Winter Squash Stirs to Life in a Soup Pot

With a little effort, butternut, acorn, pumpkin, and other gourds are transformed into perfect autumnal meals

SQUASH is something I'd rather play than eat. Even though, to tell the truth, I'm a lot better at eating it.

Am I alone? Does anyone really look forward to winter squash season with great anticipation? Spring asparagus, yes. Summer strawberries and corn, of course. Autumn apples and cider, definitely. But did you ever ever see anybody ticking off the days on a calendar, dreaming that ''Gee, only two more months and butternut squash will be here.'' Or when is the last time your spouse came charging through the door shouting, ''Honey, guess what! It's Hubbard squash season. Come on, let's go shopping!''

I don't think so. Not that there's anything wrong with squash. It's a decent, tasty, colorful vegetable. And let's face it, it has as long a shelf life as Grandmother's Hummel figurine collection.

Winter squashes are always cooked (unlike their thin-skinned summer relatives) and are usually simply baked, steamed, or simmered.

But one place I've found that those everlasting squash really come to life is in the soup pot. Winter squashes make a smooth, almost creamy rich (without being heavy), sweet, slightly nutty flavored soup that works well as a first course, or even a perfect autumnal meal when served with a pitcher of chilled cider, light salad, and a good quality wheat bread or hard roll. Squash also blends nicely with other squashes, root vegetables, and even fruit in soup form.

When choosing winter squashes, look for those with bright color. They should be heavy and free of cuts, breaks, or soft spots. No need to refrigerate whole squash. Cut-up hunks of hubbards are an exception. Simply store whole squash in a cool dry place where it will keep for months. (Cellars may be too damp to keep squash for an extended length of time.)

I have used butternut squash in some of the following recipes as it is readily available and easy to peel and cook, but you may substitute any winter squash including pumpkin in the following recipes. For rough-skinned varieties that are difficult to peel (such as hubbard, buttercup, turban, or pumpkin), use a piece that is the equivalent weight, and bake at 350 degrees F. for about half an hour, until soft when pricked with a fork. Scrape the cooked squash from the skin, and add it to the food processor with other ingredients.

So don't let winter squash sit around collecting dust. Take them down from the shelf, and try making one of the soups featured here. Besides, Grandmother needs that space for more of those adorable Hummel figurines.


3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 large onions, chopped

4 to 5 teaspoons curry powder

2 tablespoons brown sugar

3 cups chicken stock

2 cups apple cider

1 large butternut squash (2-1/2 to 3 pounds), peeled, seeded, and chopped

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Chopped parsley or chives for garnish

Plain yogurt (optional)

Melt butter in a large stock pot over low heat. Add onions and curry powder. Cook until onions are soft (about 20 minutes) stirring occasionally. Stir in brown sugar and add stock, apple cider, squash, and apples. Simmer, partially covered until squash is tender (about 25 minutes). Add salt and pepper to taste. Allow to cool slightly before adding to food processor in two or three portions. Process until smooth and return to pot. Taste, adjust seasonings if necessary. Simmer, uncovered for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until soup reaches desired consistency. Garnish with parsley and/or chives and plain yogurt. Serves 8.


2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 Granny Smith or Cortland apples

2 Bartlett pears

1 butternut squash (about 2 to 2-1/2 lbs.)

4 cups chicken stock

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon powdered or fresh ginger

2 tablespoons brown sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

Sour cream and chopped walnuts for garnish (optional)

Melt butter in a large, heavy pot. Add onion and saute about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Peel, core, and coarsely chop apples, pears, and squash. Add chicken stock, fruit, squash, nutmeg, thyme, ginger, sugar, and salt and pepper to pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes, or until squash is tender.

Let stand for 15 minutes to cool slightly. Add in batches to food processor or blender. Puree until smooth. Reheat if necessary and serve with a dollop of sour cream topped with chopped walnuts.

Serves 6.


4 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 cups chopped onion

1 large carrot, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 large acorn squash (1-1/2 pounds) halved and seeded

2 cups cubed white turnip (about 12 ounces)

5 cups chicken stock

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon salt

Sour cream and chopped chives for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt butter in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, garlic, and sugar and mix thoroughly to coat with butter. Turn heat down as low as possible, cover, and let vegetables ''sweat'' for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent burning.

Prick inside of squash several times with a fork and rub with small amount of butter or margarine. Place squash halves on an oven-proof dish and bake about 30 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork.

When mixed vegetables in stock pot are soft, add turnips and 2 cups of chicken stock, thyme, pepper, and salt. Simmer 20 minutes, or until turnip is tender. Scoop flesh from acorn squash with a spoon and place in food processor. Add cooked vegetables and their liquid, and process until smooth. Pour puree back in pan, add the rest of the stock and heat. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with dollop of sour cream sprinkled with chives.

Serves 6 to 8.

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