Market Special: Simple soup with a lush touch

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My capacity for rich foods is almost limitless. But after a full week of nearly nonstop indulgence, even I am starting to crave a wholesome meal. The great thing about this recipe for winter squash soup from Seth Freedman, East Atlanta Village Farmers Market’s resident chef, is that it’s adaptable to both luscious and light moods.

At its heart, it’s a clean, healthy meal with almost no fat—the perfect antidote to holiday overeating. Then again, if you stir in a little cream and add a swirl of Freedman’s Arugula Pesto, you’ve got an elegant first course for your New Year’s Eve dinner party (for just a few extra calories).

It’s easily made vegan by opting for olive oil and vegetable stock. Or, you can use the dairy and the chicken stock, turning the soup into an excellent accompaniment to roast poultry or pork.

The flexibility is by design. “I try to write very simple, straightforward recipes so that they’re approachable by cooks of all skill levels,” Freedman says. “I also try to make them adaptable for lots of different fresh ingredients and budgets.”

Feel free to substitute pumpkin, delicata or other orange winter squashes for the butternut or acorn. For the pesto, you could use parsley or spinach (or a combination) instead of arugula, and walnuts or pecans instead of almonds.

Squash Soup With Arugula Pesto

This simple preparation allows the flavor of fresh winter squash to shine through. A swirl of Arugula Pesto dresses it up for company.

Makes 8 servings
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes

Ingredients
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 2-pound butternut or acorn squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, sliced
4 cups (or more) vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup cream (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup Arugula Pesto

Instructions
Heat a large pot over medium heat; add butter or oil. Add squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash begins to sweat, about 2 minutes. Add onion and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent. Add stock; if vegetables are not covered in liquid, add more to cover. Bring to boil, cover, and reduce heat to simmer. Cook until squash is fully tender, 20 to 30 minutes.

Working in small batches, puree solids in a blender (do not fill more than halfway, and be very careful to not allow hot ingredients to splash) and return to the pot. Add more stock if necessary to reach desired consistency. Add cream if desired, and season with salt and pepper to taste. To serve, ladle in bowls and swirl with 1 to 2 tablespoons Arugula Pesto.
 
Arugula Pesto
 
Ingredients
1/2 cup almonds
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 cups arugula, washed and dried
½ cup olive oil
½ cup hard cheese, such as Parmesan, finely grated
Salt & pepper to taste
 
Instructions
Place the garlic and almonds together in a food processor with a blade attachment. Pulse until finely chopped. Add the arugula and pulse until finely chopped. Add the cheese and pulse just to incorporate. Then turn on the processor, and with the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil.

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