Saturday, January 05, 2013
Soup for the New Year
Happy New Year dear reader! I hope that your holidays were wonderful. With all of the rich foods I ate for the last month I'm ready for soup. It's usually fairly healthy, and perfect when the weather is chilly...which it is now here. Soup is one of my favorite foods...along with chocolate. I rarely write down recipes for the soups I make because my favorite ones are mixtures of onions, often garlic, sometimes carrots and celery, usually various veggies and broth, plus appropriate herbs and some pepper. I use what is in the pantry, in the fridge, in the garden and adjust the amounts both to what is on hand and what I feel like highlighting that day. Often the soup is a wonderful way to use up leftovers so I don't find little containers with exotic decomposed bits of this and that when I clean the fridge.
Day before yesterday I finally found the time to make soup with my last garden grown butternut squash. The peeled chunks of squash were the most gorgeous golden color, even after being roasted in a very hot oven until soft. The pot also contained my usual chopped onions and some garlic, chunks of peeled garnet yam, chunks of a half a Granny Smith apple, peels left on, and chicken broth. After everything was nice and soft from simmering, I added cayenne pepper to contrast with the sweetness of the squash, apple and yams. I also added some ground ginger and some thyme, rosemary and mint for herbs plus lots of freshly ground black pepper.
I used an immersion blender to smooth it out a bit, but there was still plenty of texture. I also added a half cup of buttermilk and a half cup regular milk, plus some more broth until I had just the right consistency.
A few days before I had made a meatloaf with some ground pork, similar herbs to those used in the soup, onion, garlic, cooked bulgher wheat, feta cheese and Parmesan cheese. Once it was baked we had it for dinner with a nice salad, but there was still some left.
At dinnertime yesterday I had one of those 'light bulb' moments when I realized that the flavors of the meatloaf would go really well with those of the soup. I also decided that the soup needed some greens. Just before I was ready to serve, I reheated the meatloaf and cut it into bite sized chunks. In two soup bowls I placed handfuls of washed baby spinach, then microwaved the bowls on high for 2 minutes to wilt the greens. The soup was ladled on top and the chunks of meatloaf topped it all. The photo only shows the soup, with no spinach or meatloaf chunks...seems I forgot to take a photo at dinnertime and was able to do a quick snapshot yesterday at lunchtime when Sweetie was just about ready to polish off the last of the soup in this unadorned state.
The dinnertime soup looked lovely with that golden colored soup and some green from the spinach when I stirred it up. It also smelled wonderful! Best of all the flavors all came together. Sweetie is convinced that this is the best soup I've ever made. I'll let him think that until the next time that inspiration strikes!
Butternut Squash Soup with Spinach
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 average-sized Butternut Squash
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium to large sweet potato or yam
½ large Granny Smith Apple
2 ½ - 3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
½ cup milk
½ cup fat-free buttermilk
½ teaspoon dried ginger powder
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon dried mint
¼ teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
fresh ground pepper to taste (I used a LOT - gave it a nice kick)
a large handfuls washed baby spinach for each serving
meatloaf chunks (optional)
1. Peel and seed the squash. Cut into 1/2 inch chunks. In a large food safe bag (I use recycled plastic bags from the produce section of the grocery store), combine the squash chunks, 1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil, salt and pepper. Spread the squash chunks on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast in a preheated 400 degree F oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
2. Peel onion and chop. Set aside. Peel potato and apples and cut into ¼ inch chunks.
3. Over medium heat in a large saucepan/stock pot, heat 1 tablespoon oil and stir onion and garlic until tender.
4. Add stock, yam chunks, apple chunks, and seasonings. Give it a good stir, reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for about 20 minutes until the yam and apple chunks are fork tender. Add the reserved roasted squash chunks and stir. Heat another 2-3 minutes to heat the squash. Remove from heat.
5. In a blender or food processor scoop about ½ of the mixture into blender. On low speed, blend until nicely pureed. While doing this, add about ¼ cup of milk and ¼ cup of buttermilk until creamy. Transfer this to a bowl or a 2nd pot. Alternately, use an immersion blender to puree the whole pot of soup in the pot, being sure to add the milk and buttermilk (a total of ½ cup each milk and buttermilk) .
6. Repeat step 5, adding another ¼ cup of milk and ¼ cup buttermilk and transfer to bowl or pot; continue until all soup has been creamed.
7. Put soup back on very low heat, stirring to blend, and adding lots of black pepper...yum! Simmer for 15 minutes and taste soup. Adjust seasonings and, if needed, more broth, to get the consistency you like. Simmer another 2 minutes at very low heat.
8. To serve, place a handful of washed baby spinach leaves in the bottom of each microwavable bowl for the number you are serving. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Top each portion of wilted spinach with a serving of the soup. Garnish as desired. For a hearty soup, top with chunks of warm meatloaf as I did.