A few weeks ago a perfectly shaped butternut squash called to me at the market, and I brought it home, not quite sure what I was going to do with it. It was too big to roast as a side dish with dinner, and the day was too lovely to spend a lot of time fussing at the stove. The crisp hint of fall in the air inspired me to think of soup.
I make a lot of soup in the colder parts of the year. It’s generally easy to make, comforting to eat, handy to take to work in a thermos and usually freezes well. You can get a lot of mileage out of a pot of soup!
Soup also offers lots of creative possibilities. That day, I didn’t want to make a typical cream of squash soup, but wanted something heartier. That’s when I got the idea to roast the squash and then a flash of inspiration to roast some garlic at the same time.
Since my squash was quite large, after I wiped it clean I cut it crosswise, then cut each section in half lengthwise. I scraped out the seeds and pulp with a spoon, then placed the squash pieces skin side up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
For the roasted garlic, I pulled off some of the loose paper, then sliced off the top quarter of the bulb, exposing the individual cloves. Placing it on a piece of tin foil, I poured on a teaspoon or so of olive oil, ground some pepper over it, then capped it with the top and wrapped the foil loosely around it. On the baking sheet it went.
While I was at it, I decided to roast some onion as well, so I peeled one, cut it in half and flung that on the tray too.
Into the oven it all went where it roasted at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes while I enjoyed the sunshine with a book on the patio. Then back into the kitchen where I removed the tenderly cooked squash from its skin, and put it into the food processor along with the onion and garlic. I included any caramelized bits, as they add to the flavour. It’s fun and a bit of a sticky process to squeeze the soft garlic out of the roasted bulb, but you may need to use an oven pad or towel to keep from burning your fingers. (Or let it cool longer than I usually do!)
After pulsing in the processor until the vegetable mixture was smooth, I put it into a large soup pot, along with enough boiled water to make it the desired consistency. Normally I use chicken stock in my soups, but I was counting on lots of flavour from the roasting process. I added a minced red chile pepper for a bit of heat and colour, some chopped sage and thyme from the garden, and salt and pepper to taste, then let it all simmer together for an hour or so to develop the flavors. Cooking soup leaves you lots of time to do other things!
The resulting soup was hearty, with a depth of intense flavor. The roasting definitely brought out the essence of the squash, and the roasted garlic turned out to be an inspired idea, if I may say so. In the non-roasted version I might have used two or three cloves, but the whole roasted bulb infused the soup with mellowed garlicky goodness and added richness without sharpness.
That evening I enjoyed a steaming bowl of soup with a fresh Portuguese roll with mustard and a slice of porketta while enjoying the golden September sunshine, knowing it would be even better for lunch the next day. It was!