Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Squash Soup

The last two years have found us enjoying our garden much more so than in years past. Our larger garden plot has allowed us to try growing vegetables which our previous small garden plot did not. Last year, we enjoyed some nice success with acorn squash. This year, we decided to add butternut squash. To make a long story short, our efforts at growing butternut squash were very successful. In light of this success, we found ourselves needing to identify recipes to use our squash. Our favorite, by far, has been butternut squash tortilla soup. Here is how we have personalized the recipe along with some of the techniques that we have found helpful in preparing it.

Butternut squash - native to the Americas
1/4 cup butter or margarine
3 cloves of minced garlic (we like to use a couple spoonfuls from a jar of minced garlic)
1 large chopped sweet onion
3 large sliced carrots
3 ribs of sliced celery
1 medium to large butternut squash, peeled and diced
12 cups chicken broth
8 ounces of salted tortilla chips
2 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese
2 teaspoons dried cilantro leaves (optional depending on your taste preferences)
1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chiles
1 bunch green onions
2 tablespoons lime juice
Around 8 dashes of green Tabasco sauce, we also like to use some of the garlic pepper Tabasco sauce
Coarsely ground black pepper to taste
Additional salt to taste

Now, here are the steps:
1. Unfortunately, there really are no easy steps to preparing the butternut squash. Here is what we have found successful for this recipe:

Squash cut into sections
  • Cut the squash in half lengthwise and then cut each half into about 3 sections. My tools of choice are a cheap ice cream scoop to clean out the seeds and pulp and a potato peeler to remove the outer peel/rind.
  • Be thorough in peeling the squash and be prepared to make several passes to get down to the deep orange squash flesh
  • After the squash is thoroughly peeled, cut it up into small chunks. You will be cooking the squash in the chicken broth along with the carrots and celery so you want pieces that are small enough so that they will cook evenly with the other vegetables.
Peeled squash pieces
Cut up squash pieces

2. Melt the butter or margarine in a large stock pot over medium high heat. You will see in the pictures that I am using my pressure cooker to accommodate a double batch of soup.
3. Add the onions, garlic, carrots, celery, and squash. Sauté for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. I typically sauté until the onions start to become transparent.
Vegetables ready to be sautéed
4. Add the chicken broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the squash is soft and tender, approximately 35 to 40 minutes. I typically press a chunk of squash up against the side of the pot. If the squash is nice and squishy, it has cooked long enough. I also check the carrots to see if they are soft and tender.
5. Remove from heat and stir in the tortilla chips until they are wilted.
6. Add the cilantro and cheese and allow the cheese to melt in the pot.
7. Puree the soup in the pot using an immersion blender. You can also remove the soup in batches and blend it in a regular blender. (In my opinion, spending about $40 for an immersion blender at Target is a worthwhile investment.)
8. Stir in the chiles and green onions.
9. Season with lime juice, Tabasco sauce, black pepper, and salt. 
10. Enjoy!