A friend asked me the other day what my ideal Valentines Day dinner would be. After thinking about it I decided it would have to be a light flavorful meal like this Butternut Squash Soup with a rich and decadent dessert. And of course, a good bottle of wine to go along with it.
Here is what I like to provide for toppings:
Hazelnut cream, a basic blend of light cream cheese, hazelnut oil, and chopped toasted halzelnuts, adding a creamy and rustic flavor to the soup
Sliced pears or nectarines, simply sauteed in butter and topped with a touch of honey to make for a sweet and fruity component to the squash. Or just serve raw as a sweet addition to the soup.
Prosciutto or Bacon, well I need not describe the bacon, besides saying, it added the perfect salty crunch that the soup needed.
Butternut Squash Seeds, toasted with a little bit of olive oil and salt on 400 degrees for about 5-10 minutes or until crisp and golden brown. This would be a nice Vegetarian substitute for the crisp bacon.
Greek Yogurt with cumin, a blend of Greek yogurt with a few dashes of cumin adds a cool spice to the hot soup.
- 1 pear or nectarine, sliced thin
- 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
- 3 celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 3 garlic cloves, minced (optional for a more savory soup)
- 4 cans of butternut squash puree (fing this at Sunflower Market or Whole Foods) or 1 whole butternut squash, roasted with squash removed from skin
- 4 cups chicken/vegetable broth, plus more if needed
- 2 tsp fresh sage or thyme, shredded
- 1/4 cup half and half (optional)
- Ground nutmeg, to taste, (optional)
- Pinch of sugar, (optional)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- In a 5 1/2-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat, melt 1 Tbs. of the butter. Add enough pear slices to form a single layer and cook, turning once, until caramelized on both sides, 4 to 5 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.
- In the same pot over medium heat, melt the remaining 2 Tbs. butter. Add the celery and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the butternut squash puree, the 4 cups broth, thyme, half of the pears or nectarines, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Using a blender, puree the soup in batches until smooth. Return the soup to the pot and stir in the half-and-half. Add more broth if needed to reach the desired consistency. Ladle the soup into bowls. Garnish with the prosciutto/bacon, remaining pear slices, hazelnut cream, yogurt or seeds. Serve immediately.
- Toppings: Set out the various toppings and let your guests choose which they would prefer. The pears and hazelnut cream make for a more sweet soup, while the bacon, cumin yogurt or roasted butternut squash seeds make for a more savory bite.