butternut squash soup.

I’ve had a serious vendetta with Toronto this winter. A true Canadian, I love the snow; the crisp, fresh air that comes with the first snowfall makes me giddy and the chance to go snowboarding or make a snow fort makes my heart skip a beat. The fact that all that fluffy white stuff has been replaced with gray skies and lots of rain was seriously pissing me off, but today, I changed my mind.

Walking downtown today after having lunch with a cousin (who I’d never met before!), I breathed in the above-zero air, let my hair blow in the breeze and donned my oversized sunglasses, tilting my chin up to smile at the bright blue cloudless sky. I had a gnocchi dish from rustic little Marben on Wellington Street sitting happily in my stomach. The combination of sage leaves, bits of brussels sprouts, fried shallots and a delicate butternut squash coulis soothed me to the core.

The butternut squash was the part that really stuck – and it made me think back to a soup I made a few weeks ago on damp, cold day escape from the icky feeling of wet socks frozen fingers. It started with a bright and creamy butternut squash, a well-learned lesson from dad about soup basics and a whisper in my head of something Michael Smith said to me (through the television) about the versatility of a vanilla bean.

Whether the sun is shining or you need to add a dash of sweetness to a washed-out day, this soup is a one-pot meal that’s sure to brighten things up.

  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 inches vanilla pod
  • 1 tbsp butter/margarine
  • 1 butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 5 radishes (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • plain yogurt for garnish (optional)
  1. In a saucepan, bring stock to a boil and turn the heat down to simmer. Slice the vanilla pod down the middle and scrape all the seeds into the pot. Put the shell from the pod in the stock, too.
  2. In a separate heavy, bottomed pot, heat the butter and then add the onions, celery, carrots and radishes. Sauté for 5 minutes and add the squash. Season with the nutmeg, thyme and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
  3. Pour the stock over all the ingredients, bring to a boil, and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the squash is soft enough to poke easily with a fork. Add the maple syrup and fish out what’s left of the vanilla pod.
  4. Remove from heat. If you have an immersion blender, use it to puree the soup until smooth. Otherwise, you can use a food processor; you may have to do it in batches depending on its capacity.
  5. Reheat over the stove for a few minutes before serving and ladle into bowls, dropping a large spoonful of plain yogurt on top. I used Greek yogurt for a little extra richness, but anything will work.

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