Fall seems to have come to Texas, finally. It got down right chilly last night! I love fall and all the flavors that are unique to the season. Scarlett has provided us with a recipe I am so eager to try now that it's "soup weather". Check out this mouth watering recipe and leave her some comment luv. Be sure to come back next week for another kitchen adventure with Scarlett. Until then, stop by Confessions of a Shieldmaiden and say hello.
Ah, autumn. Ever since the leaves started falling and there was a hint of chill on the air, I have been more than ready for my autumn comfort foods. Pumpkin bread…heck, any bread at this point…hot coffee, spiced apple cider, potatoes, rosemary, thyme, stuffing, cornbread, chili… It’s time to break out the warm, rich, spicy comfort foods. A few weeks ago, when my comfort-food-craving was nearing an obsession, I started recipe hunting online. I found several recipes for butternut squash soup, each with numerous variations. I don’t know what it is about squash (maybe it’s that distant cousin of his, the pumpkin), but the instant the weather turns chilly, I crave the delicious orange goodness. I gathered thoughts and ideas from a dozen different recipes, and headed out to the store for ingredients.
It would definitely be more accurate to say that I headed out to the store for the FIRST time to look out for ingredients. I visited no less than three stores to get everything that I needed. Not because the ingredients were difficult to find, mind you, oh no. It’s simply because I lack that impulse in my brain that commands me to write anything down when it comes to cooking. For some reason, I believe that when I walk into a grocer, I’ll remember every mental note that I’ve made on the concoction I would like to create. And each and every time, I am proven wrong. Case in point, I wanted to use tomato paste in this recipe. I really did. But, after my third trip to the store, I realized that I still hadn’t picked up a can. I decided to get creative and located a can of tomato soup in the back of my cupboard, the closest acceptable substitute I had.
They say that guys can’t ask for directions. Me, I can’t write down a recipe, and I pay for it each and every time. You can tell me that I should write these things down, but I just…I can’t. It feels all…corporate to me. Like rules. I don’t do so well with rules, just ask my close circle of friends.
But I digress. Several trips to the store later, I stood in front of my countertop full of ingredients and set to work on what was sure to be a culinary adventure. And it was one, believe me.
For starters, I don’t know what the heck kind of onion I grabbed, I thought it was just a regular, small yellow onion, but shooooot…no sooner did I slice into this thing than my eyes reacted. Not just a LITTLE watering, oh no, but I’m talking swollen-shut-Titanic-worthy-waterworks. I went running into the living room, eyes shut and knife in hand, swearing at the top of my lungs.
“What happened?” I hear my roommate’s voice, edging on panic. “Did you cut yourself?”
“No! It’s the damn onion, I can’t see!” I cried.
“Well, go to the bathroom and wash your face or something.” She says matter-of-factly. The clicking of the keys tells me that she’s turned back to her laptop, abandoning me to my fate. Blindly, I stumble down the hallway, wishing for that nifty sonar thing that Daredevil can do. I have to pull my eyes open once because I can’t locate the soap, but afterwards I emerge from the bathroom, blinking but refreshed.
I returned to the cutting board, instantly feeling my eyes welling up again. I decide to trust my instincts and dice the rest of the onion with my eyes squinting shut, praying I don’t slice my fingers off in the process. (Because, you know, I plan to blog this, and missing fingers would slightly hamper that process). The instant they’re completed, off to the pan they go to simmer AWAY from my eyes. After another emergency trip to the bathroom to wash my face, I return to the kitchen to dice the red and orange pepper, which thankfully, offer no resistance to their demise like Sir Onion the Horrible.
Now, call me crazy, but I love the image of multiple colored foods blending together in a saucepan. Something about seeing a pile of diced veggies, getting ready to become something wonderful, makes me feel all wonderful inside. So, I pull the battery off the wall, load it in the camera and snap a few pictures before tackling my next big task: the butternut squash.
I’ll be honest here. I’ve never really become more than an acquaintance of butternut squash. Actually, I usually cook with the frozen orange rectangles. I can halve it, butter it, sprinkle it with some brown sugar and roast it, too, but that’s about the extent of my butternut squash knowledge. I was completely flying blind as I diced it up and added it to the pot with the tomatoes, soup and spices, but I figured, the finer I diced it, the quicker it would cook up, right?
