Ally

“Of all the items on the menu, soup is that which exacts the most delicate perfection and the strictest attention.” -Escoffier


I found one of my favorite recipes a few years ago by fluke. I was invited to a soup swap party to celebrate National Soup Swap Day. It was fun and there were only two rules for the Soup Swap:  Rule #1 You do not talk about SOUP SWAP,   Rule #2 You DO NOT talk about Soup Swap. No, just kiddding. The two rules were: Rule #1 Bring six 1 quart containers of your soup choice to swap, Rule #2  The soup must be vegetarian, no dairy and no potatoes (the latter two do not freeze too well). I scoured the internet for a soup that would work and settled on Chocolate & Zucchini's Butternut Squash Vanilla Soup (Soupe de Courge à la Vanille). The soup turned out to be easy to make...even easier if you buy the pre-cubed butternut squash at Trader Joe's...and a hit! Several of the swap participants contacted me afterwards to inquire about the recipe. Since that time, I've made that soup on several occasions and always to a favorable response (I only had it turn out less than stellar once and that was because I let someone else season it and she totally oversalted it. Ah well, you live and you learn). One friend even dubbed it "crack soup" because it was so addicting. Anyhow, I found the soup to pair well with Indian food of all things but it's just as tasty solo. Give it a try!

Soupe de Courge à la Vanille

Ingredients:

- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 onions, peeled and sliced
- 4 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeds scooped out and cut in chunks
- Salt, freshly ground pepper
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract/paste (preferably natural), or one pod dry vanilla, split open (I prefer the pod)

Serves 6.

Instructions:

- Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot.
- Add in the onion and cook over medium-high heat for five minutes or until softened, stirring regularly.
- Add in the squash, season with salt and pepper, and cook for ten minutes, stirring from time to time.
- Pour in hot water or stock to cover the vegetables and bring to a simmer.
- Lower the heat to medium, cover and cook for 20 minutes.
- Add in the vanilla extract, or scrape in the seeds from the vanilla pod and add in the pod itself as well.
- Cook for ten more minutes, or until the squash is tender.
- Fish out the vanilla pod if that's what you used (otherwise don't), and purée the soup in a food processor/blender/ or use an immersion blender.
- Adjust the seasoning and serve hot.
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