Butternut Squash Soup with Cinnamon Sugar Croutons
When we were down in Florida, our friend, Karen, had some butternut squash puree in the refrigerator the chef, Sebastian, had left for her and Blake as he didn’t need it. She used it to make herself a butternut squash soup for lunch one day after coming back from a run. I hadn’t thought much about it but during one of the recent trips to the grocery store, we passed the butternut squashes and I put one in the cart on a whim because it’s one of the few mainstream vegetables we’ve never used. I thought it might be fun to try our hand at it. It’s been on the counter for a week or two, waiting to be used. (You might have noticed it behind the Crown Maple syrup when I wrote about our taste tests of the different intensities of real maple syrup.)
Butternut squash is interesting because it’s technically a fruit, not a vegetable. In many parts of the English speaking world, it’s considered a type of pumpkin, not a squash, and is definitely related in flavor. It contains a ton of different nutrition sources and vitamins, stores well for long periods (in a cool, dark place, it should keep for up to a month), and is relatively inexpensive. According to the USDA, a single 100 gram serving of butternut squash contains only 45 calories and gives you 67% of your daily Vitamin A, 39% of your daily beta-carotene, 25% of your daily Vitamin C, 10% of your daily Vitamin E, 10% of your daily Magnesium, 10% of your daily Manganese, 5% of your daily Calcium, 5% of your daily iron, 7% of your daily potassium, and 9% of your daily Thiamine, among others, as well as provides 1 gram of protein and 2 grams of dietary fiber.
Instead of developing a recipe from scratch, I wanted to use one of the best recipe sources I know as a sort of baseline to get me familiar with the flavor profile since this isn’t something we had in my parents’ house during childhood: America’s Test Kitchen. You can find the recipe I’m using in this post here. If you aren’t a subscriber (it’s seriously a few bucks a month so you can afford it with the change in your pocket most likely), consider becoming one because they approach cooking like a science. They test, rate, test, rate, test, rate, and test dishes, preparation methods, appliances, and tools until they come up with the finalized recipe that is a combination of best flavor and easiest preparation. They do all of the work, spend all of the money, and for a tiny outlay you get to collect the dividend. I highly, unreservedly, and enthusiastically recommend them.
If you need to see it for yourself to understand why their recipes end up being so top-shelf, go look at their Tumblr page, which will probably make your inner scientist or chef excited. Look at this woman testing Dutch cocoas. It’s such a cool sight. Once again, they didn’t let me down. Their recommendation for butternut squash soup turned out to be as excellent as everything else they produce. Here’s a picture journey so you can experience it alongside us.
The test of any great soup, though, is how it holds the next day. I like soups that you can make and then serve for a few days in a row as a side dish, with the flavor intensifying, becoming more delicious. The butternut squash soup passes on that front. The next day (today) it’s just as good as ever.
Here’s the kicker … excluding the cinnamon sugar croutons, which are going to vary depending upon how many you decide to put into your soup bowl, the actual soup itself contained only 1,282 calories for the entire pot. All of that butter, heavy cream, and even a touch of brown sugar was used so judiciously in a base made up of water and squash, it manages to be rich and filling at a very low nutritional sacrifice. Just as beautifully, the entire thing cost less than $10 in ingredients, and that is assuming you pay full retail and don’t get a deal anywhere. That’s going to put your per serving cost between $1.67 and $2.50 per person as the recipe yields enough for 4-6 servings. If you’re a smart shopper, and wait for seasonal deals on butternut squash, you could probably get that price cut in half to save even more money.