Monday, February 6, 2012

Roasted Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup

I love chickpeas and I love that I've found something new to do with them. Not a starring role this time, but a solid supporting role.

Many soups that are purèed call for a potato to thicken the soup. The potato serves that purpose nicely without adding too much flavor that affects the taste of the main ingredients. Well, I don't cook potatoes at home and never have them in my pantry. I'm not anti-potato, I just love them too much, you know?

In this soup, I used chickpeas to thicken the soup and it works beautifully. They aren't quite as neutral tasting as a potato but they work beautifully and add protein and additional fiber to the soup. There is one important element to getting a silky  purèed  soup: you must use a blender to purèe the soup if you want it to be silky smooth. A food processor or stick blender just won't do the trick. Just as you must use a blender if you want to make silky smooth hummus (you do, you know - really), it's necessary to this soup, too. When it comes to hummus, some would say that you can't make a silken hummus without rubbing off the skins but I swear by the blender method.

...but I digress. I replaced the "one medium russet potato" called for in several recipes I reviewed with 1 cup cooked chickpeas in the recipe I ended up with. You could use canned but did you know that when you use canned chickpeas or other beans, unicorns cry? It's true!

ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND CARROT SOUP


Makes: approximately 2 quarts.

If you are using stock that is salted, take that into consideration and modify the salt you add in the other steps.

Equipment
  • Blender. If you don't have a blender, you can use a food processor, but the soup will not be as silky smooth. Do you know how to safely blend warm or hot liquids? If not, please read Step #6 of the recipe before you purèe the soup in the blender. 
  • Parchment paper to line your baking sheet when roasting the carrots and squash. You do it without, or use foil, or a silpat (silicone) liner, but I prefer parchment paper.

Ingredients
  • 2 lbs washed, trimmed carrots and butternut squash (peeled and de-seeded). Cut the carrots into 2" long chunks, splitting the thick pieces into half vertically (you want these pieces cut side down when you roast them) and cut the butternut squash into 1.5 to 2" square chunks. I used two medium carrots with the remainder of the weight coming from the butternut squash. It's not necessarily what you use, it's that you end up with 2 lbs of prepared vegetables.
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (extra virgin or regular), divided
  • 1 medium onion, medium dice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, peeled and thoroughly smashed.
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika - sweet or hot, it's your choice
  • kosher salt
  • fresh ground black or Aleppo pepper
  •  1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • Garnish (optional) herb or garlic infused olive oil, croutons
Preparation
Preheat oven to 425F, rack in the upper third of the oven. Prepare a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

  1. Toss the prepared carrot and butternut squash chunks with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and a few grinds of black or Aleppo pepper and toss again to distribute the salt. Distribute the carrot and squash chunks on the baking sheet in 1 layer, spreading them out as much as possible. If they are crowded too much, they won't brown properly. Check them at 20 minutes. Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes until the bottoms are browned. Remove and set aside.
  2. While the carrots and squash are roasting, heat a heavy bottom dutch oven - at least 4 quart capacity - for about 4 minutes over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and when it shimmers, add the onions and the bay leaf  - season this with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of freshly ground black or Aleppo pepper and cook until the onions are translucent but not browned, adjusting the heat as necessary. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute.
  3. Add the chickpeas and 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and cook them together with the onion mixture for 5 minutes stirring occasionally. You don't want to take on too much more than a golden color on the onions, so adjust the heat as necessary. Stir-in the smoked paprika and combine well with the other ingredients, cooking for another minute. Add the 2 teaspoons of sherry vinegar and cook for another  one to two minutes, or until the sherry vinegar liquid is gone - or nearly so.
  4. Add the quart of vegetable stock plus the 1 cup of additional water. Bring the soup to a boil and reduce the heat so that it is simmering. Cook covered, and at a simmer for 30 minutes. 
  5. Take the soup off the heat and cool until it is tepid. You could even put it in a bowl, cover it and store it in the refrigerator for a few hours or over night. In any case, cool it down to a tepid temperature before you blend it.
  6. If your soup is warm, ladle it into your blender, filling the container no more than halfway and hold down the lid with a folded kitchen towel. Pulse 2 or 3 times and then open the lid to let any steam escape for a few seconds. Replace the lid and hold it down with the kitchen towel. Start the blender on a low speed and then increase it to the purèe setting and blend for one minute. Remove the lid and scrape down the sides. Purèe the soup for an additional 30 seconds. Pour the purèd batches into a clean 3-4 quart heavy bottom sauce pan. Continue the blending process until all of your soup is purèed.
  7. When the process is complete and all of the purèed soup is in the clean sauce pan, bring it to a simmer. Taste for seasoning and adjust to taste. Drizzle a little infused extra virgin olive oil on top or float a toasted slice of baguette that has been brushed with olive oil.

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