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Seriously Simple: Butternut squash soup is cozy comfort on a chilly night

By Diane Rossen Worthington, Tribune Content Agency on

I love winter squash. I can't seem to get enough of it, be it in a soup, saute or gratin. Winter squash is usually orange-fleshed and has a velvety texture. This soup fits all my requirements for cozy comfort on a chilly night. It is creamy and intensely flavored yet doesn't use cream except for a garnishing dollop on top. The chipotle cream finish adds a hint of smoky chile flavor to the faintly sweet, silky squash.

You can use winter squash in soups, pie fillings and vegetable gratins, as a pizza topping or as a colorful side to your main dish. Try it braised, roasted or steamed. Choose squashes that are heavy for their size and brightly colored. Avoid squashes with dull shriveled skin, cracks or bruises. They can be kept at room temperature for at least a month.

Butternut squash looks like an elongated bell and is my favorite winter squash for cooking. Winter squashes vary in size, shape and color, although they all have in common a golden, velvety flesh and a rich, buttery taste. With their thick skin they are a challenge to cut. Here's trick that will help ease the peeling process:

Place the squash in the microwave for 3 1/2 to 5 minutes, depending upon the size of the squash. This will soften the skin before you peel it. Use a sharp swivel peeler to shed the thick, hard skin of the squash. A sharp knife also works well. If you want to make this super Seriously Simple, buy pre-cut butternut squash and use a total of 2 pounds peeled and cut-up squash.

You can use either an immersion blender or a regular blender to achieve a smooth puree. I like to serve this soup in a couple of different ways. If I am having a big group, I serve the soup in little espresso cups or shot glasses as my guests arrive, which is always a lovely way to get the party started. If I am serving this as a first course, I will serve it in mugs or shallow soup bowls. The chipotle cream garnish is just one way to serve this soup. You can also try topping the soup with sun-dried tomato pesto, Parmesan croutons or crispy onion rings (from the can). This can be multiplied for a larger group.

Puree of Butternut Squash Soup with Chipotle Cream

Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 leeks, white part only, cleaned and finely chopped

3 pound butternut squash, peeled and seeded, total of 2 pounds peeled and diced butternut squash

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