Monday, December 19, 2005


Butternut Squash & Parsnip Soup

There is a supreme amount of happiness that I attach to this deceptively basic soup recipe. I just think it is without a doubt, the best, but it came with a lesson.

You see, when I was in cooking school, they had the students (as all cooking schools do) create a menu and then execute it for the in-house restaurant.

For this two week excursion into somewhat real restaurant cooking (the ratio of chefs to patrons was absurdly off, but for the most part, it was the most true-to-kitchen-life class they offered) each senior class member was paired with a new student and in pairs were given tasks such as "make soup" or, "man the grill." This soup was one of two (along with a rich and spicy tortilla soup) my exceedingly talented partner and I offered to guests for lunch and dinner for two days in a row.

At the end of the two days the chef instructor came over to critique us and...we failed. He hated the way it tasted and said that it didn't even qualify as a soup. It should have been strained, we should have added cream, blah, blah, blah. I was startled. I thought it was sublime. Besides, we had sold out of it half way through dinner so someone must have liked it. My partner went pale. His 4.0 average was gone. He was livid. I tried my best to salvage our grades, but alas, we both concluded it was either a case of the Chef being a pill, (a common personality trait in that group I fear) and nothing to do with the soup at all or maybe the dude just hates parsnips. Who knows. Any which way, it was a bummer of a lesson. Then again, you can't win them all, right?

Having been a chef instructor of sorts for awhile now, I can honestly say this is not only the easiest thing to make, it is outrageously flavorful, and I am (smug) pleased to report, the single most popular menu item I have ever offered my cooking class clients. They are sophisticated foodies and they LOVE it. So there. It is naturally sweet from the parsnips, rounded out with the squash and earthy onions the secret ingredient is the apple cider vinegar, which brings a lively (zing!) back-note. It is warming and hearty, outstandingly healthy and just plain lusciously delicious. Try it, and enjoy.

2 large brown onions, sliced in half
3 large parsnips, peeled, cut into halves
1 large butternut squash, sliced in half lengthways, seeds removed
3 sprigs thyme
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
Apple cider vinegar
Roasted squash seeds for garnish

Preheat your oven to 350F

Line a sheet pan with foil

Place the onions, parsnips and squash sliced side down on the foil lined sheet pan. Liberally coat the vegetables with olive oil (on all sides) toss on the thyme and some salt and pepper.

Roast about 1 hour, making sure to turn the parsnips half way through.

Remove the pan from the oven when the onions and parsnips are browned and a knife inserted into the squash goes in smoothly. Remove the thyme and allow to cool somewhat.

The roasting process will have lifted the skin right off of the squash. You should be able to pick it off.

In small batches in your blender or food processor, puree the vegetables with the stock until smooth. (Warning: You cannot fill a blender with hot liquid more than half way. It will blow the top off. Or worse, the bottom.) At this point you have options. You can strain it, add cream or just leave it as is. I like it as is.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add a tiny splash of apple cider vinegar (about 1/2 teaspoon to start), taste and add more as you see fit. It really perks it up. You'll be amazed.

Garnish with toasted squash seeds and thyme to serve.

Makes 8 - 10 servings

To roast the squash seeds, clean them and toss with some vegetable oil, smoked paprika, salt and pepper, then put on a parchment lined sheet pan in a single layer and toast at 300F for 20 minutes. Remove when lightly browned. Keeps in a covered container for a week.

"The Babylonians first converted wine into vinegar in 5000 BCE using date palms, grapes, and figs. Japanese Samurai warriors supposedly used a vinegar tonic for strength and power." - Nutrition

The name vinegar comes from a French word meaning "sour wine." It is produced by the action of yeast and bacteria on grains or fruit juices.

According to this is "parsnip" in Russian: пастернак

Proof I am a food blogging geek. I made a Caesar salad this weekend, and knowing that my post on it from March needed a picture, added it. Check it out.

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A great story! Just shows that you can never trust anybody especially those who are negative!
That top photograph is just gorgeous! You are the woman.
Don't you just hate those critics who pass negative comments but will never tell you what the problem is? Good for you.
You are such a good story teller! This soup sounds like something I should try this cold winter (-11C/12F this morning). The idea with roasting the veggies before using it in a soup appeals to me, and I think also to my poor stomach and wallet after Christmas... I also have a lovely apple cider vineagar on hand. But what can substitute butternut squash? I am not sure I can find it here...
I make a similar soup and add two granny smith apples to it. Serve it with a dollop of sour cream floating in it. Yum!
The soup sounds so warming for a cold winter day.

I'll use my immersion blender, though, and skip the puree mess. Can't believe I resisted getting one for so long.
Thank you all for the sweet comments!

And FJK - because the veg are roasted, it is just messing up a pot to use an immersion blender, which is why I go with the jar blender --- its dishwasher safe! LOL.
Hi! Your blog is new to me! The last time I made butternut squash soup, the texture reminded me too much of baby food, so I thought maybe I should have skipped the pureering step. Do you have any advice about this? I liked it better when I made it with acorn squash and kept it away from my blender. Also, I have always put tomatoes in mine. I am curious now what it would taste like with parsnips and no tomatoes!
I tried this delicious soup last night. I had a couple of carrots too that I roasted and instead of thyme I used chilli powder (didn't have flakes) and cumin. yum yum. For the seeds I roasted them with old bay seasoning which seemed quite easy and rather tasty.
Does this work well if made a day or two head?
oops, just saw that its good for a week. nevermind!
yummy. just made it. just ate it. looking forward to having it for lunch tomorrow! made mistake of using dried thyme so ended up with some ugly floaters in my soup but it still tasted delicious. yummy.
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