(Here’s a post from my Examiner.com site. Happy eating!)
Healthy soup with watercress. Photo by the author.
I started to hear the regrets even before the holiday dinners began:
“I’m going to eat so much at my in-laws!”
“My healthy streak is on hold.”
“Why is everyone sending me cookies?!”
Now that the eating frenzy has dissipated, you’re probably ready to clamor back on the wagon. In fact, your new year’s resolutions may even mandate it. So here is the first of a few recipes to get you back to eating fruits and vegetables, buying local, and feeling good overall about what you put on the table.
Roasted squash soup with toasted pepitas
This is really more of a flexible formula than a recipe. Use any squash and root vegetables you like, and add or change ingredients as you see fit. Pepitas are simply squash seeds (usually from pumpkins). Here, I explain how to use this part of the squash that you might otherwise toss out to make a crunchy soup garnish.
1 large squash (such as butternut, acorn, pumpkin, or delicata), sliced open with seeds scooped out and saved, if desired. The rest of the squash should be cut into chunks
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and sliced into wedges
1 medium sweet potato, rutabaga, turnip, or other root vegetable, peeled and cut into chunks
About ¼ cup olive oil
1 inch fresh ginger, grated, optional
1 tsp. curry powder, optional
Water or vegetable stock
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
1 bunch watercress, coarsely chopped, optional
Equipment: Baking sheets or 9×12-inch cake pans, immersion blender or food processor
Preheat oven to 375 F. Oil two baking sheets or 9×12-inch cake pans. Place the cleaned squash seeds in salted water and set aside to soak.
On one pan, spread squash chunks and drizzle with some of the olive oil. Toss to coat.
In the other pan, spread the chunks of sweet potato or other root vegetable and onion. drizzle with additional oil. Toss to coat.
Place both pans in the oven and roast for 15 minutes, then turn the vegetables. Roast for 10 more minutes and turn again, testing for doneness, which means that the vegetables will be very tender and easily pierced with a fork. The root vegetables and onions may be ready at this point. The squash will likely take the longest. Remove any tender vegetables from the oven and let cool. Continue to roast for 10-minute intervals until everything is done.
When all vegetables are cooked and cooled enough to handle, scoop the squash flesh out of the skin and place in a 4-quart saucepan or soup pot. Add the sweet potatoes or other root vegetables, as well as the onions, and the ginger and curry powder, if using.
Add enough water or vegetable stock to cover.
If you have an emersion blender, use it to puree the soup mixture in the saucepan or pot. If using a food processor, puree the vegetables and stock in batches. Add salt and pepper to taste.
To prepare the toasted pepitas, preheat oven to 375 F again. Drain the soaked seeds and place on an oiled baking pan in a single layer. Roast for 10 to 20 minutes or until browned and crisp. For a little extra flavor, toss with additional sea salt and/or chili powder.
When ready to serve the soup, return to the saucepan or large pot and bring to a simmer. Serve hot with fresh, crusty bread and a garnish of watercress and pepitas, if desired.