I’ve never met a winter squash I didn’t like: pumpkin, butternut, Hubbard, Long Island cheese, even the fabulous fairy-tale pumpkins are tasty as well as gorgeous to look at. Strangely enough, I hated squash when I was young: my only experience with it was the stringy, watered-down, boiled-and-mashed variety that graced our Thanksgiving table each year. Blech. Then at some point, I’m not sure how, I discovered roasted squash; and squash soup; squash bread and muffins, stew and gnocchi and granola, oh my! And of course now there is jam, and ale, and jam with ale: all sorts of winter-squashy goodness.
I wish I had a picture to show you of the delicata squash in all its stripey glory (here: Pim took a nice one for you). But I used it for the soup, you see: so goes the life of the itinerant food blogger. If you haven’t had delicata squash, you’re in for a treat if you run across them at your local market. They are not always easy to find, although I hear they are gaining in popularity; luckily for me, my farmer loves them and they are a staple of our CSA each Fall. The flesh is a delicate, buttery yellow – more butter-yellow than a butternut squash, actually – and the flavor is similarly, well, delicate: lighter and somewhat more floral than a typical winter squash, with a grassy note that almost makes it taste like Spring. I like delicata roasted or in soups & stews, but I have to say that this particular recipe let the delicata shine: the flavors of leek, potato, butter & squash blended perfectly, and the squash lightened up the texture of the soup making it just the ticket for the crisp days of early Fall.
As fresh herbs seemed de trop alongside the gently floral flavor of delicata, I opted to dress up the soup with some roasted squash seeds (You know that you can roast the seeds of any winter squash, right? Just keep an eye on the smaller seed varieties, as they toast quickly and will burn if left in too long.). And what better opportunity to use a drizzle or two of my local delicata squash seed oil from Stony Brook in upstate New York? None, I say: none.
You can use other winter squashes in this recipe of course: any of them will do just fine. But if you happen to spy some delicata squash at your farmer’s market this weekend, I encourage you to check it out: it’s worth a try. You may just discover a new favorite!
Leek, Potato & Delicata Squash Soup
- 3 large leeks, cleaned & chopped*
- 3 tbsp butter
- 2 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
- 1 lb potatoes, scrubbed, peeled, and diced to 1/2-inch
- 1 lb delicata squash, peeled, seeds & pulp removed (reserve seeds) and diced to 1/2-inch
- salt & pepper
- Delicata squash seed oil & toasted squash seeds, for garnish
*Trim off root ends and tough, dark green tops. Most recipes say to use only the white & pale green parts of leeks; I like to include some of the darker green, about an inch. Leeks are a dirty crop, so clean thoroughly to avoid sandy soil in your soup: cut leeks lengthwise into quarters, wash thoroughly, separating leaves, and chop into 1/4 inch slices.
- In a medium stockpot, melt butter over medium-low heat. Sauté leeks over low heat, stirring frequently to ensure that leeks do not brown, until vegetables are soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.
- Add stock, squash and potatoes. Bring to a simmer over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer covered until potatoes are tender, about 20 – 30 minutes. Purée with an immersion blender, or transfer to a blender, purée, and return to pot. Add salt and pepper to taste, remove cover, and continue to simmer over low heat, using a splatter shield if necessary, until soup is somewhat reduced and thickened to your liking, about 20 – 40 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Rinse squash seeds, removing stringy pulp, and dry with a clean kitchen towel. Spread on a baking sheet, toss with about 1 teaspoon of delicata squash oil (or olive oil), sprinkle with salt, and roast until light brown and crispy, about 15 minutes.
- Serve soup hot, drizzled with squash seed oil and garnished with a sprinkling of toasted squash seeds.
Serves 4 – 6 (this soup freezes well, so you can easily double the recipe and save some for a rainy day).
- Other fine garnish ideas: fruity olive oil or a spicy chile oil; a handful of fresh herbs; a dollop of goat cheese; coarsely chopped pecans and a dash of chipotle or smoked paprika.
- For a vegan version, eliminate the butter and replace with olive oil, or for a deep, nutty flavor, delicata squash seed oil.
Refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 6 months.