Sunday, October 3, 2010

Spartan Diet recipe: Butternut Squash Soup

Squash is one of the most under-appreciated foods around. It’s delicious, nutritious and versatile.

The ancient Greeks ate something similar to squash, which is often mistranslated as "pumpkin" or "squash." In fact, squash is native to North and South America. The English name "squash" is derived from the Narragansett North American tribe word "askutasquash."

Available from August through March, peak squash season is October and November. Squash is eaten like a vegetable, but is technically a fruit.

Butternut squash, like all other Winter squashes, is an excellent source of antioxidants, vitamin C, potassium, niacin, phosphorus, folate, iron and fiber. The deep yellow colors show the richness of healthful carotenoids, such as beta carotene, the precursor to vitamin A. Just half a cup serving of squash can provide a day’s worth of beta carotene, essential for good eyesight, protection from free radicals and overall good health.

Choose squash that is free of blemishes and decaying or moldy spots. They should feel heavy, solid and have a small stem still attached that feels firm. Store squash in a cool, dry place. Squash can last for weeks, if not months.

One reason some don’t like cooking with squash is that they’re more challenging to peel than other fruits, especially the ones with harder and thicker skins, such as kabocha. But we believe the inconvenience is well worth the trouble.

You’ll need a heavy chef’s knife and, even better, a meat cleaver. Cut off the stem, and with the knife or meat cleaver, chop once lengthwise so that the knife gets lodged in the top. Use a rubber mallet or heavy object to carefully hammer the part where the blade and handle of the knife meet to dig the knife deeper and make the squash split in two. Scoop out the pulp and seeds with a spoon.

Squash can be cooked, steamed or baked with skin on, as it will be easier to remove skin after cooking. But thinner skin squash can be peeled before cooking and cut up into cubes for roasting, making stew and soup.

All squash can be steamed, baked, roasted, pureed and added to soups, casseroles, salads and stews. With the exception of spaghetti squash, most squash is versatile to cook with. Different types of squash can be used interchangeably with other squash or even sweet potatoes.

Buy locally grown, fresh and whole butternut squash, at your local Farmer’s market when possible.

Here’s how to make our Butternut Squash Soup.

Butternut Squash Soup
(Yields 6 to 8 servings)

Winter squash is a "super food." But this soup also contains others, including ginger and turmeric, which are powerful anti-inflammatory foods that boost the immune system. Use only organic olive oil and produce.


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 celery stalks, finely chopped (green part only)
3 small carrots, finely chopped
3 medium leeks, finely chopped (white part only)
1 small shallot, finely chopped
3 quarts of filtered water
1 medium to large butternut squash, peeled, pulp and seeds removed (½ inch cubes)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
½ teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger (peeled)
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh turmeric root (peeled)
½ teaspoon ground turmeric (plus ¼ teaspoon if fresh turmeric not available)
¼ teaspoon curry powder
¼ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper (or black pepper)
Sea salt to taste (We prefer Real Salt, Celtic Sea Salt or Himalayan Salt brands)

  1. In a large stockpot, heat olive oil over low heat. Add onions, celery, carrots, leeks and shallot sautéing over low to medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes or until onions and celery look translucent.
  2. Add water, butternut squash, thyme and sage. Cover with lid and simmer over low heat for 20 to 25 minutes or until butternut squash is tender.
  3. Add 2 or more cups of water if more liquid soup is desired. Stir in fresh and ground ginger, fresh and ground turmeric, curry, paprika, ground pepper and salt continuing to simmer over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes. Adjust seasonings as desired. Remove from heat and serve.

  • The USDA and others refer to the entire head of celery as a "stalk," but here a "stalk" is a single rib of celery.
  • The recipe as written here is chunky, but you can puree the soup for an even texture at the end, if that's the kind of soup you prefer. Use a food processor, blender or immersion hand blender.
  • If there's no fresh turmeric is available, add an additional ¼ teaspoon of ground turmeric.