Della and I really enjoy Michael Chiarella, Food Network star chef and his recipes. We even visited his restaurant when in Napa a few years ago (way back in pasta eating past). Awesome meal! I have tried many of his recipes and never gone wrong. Unlike other celebrity chefs, he understands taste and balance in a way that works for me – and there’s no Italian in my ancestry that I know of.
This recipe is closely based on Michael Chiarella's. I’ve paleo-tized it. It ONLY looks complicated. It's actually pretty easy if a bit time consuming. Butternut squash (or pumpkin) is diced, covered with a spice rub and balsamic vinegar, and roasted until tender and caramelized. Then it is added to a sautéed vegetable base and blended. The base can be made while the squash is roasting. Might hit it with a dash or two of nutmeg at the end. Don't be intimidated by it - it is soooo good! Absolutely worth the effort!
ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP
Make the Spice Rub first and save the extra!
- 1/4 cup fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon peppercorns
- 1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup (1-ounce) pure California chili powder (I used 1/3 C regular chili powder)
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
Toast the fennel seeds, coriander seeds, and peppercorns in a small, heavy pan over medium heat. When the fennel turns light brown, work quickly. Turn on the exhaust fan; add the red pepper flakes, and toss, toss, toss, always under the fan. (Don't get vapor in your eyes!) Immediately turn the spice mixture out onto a plate to cool. Toasting freshens spices, releases their oils, and makes them more fragrant, as well as adding a new dimension of flavor. Taste your chili powder before adding and, if spicy and hot, cut back the amount. California chilies are almost sweet, not hot.
Put mixture into a blender with the chili powder, salt, and cinnamon and blend until the spices are evenly ground. If you have a small spice mill or a coffee grinder dedicated to grinding spices, grind only the fennel, coriander, pepper, and chili flakes. Pour into a bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients. Keep the spice mix in a glass jar in a cool, dry place, or freeze.
Roasted Winter Squash (or Pumpkin)
- About 3 pounds butternut squash (preferably 1 large squash)
- Gray salt (or sea salt) Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or Coconut Oil
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (I used coconut crystals)
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup dark unsulfured molasses (I used honey)
- 2 teaspoons Toasted Spice Rub, recipe above. (Do not omit!)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Peel the squash with a vegetable peeler. Halve lengthwise, discard the seeds. Cut into 1-inch dice. Place in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.
Heat the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter ceases to foam and has turned a light brown, pull the pan off the heat and immediately add the sage, coconut crystals, vinegar (stand back so as not to get splattered), molasses (honey) and toasted spice rub. Mix well and let simmer over medium-low heat for 1 to 2 minutes to meld the flavors.
Pour the vinegar mixture over the squash and toss well, then transfer to a heavy rimmed baking sheet lined with foil or baking dish large enough to hold the squash/pumpkin in a single layer. Place in the oven and roast, tossing at least once, until very tender and caramelized, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Set aside until cool enough to handle but still warm, so the liquids are runny. (Don't let the liquids set!)
Working in batches if necessary, transfer the warm squash/pumpkin and all the cooking liquids to a food processor and process until smooth. (I used an immersion blender - carefully!) Use immediately, refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.
While the squash/pumpkin is roasting, I make the soup base:
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup (1/4-inch) diced onion
- 1/4 cup (1/4-inch) diced celery
- 1/4 cup (1/4-inch) diced carrot
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Sea salt, preferably gray salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- About 4 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
- 1/2 teaspoon ground toasted coriander, optional (I used coriander powder)
- 1 1/2 cups Roasted Winter Squash recipe (I used all the puree!)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream or canned coconut milk (optional)
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add the onion, celery, carrot, and cinnamon stick and sauté until soft but not brown, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the chicken stock and the coriander, if using, and bring to a boil. Simmer for several minutes. Stir in the squash until smooth, then simmer gently to let the flavors meld, about 10 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick.
Puree the soup in a blender (I used an immersion blender - carefully!) until smooth. (The soup can be made ahead to this point, cooled, covered, and refrigerated for several days or frozen for about 1 month. It will thicken as it cools and may need thinning with stock or water when reheating.)
Return the soup to the pan and reheat gently. Add the cream to taste, if using. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Keep warm until service. - Richard