January 22, 2015
As the winter winds pick up and shadows grow long, we’re drawn to making soup.
Soup is humble. It does not boast. But a really good soup fills a hole in the body when nothing else will do.
The beauty of a good soup is in its simplicity. You don’t need a lot of ingredients or skill to pull it off — you just need fresh vegetables, a little fat, maybe some meat or fish, and patience. From the broth to the final product, soup-making is pretty hands-off, but it does require some time to achieve the full depth of flavor and nourishment.
For this winter squash soup, roast the squash low and slow, which allows the sugars of the squash to fully develop and and produces a rich, sweet flavor in the final soup. The alliums are treated much the same — caramelizing onion and roasting garlic transforms the flavors and textures of these ingredients from stings and bites to sweet velvety undertones. Your kitchen will smell heavenly.
To counterbalance this sweetness, add labneh, a Middle Eastern yogurt cheese that is traditionally served with olive oil, mint and pita. It’s a versatile food and makes a wonderful probiotic-packed alternative to sour cream and cream cheese. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can make your own — Nourished Kitchen has a great recipe for labneh. But you can likely find it at a grocery or health food store. In a pinch, Greek yogurt will do as a substitute.
A final recommendation — make a big batch of this savory soup. Double the recipe, even, and stock your freezer with leftovers for those cold winter nights.
1 large butternut squash or other winter squash, about 1 lb, peeled and cut into 1-2 inch cubes
6 cloves garlic, skins still on
1 large yellow onion, diced
1/4 cup ghee, coconut oil or butter
6-8 cups of vegetable stock or chicken stock
1/4 cup labneh
1 tablespoon of crumbled dry sage, or 12 leaves of fresh, minced
Sea salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 375. Spread the squash on one or two baking sheets, so they’re not crowded, and toss with about 2 tablespoons of your fat of choice. (For the record, I used rendered pork lard from our local butcher and the flavor was subtle but fantastic). Add the garlic cloves to the baking sheet, and put it in the center of the oven to cook for 40 to 50 minutes, tossing every 20 minutes or so, until the squash is soft and starting to fall apart.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining fat in the bottom of a big stock pot over medium heat. When hot, add the onion and a hefty pinch of salt and lower the heat slightly, sautéing every so often until the onion is translucent, sweet and soft (not browned), about 20 minutes.
Once the squash is done, add it to the stock pot and squeeze the roasted garlic from their skins into the pot. Add the sage. Top the squash with the stock, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes.
Puree the soup using an immersion blender or in a standing blender in batches, until the soup is velvety smooth. Add additional filtered water, 1/2 cup at a time, if the soup is too thick. Add the labneh and blend until it’s fully incorporated into the soup. Add salt, pepper, and a fresh squeeze of lemon juice. Taste, and adjust seasonings if needed. Serve immediately.
Photo credit: Jess Schreibstein
Jess Schreibstein is a cook, herbalist, writer and artist based in Baltimore, MD. In 2012, she started the DC Food Swap, a community event for home cooks to barter for food they made or grew themselves. You can find her on her food blog, Witchin' in the Kitchen, and on Instagram at @thekitchenwitch.
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