I love fall! And last week it finally looked like fall at the farmers’ market. Sweet potatoes, pumpkins, apples and many different varieties of squash. We’ve even managed to string together several days in a row with cool temperatures, putting me in the mood for sweaters, boots, corduroy, apple cider, and soup!
This soup was inspired by one I had last fall at a lovely wine bar in Woodbury, Cravings, run by the very friendly and welcoming Rick family. The burbs, especially Woodbury, are known more for chain restaurants, but this cozy spot with a fireplace to enjoy in the cooler weather and a flower-filled patio that’s perfect on sunny days, is an oasis in a foodie desert. Their menu is chef-driven and changes seasonally.
Frequently the soup on a restaurant’s menu isn’t an option for me because the base is usually a stock made with meat or chicken, but it never hurts to ask. When our server mentioned butternut squash soup, I crossed my fingers and posed the question. Yes! It was made with vegetable stock. Squash soup is one of my fall favorites and I had several versions in my rotation, but what set this apart, was the inclusion of spices that would normally be found in pumpkin pie. And what often happens when I fall in love with a dish in a restaurant, I’m inspired to make it at home letting my memory of the flavors write the recipe.
Don’t let the seeds go to waste—roast them alongside the squash—Pete and I snacked on the crispy, salty seeds while the soup was simmering. So good, they were gone before the soup was ready.
This is gluten-free and easily adapted to vegan by substituting a non-dairy option for the buttermilk. Almond or coconut milk would be delicious and you can make sure it has the slight tang buttermilk imparts by adding a tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice to your measuring cup before you pour in the milk. Let it sit at least 5 minutes before it’s time to add to the soup.
Two brands of vegetable bouillon I love are Rapunzel vegetable bouillon with sea salt and Edward & Sons “Not-Chick’n” bouillon cubes (both gluten-free, vegan, and have no hydrogenated oils or MSG). You can verify a bouillon is worthy of your recipe when sipping a cup of it on its own tastes hearty and satisfying. Both pass that test and I used one cube of each in this recipe for the perfect balance.
Spiced Butternut Squash Soup
1 large butternut squash
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
4 shallots, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup white wine
1 quart vegetable stock or bouillon
1 tablespoon sweetener (agave, Sucanat, natural sugar, maple syrup, honey)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 -1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup low-fat butter milk (or non-dairy milk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice—let sit 5 minutes)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Peel squash, remove seeds, and cut into 1” chunks. Toss in bowl with 1 tablespoon olive oil and ½ teaspoon salt. Turn onto a jellyroll pan and spread out to a single layer. Roast 35-40 minutes, until squash chunks are pierced easily with a sharp knife. Give squash a toss about half-way through cooking and rotate pan 180 degrees. You can roast the seeds at the same time on a small baking pan—just drizzle a little olive oil and a sprinkle of salt on the seeds and toss. They will not need to roast as long as the squash—maybe 25 minutes. They’re done when golden brown and a little crispy.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in large stockpot over medium heat. Sauté shallots and garlic until soft, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add roasted squash, wine, and vegetable stock. In small bowl, mix sweetener, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, ginger, cayenne, and pepper. Add to stockpot and stir. Cover and increase heat to bring soup to a simmer. Simmer 15 minutes.
Remove from heat and either thoroughly blend with an immersion blender (easiest method) or purée in a blender or food processor until smooth (you’ll need to do this in batches). Stir in the buttermilk and purée until a smooth, velvety texture. Taste, and adjust seasonings, if necessary.
Ladle hot soup into bowls and sprinkle with toppings of your choice, such as grated parmesan, squash seeds, sliced almonds, fennel fronds, crushed tortilla chips—whatever you’re inspired to add. Served with a fall-themed salad and a hunk of crusty bread makes for a delicious supper. Enjoy!
Makes 6 servings. Refrigerated leftovers keep several days.