I should warn you that I’m not really one for measuring my spices. I add it until it tastes right, and I keep some spoons by the stove for this purpose. Nonetheless, I carefully measured as I added, just for you. Don’t you feel special? I will say this; don’t be afraid to depart from my recipe. Want to add something special in there? Go for it! Be experimental and have fun with it. It’s just flavor, after all, why should we all enjoy the same?
I should probably also warn you that I am not one for leaving a simmering pot simmering unwatched. Nope, I am totally the peek-under-the-lid girl, and I kept checking on my soup repeatedly, stirring and inhaling, hoping to get a hint of the flavors I’d created.
Discovered something interesting when it came to blending, though. Okay, I inherited my blender from a neighbor whose roommate moved away and left it behind. It was brand new and in the box when I got it, and I haven’t used it since. It was pulled out from its hiding hole solely for this soup. Now, I’d been sort of winging it with the recipe. (As, you’ll see, I am wont to do) I had no clue how much soup was in the pot until I went to pour it in the blender to puree and nearly poured the steaming hot overflow all over my hands.
Guess I made more than I was intending! I suppose it’s a good thing that I only used half of the squash and tomatoes that I was planning on using, huh? As it was, it took me two times in my 5 cup blender to puree the soup properly and put it back in the pan. I added the cream and then reached for the big bottle of Tabasco on the back of the stove.
So…I should probably explain my addiction to Tabasco at this point. You remember that TV show, Roswell, where the lead characters were aliens and drank Tabasco like it was cola, even putting it on strawberry shortcake. Well, that’s sort of how I am, except I’m not an alien (that I know of) and I don’t get to go around leaving wicked silver handprints everywhere. Yeah, I have a slight Tabasco problem – I will use it on anything and everything, and have every variety at my quick disposal. A ‘dash’ for me is about 1/8 c, which would send nearly anyone else into convulsions. Nonetheless, I decided to start with a sprinkle (to the common person) and go from there until it tasted right. I..um…I sort of went overboard. I was about 1/8 c in when it tasted perfect to me. It was about this point that I remembered that I had a roommate in the other room and an audience of readers who would NOT appreciate my level of commitment to capsaicin. Oops. Damage control time!
In an effort to cool my soup down to acceptable levels, I added an additional ½ cup of half and half. It did the trick, and I finished up my soup by adding some salt and pepper to bring out the flavors.
Hey, do you know the quickest way to find each and every cut and slice in your hand? I didn’t either…until I poured some sea salt into my hand (see? I TOLD you I’m not one for measuring!) to add to the pot. Whoa, Nellie! (Yes, I did just say that!) My eyes, having finally just recovered from their battles with onions earlier, immediately flooded with tears.
My soup finally completed (and my stomach rumbling in anticipation), I served it up in breadbowls, snapped a pretty picture, and handed a plate to my roommate. You know, she could have done me the courtesy of not looking so shocked when she took a spoonful, looked up, and went, “This is really good!” But, hey, it’s a compliment, and I’ll take what I can get.
So, here’s how it all washed out. Tallying up all of my ingredients (including vegetable stock, which I had to buy because I was out), I spent about $15. Now, if I’d planned a little better and not gone to the higher-end grocery, I could have kept it down to about $10. Overall, my recipe yielded about 10 cups of soup – not bad, right?
I’ll DEFINITELY consider this round a success!
Tomato-Butternut Squash Bisque
2T Olive Oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 small red pepper, diced
1 small yellow pepper, diced
2 minced cloves of garlic (I used roasted garlic, but it’s your call)
1 can (28 oz) whole peeled tomatoes (mine had basil in them, again, your call)
1 can (10 ¾ oz) condensed tomato soup
3c butternut squash, diced
1 ½c half and half (2, by the time I finished my recipe)
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
A few dashes of Tabasco (or another hot pepper sauce)
1) Saute onions, garlic, red and orange pepper in olive oil until onions are golden brown.
2) Add to stockpot with tomatoes, soup, butternut squash, basil, thyme, salt, and pepper.
3) Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for 30-35 minutes until butternut squash is tender when poked with a fork.
4) Puree the soup in a blender until smooth, then return to the pot.
5) Stir in half and half, bring just to a boil, then remove from the heat.
6) Add a few dashes of Tabasco, stir, then ladle into bowls.
• Butter/Margarine can be used in place of the Olive Oil
• Non-fat half and half or soy milk can be used in place of half and half
• For a fun variation, serve in bread bowls or sugar pumpkins to make extra special