Waste Not, Want Not
Revelations of a soupy Sunday
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
I had a revelation while cleaning out my fridge this weekend.
While I didn’t see the likeness of Jesus in a moldy slab of cheddar cheese in the hours I toiled over restoring the filthy appliance to a dignified state, I did come to the miraculous conclusion that—despite the fact that I was throwing away a couple bottles of long-expired blue cheese dressing and the Twinkies I’d saved from a New Year’s Day brunch—generally, our household does a great job of not wasting food.
Of course, I have a few things going in my favor that help ensure gustatory goods won’t go to waste. One of my boyfriend’s many nicknames is “Big Gulp,” and he’s an enthusiastic, ravenous fan of my cooking. We’re also not afraid of leftovers, and I’ll often parse out lunchtime servings of whatever we’re eating that night to take to work the next day at the same time I’m putting dinner together.
We also have a few farm animals, so if bread’s starting to go south or veggies are wilting, the chickens and rabbits will be the first in line to partake of the slightly imperfect bounty. What doesn’t go to them is composted—excluding rancid condiments and stale Hostess products.
But back to that fridge. After it had been emptied and scrubbed down and the Maraschino cherries had been banished, it was sparkling and, well, kind of blinding. Its cleanliness, of course, caused a widespread attack on kitchen grime and beating back as much food waste as possible.
I’ve been steadily going through last summer’s garlic stash, but have been ignoring the pantry full of butternut squash and zucchinis that are still lying around waiting to be consumed.
I knew if I didn’t get started on what’s remaining soon, the produce would start to decay and even the critters in the petting zoo wouldn’t want it. So, since Sunday was once again wet and chilly and not the kind of afternoon that calls for outdoor exploration, I did my best to utilize a few of those specimens.
In honor of the rain—and to help warm up the kitchen—I whipped up a hearty supply of roasted butternut squash soup. I used the last of the sage from the garden, and a Fuji apple instead of a Granny Smith, but mostly stuck to the recipe.
My sweetie declared the soup to be “quite delicious,” and was even more impressed when I opened the larder to show him how much emptier it was with a few of the winter squash gone. He did, however, point to the oversized zucchini and ask me what my plans were for it. Without answering, I shut the pantry door and spooned up another serving of soup for tomorrow’s lunch.
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
4 pounds whole butternut squash (about 2 medium), halved lengthwise and seeds removed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 stick)
1 medium Granny Smith apple (about 8 ounces)
1/2 medium yellow onion
8 fresh sage leaves
2 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
2 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
1/3 cup heavy cream (I used ½ and ½)
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds, for garnish (optional)
Heat the oven to 425 degrees and arrange a rack in the middle. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the squash pieces cut-side up on the baking sheet. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and brush all of it over the tops and insides of the squash halves (alternatively, you can rub it on evenly with your fingers). Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast until knife tender, about 50 minutes to 1 hour.
Meanwhile, peel, core and cut the apple into medium dice. Cut the onion into medium dice. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the apple, onion and sage, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat and set aside. When the squash is ready, set the baking sheet on a wire rack until the squash is cool enough to handle. Using a large spoon, scoop the flesh into the saucepan with the sautéed apples and onions; discard the skins.
Add the broth, water, and measured salt and pepper, stir to combine, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally and breaking up any large pieces of squash, until the flavors meld, about 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream.
Using a blender, purée the soup in batches until smooth, removing the small cap from the blender lid (the pour lid) and covering the space with a kitchen towel (this allows steam to escape and prevents the lid from popping off). Alternatively, use an immersion blender. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve garnished with the pumpkin seeds, if using.
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