For Bailey

Roasted Tomato-Squash Soup

In Minneapolis our farmer’s market runs every day into October. This is lucky for me, because I’m always working when the huge weekend markets happen. Instead I make my way there on a Monday or Wednesday morning, armed with small amounts of cash and huge amounts of curiosity. There are only a handful of stalls that come to the weekday market. It’s a different crowd. There are less children, no musicians, more old ladies. There are no yuppies browsing for jewel-like strawberries and musicians playing for tips. There’s dirty tomatoes for sale by the bushel and working class families filling their bags with cheap, readily available food. It’s farmer’s markets without the glamour and democratized. It’s a scene I dig.

I buy aggressively and then come home, floored with all my abundance. What, exactly, should I do with the eight eggplant I had to snatch up? (Please tell me if you have any ideas. Please.) And why did I buy butternut squash when my garden is still producing summer squash? And will I be able to work through the pounds upon pounds of Roma tomatoes that I fell in lust at first sight with before they start to wrinkle and sag?

I have two fail-safe ways of dealing with a glut of food. First, break things down right away. While I don’t always get there as quickly as I wish (hello, eggplant), plants take up way too much space in my fridge to store them in their original casings for long. I strip greens of their stems, boil new potatoes after washing them, and in this case, roast Roma tomatoes down until they are charred and smokey and full of flavor. And after that’s accomplished I text some friends and invite them over for dinner, because I can’t think of any food that doesn’t taste better with with great company.

This recipe is here for my lovely friend Bailey, who requested it after I served it for dinner. We ate it with a tomato salad sprinkled with mozzarella and torn prosciutto, focaccia, and these fudgy brownies and washed the whole thing down with beer and scotch. It was a gloriously mismatched pairing and the kind of nights that make you grateful- for good friends, for hard working farmers, and for butternut squash in August.

Smokey Squash-Tomato Soup

This soup calls for garam masala, which is a warm spice blend from Northern India. It’s like so many spice blends in that there’s no true standard recipe, and it varies from person to person. I buy mine in bulk from my local coop, but if that’s not an option for you this is the recipe I would use if I were to make my own. The squash seeds are an optional touch, and they elevate the soup from “really good dinner” fare to something special.

Serves 4

1 butternut squash
10 roma tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more to serve
3 tablespoons chopped thyme, divided
salt
pepper
one onion, diced
one stalk of celery, diced
one carrot, peeled and diced
one teaspoon garam masala
1/4 cup heavy cream
1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, to taste

Squash Seeds

Reserved seeds from butternut squash
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon garam masala

Preheat the oven to 400. Slice the butternut squash into quarters. Scoop out the seeds and save in a small bowl with water. Place the squash quarters in a roasting dish.

Halve the roma tomatoes lengthwise and place on a cookie tray. Brush the tomatoes and the squash with one tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle the tomatoes and squash with two tablespoons of thyme, salt, and pepper.

Pour about an inch of water into the roasting dish and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Roast the squash and the tomatoes both in the oven for an hour and a half, rotating halfway through. By the end the squash should be able to be pierced with a fork and the tomatoes should have darkened and collapsed upon themselves. Remove the peel from the butternut squash, roughly chop both, and set aside.

Lower the oven temperature to 350.

In a heavy bottomed pot heat the rest of the olive oil to medium low. Add the onions, carrots, and celery with a pinch of salt, the garam masala, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to get some color. Add the chopped squash and tomatoes and a splash of water and stir well, scrapping the bottom to get up any toasted bits. Add six cups of water and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, for half an hour.

Drain the squash seeds well and pick through any guts that have been left over. Pat dry, and mix with the cumin, cinnamon, and garam masala. Spread out on a cookie sheet and cook for 16 minutes, tossing the seeds halfway through. When they are golden brown and crunchy remove and let cool.

Puree the soup and remove from the heat. Stir in the cream and vinegar. Add water to thin to your desired consistency and taste for seasonings. Adjust as necessary.

Serve warm, topped with the roast squash seeds and a sprinkling of olive oil.

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