I have this thing with airports and soup. When we lived on the West Coast, we got used to catching early morning flights in order to arrive on the opposite side of the country at a decent hour. I love mornings, so that usually wasn't a problem, except that I inevitably would get the most intense cravings for soup. Since normal people don't eat soup for breakfast, and most restaurants don't serve soup til at least 11 a.m., I was always out of luck.
Maybe my strange craving has something to do with the comforting quality of soup and seeking that out while away from home.....or maybe I'm just weird and REALLY like soup. Either way, I'm pretty excited official soup season is here, and I can't wait to share with you some of my favorites.
Every American restaurant I've ever worked in always had a couple soups of the day, and when I was cooking for the sorority at Oregon State University, I made a different soup every day to go along with the lunch entree. Every year there were a different set of girls who lived in the house, so the first few months I always experimented a lot to see what soups made them line up at the door (lemon orzo soup, loaded baked potato) and which ones went mostly untouched (cream of spinach, curried carrot). Once I had a handle on what they liked, I usually stuck with those favorites the year, but sometimes I couldn't resist throwing them a curve ball like this one.
I've done many variations on butternut squash soup, carrot soup, sweet potato soup, but never a delicata squash soup. Delicatas (pictured above) are the oblong shaped ones with a light beige skin with dark green or orange vertical stripes. They have a very mild flavor and a hint of sweetness, making them a great alternative to butternut squash. The easiest way to cook them is to just slice them in half lengthwise, brush with olive oil, place face down on a baking sheet, and roast in the oven until tender. Then you can scoop out the inside or slice into wedges. I've used this method here to keep it easy and reduce the amount of overall chopping.
The charred corn is really just a garnish and not completely necessary to the soup, but it really works here to add a layer of earthy flavor that compliments the coriander in the soup. The cilantro-lime oil adds another layer of "fresh" flavor and brightens up the whole thing.
Clearly I love talking about soup, so if you share my passion or have a favorite soup you've been making for years, I'd love to hear about it below. Happy soup season! ;)
Delicata Squash Soup with Charred Corn and Cilantro Oil
Yield: about 6 cups, or about 4 servings
(don't get too worried about exact amounts - it's soup, after all)
3 lbs. whole delicata squash
2 small yellow onions (or 1 large), large dice
1 large carrot, large dice
1 stalk celery, large dice
4 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock (as a former chef, I'm sure I should have gallons of homemade stock in my freezer, but I also have an 11-month old. :) My go-to brand of really flavorful stock is Knorr's Homestyle Chicken Stock.)
2 tsp. coriander
2 tsp. salt
black pepper to taste
2 ears fresh corn, husked and silks removed, kernels sliced off the cob
1 handful of fresh cilantro, including stems
1/2 cup olive oil
more olive oil for cooking
- Preheat oven to 400 F. Cut the ends off the delicata squash and then slice lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and pulp, then brush the insides with olive oil. Spray a baking sheet with cooking release spray, then place the squash flat sides down on the sheet and bake at 400 F for about 45 min. or until the insides are fork tender and the outsides are getting some golden brown spots.
- While the squash is baking, make the cilantro oil. Put the handful of cilantro into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the juice from 1 of the limes and 1/2 cup of olive oil, and process until very smooth. Strain through a mesh sieve and discard solids.
- Once the squash is out of the oven, set a large soup pot on the burner and turn to med high heat. Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom. When nice and hot, add the onions, celery, and carrots. Saute about 7-10 minutes or until good and tender. Add the chicken stock, juice of the other lime, coriander, and salt. Scoop out the cooked squash and add it to the soup. Cover with a lid and let simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Use an immersion blender to blend the soup until it is thick and silky (it might take about 5 minutes or so ).
- Just before serving, heat a skillet over high heat, and let it get really hot. Don't add any oil or butter. Add the fresh corn kernels to hot pan and let them sit still for a couple minutes. Give the pan a shake and let them sit again another couple minutes or until they are slightly charred.
- Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a little corn first, then the cilantro oil in sweeping circles. Enjoy!
- Mirepoix is the foundation for most soups. It's always 2 parts onion, 1 part carrot, 1 part celery (like in the picture above).
- You could also try this soup with acorn squash or butternut squash.