Hi and welcome to issue #42 of Susanality, a newsletter by Susan Spungen that celebrates highly seasonal cooking. Thanks for being here! If you enjoy today’s recipe, please feel free to forward this email to someone else who may like it too. And if you haven’t yet done so, consider investing in a VIP subscription to this newsletter. With a paid subscription, you will receive weekly recipes plus bonus content twice a month (like video how-tos, technique and styling tips, and more).
Well that was fun, wasn’t it? Making all those cookies, and eating them too? I had a great time coming up with new recipes for you, which has become an annual tradition. One of these days, I might write a cookie book! Let me know in the comments if you’d be interested in that. There’s no shortage of books on the subject out there—and more are on the way from some amazing bakers—so I need a compelling reason to add to the pile! Tell me what you love about my cookies, so I can tell my publisher and agent!
Needless to say, I gained a few pounds over the holidays (but it was worth it). They seem to come on more easily and are a lot harder to get off as I get older. If you’re one of those people who can eat all the cookies with barely a blip on the scale, I’ll admit it, I’m jealous!
January is a great time to reset though, and I do it every year. I’m not really a resolution person, but I do believe in setting intentions, which is maybe just a semantically different version of resolution making.
Once the holidays are over, there’s really no excuse not to try to eat a little healthier, and, for me, that almost always involves soup. I really love soup. It’s a great way to get more vegetables into your diet in an easy, filling way. Sure, it takes a little time to make homemade soup, but it saves so much time in the days and weeks to come. First, you’ll have easy lunches on hand for days. And if you make a big batch, you’ll have enough to freeze for the future, and can use it as a base for other meals by adding meatballs (my favorite), leftover chicken, pasta, rice, farro, etc.
Soup making is also a great way to utilize little bits of leftover vegetables you might have lying around in the bin. They may not be fresh enough for a salad, or you may not have enough for dinner sides, but they are perfectly fine for a soup. Even a soup like this—a smooth puree—can withstand improvisations. Don’t have celery? Use fennel instead. Add some cauliflower if you want, or use shallots instead of leeks (although I really like the leeks in this particular soup!). Later this month I’ll show my paid subscribers how to make Any Vegetable Soup with truly whatever you have on hand.
Even if you’re not watching what you eat, I think we can all agree that January is peak soup season. So let’s kick it off with this rich and creamy Winter Squash Soup. It packs a lot of flavor—not to mention nutrient-rich vegetables. It’s simply the perfect antidote to a cold winter’s day.
The pepitas and paprika oil in this recipe are simple add ons that boost the color, texture, and flavor of a humble bowl of soup like this. They also make it much more photogenic! Little flourishes like this instantly elevate a dish—and meal.
A Heads Up!
Going forward, there will be a change in newsletter frequency for free subscribers. Don’t worry, you will still receive multiple recipes each month—I will just be sending them biweekly instead of weekly. (Paid subscribers, nothing will change for you! You’ll still receive weekly recipes on Fridays as well as bonus newsletters two Wednesdays each month.) The reason for this is simple: I am trying to make this foray into self-publishing sustainable long-term by offering the majority of content to those who invest with a paid subscription.
I so appreciate ALL subscribers and am excited to share more delicious and beautiful recipes with you throughout 2022 (and beyond). If you’re currently signed up for a free subscription and want to have access to all Susanality content going forward, click here!
Winter Squash Soup
Serves 4 to 6
You can use any kind of winter squash for this recipe, but butternut is the easiest to peel. Peel the squash first, then carefully halve it by gently rocking the edge of your knife into the squash before applying any pressure to avoid slipping. Then cut it into chunks.
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small onion, peeled and sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2-3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced (about 1 cup)
1 stalk celery, sliced (about 3/4 cup)
1 large leek, sliced and washed (about 2 cups)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 small butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled and seeded, or a 20-ounce package of peeled squash
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2-4 tablespoons cream or milk
1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add butter and 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add onion and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook about 5 minutes, until starting to soften. Add carrots, celery, leeks, and rosemary, season again, and cook 5 minutes longer, stirring frequently, until softened.
Add the squash and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Partially cover the saucepan so that the liquid that collects on the lid goes back into the pot, and cook for 30-40 minutes, or until squash is soft. Test this by pressing a piece against the side of the pot; it should easily dissolve. Let soup cool slightly in the pot, uncovered.
Meanwhile, make the toasted pepitas: Pour the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil into a small (8-inch) skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the pepitas and cook until they sizzle and pop and start to brown, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, scoop them out and onto a folded paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Pour the oil from the pan into a small bowl and add the paprika. Mix well and set aside.
Transfer half the contents of the soup pot to a blender and puree until smooth. Return the blended half to a clean pot and puree the remaining vegetable mixture. When ready to serve, reheat and add as much cream or milk as you need to thin to the desired consistency. You can also use stock or water to thin as needed. Season to taste.
Ladle into bowls and top each serving with a sprinkle of pepitas and a drizzle of paprika oil.
If you have remaining paprika oil, try it drizzled over roasted potatoes or other roasted veggies.
A high-speed blender like a Vitamix (totally worth the investment!) works best to make the smoothest soups, but any blender will work, including an immersion blender, which you can use right in the pot! Less dishes to wash!
Don’t use a food processor, which can leak!
When using a blender to puree hot soup, remember these safety tips:
Let the soup cool for at least 10 minutes before pureeing, stirring as it cools to release heat.
Never fill the blender more than halfway.
Hold the cap of the lid slightly ajar to let steam escape with a dishtowel loosely draped on top (that will catch any splashes).
Start on low speed, gradually increasing to high.
Like I said above, this recipe has room for substitutions or additions. Use fennel instead of celery if it’s what you have on hand, or if it looks best at your farmer’s market. Add some chopped cauliflower if you have it in the fridge (throw it in the pot at the same time that you add the butternut squash), or use shallots instead of leeks (although I really like the leeks here!). For extra creaminess, add some sweet potato.
Cookie book yes please! In the meantime this is exactly the soup for the season.