April 13, 2008

butternut squash soup for my wife's cold

We just had a glorious two days of great weather up here in Seattle, with blue skies and temperatures in the high 70s. That might not sound like much to the folks back in California, but it was a real treat for us up here.

We were also lucky enough to host our first out-of-town guest since we moved to our new home, with our good friend DM visiting from the Bay Area. I told D I'd describe her in a haiku:

name of morning sun
loyal friend, melodic star
great parking karma

D was up for sampling some of our new favorites up here in Seattle, so we packed in as much as we reasonably could... porchetta sandwiches at Salumi, carnitas tacos at El Asadero ("the bus"), regina margherita at Tutta Bella, nico lattes at Vivace, brunch at the Northwest Tofu House, cocktails at Licorous, an exciting late supper at all-time favorite Sitka and Spruce and (slightly heavy) almond croissants at Bakery Nouveau. Whew.

Now that the dust has settled and D's back in SF, the weather has taken a decidedly Seattle-esque turn, with a 20 degree temperature drop and the return of rain. Our fruit trees which were exploding with blossoms from the nice weather are thoroughly confused, and Lav has come down with a cold. So we needed something simple, healthy and fortifying for lunch.

We had some bun thit nuong that Lav got from Pho Thuy Hong to start... really nice, clean flavors and well seasoned pork. Familiar, comfortable and perfect to whet the appetite... but I really wanted to give Lav a good, hot soup to fight her ailment.

Last night, we had a few friends over for dinner and I tried to copy a butternut squash soup Lav and I had a few weeks back at Tilth. Tilth's soup was remarkable... savory, but permeated with the natural sweetness of roasted butternut squash. The soup was served with diced apples, ginger and mint oil in the bowl, with the hot soup poured over... the sweetness of the apple and the gentle heat of the raw ginger were beautifully integrated accents to the flavor of the broth, and the mint oil added a surprising, refreshingly light element that faintly hovered in the background of your palate... a mere wisp of mint.

My first try from last night didn't quite get the flavors quite right. The soup was based on roasted squash, water and a touch of cream... and ended up being a bit one dimensoinal and overly sweet. This afternoon, I added some chicken broth and a healthy dose of white pepper, which did the trick to introduce the balance of a savory dimension.

For this version, we used an asian pear instead of apple--so the fruit would contrast more prominently with the more savory broth (in both flavor and crisp texture)--and added some celery leaves. Once the hot soup was poured into the bowl, the mint oil floated to the top, dotting the surface with subtle flavor accents. The raw ginger, shaved very thin, added a mild amount of heat that paired well with the velvety richness of the butternut squash. The result was exactly what I was trying to make the night before.

Lav's certainly not over her cold yet, but hopefully this warmed her enough to get her onto the path of recovery before we head off to Chile.


  1. Please please please post the recipe!!!

  2. matt wright4:20 PM

    fantastic looking soup - nice job.

  3. I was a lucky recipient of the first version of the soup. Can't believe it's been improved! And uh - nice haiku! Thanks!