Featured Ingredient: Golden and Delicious Butternut Squash

Photo: iStockphoto.com/Martin Turzak
The next time you’re in the vegetable aisle, reach for locally grown butternut squash. With this winter basic, you can produce a warm, delicious and nutritious meal in no time.

Winter has arrived with all it’s chill. Are you yearning for hearty, rustic and warming foods such as chili con carne, roast dinners, pasta and soup? If so, cast your vote of soup: It’s simple, healthy and delicious, and absolutely perfect with a sprinkle of Parmesan, a dollop of crème fraiche and a chunk of rustic wholegrain bread. And, for all you localvores, soup happens to be a meal that can make full use of seasonal and local vegetables—even at this challenging time of year.

Go for the Gold

Butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata), with its deep orange flesh, is a winter soup basic. Extremely versatile, it can be peeled, cubed and added to broth, or split in two, then roasted with its skin on for a sweeter flavour. It’s also healthy: Butternut squash is low in calories—a half-cup (125-mL) serving contains just 41 calories—and rich in beta carotene, a compound our bodies convert to vitamin A. A half-cup (125 mL) of butternut contains 4,684 micrograms (mcg) of beta carotene, whereas its paler cousin, spaghetti squash, has just 45 mcg.

But what are beta carotene’s health benefits? It has long been know that vitamin A is important for vision (hence your grandmother’s advice to “eat your carrots”), bone growth and reproduction. And more recently, research has shown that beta carotene and other carotenoids may help prevent cancer.

Squash, Sweet Potato and Smoked Chilli Soup

This delicious recipe is a favourite of Lindsay Evans, chef, food stylist and one of Green Living’s bloggers.

Ingredients

1 tbsp (15 mL) butter

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

½ lb (225 g) sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

1 butternut squash, peeled and diced
generous pinch of smoked paprika or chili powder

1 red chili, seeded and finely diced

3 cups (750 mL) chicken stock

1 tbsp (15 mL) maple syrup
freshly grated parmesan cheese


½ cup (125 mL) whipping cream


sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Heat a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add butter and allow to melt. Once sizzling, add garlic and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes. Add sweet potato and butternut squash. Stir, reduce temperature to medium, cover, and cook for 10 minutes.
  2. Add smoked paprika and red chili and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring often. Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes until vegetables are tender. Add maple syrup and stir. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth.
  3. Return pureed soup to pot and stir in whip cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Ladle into warmed soup bowls, sprinkle with Parmesan and drizzle with a dollop of crème fraiche. Serve alongside crusty bread.