December 28, 2012

Recipe Review: Butternut Sage Soup





Contrary to what you might have surmised based on the last few weeks of activity (or lack thereof) on my blog, it is not my intent to only post once a week, and only write about fats. (Not that I don’t love me some writing about fats…)

As proof, I offer today’s recipe review, the first in what will be many—unless  I get lazy  my budding nutrition practice takes off so spectacularly that I can’t find a spare few minutes to cook up something great and write about it. (And if I’m not finding great things to cook, how good a nutritionist can I be, anyway?) I plan to share recipes of my own creation as well as recipes I find in cookbooks, on websites, and wherever else I might get good food ideas these days. (Beamed directly into my brain from a satellite? Ever since I finally gave in and started using my Bluetooth, I’m convinced this is mere moments away.)


In the spirit of long, cold winter nights, and comfort foods that warm you from the inside out, today I share with you a recipe for Butternut Sage Soup, by Diane Sanfilippo, of Balanced Bites. It’s from her book, Practical Paleo, which was released in fall 2012. I hope I don’t get in trouble for posting the full recipe here. I don’t have her official permission, but I’m hoping she’ll see past that and just appreciate the free advertising. I’ll post a review of the whole book sometime, but for now, I can give it two enthusiastic thumbs up as a cookbook whether you follow a Paleo diet or not. Even if you skip all the fantastic information she provides about the effect of diet on everything from weight loss, to heart disease, to cancer recovery, and autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, the book is a treasure trove of recipes for amazing meat, poultry, seafood, and vegetable dishes—and even treats like flourless mocha bacon brownies. Yes, you read that right. Mocha. Bacon. Brownies. With no flour. (If I’m dreaming, don’t wake me!) Want the recipe? Buy the book! I’ve made four recipes from this book already and they’ve all been wonderful.

Butternut Sage Soup

(You can find nearly the same thing here on Diane’s website:  Earlier version of Butternut Sage Soup)

First, the recipe as written, and then a couple of alterations I made:

Ingredients:

1 butternut squash
4 Tbsp bacon fat, coconut oil, or ghee, divided
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
A few pinches of salt and dried sage
Black pepper to taste
16 ounces bone broth (Chicken is best here. Use homemade if you have it! If not, store-bought stock or broth is okay.)
2 Tbsp coconut milk (optional)
Juice of 1 orange
2 Tbsp water
8-12 fresh sage leaves

*Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Peel and chop the squash. Toss in 1 Tbsp of the bacon fat (or coconut oil/ghee) in a roasting dish and bake for about 40 mins, or until fork-tender.

While the squash roasts, use a large pot to sauté the onions in the rest of the fat until the onions begin to brown on the edges. Add the garlic to the pot, along with the salt and dried sage. Cook for about 2 minutes, to take the edge off the raw garlic. Add chicken stock, coconut milk (if using), and water.

Add the roasted squash and stir everything. Add the orange juice just before turning off the heat.

After the soup has cooled a bit, pour it into a blender and blend until smooth. Be careful not to fill the blender to the top because the steam will expand the liquid. Work in batches if necessary. (*Note: I added my chicken stock to the pot after putting the squash in. It was cold from the fridge and helped cool everything down much faster.)

Once the soup is blended and ladled out into bowls, use a small frying pan or cast iron skillet to fry the fresh sage leaves in 1-2 Tbsp of butter or ghee until it looks bubbly & crispy. Garnish each bowl with a sage leaf or two.

 Here’s what I did differently:

I love the whole process of cooking—shopping for good ingredients, serving something delicious, and everything in between. And I’m usually devoted to doing things from scratch. In this case, however, convenience won out and instead of using a whole squash and having to peel, seed, and chop it, I took a handy-dandy supermarket shortcut with this baby—two packs, actually:

Nothing wrong with taking a little help where you can get it!


I tossed the cubed squash with salt, fresh cracked pepper, and olive oil before roasting, because this pretty much always makes vegetables taste amazing, and I knew I would want to try a piece or two before adding them to the pot to be pureed. (I did, and they were delicious. To be honest, I was tempted to leave the squash as it was and just eat it like that—nothing wrong with simple roasted squash that is freaking scrumptious. But I had a quart of homemade chicken stock all defrosted specifically to use in this soup, and I’m not big on drinking bone broth on its own, despite the health benefits.)

I used a baking sheet, and here’s how the squash looked before roasting:
  
When veggies have this much color, you know they're good for ya.


 Here are the onions and garlic, just starting to brown:


The kitchen is smelling pretty good right about now...
  

Here’s everything in the pot, after the squash was done. I juiced a fresh orange and tossed some of the pulp in, too. (Why not? Seemed a shame to just throw it out when it was all gonna get pureed anyway.)


                                                                                       
Here’s how it look post-puree. I used an immersion blender instead of a blender. (More on that in a minute.) The tiny specks you see are the dried sage.




I swear I took a picture of the final product, dished out in a bowl complete with a fancy, swirly design made of sour cream (like you’d see at a snooty restaurant) as a garnish instead of the sage leaves. (So sue me. They didn’t have any at the supermarket the day I decided to make this. And the sour cream is not “Paleo,” but it’s delicious, and just fine if you have no problems with dairy.) Said picture seems to have been deleted from my camera. Oh well. I did make the swirl…I’ll prove it some other time.

SO…how’d it turn out? DELICIOUS. All in all, a wonderful way to eat butternut squash, which is loaded with ridiculous (in a good way) amounts of vitamins and minerals, and is a much lower-glycemic way to get some starch into your diet than potatoes. (Mashed butternut squash, by the way, is insanely good just with some butter and salt, or a drizzle of maple syrup if you want it on the sweet side. Seriously, a great alternative to sweet potatoes…much less carbohydrate with almost as many nutrients.)

I used a handheld immersion blender instead of a traditional blender. (Note: the link is for the one I have, but I don’t recommend it. More on that some other time. I’ll have to start reviewing recipes and equipment!) Next time I make this, I’ll use a regular blender. The immersion blender—or, at least, the one I have—left this a little on the chunky side, while I was expecting a smoother, silkier texture. It wasn’t super chunky, more like the consistency of jarred applesauce. Not a problem at all. Just something to note, depending on the texture you’re going for. (This is also most likely because I used two packages of pre-cut squash, which was probably more like two whole ones, so I could have used more stock than I did, although I already did use more than the 16oz the recipe calls for to match one squash.)

I omitted the coconut milk, but I’ll try it next time. The soup was plenty thick, so I don’t know what it would have added, except maybe a hint of coconut flavor.

All in all, this a very yummy recipe. Soups like this freeze well, so if you like it, it’s not a bad idea to make a large batch and freeze quarts or pints to have on hand. If you leave the consistency thicker—using a little less stock and water, you can even use it as a “base”, like they do in fancy restaurants or so often on Chopped – where you spoon some of it onto a plate, spread it around with a spoon, and place a chicken breast, pork chop, or something similarly meaty and complementary on top and make it all pretty. (Make it a puree, rather than a soup. In this case, that applesauce consistency would actually work perfectly.)

In the future, I’m going to play around with some other butternut squash soup recipes I’ve seen that call for curry, turmeric, nutmeg, and other warming spices. It’s that time of year!



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