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Friday, July 29, 2011

Italian Sausage and Squash Soup

There really is something to this decluttering thing, isn't there?

I was going through a massive pile of papers on our computer desk, trying to see what I could toss, when I came across a whole cache of recipes.  Not just recipes, but recipes I made during my baby's newborn months that I never had time to share with you all.  This means that, unfortunately, most of them don't have pictures.  (But if I make these recipes again, I'll edit these posts and add pictures.) 

The first recipe I found--Italian sausage and squash soup from Cuisine--was lovely, easy enough to make, and perfect for freezing.

Italian Sausage and Squash Soup

1 lb bulk Italian sausage
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 1/2 cups diced onion
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 1/2 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-in chunks
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
1 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp ground dried sage
1 tsp sugar
2 cups packed baby spinach
3 tbsp brandy
   salt and pepper to taste

1.  Brown the sausage in 1 tbsp oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until cooked through.  Drain on a paper towel-lined plate; set aside.

2.  Sweat onion and garlic in remaining oil in a large pot over medium heat until soft, 5 minutes.  Increase heat to medium-high, add squash and pepper flakes, and sauté 5 minutes.

3.  Stir in broth and water, bring to a boil, and simmer until squash is very soft.  If using frozen squash in a bag, just add squash, broth and water to the pot and bring to a boil.

4.  Purée soup with a handheld blender (or in batches in a standard blender), then add bell pepper, cream, sage, and sugar; simmer until bell pepper is tender, about 5 minutes.  Stir in spinach, brandy and sausage, and simmer until spinach wilts and sausage is heated through, about 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper.

The Verdict:  This soup is amaaaazing.

The flavors and mouth-feel of this soup are wonderful.  Puréed butternut squash with cream is so velvety, the sugar and onions are slightly sweet, and the sausage and red pepper flakes give the soup just enough spice.  And adding brandy to foods is always a win; it's both hot and sweet with a little hint of wood.  In other words, there's lots of good stuff going on in this soup.  It's also so thick, it's nearly a stew.

I was really curious to see how my 3-year-old would react to it.  The taste doesn't scream vegetable and the color could easily be from cheese.  He had also helped me to pick out the red bell pepper, a vegetable up until the last couple of weeks he was friendly with.  He took a bite of the soup and looked skeptical; he knew someone was pulling the wool over his eyes.  But he ate nearly half the bowl before announcing that he didn't like it.  Since it wasn't an all-out visceral response followed by a dinner battle, I think it's worth trying again with him.

This would be a perfect fall food, especially with squash picked up from a farmer's market.  Serve it alongside some thick biscuits and butter and you've got yourself cozy in a bowl.  Yum.

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