It was another cold December night last night and there I was, making soup again, surprise, surprise. I’m sure a lot of you are wondering why I’m so soup happy these days, and aside from the fact that I am just slightly obsessed by it these days and that it helps a Poor Girl stay warm during the winter, it also just makes good economic sense. As I mention in Tip #4, Never Underestimate the Power of Soup, not only is homemade soup filling and pleasing to the palate, it makes use of simple ingredients to create a lot of food that will go a long way, thereby stretching your budget. By spending $8-10 on the ingredients for a hearty soup that will make at least 6 large servings rather than spending those same $8-10 on 1½ extra value meals at your local fast food joint, you are helping your health and helping your hard-earned money last just a tiny bit longer. Not to mention that the soup options are unending! You can literally make it out of anything, and the more I play around with different soup concoctions, the more I fall in food love.
This time I got inspired by the beauty and practicality of the ingredients I had on hand, namely the cute litter butternut and perfectly shaped acorn squashes I still had in my big bowl. Their versatility never ceases to amaze me and I made sure to make good use of that in this recipe. Many times you find that you don’t need manmade bowls or plates because nature has taken care of that for you. Case in point: the acorn squash. Its round shape makes it perfect for doubling as a bowl and used for stuffing a great deal of the time, while its range of colors and its decorative look make it quite aesthetically pleasing. I thought it would be fun to make a nice soup out of the butternut squash and use my acorn squash halves as my “bowls”. However, I didn’t want the similar nutty squash flavors to become muddled together so that they’d be difficult to distinguish, and I needed a way to use a lone leek I still had in the fridge, so I decided to add said leek to the soup for a twist on the way this would taste.
Except for the time it takes to roast the squashes and chop the veggies, this is pretty easy to make. Though it’s a bisque, it’s on the healthier side because there isn’t too much in the way of heavy whipping cream or butter; rather, I used just a little bit of olive oil and plenty of tasty vegetable stock, with just the tiniest amount of milk to make things a little creamier. Vegans or those who cannot consume dairy, don’t fret! To make this work for you, simply replace the 1/2 cup of milk in the recipe with 1/2 cup of vegetable stock. Lastly, don’t feel like you have to serve this in the acorn squash bowls! If you don’t have them, don’t run out & buy them, simply make the butternut & leek bisque on its own and serve in a pretty bowl. Now for the recipe!
Butternut-Leek Bisque in Acorn Squash Bowls (makes 4-6 servings of soup; total cost per serving: ~ $1.65)
1 medium acorn squash
1 clove of garlic, minced
3/4 c chopped leeks (greens & whites)
1/2 c diced white onion
3/4 c chopped carrots
2½ c vegetable stock
1/2 c nonfat milk (or an extra 1/2 c vegetable stock for those who don’t eat dairy)
2 T + 1 T olive oil
1/2 t salt
1 t freshly ground black pepper
1/2 t dried sage
1/2 t dried thyme
1/4 t paprika
1½ T honey
Salt & pepper to taste (for butternut squash cubes)
Preheat the oven to 425°. Peel, seed & chop the butternut squash into 1” cubes and toss together with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a bit of salt & pepper. Cut the acorn squash in half and remove the seeds and as much of the stringy part of the flesh as you can without digging too far into it. Place the acorn squash halves face down in a shallow baking pan with 1-2 tablespoons of water, and arrange the butternut squash cubes in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place both items into the oven and bake/roast for about 25-30 minutes, until both squashes are tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
In a large pot heat the olive oil and add the garlic & onions. Heat over medium high heat until they’re both fragrant, and then add the leeks and carrots and all the herbs & seasonings. Cook until the carrots begin to soften, then add the roasted butternut squash cubes, followed by the vegetable stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat, place the soup into a blender and purée until smooth. Add the milk and the honey and blend until completely incorporated. Return to the stove and finish over medium-low heat for about 7 more minutes or so.
To serve, slice a very thin section from the bottom of your acorn squash “bowls” so that they don’t wobble & spill your soup. Ladle the butternut-leek bisque into each bowl, garnish with extra paprika, and enjoy!