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Roasted Butternut Squash Bisque

1 whole butternut squash (about 3 pounds)

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium sweet onion-minced

2 cloves garlic-minced

3 stalks celery-minced

3 tablespoons butter

32-48 ounces vegetable stock or broth

1 1/2 cups half and half (or whole milk)

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon celery salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 tablespoon honey

For garnish: Sour cream or crème fraiche, aged (syrup-like) balsamic vinegar.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Prepare squash by cutting open and removing seeds. Do not peel. Cut squash into approximately 3-inch pieces. Arrange squash (skin side down) on baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil; roast for 30 to 40 minutes or until squash is tender when pierced with a fork and starting to brown around the edges. When cool enough to handle, scrape squash flesh from skin and set aside.

In a 6-quart stockpot over medium heat, sauté minced onion, garlic, and celery in butter until golden. Add roasted squash to pot. Add 32 ounces of vegetable stock, reserving the remainder to adjust thickness of soup. Cook over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to break up squash pieces.

Add sea salt, celery salt, pepper, cumin and cloves. Blend with immersion blender or sturdy counter-top blender until smooth. Fill blender only half way with soup and process in batches if necessary. Add some of the reserved vegetable stock if needed, to assist with blending.

To the smoothly blended soup in the stockpot, add honey and half-and-half. Taste and adjust seasoning. Additional half-and-half and/or vegetable stock can be used to get the exact consistency you prefer. Remember to adjust seasoning after each addition. Serve with a dollop of cool sour cream or crème fraiche. Drizzle ever so slightly with syrupy balsamic vinegar. Enjoy!

Makes about eight 12 ounce servings. This soup freezes perfectly for several months.

Crème Fraiche

1 cup heavy whipping cream, room temperature

1 tablespoon buttermilk or 1/3 cup sour cream, room temperature

In a bowl, combine whipping cream and buttermilk or sour cream; cover securely with plastic wrap.

Set aside at room temperature for 24 hours or until very thick. Stir once or twice during that time.

Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving. Cover tightly and store in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Recipe by Lisa Lawrence

Roasted Butternut Squash Bisque