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October 1, 2013

As clichéd as it may seem,   there’s more than a nugget of truth behind the fact that as the weather cools, our appetites and food expectations change as well. A main course salad, so apt and refreshing during the warm summer months, no longer holds the same appeal as the temperature dips and our bodies acclimatize to colder climes. It’s so very fitting that as we crave warmer, more deeply satisfying dishes, Hashem has provided us with a bountiful crop of vegetables that soothe and comfort in many different guises. Luxurious, satiny smooth, creamy soups are one of those ways. Soups that speak to and reflect the season, that enunciate with every spoonful the deliciousness of the vegetables and the multitude of nutritional benefits that you’re consuming.

The soup that you’ll find below virtually boasts of the autumn’s goodness. Its perfection lies in the fact that it contains almost nothing but squash, letting the proud flavors of this robust vegetable sing with every mouthful. I didn’t need top add cream or milk or stock but simply roasted the squash to coax out all of its sweet nuttiness. I did add some roasted garlic for an extra fillip of elegance, but it’s perfectly sublime without it as well. The pine nuts, with their buttery rich flavor, add a gourmet touch but don’t be fooled, this soup easily does double duty as a starter for a festive dinner party or as a hearty meal for your immediate family.

Although it’s obvious that squash are related to the pumpkin family, did you know that they are also part of the cucumber and melon family?

Squash of all sorts are a powerhouse of nutrients. However, the orange variety such as the butternut squash called for in this recipe, tend to contain the highest level of beneficial nutrients. Butternut squash is one of the richest sources of beta carotene, which helps to protect the lungs and eyes and reduce inflammation. In addition to being an excellent source of fiber, it’s also a very good source of anti-oxidants, including vitamins A and C, nutrients such as calcium and minerals such as magnesium and iron.

When purchasing squash, look for squash that are firm and heavy for their size.  Despite their hard shell, winter squash are prone to decay. Choose squash that have an intact shell and are free of moisture, nicks or bruises. Squashes that are too big can be fibrous. However, if they’re too small, they won’t have any flavor.

All winter squash should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place for up to 6 months.

If you’ve never tried roasting the seeds, then you’re in for a treat. Simply remove the seeds from the cavity of the squash. Rinse and dry well. Toss with some oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet in a 375˚F. oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until lightly toasted. Let cool and then enjoy!!

And speaking of nuts, pine nuts actually come from several different varieties of pine trees. Regardless of where they come from, pine nuts are rich in poly unsaturated fats, and contain omega 6 and 3 nutrients, which play a major role in brain and heart health. They also contain plant sterols and stanols, compounds that help lower blood cholesterol and keep our immune system healthy. As if that weren’t enough, pine nuts are a good source of minerals and fiber.

Keep in mind, though, that due to their oil content, pine nuts are prone to rancidity. Either purchase exactly the amount you need or store them in the freezer for up to 6 months. There’s no need to thaw them before baking, sautéing or roasting. But keep an eagle eye on them if you’re roasting them in the oven as they tend to burn quickly.



Butternut Squash Soup with Roasted Garlic

The fall crisp air sets the perfect tone for a nutritious, superb tasting Butternut Squash Soup. The roasted garlic brings it up a notch, while the roasted pine nuts add the finishing touch. Ahh! I sense you’re warming up too.


3 butternut squash

1 head garlic

2 tbsp oil

2 large onions, diced

2 tbsp. Kosher salt

1 cup pine nuts, optional


1. Preheat the oven to 425˚F.

2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

3. Cut each squash in half horizontally, where the neck of the squash thickens. Then cut each piece in half vertically.

4. Place the squash, skin side up, on the baking sheets.

5. Slice the top of the garlic head off, exposing a bit of the garlic cloves. Wrap in parchment paper and then in aluminum foil. Place on the baking sheet along side the squash.

6. Bake for 45 minutes or until the butternut squash feels soft when you prick it with a fork. Remove from the oven; let cool slightly.  Reduce the oven temperature to 350˚F. Place the pine nuts on a separate parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Roast the nuts for about 7 minutes or until lightly browned; set aside.

7. Meanwhile, heat the oil in 6qt. pot set over medium heat. Add the onions; sauté until translucent.

8. Peel the skin off the squash and remove the seeds. Unwrap the garlic; squeeze the roasted garlic flesh out. Place both the garlic and the squash into the pot. Add enough water to cover the squash, plus an additional inch. Add the salt. Bring to a rolling boil.  Lower the heat to medium; cook for 20 minutes, with the lid slightly askew.

9. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth.

10. Serve warm, garnished with toasted pine nuts, if desired.

Yield 6 to 8 servings.