Butternut Squash Soup
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I have always enjoyed ordering butternut squash soup on those rare occasions when I visit a fancy restaurant.  This soup has a creamy sweetness that is subtle and not as overpowering as, say, a sweet potato casserole. Now with this recipe I can make this at home anytime, and it turns out really well. Ingredients: 1 butternut squash, about 1 ½ pounds, seeded, peeled and chopped into 1 to 1 ½  inch pieces 2 tablespoons olive oil ¾ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon black pepper 1 small onion, peeled and chopped 2-3 carrots, chopped 2-3 ribs of celery, chopped 1-2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and chopped  1 ½ quarts chicken stock (6 cups) – see Options below for a vegetarian version 2-3 tablespoons maple syrup or table sugar, more or less to taste Nutmeg to taste All of the vegetables do not have to be chopped in a perfectionist way.  They will all end up in a blender anyway. You can take the extra step of roasting the squash first.  I think the roasting makes a difference, but if you are short of time you can skip the roasting of the squash pieces.  To roast, just season them with the salt & pepper and place them on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil in a 425 degree oven for about 30 minutes until they are just fork tender.  The roasting will brown the squash slightly, and impart an extra flavor to the soup.  Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat and sauté the onions, garlic, carrots and celery for 5-10 minutes. Add the sautéed vegetables, maple syrup (or sugar) and the chicken stock to a large enough soup pot and heat all to a boil.  Add the roasted (or unroasted, with the salt & pepper) squash and simmer everything for about 30 minutes until everything is tender.  Then add the nutmeg and stir to combine. Ok, now you can run all of the soup through a blender to puree all the ingredients together into a nice soup.  You can let the soup cool a bit so that you don’t burn yourself.  Unless you have a fancy immersion blender, you may have to blend all of the soup in 3-4 batches in a typical household blender. Warm up the soup for serving, taste it and season it some more if needed with more salt, pepper & nutmeg.  Enjoy! Optional: For a vegetarian version, skip the chicken stock and use vegetable broth that you have leftover from cooking potatoes or other vegetables, or supplement with a combination of water and apple juice. Also Optional: 2-3 apples, cored, peeled and chopped (add these when along with the celery and onion.) 1-2 leeks or shallots, chopped (add these along with the celery and onion). Sage, to taste. Sour cream for flavor, heavy cream for texture.  Add this at the last minute, without cooking it too long.