For most of us, the growing season is fairly defined by months benefiting from late spring to early autumn sun, unless we have a green house set up for year-round growing. So for vegetables and fruits, we might can, freeze or dry them to use during the winter, or store varieties like winter squash in an appropriate cool and dry place, keeping them fresh for many months. After reading Peter Brinckley’s recent piece on the Adirondack brand, I started to think more about how we cook here, and what the flavors taste like sourced near home.
During the winter, our meals are often marked by stews and soups, using various cuts of meat and vegetables that benefit from slow cooking. I could probably make a soup a day during the winter, content to enjoy the slow-simmering aromatics on the stove. Sourcing from my pantry instead of my garden, I typically prepare soups with dry beans, grains and also root vegetables and squashes.
My favorite winter squash is also probably one of the most popular ones available – butternut. With a nutrient-dense flesh (and few seeds to scrape out), I love being able to cut the squash in half and roast (cut side down) in the oven at about 350 degrees F for an hour or so, allowing the caramelization to sweeten and add depth of flavor before any herbs or spices are added. I also find this method of cooking the squash much easier than peeling the skin, cutting into cubes and steaming.
Especially nice on a gray day, this soup will brighten the table and your spirits.
Roasted Squash Bisque
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger (if not available, use 1 teaspoon ground ginger)
1 ½ pounds (approximately 3 cups) butternut squash, roasted and pureed
2 tablespoons maple syrup
4 carrots, peeled and diced
6 cups water, chicken or vegetable stock
Salt, to taste
½ cup heavy cream (optional)
Heat oil over medium heat in Dutch oven or substantial stock pot. Add onion and carrots and stir, cooking until tender (approximately 3-5 minutes). Add ginger and stir for about a minute; add squash and stock; bring all to a simmer over low heat. Add salt, to taste, and continue to simmer for approximately 45 minutes or until all ingredients are softened.
Use an immersion blender to puree the soup (you can use a regular blender, working in batches, just be certain to let the soup cool before blending).
Heat through, add cream, if desired and serve.
Annette Nielsen is a food writer, editor, community organizer and activist on behalf of regional agriculture. She recently edited Northern Comfort and Northern Bounty, two seasonally-based cookbooks for Adirondack Life Magazine. A native of Northville, she lives in Salem, New York with her husband and son.