Squash is a rather deceiving name for the vegetable to which it refers. With pudgy approachability and even cuteness, the squash family is far from cushy. Take, for example, this buttercup. Looks delightful enough. With its little cap and almost folded-in appearance, it’s the grandmother of the fall harvest.
But set a knife to it and it sure puts up a fight. This hard fact is what led me to one of the most important realizations of my cooking life: squash need not be peeled before cooking. Nope. No matter what those recipes tell you, “squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped” need not require a follow-up cool down and protein shake.
The secret’s in roasting the squash first: Hack it up (or not, as some argue) throw it in the oven, and digging into that squishy soft squash-flesh will become one of your happiest soup making memories.
Lately I’ve been trying to venture out of my butternut rut. There are just so many other squashes to try: hubbard (not so impressed with my specimen), spaghetti, and acorn (one of my favorites to stuff), to name a few. I finally got around to this buttercup, whose dense, creamy flesh surprised me. I’ve also got two delicatas on hand to try sometime this week.
There are as many ways to prepare squash as there are to love it, but one of my favorites has to be soup. I know I could have just substituted this buttercup into any squash soup recipe, but instead decided to do an off-the-cuff version with whatever needed to be used.
And it was good. Very good. With bright tomato red, spinach green, and buttercup orange, this soup is fall’s palate in a bowl.
Buttercup Lentil Soup
1 medium buttercup squash, cut into big wedges and seeded
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 small white onion, diced
1 small red onion, diced
salt and pepper
spices: I used a good shake each of cinnamon, garam masala, and ground coriander, a Tbsp or so of ground ginger, and some crushed cardamom seeds (shelled, like this)
3 cloves garlic, minced
splash of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
1 cup. red lentils
6-7 cups stock or water (see note)
1 large fresh tomato, diced
1 c. chopped fresh or frozen spinach, or swiss chard
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees while you prepare the squash and onions. Cut the wedges of seeded squash into big chunks and drizzle with olive oil. Roast in a foil-lined baking pan at 425 degrees for about 25 min., or until tender. Remove from oven and cool until you can handle them.
- In soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and fry for a few seconds.
- Add onions and season with salt, pepper, and spices. Cook until softened, about 5 min. Add the garlic and a splash of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice, and cook a few minutes more.
- Stir in the diced tomato, the lentils, and the stock. Bring to a boil. (I dumped in the water and when it had come to a boil, stirred in some of this bouillon base left to us by moving friends. Surprisingly good flavour.)
- Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until lentils become tender and soupy, about 15-20 min.
- While it’s simmering, use a paring knife to take the peels off the lukewarm roasted squash. Drop cubes of the flesh into the simmering soup until the whole squash is in. Continue to simmer for a few more minutes. Add the chopped spinach/swiss chard, stir, and keep warm until ready to serve.