There is no more forgiving vegetable than squash, nor a food that more greatly flatters a mediocre cook. It’s the food equivalent of the friend who doesn’t get annoyed when you leave her waiting on a street corner (or in the squash’s case, in the back of the fridge for a month); it’s the spouse who brags about you in front of others, even when it’s not true.
Squash soup (for recipe, scroll to link at the bottom) was one of the first soups I made, that made me think,”Wow, I can cook!” Up to that point my greatest contribution to the culinary world had been Apple Brown Betty which I had perfected at the hands of my college roommates whose sunken standards had been set by the school’s institutional food service (aptly named Saga).
Cooking well is about confidence and practice. It’s not about being “correct”. Confidence trumps talent in the kitchen (in life too.) If you can taste, you can cook. Never let an ingredient intimidate. Squash may have a threatening exterior, but grab a butcher’s knife and it will submit to your requests. As Dr Spock famously said about child rearing, “You know more than you think you do.” Same goes for cooking.
What I add to embellish the soup has changed over the years, but the point remains — you’re more likely to make a pretty good squash soup than a terrible one.
What kind of squash to use – for this recipe I used a trio of Delicata (quite sweet), Butternut (little less sweet) and Acorn (less still). Mainly because that’s what I found at the market, but any will work. And if you want to avoid a scrap heap, the skin of acorn and delicata is very tender so leave some on! (Butternut skin is a bit tougher). The skin will soften when cooked and the only difference will be your soup will have a little more texture and a more rustic look, as it will be flecked with specks of skin.
Butternut and Delicata (above),
Those are the staples, but here is the trick …
cumin. I started adding ginger to “cool” the sweetness when I found that some squash can almost be too sweet, and the cumin just gives it a surprise kick.
Some squash trivia:
- It’s technically a fruit (since it contains the plant’s seeds)
- Cucumbers are also part of the squash family and are also a fruit
- The name means “a green thing eaten raw”, from the Native American word askutasquash (which likely refers to zucchini which is also a squash)
- It was one of the “Three Sisters” that the Native Americans planted along with beans and corn
- Winter squash (the thick skinned kind) is high in beta-carotene (Vitamin A) like carrots (especially the deep orange-fleshed ones)
How do you like to cook squash?
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