Woman vs. Squash

Photo of butternut squash by Cassandra Birocco. Copyright 2011

Here in Virginia we are scrambling to enjoy every last bit of summer. It’s 80 degrees today in late September and I’m harvesting loads of basil for pesto and my neighbor still has a good crop of tomatoes. No one wants to see the warm weather end. We’ll dine on the deck as long as we can.

To the contrary, our friends in Florida have had it with the heat and will do anything to usher in some cooler temps. I think that is why my friend Judy Martin from Jacksonville decided to make butternut squash soup—anything to encourage fall. But, it wasn’t so easy. First, Judy had to conquer the squash. I think it’s better if she tells the story.

Here’s what Judy writes from Florida:

It was nearing the fall season, and my food thoughts harkened back to childhood when my mom prepared butternut squash in my favorite way, baked, with butter and brown sugar. So, even though it’s still hot and humid in Jacksonville, Florida, I wanted to relive those memories and that taste.

As if reading my mind, the Publix supermarket encouraged me by displaying the most beautiful specimens. Google found me the perfect instructions for preparation and off I went. A half hour later found me grunting and chopping and crookedly slicing my beautiful vegetables. All these years later, arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome had let the squash outwit me. Nevertheless, lopsided as they were, husband Tom and I enjoyed them tremendously.

How do I cut the squash in half?

Not wanting to let a simple vegetable get the best of me, I went online to make a request of my Facebook friends—what’s the best way to cut one in half? The answers were quite varied:

  • Use an electric knife but watch out for your fingers
  • Don’t do that; buy it already cut up
  • Have Tom do it
  • Have them split it for you at the market
  • Soften it in the microwave
  • Use a chain saw, hack saw; hatchet, axe, use a large knife then pound it with a hammer
  • Cut off the skinny end, poke the squash with a knife, than microwave it for a few minutes
  • Bake it whole in the oven, then cut and remove seeds
  • Go to YouTube for a demonstration

The subject of squash soup came up and good friend Bee Kelley (author of this blog), from the Hearing Loss Association of America, sent me three recipes from which to choose. They all immediately made my mouth water. I chose the simplest one for my first effort.

Judy's butternut squash soup for two. Photo by Judy Martin.

CUTTING TIP: This recipe had a sidebar explaining how to peel and cut butternut squash. Thank goodness! Cutting the top and bottom off, then peeling the skin was the first step. Finally, to cut through the squash safely, gently tap on the back of a chef’s knife using a rubber mallet. I didn’t have one so used a metal mallet—yes, very gently—and it worked like a charm. I’ve put a rubber mallet on my wish list.

Because it took a considerable amount of energy, I made a double batch. My friend from my old hometown in New York assured me it would freeze nicely. It did, so we had enough for three or four meals.

A happy Tom says, "Judy can we eat that soup now?" Photo by Judy Martin.

Now I feel my celebration of autumn is complete. Bring on Halloween and thank you, Ms. Bee.

Editor’s Note: You’re welcome, Judy. Thank you for writing this up for my blog. The recipe Judy chose is from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. The recipes are just as the title suggests: well tested. I cook from this book a lot and love the show on PBS. I also sent her two other recipes. As soon as I conquer my own butternut squash, I will share another recipe. Until then, I’m hanging onto summer with dear life! And thank you to Cassandra Birocco, my childhood friend, for photographing a butternut squash on demand.

Butternut Squash Soup

TIP FROM AMERICA’S TEST KITCHEN: Stay away from the pre-cut squash, as its flavor is usually dull and its texture dry.

  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 3 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-1/2 inch chunks
  • 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper

1. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the squash, broth, thyme, and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until the squash is tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

2. Remove the thyme sprigs and puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor until smooth.

3. Return the pureed soup to the pot. Stir in the cream. Bring to a brief simmer, then remove from the heat. If the soup seems too thick, thin it out with additional broth or water. Sprinkle individual servings with more nutmeg, if desired.

Serves 8.

To Make Ahead

This soup can be prepared through step 2 , cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen up to 2 months. Reheat over low heat, adding additional water or broth to adjust the consistency, before proceeding with step 3.

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6 thoughts on “Woman vs. Squash

  1. Thanks for the recipe, it looks wonderful…today would have been a perfect day for the soup…cool, cool, cool, was in the 40’s here this morning when we went to church….but a gorgeous Asheville, NC day.

  2. Hi Barbara, My sister Judy sent me a link to your blog. Thanks for the recipe. I will definitely be trying it since it sound so yummy. I was taken in by the drop in temperature today and picked up some squash on our way home from church. I prepared it with butter and brown sugar, as Judy said, and as I remember from Mom. One time when the kids were little a friend stopped over and wanted to know what that wonderful aroma was. Once I had displayed the beautiful squash cooking in the oven and told her how easy it was to prepare, she was determined to try it for her
    family. Unfortunately, it turns out they all HATED squash. There’s no accounting for individual taste. Here’s a final squash note. My daughter, Lori, (Judy’s niece) called me this afternoon. We frequently share each other’s cooking and love to talk about the recipes we are trying out.
    Guess what she’s sending over tomorrow. Squash soup, of course.

    • It seems squash soup really touched a soft spot. Thanks all for your responses. Now, I must get to making it. I told my husband today that I wished I had more time to cook. Such wonderful things come out of our kitchens!

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