When it comes to vegetables, butternut squash may not be at the top of your list. It certainly wasn’t on mine until recently.
But it’s time that you become familiar with it because it is not only a nutritional powerhouse; it’s amazingly versatile in terms of how you can spice it up—without a hint of any squash taste whatsoever!
March is National Nutrition Month and a good time to try some new soups while the weather is still chilly, at least here in Colorado where March is one of our snowiest months. Nightly temperatures drop below freezing, making a tasty soup the perfect dish. And, we’ve had some of our biggest storms in March (including 4-foot snowstorms) so there’s still plenty of winter left here in the Rockies!!
Butternut Squash Soup is just perfect for upping your daily vegetable intake (I aim for 2 ½ cups a day, but daily quotas vary by gender and age). it is a member of the squash family and is thought of as a winter squash—related to acorn, spaghetti, and pumpkin squashes— although it is available year-round in frozen form. I buy mine in the grocery store in frozen boxes or Whole Foods Market 365 brand in 1-pound bags, which saves considerable time instead of peeling, chopping—especially the Whole Foods brand where the cubes of squash are individually frozen and don’t have to pried apart as with the boxed variety. This makes them easier to roast (perhaps for a risotto?), but back to the soup idea.
According to Dr. Andrew Weil, butternut squash is a rich source of vitamin A. Just a cup of baked flesh provides 214 percent of the daily value for this vital nutrient. Also, many of the butternut squash’s carbohydrates come from pectins that appear to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and insulin-regulating properties. Check out Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Diet to see other recommended vegetables.
Plus, recent research reported in the Wall Street Journal shows that a Mediterranean diet that emphasizes vegetables — along with olive oil, tree nuts and peanuts, fruits, fish, legumes and wine — cuts the risk of stroke and cardiovascular problems among high-risk people by 30 percent. So, Butternut Squash Soup fits right in with this plan.
Another reason I like butternut squash is that its mild nutty flavor lends itself to so many herbs and spices. As you know, I lean toward flavorful foods and this soup has a lot of flavor coming from mustard, nutmeg, cumin, coriander, and a little heat from the red pepper flakes. It is also very pretty and colorful, which I think is important since we eat with our eyes. Here in the Southwest, we put chiles in everything—hence the Chipotle Cream. But if chipotle isn’t to your liking, omit the cream and just sprinkle a few chives on your soup.
Butternut Squash Soup with Chipotle Cream
Reprinted with permission from 125 Gluten-Free Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Fenster (Avery/Penguin Group, 2011)
Apple juice provides just the right touch of sweetness to balance the spices in this vibrant soup. Its rich, orange color and the drizzle of Chipotle Cream and a sprinkle of chives make it look so elegant. It’s also vegetarian/vegan.
2 cups apple juice
24 ounces frozen butternut squash
1 large onion, chopped
2 large garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives or parsley, for garnish, or parsley
1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise or vegan mayonnaise
1/4 cup low-fat sour cream or vegan sour cream
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 teaspoon agave nectar
1/8 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
 In a large pot, combine all of the soup ingredients except the lemon juice and chives. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, 30 minutes. Stir the mixture occasionally to break up the frozen chunks of squash.
 While the soup simmers, make the Chipotle Cream: In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, lime juice, agave nectar, and chipotle chile powder. Set aside.
 With a handheld immersion blender, puree the soup until very smooth. If it seems too thick, thin with some hot water to desired consistency. It will thicken up as it cools. Stir in the lemon juice and serve hot, garnished with chives and a drizzle of Chipotle Cream. Refrigerate any leftover cream, tightly covered, for a week. Serves 4