This winter soup with a toasted-pine-nut garnish is the perfect first course for a holiday meal.
3¾ pound butternut squash, (2 medium squash)
2 tablespoon olive oil
5 cup or more chicken bouillon or vegetable stock
1½ teaspoons minced jalapeno chili peppers, or ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
Salt to taste
A dash of sugar
Pinch of saffron threads
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
1) Peel, halve, seed and cut squash into thin slices for 1 cup. Cut remaining squash into 1½-inch cubes. Heat oil in a 4-quart heavy stockpot over medium heat. Add slices, cook and turn until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add remaining squash, stock and jalapeno or cayenne to pot, bring to a simmer and cook until is very tender, about 25 minutes. Puree squash in batches in blender or processor. Return to pot. Season to taste with salt and a dash of sugar. Can be prepared to this point one day ahead.
2) Bring soup to a simmer, thin with more stock if needed. Mix in saffron threads and simmer 2 minutes. Top with toasted pine nuts.
Note: Freeze 2 cups soup in a 1 qt. zip-lock bag. Press out air bubbles; lay flat in the freezer to stack several together.
Joan Kekst lives and cooks in Cleveland.