Jersey City’s Journal Square is a pretty beat up neighborhood. There’s barely a hint of the metropolitan city it used to be, except for the two majestic, well-preserved movie houses, one of which serves as a meeting hall for Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is a major transportation hub, with both a PATH station that runs to Newark and New York, as well as a large bus terminal, and there is a community college. It is a busy neighborhood, but not a particularly nice one. The massive improvements made downtown since 9/11 have yet to stretch to this part of the city.
I work between a salad bar, otherwise known as the “salmonella bar” due to its questionable temperatures for food safety, and a typical coffee shop with OK food. Other dining choices in the immediate area include Popeye’s, McDonald’s, White Castle, Blimpie, Subway, a few pizza places, a hot dog stand (with good hot dogs!), and, for the real fine dining experience, a Quiznos.
So on Wednesdays in the summer and fall, when Farmers’ Market is just across the street, it’s like a breath of fresh air. Not that it’s a great Farmers’ Market, it’s pretty bare-bones, only six vendors or so. But just to see all the colors of fresh produce under the tents is a sight for sore eyes.
Unlike most market days when I wander around buying what looks good and winging it, yesterday I went with one clear purchase in mind: butternut squash. I become very pumpkin-minded during the autumn, and I’ve been craving some squash soup. I think people are a little intimidated by winter squash, which is a shame. They are one of the easiest fruits to work with, very versatile, and can go to either the sweet or savory side of the culinary spectrum depending how they’re prepared.
There is pretty much nothing easier than this soup. There are five main ingredients: Butter, onion, butternut squash, stock, and nutmeg. The rest are optional, and you could mix it up by using a different winter squash, such as acorn or pumpkin, or adding an apple when simmering the squash. One could also spice things up with cayenne (red pepper) or chipotle, paprika, or curry powder. This soup is ready in less than 30 minutes!
Ingredients (makes approximately four servings):
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 onion, large dice
- 2 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1.5″ pieces.
- 1 2″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut in a large dice (optional)
- 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- Lemon juice to taste (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp heavy cream (optional)
- Sour cream (optional)
- Chives (optional)
1. Melt the butter in a large pot, add the onion and sauté until the onions are soft.
2. Add the squash to the pot, sauté for a few moments, add the stock, ginger (if using), salt and pepper. Simmer the squash on a high simmer until soft, approximately 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Purée the soup with either a hand blender, or transfer the soup to a blender in batches, purée until smooth, and return the blended soup to the pot.
4. Bring the soup back to the heat and add your nutmeg, and a good squeeze or two of lemon juice (if using). Taste for salt and pepper, and season if needed. Once the soup is hot, remove from the heat, stir in heavy cream (if using).
5. Spoon the soup into bowls, and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and chopped chives if desired.
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