I've finally adjusted to the time change. It's taken a few weeks, as it usually does, because my mind just doesn't like the darkness. I have to gently nudge myself into the shorter days and remind myself how relaxing it is to snuggle on the couch watching a movie, or doing a puzzle on a rainy Saturday afternoon. The time change also means the holidays are here. Speaking of holidays, I hope you all have a relaxing Thanksgiving weekend. It's hard to believe December is nearly here, and before we know it we'll be clinking champagne glasses together ringing in the new year.
As a food blogger and amateur photographer, I rely on natural light to showcase my food in its purest form, the way I see it in my own kitchen. This allows you to experience it as I do (or at least, that's my hope), but when the sun goes down before I have a chance to get into the kitchen, photography just isn't the same. In fact, during the shorter days I often forego taking pictures entirely. I have one trick up my sleeve that's the only way I can manage to take a decent picture during the winter: mornings.
Since the light is gone by the time I make it home from work, I often don't bother taking any pictures during the preparation and cooking process. Instead, I save a bit of dinner and plate it in the morning, when the kitchen is bathed in light. (I haven't forked over the money for a Canon Speedlite flash yet, so until I do, this method is the one I abide by.) So now you know my secret.
You also may know that soup is the ideal comfort food to shepherd us through the winter months. To intensify the flavor, I roasted the squash until it softened and started to caramelize, and added cayenne pepper for a spicy kick. For me, sage croutons are a must. Try them, and you'll see what I mean.
ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP
I need to invest in a kitchen scale so I can be very precise about telling you what size squash to use here. Mine was larger than average, I'd say at least 2 pounds, maybe more. After the roasting and scraping out the flesh, it yielded 2 1/2 cups of pureed squash. But soup is forgiving. Depending on your squash amount, you'll need to only adjust the amount of liquid you add to the pot, enough to cover the vegetables.
To roast squash, cut it open lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Sprinkle it with salt, pepper, then rub olive oil over the flesh. Roast cut side down in a 400 degree oven until tender. (This took about 40 minutes in my oven.)
Makes 2 quarts
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups butternut squash puree (see note above)
2 medium or large Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
4 to 5 cups chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 sage leaves
A generous pinch of cayenne pepper
In a 4-quart stockpot, warm olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and stir to coat, cooking for 3 to 4 minutes until beginning to soften. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the squash puree, potatoes, and enough chicken stock to cover the potatoes. (The more stock you use to cover the potatoes, the thinner your soup will be. You just want them to have enough liquid to boil, and if needed, you can add more stock to thin the soup later.) Add the sage, cayenne, and salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork-tender. In batches, puree soup in a blender until smooth and return to the pot. Test for seasonings.
Ladle soup into bowls and top with sage breadcrumbs (recipe below).
The trick to crispy croutons is the low and slow approach. Cooking them slowly allows all the oil to be absorbed and ensures a more even browning.
2 cups French baget, torn into 1/2-inch to 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon finely chopped sage
Extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper
In a small saucepan, add 1/4 cup olive oil to the pan and heat on medium low. Add the bread cubes and sage, then season with salt. Stir everything gently so all the bread is coated with oil. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the breadcrumbs are golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes.