If you have small children, there’s a good chance you’ve read the book “Pumpkin Soup” by Helen Cooper. It’s an adorable tale about three friends: a duck, a cat, and a squirrel. They live in a pumpkin patch, play music, and go on adventures to find spices. Every night for dinner they make– surprise!– pumpkin soup. “The best you ever tasted.” Just after we first read the book to Aanen when he was two, he started asking for pumpkin soup. This is the version I make for him. (P.S. Yes, it’s technically squash soup, but I’m comfortable with the deception.)
This is a simple, light squash soup. It’s nothing fancy, and I think I appreciate it for that very reason. The squash alone is silky, so I don’t add heavy cream. I made it with whole milk once, and though it was good, I prefer it this way. I like to use red Kuri squash for this soup, but Buttercup or Sweet Mama varieties are also wonderful options. Sometimes I swap the onion for a couple of leeks, but given the abundance of onions in my home, I generally use them. The key to the soup is the freshly grated nutmeg. It gives this soup a subtle depth that is difficult to pinpoint. Nutmeg has a way of doing that, which is one of the reasons I use it as much as I do. The other essential ingredient is fried sage leaves. If you haven’t eaten a sage leaf fried in butter, do yourself a favor and give it a try. Amazing stuff.
This soup would make a perfect starter for your Thanksgiving meal– I made it for that very purpose last year. It’s a wonderful soup to make ahead of time and reheat right before you serve it. And it’s not so heavy that your friends and family will leave too much turkey on the platter. Also, remember that you can adjust the thickness by adding more or less chicken stock.
The Recipe: Red Kuri Squash Soup
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium-large red kuri squash
1 medium white onion
6 -7 cups chicken broth
kosher salt and cracked black pepper
freshly grated nutmeg, about 1/2 teaspoon
3-4 tablespoons butter
fresh sage leaves, use as many as you like (2-3 per bowl of soup works well)
toasted and salted pepitas
sour cream or creme fraiche
Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut the squash in half and remove seeds. Place squash cut side up in a baking dish and cover with lid or aluminum foil. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until tender.
Meanwhile, in a dutch oven set on the stove top, begin to sautee the onion in olive oil when the squash is nearly cooked. Add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. When the squash is tender, scoop the flesh from the skin and add it to the dutch oven. Let cook for a few minutes to make sure the squash is completely cooked through and to let the flavors meld. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Use an emersion blender to puree the soup or transfer it to a regular blender. Adjust seasonings, if necessary.
In a medium skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sage leaves and sautee for just a minute. Remove from heat. Ladle hot soup into bowls and top with sour cream, pepitas, and the fried sage leaves. Enjoy!
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