Butternut Squash Soup

Yesterday I figured out that I have been making this particular soup for 14 years.  This is by far my longest standing, go-to recipe.  The first time I made it was after graduating from college, right before I moved to San Francisco to start work and become an adult.  I love knowing that little fact – so much was about to happen in my life… There is a small tradition in my family of writing notes on actual recipes (when the dish was made, if any changes were made, how successful it was, and lastly, if there was an occasion).  These small bits of information are completely informal, with no rhyme or reason, but provide so much history!  This recipe, made by Marilyn Weissman, was originally published in our local newspaper in November 1993 as the winner of a community cooking competition.  My recipe (with notes) is a photocopy from that newspaper piece, but I see that Marilyn still lists this recipe on her website My Global Kitchens, another great place to poke around for recipes, I’m sure!

This comforting fall soup differentiates itself by bringing together some unique flavors.  Creamy butternut squash combined with the spicy and bright tastes of ginger and lime create a lovely fall soup you won’t soon forget.  I made this for our dinner last night, and I also ate it for lunch today and realize now that it really is better the next day.  The flavors have a chance to mellow and meld and is just oh, so comforting.

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Butternut Squash Soup

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh ginger root, peeled and minced

3 tablespoons butter

3 cloves garlic, minced

4 cups peeled, seeded, and thinly sliced butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)

2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

2 cups water

1 lime, juiced (or to taste)

salt and white pepper (to taste)

Saute onion and ginger in butter, add garlic and cook until onion becomes translucent.  Add squash, broth, and water and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer 25 minutes or until soft.  Put in food processor in batches (or use immersion blender to save time and dish washing), return to heat and stir in lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.  Can make two days ahead.  Garnish with thinly sliced lime and ginger strip.

I usually serve this recipe with homemade croutons and a simple green salad.  It can also be frozen for later use.  The pictures above show the recipe doubled.  You will also notice a few other time savers that I usually stock in my freezer, pre-minced garlic and ginger by the company, Dorot.  I know you can find an assortment of these frozen herbs at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, among other stores.  If you enjoy making soup, I highly recommend investing in an immersion blender (also pictured above), this tool simplifies the process of blending hot liquids and is relatively inexpensive.  I use mine all the time.

This soup is one of my personal markers that fall has arrived – I hope you love it too!

Enjoy!

Chili Con Carne

How many of us were making chili last weekend to celebrate the changing weather and the start of football season?  There is something so natural about making a big pot of soup or chili as the weather begins to turn and we need something to warm us from the inside.  I have mentioned that soup is one of my favorite things to make and I think I will make an effort this season to post more soup recipes, because even if they are not terribly gourmet, they make for great weeknight meals in winter.  They are easy to freeze or make ahead and I find them to be nicely soul satisfying.

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Over the years we have tried many different types of chili recipes.  Chili is the kind of food where people have very strong opinions about what makes chili, chili – high heat, no heat, with beans, no beans, etc…   This is a good time to mention that I was a vegetarian for about 20 years, so the idea that I am making chili con carne at all is something that my younger self might have scoffed at.  But, now that I do eat meat, my husband loves to kid me about being a “recovering vegetarian”.  So even when we make meat dishes, whatever we make is usually loaded with vegetables too.  This is relevant because as we start talking about chili, you will see that I am in the camp that believes in incorporating lots of beans, tomatoes and vegetables to round out this hearty dish.  But do what pleases you.

The chili we love most comes from epicurious.com.  We have been making this recipe for a couple of years now and it is always gobbled up.  The original recipe is called Chili Con Carne with Chili Cheddar Shortcakes and is from Gourmet magazine.  What I like about this version is that it is very classic and a nice base for whatever you like to add.  You make the whole recipe in one pot, which certainly cuts down on clean up.  The cider vinegar adds a nice tang, that you wouldn’t know you want, but you do.  The carrots mellow things out.  I also recommend using a lean or extra lean type of ground beef since you don’t drain the meat in this recipe, but rather just add to the vegetables that are already cooking.   Lastly, the thing I love most about chili, in general, is all the interesting toppings one can add!  We usually make up a batch of cornbread and then add chopped onion, avocado, grated cheese, sour cream and hot sauce (of course)!  I made a double batch of the below this Sunday and we had plenty left over to freeze.

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Chili Con Carne

serves 6 generously

  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 4 carrots, sliced thin
  • 2 pounds boneless beef chuck, ground coarse in batches in a food processor or by the butcher 
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon crumbled dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried hot red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • two 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 19-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 green bell peppers, chopped
In a large pot cook the onions in the oil over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until they are softened.  Add the garlic and the carrots, and cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute.  Add the chuck and cook it over moderate heat, stirring and breaking up any lumps, for 10 minutes, or until it is no longer pink.  Add the chili powder, the cumin, the paprika, the oregano, and the red pepper flakes and cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute.  Add the tomato sauce, the broth, and the vinegar, bring the mixture to a boil, and simmer it, covered, stirring occasionally, for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until the meat is tender. Add the kidney beans, the bell peppers, and salt and black pepper to taste and simmer the mixture, uncovered, for 15 minutes, or until the bell peppers are tender.
This recipe is easy to make for a crowd.  It can be made a day or two in advance, as the flavors will only get better as they have time to mingle.
Enjoy!