Many years ago there was a restaurant called California Cafe in Los Gatos and it was a favorite date night spot for my husband and me. I frequently ordered the seasonal soup because it never failed to impress and satisfy me. On one particular evening, and with a very pregnant belly (I had our second child weeks later), I may have taken my enjoyment of this soup a little far. Our server saw what appeared to be said pregnant lady licking the bowl clean and passed along the obvious compliments to the chef. To my surprise and utter joy, the chef brought me a copy of the recipe with his handwritten notes and I’ve been making a version of it for many years.
Fast forward about 15 years, and while I was working on my professional culinary certificate, it was my honor to spend time as an intern at Flea Street Cafe in Menlo Park. One of my jobs was to make 16 quarts of vegan Butternut Squash Soup a few times a week – my trusty little notebook reminds me that’s a batch that includes about 9 butternut squash and 15 onions! For those months I spent at this wonderful restaurant and several months after, I felt like I could make this soup in my sleep.
And now, a few years later and combining some flavors from the California Cafe recipe and some solid technique from Flea Street, I’ve come up with my favorite version to serve my family and friends. It is a perfect soup for a crisp fall evening and pairs perfectly served with a slightly bitter salad or warm crusty bread for dipping. I hope you get a chance to make it this season.
Maple Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
This delicious fall soup is inspired by one that I had many years ago at California Cafe in Los Gatos. Sadly the restaurant has been closed for years, but I loved this soup so much that the chef kindly brought me a copy of the recipe with his handwritten notes on it to our table and I've been making it ever since. Fast forward about 15 years – one of my jobs during my time as an intern at Flea Street Cafe in Menlo Park was to make 16 quarts of vegan Butternut Squash Soup multiple times a week. I combined many ingredients and techniques from both versions, and this is my favorite way to make it. Due to the addition of cream at the end as well as hints of maple syrup and cinnamon, is a perfect soup to have a cup or small bowl of at the beginning of a meal. It's also great as a soup + salad or soup + panini combo.
- 2 lbs butternut squash about 1-2 squash
- 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaf
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup onion, thinly sliced
- 1 cup celery, thinly sliced
- 1 cup carrot, thinly sliced
- 4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2½ cups vegetable or chicken stock homemade or low sodium is best
- 3 tbsp pumpkin puree
- ⅔ cup heavy cream
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- ⅛ tsp ground cinnamon
- crème fraîche, chive, freshly grated nutmeg, pumpkin oil, olive oil, toasted pepitas
Preheat oven to 300°. Rinse the outside of the squash (it will sit in liquid while it cooks and you will use in the soup, so you want a clean squash). Cut squash ends off, then in half lengthwise, and remove seeds. Place halves in a roasting pan, cut side up. Add thyme sprigs, bay leaf, brown sugar and kosher salt to the top and cavity of the squash. It's ok if some falls off and into the pan. Add water to the bottom of the pan and cover tightly with a sheet of parchment paper, followed by a sheet of heavy aluminum. Place in the oven and cook for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, in a large heavy pot, melt butter and olive oil over low heat. Add onion, celery, carrot, garlic, kosher salt and black pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, about 20-30 minutes total. You are looking for very soft vegetables and only the slightest hint of color. Turn off the heat while the squash finishes cooking.
When the squash has cooked for an hour, remove from the oven and carefully take the parchment and foil off and let the squash cool a few minutes. Be sure to save the liquid in the pan; you should have a little less than 2 cups.
Scoop out the flesh and add it directly to the pot with the vegetables. Add pumpkin puree, stock and flavorful cooking liquid from roasting pan to the pot with the vegetables and bring to a boil, then cover, lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Remove from heat and add heavy cream, maple syrup, and cinnamon. Carefully blend mixture with an immersion blender directly in the pot. For the most smooth texture, use a high speed blender such as a Vitamix, blending in batches and returning soup to the pot to reheat.
Top each serving with any of the following toppings: a spoonful of crème fraîche, freshly grated nutmeg, finely chopped chive, a drizzle of pumpkin or olive oil, toasted/spiced pepitas, coarse flake salt