When I took home a butternut squash from the organic supermarket, its unfamiliar shape got my son's attention. I told him that it's a squash and a lengthy discussion started. He held ground that squashes are round not elongated. Imagining how jack-o'-lanterns look like, he shook his head, negating the thought of an elongated one. So, I embarked on a quick explanation of the squash family's different shapes & sizes. I really don't know if I convinced him.
Being autumn & Halloween, there was an avalanche of squashes everywhere. Plastic, paper, the fruit itself, wood, you name it, we have it. So while my kids were busying themselves in making more pumpkin cutouts and coloring everything orange, I was in the kitchen cooking the last of our stash of squash for autumn. Here is a hearty squash soup with the wonderful blending of nutmeg, cream & squash. It's comfortingly good. You can use either chicken or vegetable broth to extend the soup. I chose the latter because I wanted the taste to remain strictly on the veggie side.
Halloween is new to Italy. The holiday has experienced a fast immersion to the new generation over the years. Twelve years ago, I still remember the void of not seeing anything Halloween-like anywhere. It was rather sad because this was one of my favorite holidays when I was younger. How chaotic & fun those nights can get when kids in every inconceivable costume go around trick-or-treating. We just took Riccardo and Sofia to a Halloween costume party and the changes between then and now surprised me. The only thing lacking is treat-or-tricking. From a parent's point of view, it's better this way.
There is an ancient Italian holiday very similar to Halloween. It's called Befana. According to an Italian folkore, Befana is an old woman who looks like a witch and who goes around in her broom to distribute candies, toys or coals to children on Epiphany Eve (the night of 5 January). Colorful stockings are filled up with toys & candies if they have been good or coals if they have been bad. Believe it or not, some did receive real coals when they were young. Nowadays, there are candies resembling coals so there won't be hard feelings when you receive them. The more adults there are in the family & circle of friends, the more filled-up stockings the kids can amass. I have never seen so much candies a kid can receive in one day. No Halloween loot can compare to a Befana loot.
Creamy Butternut Squash SoupIngredients:
- 1 white onion, coarsely chopped
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 500 grams pumpkin, diced
- 1 liter vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 150 ml. cream
- A few sprigs of thyme
- Over medium heat, in an ample-sized saucepan, sautè the onion with extra virgin olive oil.
- When the onion is cooked through, add the diced pumpkin. Cook for about 10 minutes, moving continuously.
- Add the vegetable broth, cover & simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes.
- Season with salt & pepper then add the nutmeg.
- Using an immersion blender, puree the soup while still in the saucepan.
- Add the cream and cook 10 minutes more.
- Add the thyme leaves before turning off the fire.
- Serve hot.