The texture of pureed butternut squash lends itself well to a creamy soup. The bright colors are welcome in late fall when the yellow, orange and red leaves begin to turn brown. To add extra spice, add a few drops of sriracha. Fresh chives and a dollop of sour cream make the soup a bit more decadent and turn a weeknight meal into something special.
A couple of weeks ago, there was a raging wind storm late on a Sunday night that left half the town without power for 2 days. Thankfully, the weather was warm enough so that people did not need heat, but refrigerators were filled with groceries for the week and school children feared that Trick or Treating might be cancelled if the electric company didn’t get it all back on before sundown on October 31st.
Huge branches and entire trees littered front lawns, broke through fences, landed on garages and smashed car roofs. We were lucky. There is an old, dead tree that grew touching our picket fence just about 12 feet from the front of the house and managed to circle its branches around the power line that connects us to civilization. It did not come down in this nor’easter. But that storm was enough to scare me into action.
Since I did not want our luck to run out, I called my dad, the master of tree cutting and the family expert on electrical wires. (He is a retired lineman from the local electric company.) The tree cutting was scheduled for Saturday so that Rob could help out. Everyday from Monday through Friday, I found my dad outside my house, looking upward, looking at the tree from across the street, leaning back on the fence in the angle of the tree growth, being one with the tree. Each day when I asked him if he wanted some coffee or if I could do anything to help, he waved me on as if to say, “Nothing to see here.” He was deep in thought, calculating, planning. This was not a task for the faint of heart.
When Saturday finally came, I was so stressed out about the project, I had to leave. I made up errands to run, excuses not to be there. I had faith in my dad, but the chainsaw and ladder combination scared the crap out of me. I also didn’t want to be around if the tree decided to come down on my roof and rip to wires out with it.
As luck and mother nature would have it, tree cutting day was especially raw and cold with enough wind to whip through multiple layers and freeze your ears and fingertips. I was glad I had some of this soup on hand. I heated it up, called the guys in for a lunchtime break, then got in my car and headed far away until the whole thing was over.
I found out days later that my dad envisioned taking out (and possibly demolishing) part of my fence, a necessary casualty in his mind. But my mother stepped in and lectured him. She knew that I had faith in his master of tree cutting. I am glad to report only one picket popped off and the tree is now a stack of perfectly split wood awaiting my dad’s wood stove to heat his shop this winter.
Spicy Butternut Squash Soup
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into cubes
4 cups chicken stock, plus more, if needed
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2-3 dashed Worcestershire sauce
1 chili in adobo, chopped
1 16 oz. container sour cream
1 hand full fresh basil, chopped
Add the onion, olive oil and 2 large pinches of salt to a large soup pot set over medium low heat. Stir to combine. Cover pot and cook, stirring onion occasionally until it is very soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in the squash. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.
Add 4 cups of chicken stock, ginger, turmeric, pepper and nutmeg. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for another 20 minutes. Add Worcestershire sauce and chili in adobo, stir to combine.
Work in batches and puree soup in a blender. (You will have to allow it to cool, first.) Or, puree soup with an immersion blender until smooth. Add sour cream and basil. Puree to blend but leave some small pieces and specks of basil. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve on a cold night or after a long day of dragging brush in the yard.