It only seemed appropriate that in a series devoted to the colour “Yellow” that I include a new recipe in this as well. Food prepared beautifully is a most edible art and one that will evoke emotions and feelings as pronounced as any fine art … and there was something intensely beautiful and something intensely sensuous about this dish.
Let’s face it, squash is a mainstay of any fall-winter menu and it will show up on tables from (Canadian) Thanksgiving through to Easter. It is sweet, rich and purely healthy and it is something that people will clamour for more and more.
This fall, I had standoff with a couple of butternut squash sitting on my counter as I stared at them and wondered to make with them. I admit, I was reluctant to ‘just’ make soup though that is what I craved. So I made a deal with myself that I could make a soup, but only if I upped the ante and did something with it that made it unique and special.
In my experience, comforting squash soups often fall into the category of ‘savoury’ while replete with other autumn ingredients; creamy and rich; or warmed with Indian or Thai flavours like ginger, lemon grass, or curry. My was to find the ‘essential’ flavours in the squash and pull them out and put them on pedestal with complementary elements: nuttiness which I balanced against pumpkin seeds; earthiness which I connected with a dash of curry powder and by roasting the squash; and sweetness that I highlighted with the praline and maple syrup.
What emerged is one of my best creations — and I don’t mean the soup which was awesome. It was the pumpkin-seed praline which was like angels performing a miracle in my mouth. I was truly cooking without a net when I put this together: it was simple in concept, simple in preparation, but complex and decadent in the mouth. My idea was to not just ‘toast’ the seeds but to ‘candy’ them for the topping. I roughly chopped them, tossed them in the pan with the essential ingredients to make a version of a caramel/butterscotch or brittle, if you will, or pralines in another sense … and I figured the heat would toast the seeds, which it did. The result was so good that it almost didn’t make it onto the soup.
Similarly, the maple-coconut cream was intentioned to be a twist on the traditional cream or crème fraîche used to garnish soups. Instead, I used a 2% Greek yogurt, built it up with some coconut cream for flavour, and sweetened with the maple syrup. Placed in a squeeze bottle, I was really only limited by my own imagination as to how to decorate the soup.
Ps. I’m trying a new recipe widget here below. Let me know what you think.
- 4-5 lbs (2kg) butternut squash (about to medium squash), halved lengthwise
- 1 tablespoon (15mL) butter
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 medium apples
- 1 3-inch cinnamon stick, broken in half
- 1 tablespoon (15mL) freshly ginger, finely diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 4 cups (1 litre) low-sodium vegetable/chicken stock
- 2 cups (500mL) water
- 1 teaspoon (5mL) curry powder
- ¼ teaspoon (1½mL) ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons (10mL) kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon (1½mL) freshly ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons (30mL) brown sugar
- ⅓ cup (65mL) whipping cream
- Heat the oven to 425°F (220°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cut the squash in half, lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds.
- Place the squash pieces cut-side up on the baking sheet and rub them with butter butter with your fingers.
- Generously season them with salt and pepper and place them in an oven and roast for about 60 minutes, or until just knife/fork tender.
Remove from oven and let cool before scooping the 'meat' from the squash. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, chop the onion and add it to soup pot and over medium-high heat, sauté with the butter until golden brown (about 5 minutes).
- Peel and core the apples and roughly chop it into ½" pieces and add it to the onions along with the cinnamon stick and sauté for about 3 minutes.
Add the ginger and garlic and sauté for another 3 minutes until apples are just softened.
Deglaze with stock, add water, and reduce heat to simmer for 20 minutes.
Remove cinnamon sticks before next step.
- Meanwhile, remove the squash meat from the skins and add the meat to the stock and throw away the skins. Mash the squash into the stock with a potato masher and simmer.
- Stir in the spices, salt and pepper, and sugar stir and bring to a low boil over medium heat for about 15 minutes.
- Remove the pot from the heat and either use an immersion blender to purée or use an actual blender. If using a blender, let the soup cool a bit first and then purée the soup in small batches until smooth. Be very careful to both hold the lid on tight as well as when removing it as the heat can easily cause the top to explode off, especially if over filled.
- Pour soup pack into the pot and stir in the whipping cream.
Taste for seasoning, salt, and sweetness and adjust as necessary. Remember, that not all squash are as sweet and not all stock has the same salt.
- Cover and keep warm on low heat while you prepare the garnish (pumpkin-seed praline and the maple-coconut cream, below).
- 1 tablespoon (15mL) coconut oil
- ½ cup (125mL) shelled, pumpkin seeds
- 2 tablespoons (30mL) brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon (1⅕mL) ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon (1⅕mL) kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons (30mL) whipping cream
- To make the praline, first roughly chop the pumpkin seeds -- you're going for approximately something like thirds. Measure all your ingredients in advance as the cooking happens quickly and you don't want to burn anything fumbling for ingredients.
- Over medium heat, melt the coconut oil in a medium non-stick frying pan and add the seeds, sugar, salt and ground cinnamon.
- Saute for a minute or two until sugar melts and the seeds lightly golden. Then, add the cream.
- While stirring with a wooden spoon, cook 5-10 minutes until the cream forms with the sugar and seeds to create the praline.
- Immediately remove from pan and place in a small bowl and put in the fridge to cool. Once it cools, you'll be able to 'break' up the praline into pieces for garnish.
- 3 tablespoons (45mL) organic Greek yogurt (2%)
- 2 tablespoons (30mL) coconut cream
- 1 tablespoon (15mL) pure maple syrup
- Whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl.
- Transfer the cream mixture to a squeeze bottle for easy application of the garnish; alternatively pour the mixture into a "piping" bag; or alternatively still, place mixture in a small sandwich bag and before application, nip off a small corner of the bag and apply it this way.
All text and images © Dale Schierbeck
See more of others’ submissions to the Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge on “Yellow.”