Squash and Leek Soup, with Smoked Salmon

Butternut squash

By Cat, Nov 2020 (photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

In fall/winter, I love to make hot soups, and squash soup is one of my favs. I just found this one today in our local Daily Inter Lake newspaper (originally from the Chicago Tribune). The original uses sweeter-types of squash such as honey-nut, butternut or pumpkin, with leeks, sweet onion, garlic, red chili pepper, chicken or other broth/stock, heavy cream, and accented with smoked turkey. I’m not a big fan of turkey, but I like the idea of some kind of smoked meat; the first that came to mind is smoked salmon.

I tested the recipe 11/13/20, and declared it delicious (see testing near bottom of page). I really think using smoked salmon instead of smoked turkey was an excellent choice. Several of my friends sampled it and thought it delicious too, especially with the smoked salmon.

See also: 1. Soups and Stocks; 2. Winter Squash (About) 3. Winter Squash: How to Tell When It’s Ripe; 4. Hot- or Cold-Smoked Salmon (About) 5. Herbs and Spices (About) Menu

Squash and Leek Soup, with Smoked Salmon

As mentioned above, I’ve adapted this recipe from one by Jeanmarie Brownson, originally posted in the Chicago Tribune (1). The original makes about “6 cups of soup, to serve 4 as a main course.” It “doubles easily, … reheats nicely — and freezes (without the garnishes) just fine for the cold weather ahead.” (1) I present the original size (6 cups), and also a smaller version (about 3 cups) of soup. The ingredient amounts for the smaller version are in parenthesis.

Honeynut is a new, sweeter variety of winter squash (a genetic mix of buttercup and butternut squash); it is not yet available at my local grocer, so I will use butternut. Another option is pumpkin. Originally I was going to use an acorn squash I had on hand, but after reviewing articles online re: “acorn vs butternut squash,” I learned that butternut provides a smoother, creamier and sweeter soup.

Although you can use a regular blender puree the soup, you won’t get the best texture unless you puree only half of the cooked mix in batches, then add it back to the cooking pot. I prefer to use an immersion blender (aka “hand-” or stick-” blender) as illustrated right (2a) to puree all of the cooked mix in the pot.

Total cooking time (not counting the prep of veggies), about 45 minutes per original recipe, but closer to 1-hour when I tested it; perhaps my squash was not quite ripe.

HEALTH and QUALITY NOTE: This recipe calls for olive oil (regular and virgin); most versions sold in grocery stores have been adulterated with less than healthful seed-oils (canola, corn, soy, etc). Please use only  real, unadulterated olive oils; see my article: Olive Oil: the Real Deal or Adulterated/Fake for more. I have recently learned there is a similar problem with avocado oil.

Ingredients and Equipment

  1. 1 small (about ½ small) butternut squash, about 2 (1) pounds total (see photo at top of page)
  2. 1 (½) large or 2 (1) small leeks, ends trimmed
  3. ¼ cup (2 – 3 Tbsp) real, unadulterated olive oil
  4. 1 medium, about 7 ounces (half of a medium, 3 – 4 oz) sweet onion, chopped
  5. 3 – 5 (1 – 3) cloves garlic, crushed [note: the amount of garlic cloves depends on their size and how much garlic flavor you want]
  6. ¼ – ½ small red chili pepper, seeded, finely chopped; or ¼ (⅛) tsp dried, crushed red pepper, to taste
  7. 1 quart (2 – 2½ cups) chicken broth or stock, fish stock, or vegetable broth
  8. Unrefined sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  9. ¼ cup (2 – 3 Tbsp) heavy whipping cream, optional
  10. Garnishes:
  11. ½ (¼) pound smoked wild-caught salmon, partially flaked
  12. ¾ (⅓) cup shredded sharp Asiago or Romano cheese
  13. 1½ – 2 cups (about 1 cup) hearty croutons, optional
  14. Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley, or sliced green onions (my preference)

    LeCreuset French Oven

  15. Real, undadulterated Extra-virgin olive oil
  16. Equipment: 
  17. Dutch or French oven that can be used on stove-top (image, right, from LeCreuset (3))
  18. Immersion-blender (see images, above-right (2a), and below-right (2b)); aka “hand-blender” or “stick-blender”

Method:

