I wish this was my excuse for disappearing on you with nary a peep for the past three weeks, but alas, it's not. I'll just say the following words:
And then my head exploded! It's taken me a little while to gather myself.
So now that you're up-to-date on the state of the manuscript and my nerves, I would like to take a moment to pay tribute to and take leave from several food combinations.
Beets and goat cheese.
Carrot and ginger.
Butternut squash and apples.
These are all lovely combinations, it's true! And once upon a time, they were fresh and novel and we gobbled them up with gusto. But, folks, I am sick and tired of them. They make my soul weary. When I see them on a menu or in a cookbook, my eyelids droop.
And it's part of the reason why I've had a butternut squash sitting in the fruit bowl for over a month. Every time I've looked at it, it has bored me to tears.
But last night, I gave myself a stern talking-to (I think you would have approved) - it simply would not do to let that squash slowly rot into oblivion nor would it do to leave the blog silent for yet another day. So I pulled down the brilliant Essential New York Times Cookbook (which holds almost every recipe I've ever clipped from the New York Times and is, quite possibly, the desert island cookbook you've spent your whole life looking for, or at least mine) and went a-recipe-hunting.
It was a rather quick hunt. Right there on page 147 was a recipe from Molly O'Neill (from this article, which I've now read twice but still haven't understood how the recipes fit in with the piece - is it just me?) that has you roast butternut squash and turn it into soup with ground cumin, vinegar (hallelujah!) and cayenne. No apples in sight! (Though there's sugar in the soup, which gave me the heebie-jeebies, just a little bit.)
The soup is punchy and hot and sour (instead of the cream swirled in at the end, I added buttermilk), and a sprinkling of squash seeds (I actually used pumpkin seeds) toasted in oil and cumin provides a welcome crunch and additional top note of flavor. It's a fine little soup, just enough to get me out of my rut, just enough to fortify me as I start to revise the manuscript.
We're almost there, folks! I can hardly believe it.
Molly O'Neill's Roasted Squash Soup With Cumin
Original recipe here
1 large (about 3 pounds) butternut squash
3 teaspoons vegetable or olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (or simply use the squash seeds from the butternut)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
4 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
Small pinch of sugar
Generous pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 cup buttermilk
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. With a large knife, split the squash in half (scoop out and reserve the seeds, if you plan on using them). Brush the cut side of the squash with 2 teaspoons of oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place cut side down on the large baking sheet and roast until very tender, about 35 minutes.
2. If using the squash seeds, remove any orange fibers from seeds and rinse them under running water. Drain and place on paper towels to dry. Toss the squash or pumpkin seeds with the remaining teaspoon of oil and 1/2 teaspoon of the cumin, and season with salt. Place in a small but heavy pan and toast over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly, until fragrant and golden-brown. Remove from the heat and set aside.
3. Scoop the flesh from the squash shells or peel off the blistered skin, using a sharp-edged spoon to help it along, and place the flesh in a pot. Add the chicken stock, garlic, vinegar, sugar, cayenne and remaining cumin. Bring to a boil, lower and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
4. Using an immersion blender, purée the soup until smooth and creamy with no lumps. Stir in the buttermilk and heat through. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve garnished with the squash or pumpkin seeds.