October 27, 2008

Easy, creamy butternut squash soup with truffle oil

Recently, while my son was visiting from Seattle, we went to a shop I've been meaning to explore ever since it first opened. Vom Fass is a shop originating in Germany•, that sells bulk artisan oils and vinegars which are decanted from kegs. For some reason, our little city has the first, and so far only, U.S. store.

Confronted with a large room full of kegs of exotic sounding products, we just stood there and stared until the very friendly and extremely knowledgeable shopkeeper handed us small spoons and invited us to taste anything we wanted. Even that was daunting, but we gave it a shot. I tried to limit my tasting so as not to get too confused, but Aaron tasted widely. In the end, I chose a truffle oil made with extra virgin olive oil and a balsam cherry vinegar that can be used to made fizzy-water drinks as well as for more traditional recipes. There are bottles in sizes starting at 50 milliliters that you purchase with the idea of bringing them back to refill. I got 100-milliliter (a little more than three ounces) bottles.

I'm still thinking about the avocado oil I tasted. Did you know that avocado oil, in addition to being good for skin and hair, has a very high smoke point and is good for cooking? And it tastes exactly like avocado. Next time.

Now for the butternut squash soup. I made dinner the way I'm most comfortable cooking, and the way I cook most often—no recipes. The plan was to use the pressure cooker to create a fast and easy soup. (I've been making simple soups in my pressure cooker for 20 years so the basics are pretty much cemented in my mind. But you could also bake or steam the squash.) And to try out my Cuisinart Smart Stick immersible blender. I've had the blender for quite a while but never tried it! I mostly make soup in an enameled cast iron pot, and you're not supposed to use an immersion blender in that 'cause it might scratch, so using the pressure cooker was incentive to try the blender. We have winter squash from the CSA piling up so I picked the largest butternut squash. It was huge, but I wanted a lot of soup left over for lunches. I won't give an exact recipe but just general guidelines for using the pressure cooker. (I have a six-quart stainless steel Aeternum pressure cooker.) I cut the squash into large (two inch?) chunks and peeled them. Butternut has an edible skin, but I wasn't sure how the blender would deal with the skin, so I peeled off the thinest possible layer.

I sliced a medium onion and sautéed it in the pot with a little extra virgin olive oil. When the onion was translucent, I added the cut squash. I added water just below the top of the squash, and brought the pot up to pressure. I turned down the flame a bit and cooked it for 10 minutes at pressure. I brought the pressure down by running cold water over the lid.

I added a blob of sweet white miso to the pot and went at it with the immersion blender. In no time at all and with virtually no effort, I had a pot of ultra creamy squash soup. I couldn't believe it—no messy blender to wash; no multiple filling and emptying into an extra pot. As I've said before, pressure cooked vegetables are so flavorful that not much is needed to season them, so I took a minimalist approach. I added a scant teaspoon of truffle oil, a few grinds of black pepper, the juice of one lime and some minced parsley.

A co-worker groaned when I told him about the oil and said it was way too much. What do I know? It was a large pot of soup, and it tasted sublime. There was a faint earthy mushroom flavor that was not at all pronounced or overwhelming.

To go with the soup, I put brown basmati rice into the rice cooker with chopped up red Hungarian peppers and a teaspoon of dried chipotlé powder. When it was cooked I added a large handful of baby arugula and a small amount of grated Teese.

On the side we also had some steamed broccoli Romanesco; just about the weirdest looking vegetable I've ever seen, but the CSA grows it. It looks like it was created in a math lab. (Yes. MATH lab.) It was sweet and delicious and served unseasoned. Unfortunately, the photo didn't turn out.

•note #1: For terrific Wisconsin-made vinegars, I recommend Colleen's Tough Times.

note #2:
Don't have an immersion blender? No Problem. I used to make this soup using my regular blender. Just blend it in batches and pour it into a second pot.

note #3: Usually when I make this soup, I don't cook the onion in with the squash. Instead, I sauté three or four onions in a separate pan and then blend them with the squash once it is cooked. You get a rich onion-flavored soup this way. Or use the pressure cooker for the onions and then remove them to cook the squash.


  1. Wow! I have never gone to Vom Fass but I'll have to try it! And now you make me want to get an immersion blender, as last night's soup was all about the blender batches.... but I do also cook in an enameled cast-iron pan. I'll have to think about that.

  2. I love my immersion blender! And I love romanesco - it's called romanesco cauliflower here. It's a very very short growing season, so I have to get it while I can. Your soup looks wonderful and I don't see how 1 t. of any kind of oil would be too much.

  3. I was startled by how powerful the blender was. And how easy it was to use in spite of its capacity. It really worked great.

    And the romanesco was super sweet in addition to super weird. We get it every year, but I never stop being impressed by its appearance.

    Thanks so much for your comments!


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