It is 103 degrees as I type this right now!! Not much soup making happening around here this week. I made this delicious fall soup last week when I hosted my girlfriends for dinner. One friend’s comment after her first bite was, “This is a flavor party in my mouth!”. With a comment like that, I had to share the recipe. This is a perfect fall soup. I actually made it a couple years ago for a holiday party I had and served it in these cute little mugs along with some other small plates. If you are somewhere with lovely fall weather…MAKE THIS SOUP! If you are in southern California like me, make it as soon as this awful little heat wave is gone.
This soup is subtly sweet, and a little spicy. I used some Ancho chili powder for a little heat and some harissa. If you aren’t familiar with harissa, it is a North African chili paste that is full of flavor. I bought this one at Whole Foods. Trader Joe’s also sells their own version. Be careful with how much you use…I went with 2 1/2 tbsp and it had a decent amount of kick to it. It goes really well with the flavors in this soup! Ginger and orange zest also join the “flavor party”.
You can buy peeled and cubed butternut squash just about anywhere these days. That’s what I always use to save some time. For this I used four 12 ounce bags of Trader Joe’s squash.
Garnishes are optional, but come on…don’t they look yummy?!? I found some spicy pumpkin seeds and they added some extra punch. Good apple wood smoked bacon really knocks it out of the park!
Start out by roasting all of your vegetables. You will need 2 sheet pans for this. This part takes a little time, but adds so much flavor to the soup. And once the roasting is all done, it comes together quickly.
As I have said before on the blog…the lazy girl side of me likes to line my baking sheets with foil so I have less dishes to wash! I also made a little foil tent for the garlic so it wouldn’t brown too much while the other veggies roasted. It came out perfectly soft and roasty.
As with salting any soup, you will need to taste as you go. You will use a lot of salt to season the vegetables while they roast, and you will also get some salt from your chicken stock, but you will need to add more. Salt is pretty important to get the flavor just right. It really enhances all the other flavors. If you feel like something is missing, it is likely just a little salt.
Spiced Butternut Squash Soup
Makes 8 servings
Preheat oven to 425
Line 2 baking sheets with heavy duty foil or parchment paper. Mix 2 tbsp of the maple syrup with 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a large bowl. Put the squash in and toss to coat it all evenly, then put it in a single layer on one of the baking sheets. Sprinkle the squash with plenty of salt and pepper and a little of the chili powder (the more you use, the more heat you will get). Add 2 more tbsp of olive oil to the bowl (no maple syrup this time) and toss the bell peppers, carrots, and onions until they are coated in oil. Arrange the veggies in a single layer on the second baking sheet and season generously with salt and pepper. Put the garlic cloves in a small piece of foil and drizzle them with a little olive oil and close the foil up. Put the foil on the baking sheet with the veggies. Roast all of the veggies for 30 – 45 minutes or until the squash is very tender and there is some caramelization on the onions and peppers. The garlic should be very soft as well.
Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil (or bacon fat if you have it from cooking the bacon you are using to garnish!) in a large dutch oven over low to medium heat. Add the harissa to taste (1 tbsp is mild to medium, 2 is medium to spicy, 3 is spicy!), the grated ginger, and the coriander, the remaining 2 tbsp of maple syrup, and cook for 3 minutes. Add all of the roasted veggies and garlic and 6 cups of the chicken stock (reserve 2 cups of stock to thin the soup out if needed). Bring to a simmer and cover the pot and cook for about 20 minutes. Taste your stock to see if it is well seasoned… you will probably need to add more salt at this point. You will get some salt from the seasoned roasted veggies, and some from the stock, so taste as you go to see how much more you need. I added about 2 more teaspoons of salt.
The next step is to puree the soup. You can do this with an immersion blender or let it cool a bit and do it in batches in a blender. I think the blender gives you a smoother texture. You will need to do it in 2 – 3 batches depending on the size of your blender. Make sure your soup is not piping hot when you blend it. Add more stock at this point if it is too thick. I ended up using all 8 cups.
Return the blended soup to the pot and add the the orange zest and heavy cream. Check again for seasoning…more salt and pepper may be needed. Heat over low heat until it is hot. Garnish with the cooked bacon, chopped mint and chives, and pumpkin seeds.