Everyone who knows me knows that I like to cook. I’m not classically trained in the culinary arts, not by a long shot. No, I learned to cook by necessity. I was a bachelor for many years and money was tight. Eating out two or three times a day, even using coupons, ends up getting expensive.
So I started with simple things like boxed food. Mac and cheese, Hamburger Helper, things like that. After a while that became boring, so I started adding extra things, like a can of tuna and can of peas to the mac and cheese, tossing some mushroom or green beans in with the Hamburger Helper. It wasn’t groundbreaking, but it made me feel that I was being somewhat creative.
It wasn’t until I was dating my (now) wife that I tried to push my boundaries. Not only did I want to impress her (women love a man who cooks), but I wanted us to be healthy. And that’s when I realized that cooking is an art form.
Over the years I’ve modified recipes and came up with a few things on my own. One of my favorites (and one the wife always requests during the winter) is butternut squash soup. I recently made a big pot of it for Thanksgiving, which was a big hit with everyone. I thought I’d share it here:
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, chopped into one-inch cubes (more or less)
3-4 apples, peeled, cored, sliced
1 large onion (sweet onion preferred)
4-6 cups of liquid (vegetable/chicken stock)
1/4 cup of apple cider
Secret Ingredient (Chinese Five-Spice Powder)
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup of a milk-like product (cream, whole, skim, soy, almond, whatever)
Melt the butter over medium heat in a large stock pot or Dutch oven. Once it’s foamy, toss in the butternut squash (you can do this in batches if you have a lot). Saute’ for a few minutes until it begins to tender. Next, add the onions (Note: I generally toss in all the squash, saute’, then toss the onion on top, etc.) and continue to saute’. Once they begin to glisten and become a bit opaque, then toss in the apple.
Add some salt and pepper while you saute’ for another couple of minutes. Then add your stock to just cover, add your slash of cider, then bring up to a boil. Give it another stir, then lower the heat to low, cover, and cook for about ten minutes.
Once the bigger pieces of the squash are fork tender, remove the pot from the heat and grab an immersion blender (you can use a food processor here, but it’s messier). Be careful! The soup is going to be like hot lava. Blend that mess up until there are no more chunks, then add the milk product and a pinch of the five-spice powder. Blend a bit more, then let it cool for about five minutes. You can taste and add any additional seasoning if needed.
I usually serve this in tea cups or coffee mugs.