There is a wonderful supply of beautiful squashes, pumpkins and other gourds available now. Every upscale restaurant seems to have butternut squash soup on their menu. I started experimenting with different flavours for my squash soup and liked the slight bite when I added lemongrass and ginger. Not to mention the health benefits! I added an apple to give this soup a lightness. And, it can easily be served before a main course without feeling too full. It is especially good with homemade crackers (see instructions below).
4 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
a 2 1/2 lb. squash, peeled and cubed
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 large apple peeled and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger (divided)
1 tablespoon finely chopped lemongrass
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven and add onions and carrots. Cook stirring until tender and the onions translucent, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the squash, celery, and apple and cook another 5 minutes. Add the ancho chile, 1 tablespoon of ginger, lemongrass and pinch of salt and stir into the mixture.
3. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Then ~ Reduce heat, cover and simmer another 45 minutes.
4. Add the final tablespoon of the ginger for that extra “bite” of flavour. (optional)
Puree the soup using an immersion blender right in the pot. Or, blend in batches, using a blender or food processor.
~ Add salt and pepper to taste.~
Note: If you are serving this soup to children, then you may want to leave out the “spicy” ginger.
EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT EVERY TYPE OF SQUASH
Butternut, acorn , spaghetti, delicata and kabocha squash all belong to the winter squash family though most start to pop up at grocery store and farmer’s markets in the early fall. Edible pumpkins also belong to this group, along with less familiar squash varieties like hubbard, turban, sweet dumpling, banana and buttercup. While each squash has its own unique taste and texture, these are versatile vegetable. Most can be used interchangeable and they can be baked, roasted, steamed, sauteed or microwaved. When shopping for squash, look for squash that’s firm and heavy for its size. You may be able to buy squash that’s already peeled and cut up. This will be more expensive than whole squash but can be a real time saver.
Shop for pumpkins grown for eating rather than carving. These include sugar pumpkins, pie pumpkins, sweet pumpkins, cheese pumpkins and heirloom varieties. Store winter squash in the refrigerator or in a cool dry place. They will keep for weeks or a month or longer.
ACORN and delicata squash have edible skin and indeed much of the nutrients are just under the skin so it is advantageous to eat the skin. Butternut squash can be peeled with a vegetable peeler. Squash with harder skin should be cooked as is and the flesh scooped out later.
SQUASH SEEDS can be scooped out before cooking and most are edible as well as nutritious. Rinse the seeds, pat them dry and bake them with salt and olive oil at 300F (150C), stirring occasionally for 20 minutes. When you think of a seed having the power to grow a plant, think of the nutrition value they can impart.
PASTA REPLACEMENT: After spaghetti squash is cooked it’s flesh can be pulled out in spaghetti-like strands. This is a wonderful no carb gluten free replacement for pasta as well as a good vegetarian filling for tacos and other dishes.
Ginger helps to reduce nausea from many causes; pregnancy, postoperative nausea and more. Ginger reduces inflammation and possibly lessen arthritis pain. Some studies have shown that ginger was more effective that the over-the-counter drug Dramamine for treating motion sickness!
Ginger extract has been used by osteoarthritis patients to relieve pain.
“TASTY” GOURMET CRACKERS
I have admired the appearance and flavour of those lovely crackers on the restaurant tables. You can buy them for a pricey sum at gourmet food shops. I decided to make my own GOURMET CRACKERS and used tortilla wrappers as well as pita bread. You can get rice tortillas at a whole foods store. Other options are whole wheat, spinach flavoured or other flavoured wraps.
DO IT YOURSELF (DIY): Slice the wraps with a knife as pictured below. Brush the wraps with olive oil and sprinkled with sesame seeds, steak seasoning, or salt, herbs (fresh or dried) and/or spices and baked at 375F for 10 minutes, these are yummy crackers for soups, dips or snacking! Your kids will love them too!