Dinner, Lunch

Butternut Squash Bisque 3 Ways

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In the Fall of 2004 I enrolled into my first semester of culinary arts school.  Not unlike most aspiring chefs, I went to culinary school because food inspired me. For example, have you ever had a meal that was so darn good that you never forgot it?  Somehow it stays locked in the deep chambers of your memory.  I vividly remember trying sour cream and onion potato chips as a 3-year-old; it changed my life.  What I love most are those moments when a truly balanced and thought out meal brings family and friends together, and the room is buzzing with the energy people feel as the delicious fare holds on to the backs of their tongues.  Everybody is laughing.  No body is talking about Obamacare or gay marriage. I find experiences like these fulfilling. Some of that fulfillment is because of the beauty of sharing a table, which I hope to talk about another time, but what really motivated me was the power of a truly great dish.

   Since then, almost 10 years have past.  My passions and life circumstances, not to mention wisdom, have changed greatly.  I’m a new mother and wife, working part time, playing music in the church on a weekly basis, and trying desperately to keep up with friends and loved ones.   My predicament is fairly obvious, I’m a little short on time.  Spending 3 hours on a 5 course meal with wine pairings is just not going to happen without a vacation, a sitter and two pots of coffee.  But the truth is, I love crafting a well composed meal. It is one of my favorite ways to spend my time.  It still drives me, although just as a hobby, it gets my blood flowing.

   Therefore, I have had to tap into the creative juices of the universe in order to create recipes that will not only satisfy my uncompromising desire for flavor, but also require as a little work and time as possible.  And the solution is Butternut Squash Bisque. The sweet, buttery flavor or this autumnal squash is the perfect building block for a fantastic meal.  Other than a fancy word to show off to your friends, a bisque is a rich, pureed soup made with hordes of heavy cream and is traditionally made of crustacean (i.e. lobster bisque).  Using the same base of butternut squash, I am going to show you how to make 3 totally different soups that are delicious, healthy and most importantly, too good to be true, easy to make.

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   Each recipe serves 6-8 people and will ask for one roasted butternut squash.  To do this, split your squash in half lengthwise (hotdog style), scoop out the seeds with a spoon, and on a foil lined sheet pan drizzle olive oil on the inside of the squash.
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Season with salt and pepper and flip over so the skin is facing up. Bake at 350F for 1 hour.  This is the fastest and easiest way to cook a squash.  After the squash is cooked, the skin will simply peel off or you can scoop the flesh out with a spoon.  No need to peel and chop.  Saving energy is the key to easy cooking and most of us don’t have a whole heck of a lot to spare at the end of a crazy day.
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So please, open a bottle of wine. relax a little, and enjoy cooking for at least one meal of the week knowing, it’s going to be easy and SO good.

Spicy Chipotle, Apple, Butternut Squash Bisque
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   A flavor combination I find truly satisfying is that of the sweet butternut squash with the smoky heat of the chipotle. I am in love with anything smoked, and being a vegetarian for the past 7 years of my life has limited me mainly to smoked paprika and chipotle (although there are brilliant smoked cheeses and I love smoked tomato soup).  Therefore, I use these two ingredients a lot in my daily cooking. The sweetness of the honeycrisp apple just adds that extra je ne sais quoi that really makes this soup interesting.  Just a warning for cilantro haters, this recipe does contain cilantro.  But do not fret, it is just a garnish and can easily be omitted.
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Spicy Chipotle, Apple Butternut Squash Bisque
Ingredients:
1 butternut squash roasted with olive, salt and pepper for 1 hour at 350F (directions above)
1 honeycrisp apple, peeled, seeded and quartered and roasted in olive oil along with squash for 30 min
1 T garlic, minced
2 t olive oil
1 T ground chipotle (sometimes this is hard to find here in the midwest so a tablespoon of adobo sauce from a can of chipotle will work too)
1 t ground cumin
1 t ground coriander
1 quart stock of choice (i.e. vegetable, chicken, etc)
Juice of 2 limes
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Method:
While roasting the squash, toss the apple in the oven for the last 30 minutes.  Sauté the garlic with the olive oil in a large sauce pan for about 30 seconds. Add the chipotle, cumin and coriander and sauté until fragrant. Add all other ingredients except cilantro and purée with immersion blender until smooth. Simmer for 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning.  Serve with garnish of chopped cilantro and a lime wedge.

