There are a few things that were introduced during my lifetime that can be considered truly life-changing…the internet, smart phones, fourth generation antihstamines, and some others. These are really great and all, but today I am reminded of a two other “discoveries” that have significantly changed my life, specifically in regards to the autumn season: no-peel winter squash and the immersion blender.
The pureed squash soup is like the elixir of fall. There is something about that warm, slightly sweet orange silky squash liquor served in a big bowl or just a mug. Its something I look forward to every year when I see the piles of butternut squash and pumpkins at every store in town. Every season, I make up batch to kick off the shorter days and cooler temps. I have tried many a recipe, and have come up with an adaptation that works for whatever I have on hand. The only real requirement is that you have squash, and a preheated oven at 425°F.
See that pretty dumpling above? This is the ultimate of winter squash (in my opinion). This little nugget is the French heirloom potimarron squash. The name is a combination of two words: potiron (pumpkin) and chestnut (marron), and the flavor is a delightful marriage of the two as well. It is by far not only my favorite winter squash but also my favorite pumpkin, hands down. This squash is also called red kuri or hokaiddo or onion squash, depending on where it is grown. Beyond the flavor, the best part is that this is a thin-skinned squash which means…NO PEELING (enter sounds of crowds cheering! alarms blaring! fireworks exploding!)
If you have never experienced the wonder of not peeling a winter squash, I implore you to get on this. My first no-peel squash was a delicata I received in a CSA box many moons ago, and it was an eye-opening culinary experience to be sure. I looked for that squash for years in two different cities, and nary a grocery stocked it. I knew the solution: grow my own. While I intended to grow delicata squash my first year of the garden, the seed company I was using only had it available in their membership program, which I was not a part of. Instead, I found their potimarron in the seed catalogue which said no peeling was required so I took a chance. I have never looked back since. Granted, these do not store well because of the peel (two weeks at best; probably why there is no commercial presence), but two weeks is about all I can hold out for anyways.
So let’s get started on this special soup journey. To start, take the little squash and just cut of the top and bottom, scoop out the seeds and strings (save for the broth later), cut into chunks and mix with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Easy like Sunday Morning.
To flavor our soup, I like to use this combination of pear, tomato, garlic, and leek. But you can also use apples, onions, ginger, peppers, anything. I happen to not have any leeks on hand, but I do have sweet onion. The combination of sweet and savory really enhances the sweetness of the squash but not in an over the top way.
Cut the vegetables in half so they are all roughly the same size, removing seeds and stems. You can peel anything that requires peeling, but I tend to be a no-peel advocate if I can get away with it.
Just like with the squash, toss in a little olive oil, salt and pepper.
Lay everything out onto a large roasting pan, and stick in the oven for a good 30 minutes at 425°F, or until the squash is nice and tender.
While that is roasting, heat up 6 cups of broth (chicken or vegetable or whatever you have) to boil. I am woefully out of my homemade broth, I have some bullion cubes that will do fine in a pinch. To enhance the flavor, you can add the squash seeds and guts to the broth, reduce to a simmer, and let it mellow until its time to add the vegetables and then remove.
The thing about a squash soup is that it needs to be pureed. Chunks of squash and other vegetables in a bowl of loose broth would just not translate the same way, nor be as beautiful or delicious. The flavors have to marry to make it truly enticing. Typically, this is done by using a blender in batches and you see directions that suggest at any time the hot soup and chunks will explode in a furry of chunky orange projectile blender vomit if not done properly. I have no intentions to clean squash off my ceilings, thank you very much.
Enter the greatest kitchen utensil since the slow cooker: the immersion blender. This bad boy is not just a God-send, it’s a life-changing soup instrument. It also reduces post-soup making cleanup by 5 dishes, which in and of itself, is a gadget worthy of an extra trip to Bed Bath and Beyond.
Once your veggies are roasted up, just pop them into the simmering broth (after removing seeds/guts). Hook up that immersion blender, and BLEND BABY BLEND.
Look at that…
Lovely silky and smooth…
At this point, you could just add a big straw and be done with it. Or you could add a few enhancements. I like to top each bowl with a handful of crumbled gorgonzola and some chopped hazelnuts. You could also do a dollop of whole milk Greek yogurt and a drizzle of maple syrup. You could also do a sprinkle of fried sage and prosciutto. You could also do sharp cheddar and apple chips. Whatever floats your boat.
How every you top it off, you won’t regret it. Simple, sweet and savory, no-peel immersion blended winter squash soup. If only every day could be like today.
Life-Changing Squash Soup
- 1 potimarron squash, about 3-4 lb., stemmed and seeds and strings removed and set aside (can also substitute butternut, pumpkin or acorn but peel these first!)
- 2 medium pears (or 4 small), stemmed and cored
- 2 medium tomatoes, halved
- 1 medium onion (or half large), chopped into wedges
- 3-4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp pepper
- 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 oz. Gorgonzola or blue stilton cheese, crumbled
- 2 oz. chopped hazelnuts
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Cut squash into small wedges, toss with half the olive oil, and half the salt and pepper. Arrange squash, skin-side down, on a baking sheet.
- Toss prepped pears, tomatos and onion in remaining olive oil, salt and pepper. Arrange on a second baking sheet skin-side down.
- Put both sheets into the oven for 30 min. to roast.
- Heat broth in a large pot to boil. Add reserved pulp and seeds to broth, and reduce to simmer. Let simmer until vegetables are done, then remove pulp and seeds and discard.
- Add roasted vegetables to broth. Use immersion blender to puree entire batch to a consistent texture so that there are no lumps or large pieces. If you want a thinner soup, add water as needed.
- Serve immediately, and top with scant crumbled cheese and scant chopped hazelnuts to taste.