Butternut Squash Soup with Fried Sage Leaves
- One 3-pound butternut squash
- Olive oil, for coating the squash halves
- 6 cloves garlic, not peeled
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 18 whole fresh sage leaves
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
- 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, or 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 2 quarts Quick Stock for Winter Squash soup (see below recipe) or water
- 1/2 cup diced fontina cheese or other Italian-style melting cheese
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out and reserve the seeds. Lightly grease the squash halves with olive oil. Place them, cut side down on a baking sheet and tuck the garlic cloves underneath the cavities. Bake until tender when pressed with a finger and glazed on the bottom, 40 to 60 minutes. Remove and let cool enough to handle.
- Scoop out the pulp, reserving the skins, and place it in a medium bowl. Peel the garlic cloves and put them into the bowl with the squash pulp. Add any juices that have collected on the baking sheet.
- Heat the 1/4 cup olive oil in a sauté pan. Drop in the whole sage leaves and fry briefly until speckled and darkened, about 1 minute. Remove to a paper towel to drain and set aside.
- Transfer the oil to a deep and wide soup pot. Add the onions, chopped sage, thyme, and parsley and cook over medium heat until the onions have begun to brown around the edges, about 12 minutes.
- Add the squash and garlic, stock, and salt to taste and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, partially cover, and simmer gently for 25 minutes, until thickened but still liquid.
- Remove from the heat and, when no longer bubbling, purée in a food processor or through a food mill gently. Reheat and ladle into bowls. Distribute the cheese among the bowls (it will sink and melt into the soup). Garnish each bowl with fried sage leaves, and freshly ground pepper to taste, and serve.
Note: The soup can be served straight away without puréeing. It will not be a svelte, but it will have an equally appealing texture that hovers between silken and chunky.
Quick Stock for Winter Squash Soup
- Simmer 10 cups water with the squash skin and seeds, half a sliced onion, any tiny cloves from the center of a garlic bulb, parsley stems, and 2 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, and strain.