Autumn Squash Bisque or, Soupe à la Maiyar
A few months ago, a beautiful little joy came into my family’s life. Maiyar, my husband’s new baby sister, was born in August.
When Baby Maiyar came home, we had to keep the other girls busy, of course. So Maryam and I helped them paint a big, colorful banner that said: “Marhaba Ahlan wa Sahlan Maiyar! Welcome, We Love you!”
Pictures are in Lightbox – click the first on the left to start the slideshow.
We had a great time with the banner – I really recommend doing this when you need to keep six little hands busy. It kept the girls amused and occupied for hours. It was relaxing for Fatimah, who loves art and helped paint a little bit, too. Maryam and I traced out the letters and divided them up equally between the girls (so that there would be no “She got more than me!” fights.) Each girl got one capital letter and several lowercase ones, and Maryam and I did the rest. It was also a great way to teach the girls about mixing primary colors to get secondary colors.
This soup is named after Maiyar, because I took it to the hospital while Fatimah was in labor. I wanted something nourishing and subtle – nothing too overpoweringly flavorful.
This sunset hued soup is smooth and heartwarming, perfect for cold autumn or winter days (which seem to be continuing on FOREVER). It freezes really, really well, so it’s perfect to make in advance. I pack it in two-serving sizes in a ziplock bag and lay flat to freeze.
Ameir also calls this “Taiyyaba’s Butternut Squash Soup That’ll Knock Your Socks Off.” The pictures are from when I made this at Thanksgiving (made ahead, frozen, reheated and kept warm in the slow cooker until dinner) and fancied it up with a drizzle of cream on top. There is actually no cream in this soup, but the texture will make you think it does!
Autumn Squash Bisque
1 medium or small butternut squash, diced
3 carrots, diced, or enough to make equal parts butternut squash and carrot
1 onion, diced
1/2 – 1 tsp sugar
1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced or diced
1 can canellini beans, rinsed
1 – 2 cans diced tomatoes
about 1 quart of chicken or vegetable broth or stock
1 tsp cumin
1/2 – 1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 – 1/2 tsp cinnamon
salt and black pepper
Put the diced squash and carrots in a big bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and season with the spices. I put much less in this soup than I would for a curried vegetable soup. Originally, it was to give Fatimah (and through her, baby Maiyar), something flavorful but not too spicy – but now I realize that it really lets the naturally subtle flavor of the butternut squash come out. I added just enough so I could lightly smell the spices. The cinnamon adds a beautiful semi-sweetness – I really suggest trying it. Cinnamon is used in a lot of Morrocon dishes with red meat (which is often cooked with pumpkin – so this is a very well-tested flavor profile!)
Spread the carrot and squash onto a lightly oiled cookie sheet and roast at 450F for about 7-10 minutes, then turn over and roast the other side for the same amount. In about 20 minutes total, depending on how small you’ve cut the vegetables, they should be soft enough to smoothly poke a fork through.
At this point, turn the broiler on and give the vegetables some color. This part is not necessary, but it adds another layer of flavor.
While the vegetables are roasting, heat some olive oil in a pan and add the onions. (Just the onions!). For this soup, I caramelize them. Stir to combine the onions with the oil, then spread in a single layer. Cook over medium-low heat for about 5-10 minutes, then sprinkle with sugar (brown or white) and cook for about 20 minutes.
After about 15 minutes, you can add the garlic too, since we’ll need it for this soup. While we’re caramelizing, might as well get some sweetness into the garlic as well! You’ll see the onions start to get golden brown and very soft. Taste as you go and get them as dark as you want (or have time for – truly caramelized onions can cook for an hour or more. See here and here.)
Once the onions are sweet and caramelized, add the white beans to the pot. Also add the diced tomatoes. If you want the soup more tomato-flavored, use two cans. Let the beans and tomatoes simmer till the beans are tender, about 15 minutes.
Add the roasted vegetables back into the pot. At this point, you’ve got a thick stew to eat over couscous, with some grilled steak. Stop here, if you like.
Pour half or more of the vegetables into a blender. Add 1/2 quart of stock and blend until smooth. You can leave it half chunky, or blend it all completely smooth. Add more stock until it is the consistency you like it. I usually end up using the whole quart of stock.
That’s it! Roast veggies, cook onions, cook beans, puree. How easy is that?! I’ve even roasted the veggies the day before and just cooked the rest up the day of serving. If you dice the vegetables beforehand and keep them in the fridge, this soup can be on the table in 30 minutes. Freeze it in ziploc bags for a hot dinner on a cold day. When you reheat, you might need to add more stock, so have a little extra in the fridge (or you could use milk for something creamier).