Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Squash Heaven

I made a yummy soup today because I had a bunch of squash of reasonable size in my garden.  Finally!
Here's the recipe.  Warning--these are Kami-style instructions.  I don't usually measure very much.  

Kami's Squash & Potato Soup

4-6 average summer squash
4 medium potatoes
3 tbsp butter
about 3 tbsp flour
2 cups milk (at least 1 percent though I guess it might turn out okay with skim--2 percent or whole will make a richer soup)
a dollop (a tsp or tbsp) of olive oil (optional)
dill, salt, pepper and garlic to taste
optional: 1-2 dashes each cumin, ground allspice, ginger
optional: grated cheddar cheese, bacon bits and/or sour cream (or yogurt) for garnish

In a medium or large sauce pot, roughly cut up the squash and potatoes, add water until they're just barely covered.  (Make sure you have plenty of room to add the milk/roux later--if you don't, use a larger sauce pot.)  Bring to boil, then turn down to a simmer.  Add olive oil if you want, salt and pepper.  Simmer until potatoes are soft.  (Do not drain the water!  It's part of the soup.)  

In a small sauce pot (must hold at least 2 cups liquid comfortably!) melt the butter.  Add flour in small amounts until there's a somewhat crumbly texture when stirred, but it settles into a molten puddle after a moment.  If you add too much flour, add a small amount of butter, but don't stress about the texture too much--it's not terribly important.  Cook over low heat until the flour begins to brown.  (For more detailed instructions, look up roux in cookbooks.)  The scent should be rich, like buttery biscuits.  Remove from heat.  While stirring, add the milk, and then return to heat and turn up to medium.  If there are large lumps, use a whisk to break them up.  Bring slowly to a boil, stirring constantly (as you would making pudding on the stove--avoid letting a bunch thicken at the bottom because it'll start to brown and then burn.)  The milk/roux mix should reach peak thickness when it starts to bubble.  

Add the thickened milk/roux to the water/squash and potatoes and stir.  Since both are hot, the soup should remain at or quickly return to a simmer.  Add dill, garlic, and more salt and pepper.  You may use the optional seasonings instead, or in addition to the dill and garlic.  Taste.  The soup may require more salt than you anticipate because of the unseasoned roux, but don't give in to temptation and add a whole bunch of salt at once.  Come into the flavor a pinch or two at a time, and be sure to cleanse your palate--that much tasting can wear your tongue out and you can make this much too salty on accident.  (One fix for salty soup is to add more potatoes --it's best to let the soup cool on the side, boil the extra potatoes until they're soft, drain, and then add them in.)

Garnish with cheese and/or bacon bits and/or sour cream and/or yogurt.  

Other fine touches/variations:  
You can brown some onion, then add the potatoes and summer squash to the hot pan and let them mingle for a few minutes before adding the water.  This works nicely with celery as well, and celery/onion combo.
Paprika, sour cream and fresh chives make a very dressy garnish.
You can substitute the potatoes with cauliflower for a really nice change of texture and taste.
Celery salt works nicely in this soup too.
Fattening addition--substitute some of the milk with a little heavy cream.

Note:  The roux can take a while to make.  By the time it's done, the potatoes and squash should start to fall apart nicely, leaving only small chunks by the time you combine them with the roux/milk.  I think the chunks are wonderful, but if you want, you could easily turn this into a smooth puree.

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