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Joe Hafner: Butternut Squash Soup Recipe to Warm Up Cool Autumn Nights

Now that I’m back from a busy summer, we are picking up with a recipe for the cool nights ahead. Word of Mouth will be back every two weeks starting today, and you can look forward to a special “20 Questions” next time.

Fall is here, and the farmers market is bursting with squash and pumpkins. As you prepare for the chillier months, give this easy soup recipe a try. It makes a great starter for the holidays and is east to reheat in a pinch.

My take on soups is that they are typically overcomplicated. Chunky soups often end up with overcooked components if they are simmered together or reheated. For most soups I prefer a smooth puree, adding garnish or additional ingredients at a later time. Simplicity is key and allows the flavor of the main ingredient to shine.

This technique works for peas, carrots, sweet potatoes and other root vegetables. You can adjust the spices and even omit the dairy. Sometimes you only need great product, stock and a bit of salt and pepper to turn out a fantastic bowl of soup.

Feel free to roast the squash and pumpkin beforehand for a rustic flavor, or reserve the extra to roast and add later. Variations for this recipe include adding ginger, honey, nuts and light cheeses such as fresh ricotta or chevre when serving. This soup is also great with a sprinkle of fresh sage.

Butternut Squash & Sugar Pumpkin Soup

1 each butternut squash/small sugar pumpkin peeled and diced (about two quarts total)
1 small white onion (diced small)
2.5 cups milk (enough to cover squash two-thirds of the way)
2 cups vegetable stock or water
1 cinnamon stick
Pinch each ground cardamom, star anise and clove
Salt and pepper to taste
Maple syrup
Cream fraiche and toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish

Peel, seed and rough chop squash into 1-inch chunks. Select a pot large enough to accommodate the squash, leaving the pot half empty. In about a tablespoon of olive oil, sweat the onions and spices. Do not let the onions brown.

Add squash and pumpkin. Add milk to cover the squash two-thirds of the way. Cover the remaining with water or veggie stock. Add the spices, a pinch of salt and cracked black pepper.

Turn up the heat and bring to a simmer until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork. Do not let the soup come to a rolling boil.

When the soup is finished, remove the whole spices and puree solids in small batches in a blender. Add the reserved liquid slowly until the soup is smooth and the desired consistency. Cover the blender top with a towel and be sure the top is secure. You do not want to burn yourself!

If desired, strain the soup for a smoother consistency. If the soup is too thick, add a bit of the warm milk mixture to thin it out. Adjust the seasoning. Add maple syrup to taste for a little sweetness.

Top with crème fraiche and toasted pumpkin seeds. Enjoy!

— Chef Joe Hafner writes the weekly Noozhawk column Word of Mouth and can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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