  1. Prep veggies:
    1. Squash: cut in half through stem end. Scoop out seeds and cut away all the rind. Cut flesh into 1-inch pieces. You’ll have 4 (2) generous cups weighing about 1 pound.
    2. Leek: Use both white and most of the green parts of the leek. Cut in half, lengthwise; rinse well between the layers. Cut each half crosswise into thin slices.
    3. Onion and garlic: chop onion, about ¼″ piece; mince garlic, sprinkle with a bit of salt, and crush with side of knife blade.
    4. Red chili pepper: de-seed and finely chop fresh pepper. Or you can use dried red pepper flakes, to taste; I recommend starting with ¼ (⅛) tsp, then add more as desired.
  2. Cook soup:
    1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven set over medium heat.
    2. Add squash, leek and onion. Cook, stirring often, to soften the vegetables a bit, 10  15 minutes.
    3. Stir in garlic and chili. Cook, 2 minutes.
    4. Add broth/stock; simmer, partly covered over low heat, stirring often, until squash is tender, about 15  minutes for Honeynut or up to 30 minutes for other squash varieties (I leave heat at medium for about 5 min to warm the stock, then reduce to simmer for remaining time).
    5. Immersion Blender

      Use an immersion blender to puree soup (image, right (2b); you want it to be creamy but still retain visible pieces of vegetables, about 5 min.  (Alternatively, work in small batches to puree half of the soup in a blender. Return all the soup to the pot.)

    6. Adjust soup consistency by adding a little water (or more stock/broth) so it has the consistency of heavy cream.
    7. Season with unrefined sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste; start with ¾ (rounded ¼) tsp salt and ¼ (⅛) tsp pepper.
    8. Stir in heavy cream if using (I highly recommend adding the cream).
    9. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  3. To serve:
    1. Place a bit of flaked smoked salmon and shredded cheese into each serving bowl.
    2. Top with a ladle or two of the hot soup.
    3. Add a few croutons and sprinkling of cilantro, parsley, or green onions if desired.
    4. Garnish with dots of olive oil (optional).
    5. Serve.

Testing

11/13/20: Will make approx. 4-servings. Prep: Started at 5 PM to cut up 1¾ lb butternut squash: cut in half lengthwise, then horizontally on each half, where the ball-like part changes to a column). Then cut each half of the column into 1-inch cubes, and did the same for one-half of the ball-like part. That filled my French oven (“pot”) to within ½-inch of the top, so I’ll save the other half of the ball for another use. Washed and cut a large leek (about 6-inches long and 1½ inches in diameter); chopped about 6 oz of Walla Walla sweet onion, and crush 4 small cloves of garlic. Total prep time: about 40 min. Cook: Warmed the olive oil in the pot, then added squash, leek and onion at 5:45 PM; let it cook about 15 min – long enough for the veggies to shrink halfway down the pot (to make room for the stock to be added later), stirring 3-4 times.  Then added prepped garlic with ¼ tsp dried crushed red pepper to the veggies to cook about 2 min. Added quart of chicken stock – it came within 1-inch of the top of the pot – at 6:40 PM, then after about 3 min I turned heat to simmer to cook about 25 min. Pureed with my immersion blender while still simmering about 5 min, leaving a few cubes of squash whole. Added cream, stirred well, tasted and added a bit of salt and black pepper, then ladled over a bit of smoked, wild-caught salmon and Romano cheese in a traditional soup bowl. Ready to eat at 7:30 PM; total cooking time about 50 min. I note that it took almost as much time to prep as to cook the soup. Result: Delicious – this is a keeper! Using smoked salmon instead of smoked turkey was a great idea! I’m avoiding bread, so I didn’t add croutons, but I wish I had some chopped green onions I could have added as a garnish. I’ll get some for the rest of the soup.

References:

  1. chicagotribune.com/dining/recipes/sc-food-fall-squash-recipes-brownson-1030-20201030-xob3ruuhqngdhmviwkvol5afui-story.html
  2. Hand/Immersion blender photos (converted by me to jpg format):
    1. (commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Stick_blenders#/media/File:Blender_(immersion).png
    2. commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Stick_blenders#/media/File:Hand-blender.svg
  3. French Oven: cookware.lecreuset.com

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