I had to make room in my hateful, miniscule, dorm-room size refrigerator for the 25-pound turkey, the 10-pound spiral cut ham and all the trimmings that go with Thanksgiving dinner. On a mission, I threw out THREE, count ’em, three, opened jars of Greek pistachio spoon sweets in syrup. Keeping one, the thought occurred to me, “Really? Who needs four OPEN jars of that ambrosial stuff?” Into the trash went an enormous, almost empty jar of jalapenos in brine, four lonely slices sloshing around the glass. I found an unopened jar of that fabulous jar of fig in red wine jam I made a month or two ago. I set in on the counter…in the maybe section. The plastic container filled with obsidian green spinach, dark and glossy with olive oil and sautéed garlic…out you go. And then I discovered the leftover butternut squash I had roasted several nights ago. It was gorgeous and I knew I couldn’t part with it. I had run into my friend, Brooke, at Michael’s Craft Store the other day and after laughing and chewing over our personal problems, our children’s problems and our career problems we moved on to discussing dinner. She asked me if I had a good recipe for roasted butternut soup. “No”, I answered, “I don’t. Every recipe I’ve tried has always been a significant disappointment. Why, do you??” She did not. Today I figured I’d come up with my version of a roasted butternut soup that would make me swoon with culinary delight whether it be hot, warm or cold. I was determined to make those leftovers work for me. I pulled out every cookbook and recipe I had. I didn’t want a soup strong with the flavors of ginger, cinnamon or cumin. No. I wanted a French-style soup that had the sweet yet savory flavor that butternut squash can be coaxed to share. You know. The kind of flavor you get in a $14.00 cup lunching at some stellar museum restaurant. Well! This is it. Silky smooth, it is noting short of perfection. That bowl that’s in the photos? I gobbled it down. You will love this winter soup. The squash may be roasted specifically for the soup or you can use your leftovers. It can be pureed with an immersion stick blender, (that’s what I use), a food processor or a traditional blender. It’s beautiful. Enjoy!
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 1/2 pounds butternut squash
- 6 tablespoons butter, divided
- 5 scallions, white and pale green parts chopped
- 5 stalks celery, chopped, leaves included
- 6 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 quarts, (8 cups), water
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- salt and pepper to taste
- Pre-heat oven to 375°. Cut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds.
- Rub 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the cut side and into the bowl of each piece of squash.
- Sprinkle half of the brown sugar over each piece of squash and roast in the oven until fork tender, anywhere from 45 minutes to 90 minutes depending on the thickness of the squash.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool enough to handle. Set aside.
- While the squash is cooling, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a large, heavy bottomed pot.
- Add the scallions to the butter, stirring often, and cook until limp and translucent.
- Add the carrots and celery and stir well to coat all the vegetables with the butter.
- With a large spoon, scoop the flesh of the squash out of the peel and add it to the pot. Discard the peel.
- Add the water and bring to a boil.
- Drop the heat down to a simmer and let the vegetables gently cook for 45 minutes or until all the vegetables are soft and tender.
- Puree the soup until it is completely smooth. Add the remaing 2 tablespoons of butter and cayenne pepper and stir until completely incorporated.
- Add salt and pepper as needed.
- Serve hot, warm or cold.
Y’all ever been in the South on a Sunday? Anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line? Because Sunday in the South means church, church clothes, (NO tank tops, flip-flops or shorts!), and relaxing with family over dish after well prepared dish of southern classics. When I was in school in Macon I was stunned by the array of vegetable dishes offered in friends homes not to mention the platters of fried chicken, smothered chicken, baked ham, roasted turkey or tenderloin of beef. Remember, Mama couldn’t and didn’t cook so in our house, growing up, Sundays meant a gorgeous table laid with glistening silver and china, beautifully arranged flowers and burnt food. Yep. Mama would serve food that was completely black and burned on one side. She’d just plate that zucchini, chicken, dolphin, anything charcoal side down and keep on keepin’ on. As a result, my time spent in girlfriends houses was filled with awe and wonder. Not because they had beautifully appointed homes. Heck, no. I had that! It was that I was continually astonished at the culinary epiphanies that hit me round every corner. Strawberry jam, BUTTER, fried chicken, iced tea…grilled cheese sandwiches. And Sundays in a Southern home meant side boards groaning under the weight of every vegetable imaginable, at least six or seven, and that didn’t include the biscuits and desserts. Most Sunday dinners included squash casserole and I soon learned there are good ones and there are bad ones, however, that is completely subjective. Some featured thick rounds of squash glistening with butter, the seeds leering back at me as if to remind me of Mama’s blackened attempts of zucchini and summer squash. Ugh. Her squash was the definition of gross. I must tell you, though, there is another method of preparing squash casserole which requires you to process the cooked squash mixture and the outcome is pure magic. Smooth but still with texture this summer squash casserole doesn’t even taste like a vegetable. Yes, the squash is sweet but the addition of onions and pepper-jack cheese gives it a savory, piquant twist you will positively love. It’s the only way I’ll eat summer squash. My hope is the next time you put out a big, Southern-style spread replete with English peas, black-eyed peas with snaps, collard greens with pot likker, candied sweet potatoes, tomato aspic, stewed okra and tomatoes, sweet and sour red cabbage and fresh shelled lady peas you’ll consider serving this glorious summer squash casserole.
Summer Squash Casserole
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 4 1/2 pounds yellow squash, roughly chopped
- 1 cup plain Greek yoghurt, or any plain, thick yoghurt
- 8 ounces pepper-jack cheese, grated
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- Pre-heat oven to 350°.
- In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the chopped onion. Cook until clear but not browned.
- Add the chopped squash and gently stir to coat with the oil and onions. Adjust the heat if needed so as to cook the squash but not to brown. Stir occasionally for the squash to cook evenly and for the juices to evaporate or cook off. You don’t want any liquid as that will cause the casserole to be watery. Cooking the squash may take as long as 15 minutes. That’s fine. Get rid of the water.
- Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool 10-15 minutes.
- While the squash is cooling mix the Panko with the teaspoon of olive oil and toss well that all the crumbs are covered. Set aside.
- Transfer the squash to a food processor or blender and pulse until there are no lumps or large pieces of squash. Return squash to pan.
- To the squash add the yoghurt and cheese and mix thoroughly by hand. Taste for salt and pepper.
- Add the eggs and wine and stir well.
- Pour the mixture into a greased 9 X 13 pan. Scatter Panko crumbs evenly over top.
- Bake for 35-45 minutes or until golden brown on top.