Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

A week after Thanksgiving, I was growing weary of looking at the winter squashes that had been staring at me from the windowsill for over a month. I initially put them there to inspire me to make a clever Thanksgiving centerpiece, but instead, they became a constant reminder that I had never gotten around to decorating with them. Or cooking them. I was over squash.

The question was, do I cook them, freeze them, or put them in the compost where my chickens could happily devour them over the winter? That’s one of the nice things about having chickens, they are the ultimate assuagers of guilt. If you don’t get around to eating food, the chickens are ready to step in — and they give you eggs for the trouble.

In the end, I roasted a variety of squashes, scooped out the flesh, and froze it.

Recently, I had a marvelous lunch with a few girlfriends. Each of them ordered butternut squash soup. I took a taste. It was delicious. I decided I would make butternut squash soup with the frozen squash. I had a rich homemade Chicken Stock from Rotisserie Chicken Bones in the freezer to use for the broth.

Yield: 12 cups of a hearty soup. You could have more volume by thinning the soup with extra chicken broth.

Ingredients
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, roughly diced (3 cups or 1 pound)
4 cloves of garlic, peeled, smashed, and chopped
4 pounds (7 cups) roasted winter squash (see directions below)
2 quarts (8 cups) no salt added chicken broth.
Salt and pepper to taste

Mise en Place

To Roast Squash:
To make this soup, you will need to roast the winter squash first. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds and fibrous pulp. I used acorn, butternut and Seminole pumpkin squashes. As described in this post, microwave the butternut squash to make it easier to slice.
 

Use a silicone basting brush to swab the squash halves with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, garlic pepper, and“Trader Joe’s Everything But The Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend.

Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a 425º oven. Cook for one hour.

Let cool for another hour and remove the skin and any remaining stringy pulp. I packed and froze the cooked squash.
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To Make Soup:
I had never made squash soup before but started by doing what I always did when making soup, I sautéed onion and garlic in olive oil over medium-low heat until they became soft and translucent – about 15 minutes.

Next, I added the mushy roasted veggies. If you desire a hearty soup, as I did, there is no need to puree the squash first. If you are looking for a daintier soup, or one with a more uniform consistency, purée the squash.

Stir in the broth and bring the soup to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Season to taste before serving. I only needed to add one teaspoon of salt and no pepper because the roasted vegetables I used had already been well-seasoned.

Serve with a sprinkle of chopped parsley. You could add curry or ginger powder if you want to add more flavor, but I love the robust taste of roasted veggies.

My new seasonal windowsill.

Related Posts
Chicken Stock from Rotisserie Chicken Bones
Rotisserie Chicken Soup, Revisited
Sick Soup, Sometimes Known as Snow Day Soup
Aunt Bridget’s Chicken Soup with Little Meatballs
Lisa’s Award Winning Buffalo Chicken Chili
Kelly’s Duck Stew
Bruce’s Turkey and Sausage Gumbo
Mrs. Lombard’s Portuguese Kale Soup (aka Caldo Verde)
Pasta e Fagioli, aka Pasta and Bean Soup

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© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

Mrs. Lombard’s Portuguese Kale Soup

If I were to play a word-association game with my brothers about the elderly babysitters we had growing up in the Sixties in Bay View, our beloved, bucolic coastal neighborhood in Massachusetts, it would go like this:

Sting (sic) Bean Casserole”: Mrs. DeMers
She was elderly, gentle, and lived across the road from us. Her voice was thin and wispy just like she.

“Mulligan Stew”: Mrs. Townsend
She and Mr. Towsend were retired, very Irish, and lived next door. It seemed like she always had a pot of mulligan stew simmering on the stove. Mulligan stew is a beef and vegetable stew similar to burgoo. If we got locked out of the house, the Townsends had the spare key.

“Kale Soup”: Mrs. Lombard
Mrs. Lombard was Portuguese, retired, and had buried three husbands by the time she came to live with us as a housekeeper and babysitter. She stayed with us on weekdays and went to her own home on weekends.

She arrived at our house on the heels of many promising live-in sitters who lasted only a few days. Apparently, five children were a lot to manage. Not so for Mrs. Lombard. She drove up our driveway in her silver-green 1953 Chrysler New Yorker land yacht with her strong, solid build and pinned-up long dark hair, fully confident in her ability to wrangle up and care for our large family.

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Mrs. Lombard was tough and her unfiltered comments to us kids and our friends were legendary. For example, my brothers’ socks were so dirty they “stood up by themselves,” and I had “male nails,” short and wide fingernails that would “always be that way.” Sadly, she was right about that. She was our Mrs. Doubtfire. She kept us in line and took care of our hard-working mother, too. The last time I saw her was at my wedding. She was in her nineties. It was lovely to be in her presence, to hear her voice again, and to know she was still full of vim and vigor.

