Winter Squash and Orange Roots

I love starchy things.  We have friends who do that whole high-protein diet thing, but that makes me queasy just thinking about it.  Who really wants to eat all that meat and stuff, without the added benefit of comforting, tasty starches.  Yum, carbohydrates!

At this time of year there are all sort of interesting starches readily available, particularly in the form of squashes.  I make it a point to track down and try different ways of cooking winter squashes.

The recipe that follows is an adaptation of one from the Meet the Shannons blog. I made some changes to reflect what i had on hand, and the fact that i dislike the taste of “smoke” (yuk).

OrangishSoup_ingredients

Ingredients
1small butternut squash, cubed
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced sweet potato
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped,  but reserve a little bit for garnish (maybe the top 1/8th, sliced thinly)
2.5 tsp better than bullion chicken stock dissolved in 5 cups of water
3 scallions, the bottoms and tops separated
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp thyme vinegar
1 spring fresh time
1/2 tsp dried crushed sage
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp olive oil

Notes
small butternut squash: What does “small” mean?  There are a wide range of butternut squash availble at my local farmer’s market, and the smallest of them really depends on the day that you go.  The one i used was about 9 inches long and maybe 6 inches around at the widest point.  However, i have seen butternuts much smaller, as well as much larger.

thyme vinegar:  Recently i built some additional shelving out in my kitchen, and when i did so i had to clean up and move a bunch of stuff to make room to work.  Well, i found an old flip-top beer bottle (that brown thing to next to the lemon juice in the picture above) that i had stuffed full of thyme and then filled the rest of the way with apple cider vinegar.  I did this in August of 2008, when i had a healthy thyme plant growing like mad on my porch.  (It later died in the Atlanta Snowmageddon…)  The thing is, i had totally forgotten about this bottle, and it sat there, the flavors blending for 5 years, until i found it again.  And, to be honest, it tastes amazing.  The bite of the apple cider vinegar has mellowed with the years, and the thyme flavor is potent, but not overwhelming.

Now, chances are that the readers of this recipe do not have access to a 5 year old bottle of vinegar that they had forgotten about.  You could double the amount of thyme listed and add in 1 tsp of vinegar to get the same effect in this dish.  Or you could leave it out.  I think that the vinegar added just a hint of tang to this soup, which really helped bring it together.

Directions
1.  Head a pan to medium / medium low heat and then add the olive oil.

2.  Add the cumin seeds and cook them briefly, perhaps a minute, until the wonderful aroma of cumin starts to fill your kitchen.

3.  Add in the squash, carrot, sweet potato, and scallion bottoms and stir fry for a few minutes.  You just want everything to get a little warm, not to caramelize.

4. Add the fresh thyme, the sage, powdered cumin, and paprika and sitr fry it all together, then cook until you can really smell the spices.

5.  Add the chicken stock, vinegar (if using), and lemon juice and bring it to a boil.  Boil for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the vegetables start to feel tender.

6.  Blend the mixture.  The recipe recommends “until smooth”, but i like a bit of texture, so i always blend only halfway to smooth, so there are still some chunks. Blend to you are satisfied with the smoothness, is my advice. Now, i have an immersion blender which does this wonderfully, but if you don’t have one you could use a potato masher and stir the mash into the broth, or pour it into a blender or food processor.

OrangishSoup_closeup

7.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with garnish with thin sliced red pepper, scallion tops thin sliced, and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with toast, croutons, fresh bread, or something to sop up the delicious soupiness.

OrangishSoup_served

Verdict
This was a yummy soup.  The sweet potato and carrot really helped make it not be too squashy, if you know what i mean. The smoked paprika really made the flavors pop.

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