Squash Soup with a side of TIFs


On Wednesday I hugged an alderman.

I don’t know what prompted this breach of protocol. I can only plead that the infectious high spirits of the crowd got the better of me.

And, wow, what a crowd. Who knew so many people wanted to spend their happy hour talking about tax increment financing? Though, I suppose most municipal financing mechanisms do go down better with a pint or three of Bell’s.

In any case, it was SRO in the back room as Ben Joravsky, Daniel X. O’Neil, Scott Waguespack, and moderator Mark Bazer talked TIFs for a good hour and a half. We had the feed from the back piped through the speakers in the front, but honesty, I didn’t really follow much of what was going on, so if anyone out there happened to document it, please let me know. Did I mention it was really busy?

It was a race to the soup line all day, in fact. I woke to discover that not only had Anastasia come down with the flu, she had a house full of chicken pox and pinkeye to boot. So, no soup from her.

Luckily, I had picked up some soup fixings the night before. In honor of Helen’s squash ring, I settled on a recipe for Butternut Squash Soup out of Jessica Prentices‘s Full Moon Feast, one of the ur-texts of the local, seasonal cooking movement. (And a great read full of a lot more folklore and digressive storytelling than actual recipes.)

By Prentice’s calendar, which divides the year by cycles of the moon, the end of April is the “Milk Moon.” But the Milk Moon chapter only yielded recipes for yogurt and kefir. So, contra the seasonal-eating ethic — but fully in the spirit of storing winter veg in the root cellar — I flipped back a few months to the Wolf Moon chapter and picked up the following recipe:

2 Tble butter or olive oil
2-3 leeks, sliced into rounds
1 fresh, seasonal butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
Chicken stock or filtered water to cover
1 bouquet garni (bay leaf, parsley, thyme,rosemary)
1/2 c cream, creme fraiche, or yogurt; or 1 cup buttermilk or half-and-half
Salt and pepper to taste
Creme fraiche or yogurt for garnish
Finely minced rosemary, thyme, sage, or parsley leaves (or a combination of these herbs); or a grating of nutmeg; or a grind of black pepper, for garnish

I multiplied this recipe by four, and used a total of 3 butternut and 3 acorn squash, roasting them the night before to bring out their sugar. Wednesday morning I chopped up the leeks and set them to saute with butter in the bottom of the soup pot. When they were soft I added the chopped, roasted squash, the bouquet garni, and covered with chicken stock.

Simmered that for about 40 minutes, then pureed in the blender in batches, adding a splash of buttermilk to each batch (went through a quart of buttermilk in all). Added salt and lots of pepper, recombined all into one big pot, and left on low heat till it was time to head to the bar. Served with a dollop of greek yogurt and some chopped parsley, thyme, and rosemary, it was, I have to say, pretty damn good.

I didn’t get a chance to try Celeste‘s Spring Pea Soup with Creme Fraiche, but the Spinach-Pepper-Zucchini-Cheese Delite, which showed up from trusty Swim just as the other crocks ran dry, was crazy good. Very rich, but hearty thanks to heaps of rice and tangy thanks to …. pickles? Yes, pickles.

We raised $210 in additional donations for the Food Depository, for a grand total of $2,771. I’ll be sending the balance off today. 

And now, we really mean it. No more Soup and Bread till next winter! But watch this space for news of our exciting summer plans (currently in committee). It’s going to be good. And if we can persuade any more local politicos to come lend a hand, I promise to keep a respectful distance. Sorry, Alderman Waguespack!

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