If you are going to live in Seattle, you must know something very important. If at all possible, you have to get out of town in the winter. Preferably February. When the dark and the gloom is more than you can bear, it’s time to go find the sun somewhere. (Personally, I think it is also necessary to skip town in May. That’s the time when it is actually spring in 90% of the country and our trees are blooming in the Northwest and the days are long, but the rain is often still sticking around.)
My parents love to ski and all three of us kids learned how at an early age. Our winter escape was going to Sun Valley to ski. Now, I recognized at the time how fortunate I was to get to go on such a nice family vacation. I also recognized (and here is where you will want to cue the small violins) how desperately I wanted to go to Hawaii or Arizona or somewhere warm. Because yes, Sun Valley is sunny, but it is also snowy and I would have rather spent a vacation (and still would rather spend a vacation) on a beach than on a mountain.
Well, it’s almost February and guess where we are going? Sun Valley! We went to Hawaii last year and Randy loves to ski more than anything and my parents now own a time share there, so snow and cold – here we come! I am actually really excited and think the boys will have a total blast. We plan to try Graham in ski lessons and put Spencer in some kind of daycare so we can actually get a couple of days on the mountain, hopefully in the sun.
So, I’m off for a week. I will still have a post or two for you while I am gone. In the meantime, I leave you with this soup. Butternut squash soup is everywhere on menus these days. I love butternut squash soup but I almost never order it in restaurants because it is usually just a big cream festival. I love the flavor of winter squash – why would I want to drown it out with cream? I prefer to make my own soup. My old go-to recipe was from Bon Appétit and was very simple and very delicious. This one is a bit more complex, still very simple, and even more delicious which I didn’t think was possible. Roasting the squash brings so much flavor to the soup and the generous amount of curry and bit of honey gives you tremendous depth of flavor. Sweet, salty, spicy is an intoxicating combination. The original recipe calls for a cup of cream but I cut it down to a half-cup of half-and-half and it was still plenty creamy, but the flavor of the roasted squash really came through.
One more note. On the whole, I find garnishes to be kind of fussy. They make for good photographs but often times I feel like the are an added step when I really just want to get dinner on the table. Don’t skip the garnishes here. They take the soup from quite lovely to quite lovely and really interesting. If you don’t want to shell out for crème fraîche here, you could use sour cream.
One Year Ago: Two Favorites. My tried and true Guacamole and Lentils with Capers, Walnuts, Walnut Oil and Mint
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Lime Crème Fraîche
Adapted from From the Earth to the Table
2 tbps. unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 large butternut squash (enough to give you about 3 cups after roasting)
6 cups vegetable stock
1½ tbsp. curry powder
¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 tbsp. honey
½ cup half-and-half
3 tbsp. dry sherry
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Toasted pumpkin seeds or almonds, and chopped chives for garnishing
Lime Crème Fraîche (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out all the seeds. Brush the cut surface generously with olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven, cut side up, for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the flesh is very soft and very lightly caramelized. Allow to cool, then scrape out the flesh and set aside.
In a large dutch oven or soup pot, melt the butter and sauté the onions until very soft but not brown. Transfer to a food processor and process in batches if necessary, the onions and roasted squash. Return mixture to soup pot and whisk it together with the stock, curry, nutmeg, and honey. Bring to a simmer and cook 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the half-and-half and sherry. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve in bowls garnished with the pumpkin seeds, chives, and a drizzle of the Lime Crème Fraîche.
Lime Crème Fraîche
1 cup Crème Fraîche
2 tsp. freshly grated lime zest
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a medium bowl, mix the crème fraîche, lime zest, and lime juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for at least an hour for flavors to develop. Can be stored, refrigerated, for up to 3 days.