The only meal I remember Mrs. Lombard ever making for us was kale soup, also known as caldo verde (green broth). I can still see the tall Revere soup pot on the stove filled to the brim with knobs of white potatoes bobbing in and out of a sea of dark-green kale. The broth was tinged with orange from the juice of the linguica sausage. I have worked for years to recreate this beautiful, tasty soup and finally figured it out by reading through many versions of it in my mother’s vintage collection of plastic spiral-bound community cookbooks from that geographical area and time period.

Kale Soup

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A few words about ingredients:

The key ingredient in kale soup is a smoke-cured Portuguese sausage called Linguica (lin-gwee-sah). Linguica is made with pork and paprika, garlic, pepper, and sometimes cinnamon, coriander or cumin. There is another Portuguese sausage that is very similar called chouriço (not the same as chorizo, a Mexican sausage). In the absence of linguica, I would use either chouriço or andouille. Or, and I have done this before, use a spicy Italian sausage and make it an Italian Kale Soup.

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I suggest using unsalted chicken broth instead of a salted broth. The linguica brings plenty of saltiness of its own. Too much salt can quickly make this soup go from tasting delicious to tasting like a briny bath of sea water. Carefully add salt to taste.

If you are using a fresh bunch of kale, prepare it the same way I prepped the collards for this recipe only cut the logs of kale into two-inch wide slices. I would not use young leaves of kale as they will disintegrate too quickly when cooked. Some people prefer their caldo verde with collards. That works just as well. Occasionally, I add a half cup of chopped cilantro or parsley to the soup during the last minute of cooking, for more flavor and to make the broth greener.

Lastly, many cooks from our area of the southeastern coast of Massachusetts add a pound of lima beans to the soup. I enjoy that, as well, but I’ve come to prefer the simple and pure flavor of just the kale, potatoes and sausage.

Yield: 4 quarts

Ingredients:
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⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pound linguica smoked sausage, sliced (sold locally at Publix)
1 medium onion (2 cups or ½ pound), peeled and roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, smashed and sliced
4 large Yukon Gold potatoes (about 5 cups or 2 pounds), unpeeled
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
4 cups unsalted chicken broth
4 cups hot water
1 pound kale, chopped into 2-inch pieces (could substitute collards)
Add more sea salt and black pepper to taste
½ cup cilantro or parsley, chopped (optional)

Mise en Place:

Rinse and dry linguica sausages. Slice into bite-sized pieces.
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Prep onions and garlic as described and set aside. Prep potatoes into bite-sized chunks and set aside. Gold potatoes hold their shape better than white potatoes and have a nice buttery taste, so I suggest using them.

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Instructions:

Coat bottom of a six-quart sauté pan with olive oil. Add linguica to warmed oil and sauté for about three minutes on medium-high heat. Avoid overcooking the linguica which makes it leathery and tasteless.

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Use a serrated spoon to remove sausage into a small bowl. Set aside meat.

Add onions and garlic into the linguica flavored oil that remains. Sauté for five minutes over medium heat until the onions are soft and translucent.

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Add the potatoes, broth, salt, and crushed red pepper. Bring broth to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for ten minutes.

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Remove 1 cup of potatoes and 1 cup of broth from the pan and put them in a food processor. Purée for about 15 seconds until mixture is smooth. Set aside.

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Add four cups of hot water to the potatoes in the sauté pan and bring to a boil. Once the water boils, add about half the kale to the pan. Stir it down. As the kale collapses, continuing adding more kale until it all fits in the pan. Add the puréed potatoes and the linguica and stir everything together.

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Simmer for about 15 minutes on low heat. The soup will taste equally delicious the next day. I’ve never tried freezing it.

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Serve with a nice crusty bread.

Other great soups:
Aunt Bridget’s Chicken Soup with Little Meatballs
Sick Soup, Sometimes Known as Snow Day Soup
Kelly’s Duck Stew
Mrs. Walker’s Cranberry Nut Pie

LET’S STAY CONNECTED!

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© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

Rotisserie Chicken Soup, Revisited

Ever since Costco started selling huge rotisserie chickens weighing in at 3-5 pounds each, I’ve been buying one a week just to have ready-to-eat food in the fridge.

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I’ll admit, we didn’t always get around to peeling off all the meat from the bones once we’ve gouged out the breast and thigh meat. Even with the best of intentions, the half-eaten carcass sometimes ended up in the trash. That always bothered me. That is, until I started throwing the carcass, skin, and gelatinous juice in the bottom of the container, into a storage bag, and putting all of it in the freezer to use at another time. My husband likes to take a meat mallet to this collection of meat, skin, and bones and flatten it out for better storage.

