Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Environmentalist's Squash Soup

Last week, in a hazy, happy holiday mood, I decided to make fursecuri cu stafide. I made a haphazard but tasty variation of my previous recipe (will post soon), and I worked with a different set of measurements -- one that yielded a much larger amount. The only problem was that while mixing the batter doesn't take very long at all, baking all of these cookies, even with four cookie sheets at my disposal, took the better part of two days.

It also occurred to me that quite a bit of oven energy was going to waste for these hours and hours of cookie baking. So I thought I could use the energy for two purposes, and roast some squash alongside the cookie baking. I cut two smallish butternut squashes in half, touched them up with a bit of olive oil, put them in a pan and loosely covered them with tinfoil. The oven was at 375 degrees F.

I probably left those squashes in there for at least an hour and a half, if not more. What came out was -- candy. I love to make squash soup, but I usually spice it heavily and just peel and boil the squash raw. Roasting, especially for a long time and at low heat, transformed butternut squash into a sweet bomb of squashy flavour. When I tasted this, I decided not to mess with it too much.

This was the easiest soup in the world to make: I took a good gop of butter, sauteed a couple of finely chopped onions in it over low heat, slowly, until they became sweet too. I added a few sliced garlic cloves (I would usually use a ton), and let them become translucent too. For the spices, I just put in a bit of ground ginger (probably around a teaspoon) and a dash of Ras el Hanout (mine is made according to the recipe in Ana Sortun's Spice), and fried them up with the onions. As the onions were becoming soft, I scraped off every last bit of squash from the skin, and threw it in there, finally adding just enough vegetable stock to cover. After twenty minutes of cooking, I pureed the soup with my immersion blender, probably one of the best kitchen purchases I've ever made. (I have a cheap little Proctor Silex that works like a charm for soups.) I seasoned with salt and white pepper, and added about half a cup of cream for the richness. It was Christmas, after all.

This was probably one of the simplest and most mouth-filling soups I've made. After all, I was also baking cookies all the while I made the soup! I'm a sucker for pureed soups made with Indian or Moroccan seasonings, but this one had such an intensity of flavour that it needed nothing but butter and cream to highlight it. And while I wouldn't usually spend two hours roasting squash just for a soup, in this case, the recipe was piggybacking onto my cookies. As you can imagine, it smelled good in my house that day.