30 October 2012

What to do with butternut squash, first installment

I am not a huge fan of butternut squash, but it's easy to grow and my husband likes it.  I think it's too sweet most of the time, and I don't like its overly mushy texture.  It's like baby food. So, here I am with a glut of the suckers and no clue what to do.  I have been experimenting with ways to sneak it into flavorful dishes to cut the sweetness, and my first success was this soup.  You can make all kinds of substitutions here--use sweet potato or any other squash in place of the butternut, trade out the greens for whatever you prefer, and even the barley can become brown rice, a small pasta shape, or Bulgar wheat easily enough.  If you make any substitutions to this recipe, I'd love to hear about them--comment below!

Butternut Squash Soup with Barley and Kale

Serves 6

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons ground cumin, divided
2 teaspoons salt, divided
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon butter
1 cup pearled barley
4 cups water or vegetable stock
½ cup dried shitake mushrooms, broken into bite-sized pieces
1 cup chopped fresh or frozen kale
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Dash Tabasco
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Toss the butternut squash and onion with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon of the cumin, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and the smoked paprika.  Spread onto a baking sheet and roast in the oven at 425°F for 25 minutes or until vegetables are tender and starting to turn brown.

Meanwhile, heat the butter over medium heat in a Dutch oven or large stock pot.  When it melts, add the barley, the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, and the remaining teaspoon of the cumin.  Saute until the barley starts to toast and become fragrant.  Add the water or stock and the dried mushrooms, cover, and increase to medium high heat.  When the soup begins to boil, lower to a simmer and cook until barley is tender, about 30 minutes.  Stir in the kale, lemon juice, and Tabasco and continue to cook until kale wilts, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat, stir in the roasted vegetables, and season with salt and pepper to taste.