Pumpkin Squash Soup
(Yield: Serves 4)
In addition to the cranberry-apple relish that accompanies the soup in this recipe, you could garnish it with a swirl of pureed roasted red bell pepper or a teaspoon of imported Austrian extra-virgin pumpkinseed oil, now available in gourmet shops or on the Internet. The cranberry-apple relish can be made up to 2 weeks ahead and kept in the refrigerator.
For the cranberry-apple relish:
- 1 cup whole fresh or frozen cranberries, or dried cranberries
- 1 organic apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup water (or soaking water from dried cranberries)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
For the soup:
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- Make the cranberry-apple relish. If using dried cranberries, put them in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let steep 15 to 30 minutes, and drain over a bowl. Retain 1/3 cup of the soaking water. In a small saucepan, combine all the ingredients. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture starts to boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the mixture is thick and the berries have popped open, about 20 minutes, or up to 30 minutes if using dried cranberries. Let the mixture cool and then transfer to a nonreactive container, cover, and refrigerate. You should have about 1 1/2 cups, enough for the soup plus extra to use as a relish for holiday meals.
- Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. With a large, sharp knife, carefully cut the butternut squash lengthwise in half. With a sharp-edged spoon, scoop out the seeds and strings from the butternut and kabocha squash halves.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Place wire racks on top of a baking sheet large enough to hold the squash halves. Brush the cut side of each squash half with melted butter and season with salt and white pepper. Arrange the squash cut side down on the rack. Cover with foil. Bake until the squash are tender enough to be pierced easily with a sharp knife tip, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove from the oven and leave until cool enough to handle. Pour any liquid in the roasting pan into a bowl and combine with the stock. With a spoon, scoop out the flesh from each squash half into a food processor fitted with the stainless-steel blade. Process until pureed. You should have about 3 cups or a little more. Transfer the puree to a mixing bowl and set aside.
- In a medium soup pot, melt the remaining butter over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until glossy but not yet browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and brown sugar and stir together for about a minute. Add the squash and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until heated through.
- In a medium saucepan, bring the stock and cream to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir the liquid into the squash puree until well blended. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- If you want a really silky texture, blend the soup before straining. In batches, transfer to a blender or food processor, taking care not to overfill the container, and process until smoothly blended, 1 to 2 minutes. You can also do this with an immersion blender. Transfer each batch to a fine-meshed strainer set over a heatproof mixing bowl and press it through with a rubber spatula. If not serving right away, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
- Over medium heat, bring the soup back to serving temperature. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Ladle into heated serving bowls and garnish each serving with a spoonful of relish and some crème fraîche or whipped cream if desired. Serve immediately.