Winter Squash Bisque with Gorgonzola and Toasted Walnuts

This is the best soup that I know how to make. Since I like you guys so much I wanted to share the recipe with you since it’s perfect for the holidays.butternutsquashbisqueMy mom has been making a version of this to serve on Thanksgiving for as long as I can remember.  I think she got it from either Sunset Magazine or Bon Appetit (an educated guess based on on the huge stacks of Sunset magazines she has in the front closet, years of subscriptions from a time before the internet). I never saw the original recipe, and it’s evolved a lot over the years as I tinkered around with it. This version that I’m sharing with you today is what I’ve settled on and have been making for quite awhile now.squashWinter squash always is a staple in our house since it’s so easy to preserve. We’ll grow a rainbow of different varieties during the summer and then keep them in bins in the pantry for the cold months. My favorites types are butternut, kabocha, and buttercup, although there are so many different varieties that it’s hard to really narrow it down to just those. This soup will work with any combination of what you have, though I have noticed that it doesn’t come out quite as good with pumpkin. Try to stick with varieties with drier, solid flesh, like butternuts. Sweet potatoes or yams will work just as well if you happen to have those.

Oh, and a note to any gardeners who were unsure about this: To preserve winter squash, just cut it off the vine when it’s ripe, leaving the stem attached, and store in a cool, dark place.  Ideally you’ll get them before they’ve gotten frosted on and left out in the rain for days, but I’ve also found some hidden out in the December garden that are still just fine.  Usually they’ll keep for months, but it’s a good idea to check your stash every so often to see if there are any that have soft spots or tiny bits of mold popping up.  That’s all you have to do. They really just preserve themselves.snowy trees

This recipe would be a wonderful light lunch for Christmas or New Year’s, a great for a weeknight supper when it’s freezing outside, or, if you’re busy and haven’t got a lot of time for cooking, make it in advance by a day or two when you have time and then reheat it. It may thicken a bit in the fridge but just add some water to thin it out and check the seasonings again.

Winter Squash Bisque with Gorgonzola Cheese and Toasted Walnuts

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbs. butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 celery ribs, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 3 or 4 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 12 c. cubed winter squash (peeled and seeded first*)
  • 8 c. water or stock
  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 1/2 c. crumbled gorgonzola or blue cheese
  • 1/2 c. toasted walnuts or pecans
  • 1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper

In a large soup pot, melt the butter on medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrots, and sage, and saute until the onions are translucent. Add the winter squash and water (it should be enough to cover the cubed squash, but feel free add more. Turn the heat to low and simmer everything for an hour or two. Remove from the heat and puree with your tool of choice (blender, immersion blender, etc.). Put the pot back on the stove on medium heat and stir in the heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve, topping each bowl with a few tablespoons of blue cheese, a sprinkle of nuts, and some fresh parsley.

Note: The gorgonzola cheese sounds weird if you haven’t tried it before but it’s vital. Don’t skip it or switch to a different cheese unless you’re allergic to moldy cheese or something. I’ve tried it with goat cheese and it’s not the same at all.

*I feel like there are already a million places on the internet that explain how to prepare winter squash. If you need help, just google. The main thing is to have a sharp chef’s knife and just to go for it — it really only takes a minute.

Happy Holidays!

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Butternut Squash Bisque with Coconut Milk and Lemongrass

It’s looking like spring…It seems like it’s been spring for months now, though.The chickens are certainly happy about the mild weather, since they’d rather chase butterflies and eat grass than hang out in the frozen mud pit that is the Winter Chicken Coop.  Winter is such an important time of the year on a farm, though.  Without winter, when would I have time to watch all six seasons of Lost? To completely clean out the pantry and rearrange my canned goods in rainbow order? As much as it might seem like I enjoy hard work, there’s something to be said for sleeping in and doing nothing (which never, ever happens in the summer).  There’s nothing quite like a rainy winter day when all there is to do is keep a fire going in the wood stove and, you know, spend all afternoon experimenting with winter squash recipes. The great thing: the weather forecast this week looks horrible! I was just about to  fully embrace spring, but it seems like we’ll still have a chance to do the whole winter thing for atleast a little while.  I have a bunch of recipes I haven’t gotten around to making yet, cold weather stuff, with ingredients like pork sausage, maple syrup, duck, butternut squash, pumpkins…. recipes like creamed winter greens, maple-chevre-cheesecake, roasted pumpkin with blue cheese and pecans. This soup is one of my absolute favorite – best of the best – butternut squash recipes.  Before the winter squash is all gone and I get completely distracted by things like peas and radishes, I had to make it atleast once.  Butternut Squash Bisque with Coconut Milk and Lemongrass This is an adaptation of the Winter Squash Soup from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (p. 216).  Her recipe is more complicated and uses more ingredients (you need to make the Stock for Curried Dishes before you can do the main soup recipe).  I’ve followed the recipe out of the cookbook before, but this is my faster, easier version.

  • 1 1/2 tbs. unrefined peanut oil
  • 1/4 tsp. coriander
  • 2 green cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tbs. ginger, minced
  • 4 2” sections of fresh lemongrass
  • 2 small thai chilis, seeds and all, minced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 celery ribs, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • cilantro stems (the leaves are used as a garnish, the stems go in the soup)
  • 2 1/2 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes
  • water (or vegetable stock)
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • juice from 2 limes
  • salt & pepper to taste, and an optional splash of hot sauce if the peppers don’t do it for you
  • garnish: chopped mint and cilantro leaves

Heat the peanut oil in a soup pot on medium heat.  Add the coriander, turmeric, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick and lemongrass.  Saute the spices alone for a minute or two.  Then, add the ginger, onion, carrots and celery and saute for 5-6 minutes, until the onions start to look translucent.  Add the butternut squash and cilantro stems into the pot and then cover everything with water or stock (Not too much water, just enough to cover the vegetables.  You can always add more later, but it’s hard to fix a soup that’s too thin).   Simmer for an hour or two on low heat, adding water occasionally to keep the squash covered. Remove the tough lemongrass stalks and the cinnamon stick and discard them.  Puree the soup with an immersion blender (or whatever appliance you use to puree things…) Stir in the can of coconut milk and the lime juice.  Season with salt and pepper.  If it’s not spicy enough for you, feel free to put a splash of tabasco sauce to give it a bit more kick.  Garnish with chopped mint and cilantro leaves.  In the past I’ve also garnished with chopped peanuts, sliced cabbage, sesame seeds, fried tofu even…. whatever makes you happy.