Hearty Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Chickpeas
Winter squash is also extremely affordable. I pay between $1 and $2 per pound for organic squash at the Dupont Farmer's Market in DC, but I saw huge butternut squashes at a Michigan farmer's market a couple weeks ago for only $1 a piece. I would probably make gallons of this soup at a time if I could buy squash at those prices.
And while I love the smooth, creamy Roasted Butternut Squash Soup recipe I created last year, I wanted to create a soup that was creamy, slightly sweet, and hearty enough to serve as an entire meal.
To strike that balance, I used butternut squash to create a slightly sweet, pureed base and added chunks of vegetables and chickpeas to make the soup even more filling.
My inspiration for this version of the soup came from Yvette van Boven's Sweet Potato Soup with Buttered Cashews recipe from the book Home Made. She combines sweet potatoes, onions, leeks, and chickpeas in her recipe to create a subtly sweet, yet hearty, soup.
I was struck by the combination of sweet potatoes and chickpeas in one soup. I had been trying to figure out how to add beans to my butternut squash soup for months - white cannellini beans are too bland, and black beans just turn the dish into a form of chili (delicious, but not what I wanted). Chickpeas were the key.
You can use dried or canned chickpeas. I like to use dried because you can infuse them with more flavor when you cook them, you can control the amount of salt, and you can use the broth as part of soup. If you can splurge on heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo, even better.
I like to roast the squash first, but it's not necessary. Roasting can be done a day or two ahead of time to make your life easier. You can also saute and simmer the squash with the other vegetables if you want to remove this step.
*Time saving tip - Get the most out of your time in the kitchen
Prep and roast the vegetables as part of your dinner prep a day or two ahead of time. The squash can be tossed in the oven with roasted potatoes or winter root vegetables that you make for dinner.
Better yet, get someone else to peel and/or chop the vegetables while you're cooking dinner. I regularly ask my husband to peel and chop carrots, celery and onions while I'm cooking. That way, you can oversee the process and still accomplish two tasks at once.
By the time your dinner is ready, the soup prep is also done. Just toss the chopped vegetables in plastic containers and store them in the fridge until you're ready to make soup.
Hearty Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Chickpeas (10 servings)
2 medium butternut squashes, peeled
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 medium carrots, chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
3 cloves of garlic
2 bay leaves
3 springs of fresh thyme, leaves removed from stems, or 1 tsp dried thyme
2 cups white wine or water
1 32-oz container low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
2 15-oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed, or about 4 cups cooked chickpeas (no need to rinse chickpeas that you cooked, and feel free to as much of the broth as you wish)
Fresh thyme leaves
Crumbled goat cheese
Cooked sausage, sliced
Sauteed greens (spinach, kale, chard, etc.)
Toasted cashews, pumpkin seeds, or squash seeds
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Cut each butternut squash into 4 large pieces (cut in half horizontally, and then cut each of those halves in half). Scoop the seeds out of the bottom halves of the squash (discard the seeds or save them to toast later). Coat the squash in olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Lay the pieces cut-side-down on a parchment- or foil-lined half sheet pan.
Roast the squash for about 45 minutes, until it begins to caramelize. The squash should be cooked at this point, but not mushy. Remove the squash from the oven and allow it to cool. When the squash is cool, cut it into bite-sized pieces.
Meanwhile, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and cook for about 10 minutes over medium heat, until the onion is soft and translucent, but not brown (turn the heat down to medium-low if it starts to brown).
Add the garlic, bay leaves, thyme, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, and a pinch of cayenne pepper (to taste). Stir to coat the vegetables and cook for another minute.
Add the wine (or water) and broth and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down so that the liquid is just simmering. Allow to simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the roasted squash and allow the soup to simmer over low heat for another 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaves from the pot and discard.
If using a regular blender: Remove about half of the vegetables from the pot to a separate container using a ladle. Then puree the vegetables in batches using the blender. I like to blend about 3 cups of vegetables at a time, adding enough cooking liquid to cover the vegetables each time. Blend until smooth, adding more cooking liquid as needed to create a smooth puree. When you finish each batch, you can add the puree back into the pot with the remaining vegetables and broth.
If using an immersion blender: Remove about half of the vegetables with a slotted spoon to a separate container. Use the immersion blender to puree the remaining vegetables and cooking liquid until you achieve a smooth puree. Return the reserved vegetables to the pot.
Add the chickpeas to the soup and stir to combine. Simmer over low heat for a few minutes until the chickpeas are warmed through. Taste and add additional salt and cayenne pepper to taste.
Serve warm. The soup is great on its own or with any of the listed toppings. My favorite version included goat cheese, sausage, and toasted cashews.