I ordered first, a cup of the creamy squash soup and a sandwich but, as usual, soon second-guessed myself. “You’re getting a bowl of soup and a sandwich?” I asked my husband Wayne, imagining him still enjoying his steaming bowl of velvety orange soup while I, saving a buck, would be scraping the bottom of my measly cup.
“Yes I am,” he said, with a note of challenge. After a short backcountry ski in the Adirondack high peaks, we were eating a late lunch with my dad—linner, we call it, since it was probably going to replace dinner, too. All I’d eaten so far that day was a bowl of oatmeal and a granola bar.
“I’m changing my order to a bowl, too, then!” I said to our server.
“I knew you would,” Wayne said. “And I’m changing my order to the vat of squash soup.” The server laughed and took my dad’s order: a bowl of the squash soup with his entree, too. As she left for the kitchen, I wondered for a moment how we could all be so sure we’d even like the creamy squash soup. Just because it was the one soup she said was vegetarian? I was the only vegetarian at the table.
The food is usually good at this diner, one of my favorite refueling stops after an excursion to the High Peaks, but that’s not why we were so convinced we’d want as much soup as possible. Our misplaced confidence came from our definition of creamy squash soup: a puree of some squash, with some flavor infused. Upscale restaurants tend to serve a soup of thinner, brothier consistency, while a corner café might serve a soup that clings to the spoon upside down. The squash soup in our imaginations was satisfying without being heavy. The texture and seasonings vary but it’s difficult to mess up squash soup.
The diner managed to do it, though. We found ourselves facing a pale, gloppy soup that looked like it could have been partially coagulated clam chowder. It tasted of butter and cream rather than squash. As an afterthought, it contained a few token chunks of squash. Wayne declared it squash chowder and a dish that ought not be repeated, even though he generally loves chowders. For my part, I’ve never really thought cream belonged in soup, no doubt, partly because it made my stomach unhappy, being lactose intolerant.
We were all hungry, so we joylessly ate the soup. Halfway through the bowl, I could already feel a brick of milk fat being formed in my digestive system. None of us had room for the diner’s famous pie at the end of the meal, half the reason we stopped there.
Apparently, somebody forgot to inform the cook that soup doesn’t need cream (or milk or butter for that matter) to be creamy. Certain soups come out thick just by pureeing the ingredients into silky perfection using one’s immersion blender. Squash soup, for instance. You can add a splash of cream or milk at the end if you want, but it’s optional and should never overwhelm the squash (or other primary vegetable).
After that meal, I felt a need to run home and make my own squash soup to try to erase the disturbing memory, replacing it with the soothing soup we had conjured in our minds.
Vegetarian Creamy Squash Soup
- 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
- medium onion, chopped
- stalk celery, sliced into half moons
- medium carrot, sliced into thin disks
- 2 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 4-5 cups vegetable broth (depending how thick you like your soup)
- large butternut squash, peeled and cubed (1-2” cubes)
- 2 tsp minced fresh ginger
- 2 tsp cider vinegar
- ¾ cup apple cider
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp curry powder
- salt and pepper
1. In your biggest soup pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion, celery and carrot with a bit of salt until the onions are translucent and the carrots are starting to get soft
2. Toss in the garlic and cook, still stirring constantly, until fragrant
3. Pour in the veggie broth and bring to a boil
4. Carefully add the squash cubes, ginger, vinegar, cider, and spices and simmer covered for about 30 minutes until the squash is squishy
5. Remove the pot from the heat and then very carefully, keeping the immersion blender fully immersed, blend until thoroughly pureed. (If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can also allow the soup to cool and puree in batches in your blender. Then pour it back into the pot to reheat before serving)
6. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you’re using homemade veggie stock and you haven’t salted it a lot, you may find you need a significant amount of salt
7. Before serving, you can stir milk or cream (or milk substitute) into individual bowls or the whole soup, if you like, but I don’t think it’s necessary.
About 6 servings