My husband and I think that winter would be more tolerable if Christmas was in February. Imagine: we wouldn’t have to start one holiday before another has ended. We could have lights and parties and decorations when our pallid bodies need them most. And shedding holiday pounds would be a lot easier in March and April when the weather breaks and the farmer’s markets offer scapes instead of just apples.
But until I can convince two billion Christians to join our scheme, I cure my own bout of Seasonal affective disorder by making lots of butternut squash soup. Sounds weird. But it’s my coping mechanism. It’s healthy, satisfying, and freezes well. Sure, it’s a bit 90s. But good dishes never go out of style.
I’ve been dabbling with this soup for years. It started as the curried squash and mushroom soup from the Moosewood Cookbook (naturally), but has transformed since into something quite different. Squash plus a sweet potato or two are roasted to caramelize their sugars (an idea pulled from the Naked Chef). I swapped the curry for a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. I then fry sage in butter until both brown. The sage becomes a crispy garnish, and the nutty butter, once blended in, enriches the soup (an idea from Bouchon Bakery). Sear cubes of bread in a well-oiled skillet to serve along side. This ensures that the soup never tastes like baby food – a common fate of pureed soups.
Unless our “Christmas in February” campaign suddenly takes off, I get the feeling I’ll be making this soup this time next year and for years to come.
Petition and recipe below.
“Christmas in February” Petition
I, ____________________, on this day _____________, 2015, hereby state my desire to change Christmas to February 25th, for the good of all beings north of 40° Latitude.
Butternut Squash Soup with Fried Sage
2 large butternut squash (about 4 pounds total)
2 medium sweet potatoes
Pure olive oil or vegetable oil
Freshly ground black pepper
2 medium yellow onions, peeled
2 stalks celery
1 large carrot, peeled
1 large garlic clove, peeled and smashed
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ cup dry white wine
Water or chicken stock
1/3 cup crème fraîche, sour cream or whole plain yogurt
¼ teaspoon garam masala, nutmeg or cinnamon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
Handful sage and/or parsley leaves
1 teaspoon honey
Hot paprika, pinch (optional)
Croutons (bread seared in olive oil until crisp and seasoned with salt), (recommended)
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Halve and seed the squash and cut each half into 4 pieces. Halve the sweet potatoes. Place squash and sweet potatoes on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil. Coat the vegetables with oil to cover. Season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven until they can be easily pierced with a fork, 1 to 1½ hours.
2. Cut the onion, celery, and carrot into ½-inch dice. Place a large saucepan over medium-high heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. When the oil is hot add the onions, celery, carrot, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, and sauté over medium heat until soft and tender, about 20 minutes. Add the wine and let boil until nearly evaporated.
3. Once cooked, let the squash and sweets cool slightly, then scoop out the flesh and transfer to the pot of vegetables; discard skin. Add enough water or stock to the pot to nearly cover. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 10 minutes.
4. Mix crème fraîche, sour cream or yogurt with garam masala, nutmeg or cinnamon; set aside.
5. Meanwhile brown the butter by melting it in a small skillet over medium heat. When the butter foams, add the sage and/or parsley and let them fry in the butter. Once they change to a dark hue and become crisp when removed (check crispness by removing one from the heat), transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and while still hot, season with salt; set aside. Let the butter continue to cook until the milk solids that fall to the bottom of the skillet brown, then remove from the heat.
6. Transfer the soup to a blender. Blend on high speed until smooth, adding water as needed. With the blender running, add the honey, and the browned butter. Season to taste with salt, pepper, hot paprika, and lemon (taste the soup with the crème fraîche garnish before adding lemon - crème fraîche adds quite a bit of acidity.) Transfer the soup back to the saucepan and set over medium heat, stirring, until hot. Either simmer the soup to help thicken it or add a little water to loosen it to the desired consistency. Serve topped with the crème fraîche mixture, the crispy sage-parsley leaves, and, if you choose, croutons. Serves 6 to 8. Recipe by Jill Santopietro.