Sage and Maple Butternut Squash Bisque with Marcona Almond Cream
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   This version is my absolute favorite.  It is slightly sweet and salty but every kind of savory you need on a cold autumn (well, almost winter) day.  The sage doesn’t overpower the buttery squash flavor and the maple doesn’t make it taste like you are eating liquid pumpkin pie.  It is perfectly balanced and suited for cool weather.
The almond cream is very easy to make and one can use a variety of nuts such as cashews or walnuts (preferably raw).  My kitchen appliance of choice is the immersion blender.  It is so fast, easy to clean, convenient and far cheaper than one of those Vitamixers.  It is, as of late, been something I use almost everyday.  Combine the almonds and water and zip, zip, zip until you have a lump free liquid resembling heavy cream.  If you do not have an immersion blender, a regular blender will also work.
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I chose to use almond cream as opposed to dairy cream for two reasons: 1) it is a healthy alternative that is both vegan and paleo that adds a lot of nutritional value to this already nutrient dense soup and 2) the subtle, creamy flavor of marcona almonds is a great compliment to sweet squash.
In the photos, I garnished the soup with a little leftover almond cream, sage beurre noisette (browned butter) and fried sage chiffonade.  I simply julienned (thinly sliced) some leftover sage and fried until crispy in a tablespoon of butter, reserving the butter remnants as the beurre noisette.  I didn’t include this in the recipe but the butter and sage made this already delicious soup truly swoon-worthy. I hope you find yourself swooning as well.
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Sage and Maple Butternut Squash Bisque with Marcona Almond Cream
Ingredients:
1 butternut squash, roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper at 350F for 1 hour (directions above)
½ cup marcona almonds
½ cup water
2 t olive oil
1 T sage, minced
1 large shallot minced
1 qt stock of choice (i.e. vegetable, chicken, turkey)
¼ cup maple syrup
1 t kosher or sea salt (plus more to taste)
½ t ground black pepper

Method:
Sweat the shallot in the olive oil until tender. While the shallot is cooking puree the almonds and water together until liquified and no lumps remain. Add the sage to the shallot and sauté just until the fragrance of the sage starts to fill your nostrils.  Add the remaining ingredients and only half the stock.  Puree with an immersion blender or regular blender, adding more stock to adjust thickness (I needed the entire quart).  Season to taste.  Eat with gusto.

Coconut Curried Butternut Squash Bisque
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   In 2005 I spent the summer in Scotland doing a culinary apprenticeship. It was there that I fell in love with curry. Although far from traditional Indian food, the Brits (the Scottish hate to be called that i.e. Braveheart) put curry on and in everything from chicken salad to over chips (french fries), which is nothing far from genius. So it is really no surprise at all that I would take this fairly traditional soup and curryatize ( v. To make something seem to be but be far from a traditional curry) it.  This soup is beautiful coconut curry goodness. More often than not, when I make butternut squash bisque, I make it curried. I hope this recipe becomes a classic in your home as well.

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Coconut Curried Butternut Squash Bisque

Ingredients:
1 butternut squash, roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper for 1 hour at 350F (directions above)
2 t olive oil
1 T garlic, minced
1 T fresh ginger, finely grated
2 T curry powder
2 t cumin
1 t coriander
1/2 t turmeric
1/2 t black pepper
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1 cup unsweetened, full fat coconut milk
1 quart stock of choice
1 T honey
1 T lime juice
1 t kosher or sea salt (plus more to taste)

Method:
Sauté garlic and ginger in a large saucepan for 30 seconds. Add spices and sauté for another 30 seconds. Add squash and remaining ingredients and purée with immersion blender. Simmer for 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning and enjoy with some naan and a green salad.

Creative Commons License
Keeping Willow by Stacy Feyer-Salo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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