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Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Roasting the squash makes it easier to peel and seed, and deepens the flavor of its flesh, producing a richer, more flavorful soup.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large butternut squashes, each 1 1/2 to 2 lb.
  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts
  • 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 8 fresh sage leaves, shredded
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock or canned broth
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Ground nutmeg, to taste, if needed
  • Pinch of sugar, if needed

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 400°F.

Prick each squash with the tip of a knife so it will not explode when it bakes. Place the whole squashes on a baking sheet and roast until they feel somewhat soft to the touch and a knife penetrates the skin easily, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and, when cool enough to handle, cut in half lengthwise and remove and discard the seeds and fibers. Scoop out the pulp into a bowl and set aside.

While the squashes are cooling, reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant and the skins have loosened, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and, while still warm, place the nuts in a kitchen towel. Rub the towel vigorously to remove the skins; do not worry if small bits of skin remain. Chop and set aside.

In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the onions and half of the sage and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender and translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the stock and squash pulp, raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for a few minutes to combine the flavors. Remove from the heat.

Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Return to a clean saucepan. Alternatively, pass the soup through a food mill placed over the pan. Reheat gently over medium-low heat. Season with salt and pepper. If the squash is starchy rather than sweet, a little nutmeg will help. If the nutmeg does not give the proper flavor balance, add a pinch of sugar.

Ladle into warmed bowls and garnish with the hazelnuts and the remaining sage. Serve immediately.
Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Lifestyles Series, Soup for Supper, by Joyce Goldstein (Time-Life Books, 1998).