Sweet 'n Savory Squash Soup

I took a day off yesterday! To me, a real day off must include at least two out of three of the following: pajamas worn all day long, no work emails answered, a glass of wine before 5 pm. Happy to report that I nailed it across the board (okay okay, maybe I still answered like a handful of work-related emails). When I posted to Facebook that I made this soup, my friend and former boss, Margot, commented "I'm not completely sure you understand what taking a day off means." To me, cooking is a relaxing and very creative process...it's the opposite of work, so I relish in it on the rare occasion I have a whole day to play in the kitchen.

Although it's technically still summer, the next wave of seasonal produce is becoming available in the Napa Valley and therefore my brain has moved onto fall recipes! When I saw beautiful acorn and butternut squash at the market, I knew immediately what I wanted to do with them. You see recipes for butternut squash soup and acorn squash soup, but why are they never mixed? I decided to find out if I could develop a simple but flavorful soup with minimal active cooking time so I could knock out some cleaning and cat snuggling in between. I slow-roasted the squash with shallot and garlic, which made the house smell like Thanksgiving, and in turn had me smiling all day long.

Then, I decided to cheat a bit by cutting out the step I would normally do as a base for most any soup — sautéing onions in butter until they're caramelized. I figured since I had all the roasted shallot and garlic already in the mix, maybe I could get away with this and keep it vegan at the same time. Overall, it worked really well but I did notice some depth missing, so below you'll see the addition of a raw clove of garlic a few other umami flavor add-ins like tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce. It more than makes up for the difference, and adds a great savory balance to the sweetness of the squash and cinnamon components. 

Sweet 'n Savory Squash Soup

Ingredients

  • To roast:
    • 1 small acorn squash, halved and seeds removed
    • 1 small butternut squash, halved and seeds removed
    • 4 shallots, whole and peeled (for larger shallots, break them apart and only use 4 pieces)
    • 4 small garlic cloves, whole, crushed, and peeled
    • 1/2 C + olive oil (I like California Olive Ranch)
    • Sea salt + pepper
       
  • To throw into the immersion blender:
    • 4 Cups vegetable stock (equivalent to one box)
    • 1 tsp. vegetable base Better than Bouillon (you could also use one bouillon cube)
    • 2 tsp. tomato paste
    • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
    • 1/2 cup coconut milk (unsweetened soy milk, heavy cream, or cow's milk work just the same here)
    • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (or a few shakes of hot sauce)
    • 1 small clove garlic
    • 1 tsp. dried rubbed sage
    • 2 tsp. dried thyme
    • 1 tsp. cinnamon
    • Sea salt to taste (you'll likely need more than you think)
       
  • For the seed topping:
    • 1/4 toasted pumpkin seeds
    • 2 tablespoons hemp seeds
    • 2 tsp. red pepper flakes (find my all-time fav right here)
    • A drizzle of good olive oil
       

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place the halved squash top-up on an aluminum foil or parchment-lined baking sheet. Add one clove of garlic and one shallot (or shallot piece) into the centers of each half, then drizzle with about two tablespoons of olive oil. Be sure to drizzle most into the centers of the squash, but also along the rims so the entire thing gets a bit of an oil bath for roasting! Sprinkle flaked sea salt and fresh cracked pepper over each. Roast approximately one hour, until they start to brown and a fork easily slides into the thickest part of the squash. Let cool enough to handle. Throw the roasted shallots and garlic into an immersion blender. Using a spoon remove the squash from the skin, and add it all directly into the blender. At this point add all the rest of your ingredients (except for the seed topping of course!) into your blender. Note that due to varying sizes of squash, you may need to do two rounds of immersion blending...for me, everything fit perfectly into the Vitamix, but play it by ear and split into two batches if needed. Be sure to hold the top on securely as you blend on high for 1-2 minutes until very smooth and creamy. If it seems too thick, add a bit of water or more milk. Transfer the soup into a large pot and bring up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. At this point, add your finishing touches aka salt + pepper to taste, and possibly a dash more hot sauce or spices, depending on your preferences. 

In a small bowl, combine your seeds and red peppers flakes. Add your desired portion of soup into each bowl and garnish with a good swirl of olive oil followed by a handful of seed mixture. Ta-da: Fall in a bowl! Makes 6-8 servings, depending on how big your bowls are. Lastly, pssst the flavors in this soup only get better overnight so leftovers for tomorrow's lunch are a must!