It wasn’t until I started traveling with Catalina that I truly started to appreciate home. By home, I mean Canada. Specifically, Toronto – born and raised! Among the many, many things I love about Canada is the changing of the seasons. It’s a nice pipe dream to imagine living on the beach year-round for the rest of one’s life. However, I think that there is something very special about experiencing nature’s seasons as they take their course. I’m talking snowfalls in the winter, heavy rains in the spring, blooming flowers in the summer, changing foliage in autumn. Not to mention the fact that with the changing of seasons comes different produce.
There is absolutely nothing like eating a fruit or vegetable at the height of its ripeness. In the fall, that means squash and LOTS of it. It’s one thing to roast some butternut squash in mid-March when it has as much flavor as the side of a cereal box! It’s entirely another thing to do it in the fall when they’re bursting with flavour! Of course, there are a number of varieties of squash: buttercup, butternut, sweet dumplings, carnival, delicata, white acorn, green acorn, spaghetti, kabocha, and the list goes on. Truth be told, I’m not a fan of spaghetti squash, a particular favorite among the Paleo crowd. To each their own, I say! The question is: what do you do with ‘em?
There are as many ways to prepare squash, as there are colours in a rainbow. My favourite? Soup! Most can be treated in similar ways. Some will have firmer exteriors than others and that will dictate whether or not you can eat the skin. I actually only began cooking with squash after I began my Paleo journey. Man alive was I missing out! They’re daunting things to look at, aren’t they? Some of them are absolutely gigantic. Others are downright ugly! Don’t fret, they couldn’t be simpler to prepare. When it comes to overall ease of use, I tend to recommend the Acorn variety. They’re small, delicious and people aren’t intimated by their size or shape. I also love acorn squash because they’re a bit mellower than some of the other varieties and are extremely easy to cook with, especially in a creamy, rich and hearty soup. I like to keep the recipe simple, not just because that’s the way I prefer to cook and eat, but because I don’t want to overpower the delicate flavour of the Acorn squash. To add a bit more flavour, I roast the squash with a little bit of ghee first. It adds depth that you just can’t get if you chuck everything into a stockpot and turn the heat up.
With that in mind, let’s get down to the recipe, shall we!
Give it a go and let me know what you think in the comments below!
- 2 Acorn Squash Yellow or Green Variety
- 1 stalk celery diced
- 1 medium carrot diced
- 1 medium onion diced
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 3 rashers thick-cut beef bacon cut into strips width-wise (can substitute antibiotic, hormone-free pork bacon)
- 1 liter chicken stock organic, preferably homemade
- 2 tbsp ghee
- 2 tbsp organic maple syrup preferably Canadian! Eh!
- 1 tsp spicy Spanish paprika
- cinnamon powder a few pinches
- 4 leaves fresh sage chiffonaded
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Roasted Pumpkin Seed Oil if available
- Preheat oven to 375°C. Cut squash in half, lengthwise, and remove seeds with a spoon. Lay the squash on a baking sheet, flesh side up, and season each half with a pinch of salt, fresh cracked black pepper, and a pinch of cinnamon. Spoon in ½ tsp of ghee in each squash. Bake in a 375°C oven for 45min – 60 min, or until fork tender.
- When the squash is fork tender, remove from the oven and let cool at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. Once cooled, and able to be handled, scoop out all of the inner flesh with a large spoon or melon baller and give it a rough chop. Discard the skin and set the flesh aside for the moment.
- Heat a large Dutch oven or a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the bacon to the pot and cook until crisp. Remove from pot and transfer onto paper towel for the time being.
- Lower the heat to medium. Depending on your bacon, you may need to remove all but 3 tbsp of the liquid fat that has rendered into the pot. Add in the celery, carrot, onion and garlic and cook until vegetables have softened. Season with a pinch of salt (this will help to sweat the vegetables.)
- Once the carrots have softened and the onions are translucent, sprinkle in 1 tsp of Paprika. Stir to coat the vegetables and to release the spice’s essential oils. Cook for no longer than 1 minute.
- Add the chicken stock and squash flesh. Bring everything to a boil and then lower the heat to a gentle simmer for 15 minutes.
- Working in batches, so as not to overflow, transfer everything to a food processor or blender and puree until the soup is creamy and smooth (this can also be done in the pot with a handheld immersion blender). Once the desired consistency is reached, return the puréed soup to the pot. Add in the maple syrup and simmer over low heat. Be sure to taste for seasoning at this point, adding salt, pepper or maple syrup to taste (I prefer this soup with a bit more maple syrup! But that’s just me!)
- Ladle the soup into individual serving bowls, garnish with the crisped bacon, some finely chopped sage and a small drizzle of pumpkin seed oil.