I'm not the best cook in the world, but I believe that food is best when it's made with real ingredients rather than processed food. Since many people don't cook like that anymore, or don't cook at all, I'm documenting tonight's cooking adventure. I did all of this without a recipe and with only a half-formed plan, but I ended up with something delicious and healthy.
Because I'm a member of a CSA, I often wind up with vegetables sitting around that need to be turned into something tasty. Today's collection included celery, carrots, leeks, and a butternut squash. "Hrmmmm", I thought to myself. "That looks like soup to me." On the way home from work tonight I stopped and picked up a handful of brown mushrooms, and a few shiitakes for good measure.
First step: cook the squash. I love butternut squash, but I hate peeling it. I had a few words with Google, and learned that butternut squash can be roasted whole in the oven, so I washed it, tossed it in a pan, and let it bake for about an hour and a half at 450.
In the meantime, I filled a big pot with water. I then washed the leeks, celery, and carrots, cut them into big pieces, and tossed them into the pot with the water. I washed the mushrooms and tossed them in too, then quartered an onion and added it to the mess. I couldn't find the bulb of garlic that I thought I had, so I grabbed the jar of chopped garlic that I keep in the 'fridge for garlic emergencies and added a big glop. (I'm not proud of this part, but hey... it works.) I tossed in a couple of bay leaves for good measure, brought the whole mess to a boil, then turned it down and let it simmer for a while.
When the squash was soft I pulled it out out of the oven to cool for a bit. I then strained the solids out of the stock. The result was a beautiful medium-brown broth that was flavorful without being overwhelming. I returned it to the pot and let it simmer.
When the squash was cool enough to handle I cut it in half, scooped out the seeds, and then peeled the skin off. The web was right-- the skin just peels off after the squash is cooked. I put the now-peeled squash bits in the pot with the stock, and let it simmer.
Butternut squash is a great "canvas" food-- you can flavor it in all sorts of ways. It's tasty with just a little bit of salt, or you can add herbs and spices in pretty much any combination that you want. I considered my options, then remembered that I had a bunch of apples in the 'fridge. I peeled and cored a couple of them, then sliced them thin and tossed them into the soup.
I seasoned the soup with about a teaspoon of salt, a bunch of sweet curry powder, and about half a teaspoon of a spicier curry powder. I let everything stew until the apples were soft, then used a hand-blender to puree everything.
I finished it with about two ounces of heavy cream, since I happened to have it around and had no other plans for it. This is completely optional, though, and it does add a couple dozen calories to each serving. It's also the only thing in the whole process that isn't completely vegan. The result is a wonderfully flavorful creamy soup that's fabulous on a cold winter day.
I didn't measure anything, but my estimates for calories are:
That's around 700 calories for the whole big pot of soup. It's easily six moderate-sized servings, or four very large ones, so let's call the whole thing 120-180 calories per serving.
This probably seems like it was a lot of work, but it wasn't. I spent a few minutes washing and chopping veggies, then pretty much just let everything stew for a while.
The easier version of this would involve starting with packaged stock or broth rather than making it from scratch, and I would often do that myself, but in my case the whole idea was to use up the veggies that were sitting around.
Will this inspire you to cook something delicious of your own?