Overnight a light dusting of snow appeared on the nearby mountains and a strange snowflake-on-a-road light appeared on the dashboard of my car most likely because the climate control read below 40 in the last week. Winter! Thank you to the weather for cooperating with my desire to cuddle up like the cat that I am under pillowy soft blankets, in front of a crackling fire, with a cup of homemade chai tea (that I will tell you about soon). I’m planning to extend wintery celebrations and comfort food as long as possible.
So now that a slight chill (and rain!) has fallen over Southern California, the time for soup weather has finally come. Regardless of the previously warm weather, I have been hitting the soups hard this fall and winter. They are easy, comforting, nourishing, tasty, and versatile.
Good flavor does not have to be complicated. I find it akin to individual flavor bells ringing in your mouth, melding into a beautiful harmony. With a cacophony of neighboring notes, the harmony becomes dissonant and the individual notes are lost. So let your soups be easy and uncomplicated when life seems otherwise.
Sage and butternut squash are somewhat joined at the hip these days which simply means it’s largely agreed upon to be an excellent combination. I, for one, have yet to tire of it, and I’ve made this soup no less than 5 times this season. Often I feel under pressure to reinvent the wheel, to come up with a new idea or variation, but today I’m just allowing myself to take solace in the tried and true. Cheers to rediscovering the simple and the traditional in the new year. Happy New Year!
*You may have thought, “Wow, that looks like a really weird butternut squash.” That’s because it does indeed have two pockets. The top of my squash was a bit spongy in the middle, so I scooped it out and put more butter and maple syrup (hard to go wrong there) in the top pocket.
Roasted Maple, Sage, and Butternut Squash Soup
This soup is creamy, flavorful and excellent with a crusty loaf of bread on a cold afternoon or chilly evening. It is perfect for a wintery gathering with friends and scales up easily. My favorite new (for me) trick is making a huge batch and freezing individual portions. Do it. You will thank yourself later.
- 1 large butternut squash, cut in half as in the illustration above
- 2 tablespoons of butter, plus extra for sautéing
- 2 tablespoons of maple syrup, plus more to taste
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
- 5-7 fresh* sage leaves, finely chopped, more or less depending on how sage-y you want it
- 1 box of vegetable or chicken stock, (or homemade if you’re a boss)
- salt and pepper to taste
*You could use powdered dried sage and when I did that I didn’t measure, but I would say start with 1/4-1/2 teaspoon and work your way up from there.
Pre-heat your oven to 425F. Scrape out and save seeds from the squash. Split the butter and maple syrup between the two pockets in the squash where the seeds were. Use a pastry brush to coat the face of the squash with maple syrup. Place on a cookie sheet or pan with parchment paper (just to catch any overflow) and roast for approximately one hour. Baste the cut side of the squash with the maple syrup and now melted butter one or two times during the roasting. When the squash is caramelized and completely soft, pull it out of the oven to cool.
During the roasting, sweat the onion, garlic, and sage over medium-medium high heat until fragrant and onions are translucent and browning slightly. When squash has cooled enough to handle, scoop the squash into the pot and add enough stock of your choice to cover (supplement with water if needed). Add a generous grind of salt and pepper. Simmer for 20-30 minutes. Let the soup cool slightly and then puree it in batches in the blender (the way I like it) or leave it chunky (the way my mom likes it). Add any extra salt and pepper and maple syrup to taste. Garnish with roasted squash seeds and fried sage and serve with a slice of crusty bread if you so desire.
Roasted Squash Seeds
I also like to roast the squash seeds and use them as a crunchy topper and then you can give yourself a high five for using the whole vegetable. Go you!
- seeds from one squash
- a couple teaspoons of olive oil
- sea salt
Clean off seeds and dry thoroughly between paper towels. Coat with olive oil and toss with salt. Spread on a baking sheet and roast at 300F for 10-15 minutes or until crispy.
Got leftover sage because you bought an entire packet at the store when I only called for 5 leaves? Fear not! Fried sage. The delectable answer to all your herb-wasting worries.
- fresh sage leaves
- 1-2 tablespoons of butter
Pan fry the sage leaves in butter until crispy. If they don’t start crisping use more butter. Wait until right before serving to use as a garnish for the most crispy experience.