Right now, where I live, it's quite cold - about 15 F. That's too cold for me to spend much time outdoors, where I love to be in the summertime, but cold weather does offer great opportunities to cook some marvelous soups. One of my favorites is the Winter Squash Soup recipe presented below. It requires a bit of work, but that work is well worth it. This soup's not only guaranteed to warm you up on a cold winter's day, it's guaranteed to be delicious as well. It's great for lunch, or even for dinner, when served with a nice salad and warm, crusty bread. This recipe makes ten servings, so if you have any left over, just refrigerate it and serve it the next day.
Winter Squash Soup
3 1/2 pounds kabocha squash, halved and seeded
2 pounds butternut squash, halved and seeded
1 1/2 pounds acorn squash, halved and seeded
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 white onion, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
4 1/2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 pound peasant bread, crusts removed, bread torn into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 cups creme fraiche
1 pinch ground cardamom
1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 pinch ground ginger 1 pinch ground cloves
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Season the kabocha, butternut and acorn squashes with salt and pepper and lay them cut side down on two large rimmed baking sheets. Pour 1 cup of water onto each baking sheet, cover the squash with foil and bake for about 1 hour, or until tender. Let cool slightly, then scoop the flesh into a bowl. Keep the oven on.
2. In a large saucepan or casserole, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter. Add the onion and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon each of the cardamom and nutmeg and 1/8 teaspoon each of the ginger and cloves and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Add the squash flesh and heavy cream and simmer over moderate heat for 5 minutes. Working in batches, puree the soup in a food processor and return to the pan. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm over very low heat.
3. Meanwhile, on a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the pieces of bread with the 3 tablespoons of melted butter. Spread the bread out and bake for about 8 minutes, or until golden brown.
4. In a small bowl, combine the creme fraiche with the remaining pinches of cardamom, nutmeg, ginger and cloves and season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls, dollop with creme fraiche and croutons and serve.
Yield: 10 servings