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The magic number of carcasses I can tolerate in the freezer is four and then it’s time to make room for other foods. And, four is as many as will fit in the 20-quart pot I use for making soup and tomato sauce.

One day last week, I posted a series of photos on Instagram as I prepared a pot of chicken broth using rotisserie chicken bones. A lot of people wanted to know how I made it.

A Day in the Life of a Pot of Rotisserie Chicken Bone Soup.

Timestamp: 6:27 a.m.
Put four chicken carcasses, carrots, celery, garlic, parsley, pepper, vinegar, and bay leaves in a 20-quart heavy-bottomed soup pot. Do not add salt. Fill pot with cold water just until ingredients are covered.  Bring water to a boil over medium-high heat, lower heat, and allow to simmer for five hours. The complete instructions are in this blog post:

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Timestamp: 11:38 a.m.
At lunch time, I turned the heat off and covered the pot and let it cool on the stovetop for a few hours.

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Timestamp: 4:00 p.m.
I strained the soup through a large colander; solids go in the trash because the meat is tasteless at this point, plus there are lots of tiny bones in the solids. I did pull out the tender carrots to nibble on. I was one cup short of eight quarts of broth, so I dribbled a cup of hot water over the solids to round out the number. Next, I took the pot of broth and ran it through a fine mesh sieve to get rid of the smallest bones.

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Timestamp: 6:49 p.m.
I poured 8-cups (two quarts) of broth into each of two containers that went into the freezer. The base of future meals!

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I used the other four quarts to make soup for our dinner and as “sick soup” for a friend. There’s a recipe in this post: Winter Cold Therapy: Sick Soup (or, Snowy Day Stew), Knitting and Coloring.

In last week’s version of this soup recipe, I used freshly picked collards and parsley from the garden, and potatoes, carrots, Italian stewed tomatoes, fire-roasted tomatoes (they give a little heat to the soup), leftover corn, and veal sausage from the depths of my freezer. I will use collards in my soup again; their texture, taste, and color hold up beautifully in soup. Don’t add the collards until the last few minutes of cooking.

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Timestamp: 6:27 a.m. (today, two weeks later)
Took broth out of the freezer to make Lisa’s Award Winning Buffalo Chicken Chili, for dinner tonight. This is one of the most popular recipes on the blog.

lisa's chili

I’ll need to buy another rotisserie chicken for the meat portion of this recipe. The rotisserie chicken carcass salvage cycle begins again.

Related Posts
Rotisserie Chicken Soup, Revisited
Sick Soup, Sometimes Known as Snow Day Soup
Aunt Bridget’s Chicken Soup with Little Meatballs
Lisa’s Award Winning Buffalo Chicken Chili
Kelly’s Duck Stew
Bruce’s Turkey and Sausage Gumbo
Mrs. Lombard’s Portuguese Kale Soup (aka Caldo Verde)
Pasta e Fagioli, aka Pasta and Bean Soup
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

LET’S STAY CONNECTED!

Follow my photos of vegetables growing, backyard chickens hanging out, and dinner preparations on Instagram at JudysChickens.

Never miss a post: sign up to become a follower of the Blog.

© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

Pasta e Fagioli

As Dean Martin would croon, “When the stars make you drool, just like pasta fazool, that’s amore.

From the minute I buy a cooked ham, I start thinking about the soup I’m going to make with the leftover ham bone. The soup I love to make with that ham bone is Pasta e Fagioli, AKA pasta and beans, a classic Italian comfort soup. And, once I start making the soup, forget it, I start humming Dean Martin’s song, That’s Amore. Ad nauseam.

I usually pick up a spiral-cut ham to have in the house for sandwiches during the holidays.  This Easter, I didn’t have a full house or a ham, but it is so automatic for me to make (and want) a hearty ham bone soup after a holiday that I drove to our local Honey Baked Ham store Monday morning to see if they had any ham bones for sale in their freezer. I was in luck, they were having one of their post-holiday buy-one-get-one-free sales, and I was able to pick up two meaty bones for seven dollars.

Technique Time: How to Add Layers of Flavor to a Soup
One of the cooking techniques I’ve learned over the years is the benefit of slowly sautéing chopped vegetables and aromatics in olive oil to create a flavorful foundation for soups, sauces, and stews.

Depending on who taught you how to cook, this flavor base is known as a soffritto, a mirepoix, or the “Holy Trinity.” For example, the French flavor base is called a mirepoix and includes two parts onion to one part celery and one part carrot, all of it chopped and sautéed in butter or duck fat. The Italians start with a soffritto that includes carrots, onions, and celery often with the addition of garlic, fennel, and parsley, and all of it sautéed in olive oil. In Cajun cooking, they have the “Holy Trinity” which consists of 3 parts celery, 2 parts onion, and 1 part sweet bell pepper, all of it sautéed in butter or oil. It is helpful to know these ratios as you start to create your own recipes.

