I’ve been exploring meals that are easier on my digestion lately (due to a few recent dietary restrictions), which has me in the kitchen much more than usual these days. Without getting too detailed, it’s taken shape in the form of a lot of rice, a lot of cooked autumnal vegetables, and soup for dinner every night. Initially, I thought the latter to be boring and restrictive, though after dusting off a few cookbooks and perusing a few of my favorite food blogs, I’ve wholeheartedly embraced the challenge. The options are essentially endless, and now that the weather has cooled a bit here in LA, its become something to look forward to each evening.
A little over a month in, I’ve got a few winners in my arsenal — Heidi’s Ribollita, Marcela’s Fish In Crazy Water, Julia’s Potage Parmentier — and now, this butternut squash soup. It can be made with or without meat (I tried a version after this one with ground lamb that was delicious) and as with all soups, it tastes even better the next day. Throw a loaf of crusty sourdough on the table and you’ll got yourself a perfect mid-week meal.
Butternut Squash Soup with Spinach & Barley
Yields: 2 Servings
½ cup pearled barley
2 cloves garlic
1 oz. baby spinach
1 pound butternut squash
1 yellow onion
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch thyme
1 fresh bay leaf
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon Merguez spice blend (sweet paprika, ground fennel seeds, ground coriander, ground cumin, ground cinnamon & cayenne pepper)
1. Wash and dry the fresh produce. Peel and mince the garlic. Roughly chop the spinach. Halve the butternut squash lengthwise; scoop out the seeds and pulp. Using a sturdy knife, peel the squash; discard the peel. Medium dice the squash. Peel and small dice the onion. Pick the parsley and thyme leaves off the stems; discard the stems. Keep the parsley leaves whole; roughly chop the thyme leaves.
2. In a medium pot, heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes, or until the onion has softened and the garlic is fragrant.
3. Add the squash, barley, bay leaf, thyme and 3 cups of water to the pot of vegetables. Season with salt and pepper. Heat the mixture to boiling on high. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium and add the spice blend. Simmer for 14 to 16 minutes, or until the soup is slightly thickened and the barley is tender and cooked through. Remove from heat.
4. Using a fork, mash about one-quarter of the cooked squash pieces into the soup; stir to incorporate. Stir in the spinach and half the Parmesan cheese. Cook on medium, stirring occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes, or until the spinach is wilted and the cheese is fully incorporated.
5. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Divide the soup between 2 bowls. Garnish with the parsley leaves and remaining Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!
—Adapted from Blue Apron recipe.