"boo-tair-nut" soup

Pumpkin patches are in full swing... swaying to the season and "el Día de los Muertos."  And in the tradition of pumpkin patches, I recently watched a cute video of my 1-year-old niece making her first pilgrimage, with parents and wheel barrel in tow, to choose the pumpkin of her dreams soon to be transformed into a glowing "expressive" lamp guiding all those lost trick-'r-treating souls to her doorstep.

Of course, pumpkins are but one of many winter squashes that grow their plump forms and tasty insides in autumn soil. My four favorites in Paris are Patidou (or Sweet Dumpling), Kabocha, the famed French Muscade (which grows to galactic sizes), and — bien sûr — Butternut,  which the French call by the same name, surprisingly, but with a slight twist in pronunciation : "boo-tair-nut." Ah those crazy French !

french muscade courge
patison | sweet dumpling

Anyway, I've been promising my brother a few "somewhat uninvolved" recipes for dinner fare and what better to begin with than a good ol' (no-frills) winter squash soup... Now I prefer to make a light bright broth, with your typical leek, carrot, celery, onion, parsley, fresh bay leaf and thyme, and here the squash seeds and their filaments. I strain the broth right through a food mill so I can rapidly turn the leftover vegetables into a purée that can be heated up later, moistened with a bit of broth or water, and eaten as an on-the-run lunch (a drizzle of good olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt, twist of the pepper grinder, and a couple three shavings of Parmigiano to make it complete). To the broth I add my roasted squash and season with sea salt. Finito! But for simplicity you can also blend all the vegetables right into the soup (in this case make sure to put your herbs and seeds inside a little muslin pouch), perhaps a less delicate squash flavor reigning supreme, but hearty and full of nutrients all the same.

I had bought a bunch of carrots with super fresh tops and so decided to make a bit of carrot top olive oil as garnish for the soup.

The recipe is down below, but first a few links :
— I got written up on a Paris blog... quite generous article, so am sharing.... Feel free to pass it on!
And since the issue is so pressing, a few links on GMOs and California's Prop. 37 in California labeling initiative :
— An extended free viewing  (through the end of October) of Jeffrey Smith’s new documentary Genetic Roulette, thanks to the Institute of Responsible Technology and its generous donors. DON'T MISS IT !
— A Dr. Oz video debate with folks from both sides of the fence : Genetically Modified Foods : Are They Safe.
The Right to Know blog... for the latest in the grassroots movement in CA. 15 days till election day and counting !

winter-squash soup w/ a dollop of carrot-top flavored olive oil


broth (makes about 2 liters) :
200 gr carrots
200 gr leeks (keep only tender inner green tops)
100 gr celery (along with just a couple inner leaves)
100 gr red onion (cut into quarters)
1 large garlic clove, peeled, cut in half, the sprout removed
1 – 2 fresh bay leaves
3 full sprigs fresh parsley
2 full sprigs fresh thyme
2 full sprigs fresh sage
1 tBsp coarse unrefined sea salt
1/4 tsp peppercorns
Squash seeds and filaments

1 kg / 2 lbs Butternut (or Kabocha, Patidou, Muscade...) squash

carrot-top olive oil :
Generous handful fresh carrot tops
Generous pinch fresh lime zest
Extra virgin olive oil
Unrefined sea salt

for the broth :
|||   Cut the leek, carrot and celery into nice thin crosswise slices and drop into a large pan along with the quartered red onion, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, sage, and peppercorns (the herbs, peppercorns and squash seeds in a muslin bag if planning on blending all the vegetables into the soup). Cover with water by a good 2 inches. Bring the covered pot to a boil and immediately remove the lid. Add the sea salt and cook uncovered just below a simmer for 30 - 45 minutes - the vegetables should be quite soft.
|||   Strain immediately through a strainer or food mill, pressing the vegetables against the sides of the mill to recuperate all the liquid. Strain again through a fine-sieve strainer, if desired, to remove any floating particles. (On an un-wasteful note : Pass the cooked stock vegetables through the food mill and store in the refrigerator for tomorrow's lunch... at which time, add a bit of water or leftover broth and heat in a saucepan. Serve with a sprinkle of sea salt, a twist of the pepper grinder, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and maybe a few shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano — it makes for a great quick savory soup ) 
advisory note : Cooking the broth over a higher heat or for over 1 hour, or not straining the vegetables immediately can turn your broth bitter.

for the squash :
|||   Preheat the oven to 200 ˚C (400 ˚F).
|||   Scrub and dry the outside of the squash. Cut in half and scoop out the seeds and filaments (add to the broth).  Lightly brush each half with olive oil. Bake on the middle rack of the oven until easily pierced with a knife 30 minutes give or take. I don't scoop the cooked pulp out of the skin. It goes right into the blender, as the skin softens marvelously during roasting and adds savory depth and texture to the soup (I do scrap off any knotty areas)... but feel free to leave it out.
|||   Transfer to a blender in portions and blend with the vegetable broth until smooth and to your desired consistency. (If adding the stock vegetables, you'll need a bit more broth and / or water to thin.) Reheat the soup to just below boiling. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

for the carrot-top olive oil : 
|||   Crush the carrot tops and a pinch of sea salt into a paste in a mortar (or use a chopper and finely chop). Transfer to a bowl and drizzle in a generous amount of olive oil, enough to create a thin sauce. Stir in the lime zest and season with sea salt to taste.

to serve :
Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a generous drizzle of carrot-top olive oil. Give a couple twists of the pepper grinder and serve.

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