All things squash

I can remember roasting my first squash when I was living in Cape Town.  We use to go to Fruit and Veg - this great market where you can get all sorts of fresh produce for cheap - and we'd buy a whole butternut squash, toss it in the oven with some butter and brown sugar, everyone flocking to the kitchen for that glorious smell that is squash roasting.  Ah! I love it.  

Last week I had a total of five squash sitting on the counter at one time.  This is a problem.  You'd understand if you knew how small our counter-space is.  So I just started roasting away and made three batches of butternut squash bisque, each time getting better and better.  I've tried different butternut soup recipes, this time settling on the simplest, less sweet and a little spicy.  I just read this article in the paper on what seems to be a "back-to-basics" food movement - highlighting the natural and pure flavors of whatever you're cooking.  Essentially, cooking squash so that it tastes just like the magnificent squash that it is.  

I ate the first batch of bisque almost entirely by myself.  Then I made a big pot to bring to my brother and sister's on the most blustery night Chicago's seen in a while.  Then my friend Tricia brought me a butternut squash she had - so, feeling generous, I made her some soup, and of course, some crusty sourdough bread to go with it.  And the house has never smelled better!

(Adapted from Claire Robinson's recipe on the Food Network)

1-2 butternut squash, depending on size
olive oil
salt and pepper
2-4 sprigs fresh rosemary (optional)
2 shallots, chopped
1 quart vegetable stock
1-2 tsp curry powder
fresh sage (optional)
1/2 c. heavy cream

Cut squash in half and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  I like to stick a sprig of rosemary under each squash half too - it just adds to the flavor.  Roast at 375 degrees cut side down until very soft, about an hour.  Turn the halves over and let sit until cool enough to handle.  Scoop out the flesh and discard the skin of the squash.

In a large stock pot, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the shallots and cook on medium heat until soft.  Add the vegetable stock, squash, curry powder, and chopped sage.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and let cook until the squash is broken down - about 10 min.

Turn the heat off and let cool for a few minutes before blending.  I use an immersion blender because it is easier and safer (hot soup!).  But you could also put the soup through a regular blender.  Puree until smooth.  Season with salt and peper to taste.  Return to heat just to bring all the flavors together and stir in the heavy cream last (do not over cook soup with cream or it will have a funny texture).  Serve immediately with a bit of good, crusty bread.

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