Monday, February 2, 2009

Butternut Squash & Carrot Soup

I was looking for a creamy, wintry soup to make, and came up with this. The spices were an experiment that I thought would work, but differently than they actually did. I consider this spice combination fairly Caribbean in origin (if not downright Jamaican), and I think they also pair well with the sweetness of butternut squash. Halfway through simmering the soup, I was sure I'd overdone it with the cloves, but by the end it mellowed very nicely. As it turns out, the soup doesn't actually resemble anything Caribbean in the least, which is fine. The spices are perfect, no matter the nationality.

The heavy cream could be cut back, although it's delicious as is. I wouldn't go with less than 1/4 cup heavy cream if you're wanting to lighten the dish. Alternatively, you could use the heavy cream strictly as a garnish, adding a little bit to each bowl as you serve, but that's too fancy for lunch with the family for me. To make the soup vegan, you could substitute a soy creamer or coconut milk; both will result in a different flavor, but I think will still be good.

This is one of my favorite soups of all the ones I've come up with recently. My daughter devoured it, so that's always a good sign. My only regret about it is that it made less than I anticipated. Most of my soups feed 10 easily. This one is more likely to serve 6. So, double up if you want a big, lasting pot of soup, or if you're cooking for company.

Butternut Squash & Carrot Soup
2 Tbsps. butter
1 1/2 lbs. butternut squash, peeled and cubed
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced
5 c. homemade or low-sodium veggie broth
3 c. water
2 bay leaves
2 tsps. dried thyme, crushed
3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
salt & pepper, to taste
2 Tbsps. apple cider vinegar
1/2 c. heavy cream

In a stock pot or dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the squash, carrots, onion and celery. Sweat the veggies over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until the onion is soft and translucent.

Add the broth, water, bay leaves, thyme, nutmeg, cloves, salt and pepper. Add the vinegar. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 2 hours. Remove the bay leaves.

Using an immersion blender (or a regular one), puree the soup. If you prefer a very smooth texture, you can force the soup through a fine mesh strainer. Add the heavy cream. Adjust seasonings. Remove from heat and serve.

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