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It is grey, cold and rainy is Seattle … and there is a large, bulbous butternut squash on my counter begging to be used. Just the other morning I was daydreaming about my recent trip to Israel and my reveries inspired me to make butternut squash soup. Warming, easy and sooooooo good.
Midway through our two week journey to Israel last fall, we drove our rental car from the Moshav to Metula. My daughter-in-law’s sister recently lived and worked in Israel for a year and she told us to be sure to visit this town right on the border of Lebanon. Seriously? I remember thinking this sounded very dangerous, but we decided to take the plunge and once we arrived we realized that Israel felt very, very safe. In truth, while in this part of the world I worried less about crime and war than I do when visiting New York.
We did drive right up to the “peace fence” which lies on the border of Israel and Lebanon. It was incredibly hot and there are cameras and security all along the barbed wire fence. We then headed back to Metula, where we were astounded by the town’s beauty and culture. Restaurants, hotels, hostels…obviously this was a tourist destination for many Israelis.
Per usual, we selected a restaurant based on curb appeal. There were several outdoor tables occupied by tourists and locals, and the interior of the courtyard was enticing as well. And the menu! Before one bite touched my lips I knew this lunch would receive high marks.
Many items on the menu contained butternut squash: butternut squash ravioli, butternut squash stuffed with lamb, butternut squash puree and butternut squash soup. I ordered the soup along with one of my favorites – sauteed chicken livers with onions in a wine sauce. MY-OH-MY!! And dessert was a semolina cake topped with a dense top layer of moist poppyseeds. Honestly if we didn’t have so many places in the area to visit, I might have checked into a hotel for the night just to eat at this lovely restaurant a second time..
The soup was the best I’d had for a long time – basic but refreshing. The waitress told us the chef used a lot of fresh lime juice and that it was a simple vegetarian concoction. The recipe I made up at home that tastes pretty close to theirs contains chicken broth because that is what I typically have in my freezer. Next time I’ll pressure cook a batch of vegetarian broth and use some to make this for my vegetarian friends.
Metula Inspired Butternut Squash Soup
- ½ large brown skinned onion, peeled and diced ¼ inch
- 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 1 ½ Tbsp. fresh ginger root, peeled, finely minced or grated
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 4 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced ½ inch
- 2 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth, canned or homemade
- 1 ½ large limes, juiced (add more or less to taste)
- Thin slices of lime for garnish
Heat a 4-quart pot, when warm add the oil and heat on medium high for one minute. Cook onion and ginger root until softened. Add the garlic and stir for another minute. To the same pan, add squash, and the broth.
Bring liquid to boil, lower heat and simmer the mixture covered for 20 to 25 minutes until squash is very tender. Puree the mixture in batches in a food processor or with an immersion blender all at once. (This is what I do to avoid dirtying another pan) . Stir in lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. I usually add more lime juice at this point for my palate! Reheat soup over medium heat.
Serve each bowl with a thin slice of fresh lime floating on top.
For dinner, I prepare homemade garlic bruschetta on the side along with a hearty salad. In keeping with the color theme, I used winter salad mix (a lot of tender baby kale, arugula and bitter greens) and added toasted pecans, fresh orange slices, avocado and some crumbled soft goat cheese with an orange sherry vinaigrette (note – the recipe for this wintery salad will be posted next week!)
This soup can be made two days in advance and kept covered and chilled for up to five days.
This soup is drinkable and it would be fun for a party to pour into shot glasses, garnish with some creme fraiche and serve as an hors d’oeuvre.
This recipe can be easily doubled and frozen for up to 2 months. Once reheated, check seasoning and adjust as necessary after heating.