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When making soups and even tomato sauces, you can add another layer of flavor by being intentional about what you use for the soup’s liquid base; the soup’s medium for flavor and heat. When you add raw or pre-roasted meat bones and simmer for a while, the bones’ marrow is released into the soup, and now you have enriched your soup or sauce even more.

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Finally, when making soup, you can add yet another layer of flavor to the vegetables you choose to use, such as the stewed tomatoes, beans, and fresh greens I used in this recipe.

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When you use this many layers of flavor, you’ll find you need to add a lot less salt, if any, to your recipe. I didn’t add salt to this soup because there is already plenty of it in the ham and cheese rind.

A few words on the main ingredients used to make Pasta e Fagioli.

The Beans
I start with a 20-ounce package of dried beans. The package comes with a seasoning packet that I have never used. In a pinch, you could use three cans of cooked beans, rinsed and drained.

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Take a moment to admire how pretty the beans look as you rinse and inspect them for tiny rocks and dirt. I love the different shapes and textures.

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Their color intensifies when rinsed, reminding me of pebbles rolling on the beach with the waves.

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You will need to soak the beans for a few hours to soften them, and then partially cook them before you start making this soup.

The Ham Bone
Recently, I happened to be at my favorite meat market, Hampton Meats, in Hopkinsville, KY on the day they were butchering a pig. I’ve been there on days when half of a cow was hanging there, too. There is nothing like seeing an animal carcass hanging on a hook to make you take a moment to reflect on the source of your food.  I have a copy of the “Meat Reference Manual” issued in 1942 by the U.S. Army for mess sergeants. I like the graphics of their meat charts and refer to them often.

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Have you ever wondered why, when you get to the end of a spiral cut ham, getting the meat off the bone is no longer easy or pretty? It’s because the pig’s bulky ball and socket hip-joint are hidden in there. I dissect so you don’t have to.

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The Greens:
Many of the cool weather greens growing in my backyard kitchen garden right now, such as kale, cabbage, chard, and spinach are suitable to use in soup because their leaves are thick and won’t disintegrate in the soup like lettuce would do. In the photo on the left, I’m growing “Alcosa” cabbage, a sweet and tasty variety of cabbage. I use the leaves while they are still young rather than letting them grow into a ball. In the picture on the right, I am growing “Winterbor” and “Red Russian” kale and “Bright Lights” chard. All will work well in this soup. Other choices that would work are spinach, collards, and escarole.

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Ingredients:
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20-ounce bag of dried beans, picked over and rinsed
5 stalks celery (1/2 pound), finely chopped
4 carrots (1/2 pound), finely chopped
1 large onion (1 pound), finely chopped
1 small head garlic (1 ounce), finely chopped
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cooked and meaty ham bone, trimmed of visible fat
2 cans “Italian Recipe” stewed tomatoes, puréed first
½  of the heel of a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 whole bay leaves
12 cups water (3 quarts)
8 cups greens: cabbage, kale, chard, spinach (greens optional)
1 box ditalini pasta

Mise en Place:
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Instructions:
1. To cook dried beans: Place rinsed beans in about 10 cups of water. Do not add salt to the water. Bring to a rapid boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1½ hours. They should still be somewhat firm, but edible. Drain and set aside.

2. Pull some of the meat off the ham bone to use to sauté the soffritto. Set aside.

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3. Add olive oil to a large frying pan and get it started heating up. Next, add the soffritto, the carrots, onions, celery and garlic and pieces of ham. Sauté over medium-high heat for 15 minutes, frequently stirring, while vegetables become translucent and very lightly browned.

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In a large soup pot add the sautéed soffritto, the partially cooked beans, the ham bone, the 12 cups of water, the puréed stewed tomatoes, the cheese rind, and the bay leaves. Bring to a boil over high heat. Once the soup comes to a boil, turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally. Test the beans to make sure they are cooked before adding the greens.

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Add the greens.
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Cook for five more minutes. Turn heat off and remove soup pot from the hot burner.

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Pull the ham bone out of the pot and place it on a cutting board. Pull the meat off the bone, cut it into bite-sized pieces, and return the meat to the pot.

Cook the pasta:
Put a pot of salted water on the stove top to cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. I never cook pasta directly in the soup because it drinks up all the soup’s liquid. Store the cooked pasta in a separate container from the soup, so the noodles do not become mushy.

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To serve soup, put a scoopful of ditalini in each bowl, top with soup, and pass the grated Reggiano cheese!

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Or, serve it without pasta.

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LET’S STAY CONNECTED!

Follow my photos of vegetables growing, backyard chickens hanging out, and dinner preparations on Instagram at JudysChickens.

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© 2014-2017 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.