Photos by 
Jessicarobyn Keyser
Jessicarobyn Keyser

This Soup Is Proof That Squash Is Better When It’s Savory Than Sickly Sweet. Fight Me

by 
Julie Laing
May 10, 2022

Winter squash was an acquired taste for me that took years to develop. I blame my dad for that. Every year he grew squash in our garden, devoting much of the space to the acorn variety. He loved it cooked one way: cut in half, baked in the oven until mushy, and served with a pool of butter and brown sugar at its center.

My mom obliged, but I detested those sweet, soft spoonfuls, despite being required to “try two bites” every time it was served. I could sit at the table trying to take that second bite long after everyone had finished their meal. The squash half became less appealing with every passing minute as the sugary butter cooled and congealed until it seemed to stare at me, rather than the other way around.

I was into my 20s before I learned squash could be anything but sickly sweet, mushy mouthfuls. I was visiting my cousins for the first time without my family. I felt so grown up, getting on a plane alone and finding my way from the airport to their house. I walked into their kitchen just as my cousin was slashing open a large squash, and my stomach plummeted as if that airplane had pitched and lost altitude. I felt 12 years old again.

A staring contest with a squash wasn’t going to endear me to the relatives who were putting me up for the weekend, so I braced myself to smile politely, eat little at dinner, and sneak a snack later in bed.

What landed on the table an hour later was not the meal I expected.

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Instead of squash halves on each plate, bowls of thick, silky soup circled the table. I was so surprised that at first I thought the squash I’d seen earlier was destined for a later meal. I wasn’t prepared for a scrumptious squash soup and the discovery that this large family of cucurbits could be so delicious.

That first bowl went down easily, and I quickly learned that I do enjoy winter squash. Roasting it and other root vegetables brings out their natural sweetness, which explains why the added sugar and butter overpowered my tastebuds. Instead, I prefer to counter their flavor with savory herbs and spices.

Those flavoring variations are endless, from curry, to warming spices, to the bright color of fresh herbs and greens. You could keep squash soup chunky, but pureeing it creates a silkiness that’s a far cry from my dad’s favorite mushy dish. This version pairs the orange tones of the squash and carrot with bright green slashes of spinach and spots of parsley.

Since you’re cleaning a whole squash, you might as well roast the seeds to garnish the soup, like croutons. I like to roast the seeds first, while I’m preparing the other vegetables, and then let them cool so that they’re completely crunchy before I sprinkle them on each bowl.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Spinach

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Serves 4

Ingredients

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, deseeded, and cubed

2 small potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 large onion, peeled and cut in chunks

1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced

5 cloves garlic, unpeeled

3 tbsp olive oil, divided

5 cups vegetable stock

2/3 cup dry sherry 

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups Fifth Season baby spinach

10-15 stems fresh Italian parsley, minced

Optional: roasted squash seeds

 | 
 | 
Serves 4

Ingredients

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, deseeded, and cubed

2 small potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 large onion, peeled and cut in chunks

1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced

5 cloves garlic, unpeeled

3 tbsp olive oil, divided

5 cups vegetable stock

2/3 cup dry sherry 

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups Fifth Season baby spinach

10-15 stems fresh Italian parsley, minced

Optional: roasted squash seeds

Ingredients

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, deseeded, and cubed

2 small potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 large onion, peeled and cut in chunks

1 medium carrot, peeled and sliced

5 cloves garlic, unpeeled

3 tbsp olive oil, divided

5 cups vegetable stock

2/3 cup dry sherry 

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups Fifth Season baby spinach

10-15 stems fresh Italian parsley, minced

Optional: roasted squash seeds

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 425F. Coat a 9- by 13-inch sheet pan with some of the oil.

2. In a large bowl, mix the squash, potato, onion, and carrot, plus the unpeeled garlic cloves, with the remaining oil. Spread everything evenly onto the sheet pan and roast for 20-30 minutes until fork-tender.

3. Remove the sheetpan from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Squeeze the garlic cloves from their skins into a large stockpot, and then stir in the rest of the vegetables, stock and sherry. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes

4. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Alternatively, carefully puree it in small batches on a low setting in an upright blender before returning it to the pot. (Note: If going this route, do not fill the blender jar more than 1/3 full to avoid burns or spatter. Also, cover the lid with a towel and hold it on tightly while pureeing.)

6. Add the salt, pepper, and spinach. Over medium-low heat, cook for an additional 1-2 minutes, until the spinach is soft.

7. Remove from the heat and serve garnished with parsley and roasted squash seeds, if desired.

About the Author

Julie Laing

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