Healthy flavor for hearty winter appetites
Our local markets are laden with colorful winter squash. So here at Kitchen Riffs central, that means it’s time for soup.
You can dish up this soup as the starter for an elegant cold-weather dinner. Or for a main course, just serve a large bowl of soup with crusty bread or salad. It’s a whole meal.
Recipe: Spicy Roast Winter Squash Soup
Roasting concentrates and sweetens the flavor of squash (or almost any vegetable). We like to roast the squash and peppers for this dish a day or two ahead and store them in the refrigerator until we’re ready to make soup.
Acorn squash has a wonderful sweet flavor, so that’s what we used in this dish. But you can substitute any variety of winter squash you prefer. You might want to try butternut or kabocha. Or even pumpkin (yes, it’s a form of squash).
Exact quantities aren’t critical for this recipe. You want about 2 pounds of cooked squash, so start with 2½ pounds, uncooked (you’ll be discarding the seeds and skin).
Roasting the squash and red pepper takes an hour or so (and can be done ahead of time). When you’re ready to assemble and make the soup, allow 15 minutes for prep time and at least 45 minutes for cooking time.
This recipe serves 6 to 8 as a starter. Leftovers keep for several days if refrigerated in an airtight container.
- ~2 pounds acorn squash, roasted (may substitute any type of winter squash)
- 2 sweet red bell peppers, roasted
- 1 medium onion (about ¾ cup, diced)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- salt to taste (a few good-sized pinches; see Notes)
- one 1- to 1½-inch piece of fresh ginger (or to taste)
- 4 cloves garlic (or to taste)
- 1 medium potato (Yukon golds are particularly nice, but any type will work)
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon (or to taste)
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ~6 cups water
- additional salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ~1 cup heavy cream (or to taste; optional)
- chopped parsley or cilantro for garnish (optional)
- Start by roasting the squash and red bell peppers (you can do this a day or two ahead of time). Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. Place the squash on a baking pan. Roast until tender (50 to 70 minutes). Allow the roasted squash to cool, then peel it. (For more detailed instructions, see our post for Winter Squash Gratin.) If you’re not planning to prepare the soup immediately, refrigerate the roasted squash in an airtight container until ready to use.
- Roast the red bell peppers with the squash (cook them whole, with skins on). Roast the peppers for 30 to 40 minutes (until the skin is fully charred), turning them over once or twice during roasting so they char evenly. Remove the peppers from the oven and cover them with aluminum foil. (Alternatively, you can place the peppers in a bowl and cover the bowl tightly with shrink wrap.) Let the peppers steam for about 15 minutes (this will help loosen the skin), then peel them (the skin usually slides right off). Stem the peppers, cut them into quarters, and remove the seeds and white pith. Then chop into dice of 1/2 inch or so. If you’re not planning to prepare the soup immediately, refrigerate the roasted peppers in an airtight container until ready to use.
- When ready to start the soup, peel the onion and cut it into dice of ½ inch or less. Heat a 4-quart soup pot on medium stovetop heat. When hot, add the oil. When the oil has heated (it’ll shimmer; this takes 15 seconds or so) add the diced onion. Season to taste with salt. Sauté the onion until it’s translucent (5 to 8 minutes).
- Meanwhile, peel the ginger and mince it finely. Peel the garlic and cut it into thin slices or mince it finely. Peel the potato and chop it coarsely into dice of ½ inch or so.
- When the onion is translucent, add the minced ginger and garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the red pepper flakes and cook for 15 seconds. Then add the cinnamon, thyme, diced potato, and water. Add the roasted squash and red peppers from Steps 1 and 2.
- Bring the mixture to a slow simmer, then simmer for 45 minutes.
- Purée the soup to your desired thickness. You can use an immersion blender for this (make sure to use one with a metal shaft; see Notes). Alternatively, you can let the soup cool, then liquefy it in a blender or food processor. Taste the soup, then add salt and black pepper to taste. At this point, you can hold the soup on the stovetop (low heat) for an hour or so. BTW, if the soup is too thick, add a bit more water to dilute it (but remember, if you’re using cream—see next step—this will also thin it).
- Right before serving, stir in the cream (if using), and simmer the soup for 2 to 3 minutes. When ready to serve, dish up the soup and garnish with chopped parsley or cilantro (if using).
- For an alternative garnish, you could top the soup with sour cream or yogurt. Or add a sprinkling of paprika.
- You can substitute different spices than the ones specified, if you prefer. Fresh rosemary goes nicely in this dish. Or replace all the spices with pumpkin-pie spices. Or add some ground cumin and coriander to give the dish a more exotic flavor.
- We salt the onions as they sauté to help add layers of flavor as we build the soup. How much salt (and black pepper) to use in this dish? That’s highly subjective, so just add enough until it tastes good to you. If in doubt, under-season at first. You can add more at table.
- Potato adds some flavor to this soup, but its main purpose is to provide structure and help thicken the soup. You could replace the potato with ½ to ¾ cup of rice if you prefer (we suggest a short grain like Arborio).
- This soup is good without the cream, but cream adds richness and a nice mouthfeel.
- Use more cream if you want a thinner soup; less if you want a thicker one.
- BTW, you can replace the water in this recipe with stock if you want. There’s really no need, though. Squash has loads of flavor, and the cream adds a lot of depth.
- In Step 7, we suggest using an immersion blender with a metal shaft. Plastic ones can crack in hot liquid. Ask us how we know.
- If you don’t have an immersion blender, cook the soup through Step 7. Then let the soup cool and run it through a food processor or blender (or a food mill) to liquefy it. Then reheat the soup and add the cream right before serving.
- We tend to think of squash as vegetables. Technically, however, they’re fruits (because they contain seeds).
- The seeds in winter squash (with the exception of a few, like pumpkin) are generally inedible, as are the skins of all winter squash. That’s why you need to peel the skin before using. The skins and seeds of summer squash are usually edible.
- Squash originated in the Americas, though many varieties are now grown around the world.
Soup to Nuts
“Love the deep flavor of this dish,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “It’s, well, souper.”
“All the spices squash together nicely,” I said. “Adding subtle flavor.”
“I think I can squash in a second helping,” said Mrs K R. “In fact, I insist on it.”
“I have my ladle at the ready,” I said. “Don’t want to wind up in the soup.”
You may also enjoy reading about:
Winter Squash, Corn, and Bacon Chowder
Roast Squash & Sweet Potato Chili with Kale
Sweet Potato Soup with Chilies and Corn
Winter Squash Gratin
Or check out the index for more recipes