Real food, simple ingredients, and season as you go.
This was a constant theme during each meal and cooking experience we had while in France.
I was expecting loads of butter and cream on our trip. A few weeks before the trip, I had been transitioning to a more plant-based diet. Knowing that I was going on the trip of a lifetime and wanting to soak it all in, I took a few deep breaths before boarding the flight to Paris and kept a favorite Julia Child quote in mind in mind; "If you're scared of butter, just use cream!". I was ready to fully embrace the lifestyle that Julia loved so much regardless of how much butter and cream I consumed while over there.
Much to my surprise, we didn't use more than a drop of cream and a pat of butter in our cooking classes. The French are very into appreciating the food being prepared and finding ways to enhance the natural flavor of the food rather than diluting it with cream. They are also conscious of the nutritional value of food without making it complicated like we do here. There was no mention of superfoods, gluten, or sugar; just a focus on eating real food, not too much, mostly plants (hey, Michael Pollen).
One of my favorite recipes that we made was a butternut squash soup. The ingredients were so basic and we barely did anything to them but it is a soup I have recreated numerous times since being home. We shopped at the market for our ingredients, prepared them simply, and tasted and seasoned as we went. There wasn't any cream or butter in this soup and it was so delicious, velvety, and perfect.
If you remember me telling you about our chef Benjamin, you know that he LOVES vegetables and LOVES teaching people how to cook. He gave us a great tip when learning to season our food. He suggested setting aside a small portion of whatever you are making (soup, in our case) and intentionally over-seasoning it. He said that we will never know or perfect degree of seasoning until we've tasted how something is when it is over-seasoned. We would season, taste, and evaluate. Just like anything, learning to season food well takes time and practice. The only way to learn is to cook more! So whip out that apron and wooden spoon and get to work!
I teamed up with some other bloggers that contributed to The Casual Veggie Cookbook to bring you this soup recipe today along with several others. If you guys have some last minute Christmas shopping to do, the Casual Veggie Cookbook would be the perfect gift to give anyone in your life. If you need a refresher on the cookbook, check out my post here. If you don't need a refresher and are ready to bite the bullet and by one, click here. Don't forget to checkout the other tasty soup recipes below.
Pumpkin and Peanutbutter - Cauliflower Leek Soup with Crispy Burrsels Sprouts
A Southern Grace - Chili Out
Where is My Spoon? - Sunchoke Soup with Bacon
Craving Something Healthy - Polish Mushroom Soup with Barley
Family For Health - Lime Coconut Fish Soup with Acorn Squash
Key Ingredients - Slow Cooker Bund Lentil Soup
Jeanie and Lulu’s Kitchen - Root Vegetable Stew
Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a commission. This helps to put food on my table and on the blog!
Butternut Squash Soup
Note: I used the vegetable scraps to make my own stock for this soup. If you choose to use store-bought broth, try to find and unsalted or low sodium version so you can control the seasoning at the end.
2-3 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 small butternut squash, peeled, halved, and seeds scooped out (save peels if making own stock)
1 onion, diced (save scraps of onion if making own stock)
1 large carrot, peeled and diced (save peels if making own stock)
2 small potatoes, peeled and diced (save peels if making own stock)
2 sprigs thyme
Water to make stock (see note)
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper (I used a pepper we got in France that I talk about here)
Optional garnishes: roasted chestnuts, chives, balsamic vinegar
1. Add vegetable scraps to a medium pot of water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer while preparing the rest of the soup.
2. Heat a large pot over medium heat, add oil. Next, add squash, onion, carrot, potatoes, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes until vegetables brown lightly.
3. Drain vegetable stock and discard peels. Add enough stock to just cover the vegetables. Cover pot and simmer over medium low heat until vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
4. When vegetables are tender, pour mixture into a blender and blend until smooth. Add additional stock as necessary until soup reaches desired consistency. Add cumin, salt, and pepper, to taste. Garnish, if desired.