice the kids. Obviously it didn't work. They're holding out for the candy.
1 small Blue Hubbard squash
2 small Butternut squashes
2 small Delicata squashes
1 large apple, cut into wedges
1 small onion, very coarsely chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into carrot sticks (about 6 sticks per carrot)
6 whole garlic cloves, peeled
3 tsp. curry powder
1 Tb. sugar
5 c. water
1/2 c. orange juice
1/3 c. heavy cream
Preheat oven to 375.
Cut each squash in half, remove seeds, and rub with olive oil. Place cut side down on a baking sheet.
In a medium bowl, toss apple, onion, carrots, and garlic cloves with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, 2 ts. of the curry powder, sugar, and salt. Arrange apple mixture around the squash and roast the whole thing for about 50 minutes, until everything is very soft and charred in places. Remove from oven and let cool. Spoon cooked squash out of the skin.
In two batches, put cooked veggies and 2 1/2 c. water into blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Pour into large stockpot and add orange juice, cream, remaining tsp. of curry powder, and more salt to taste. Bring to a simmer and simmer for about 15 minutes until flavors are blended. Serve with a swirl of cream on top, if you like, or a bit of chopped cilantro or parlsey.