I am a reluctant vegetarian. When I moved to Montreal, it became clear that meat was much more expensive than I was used to. Almost $5 more per pound, to be exact. As I am a poor college student with empty pockets, meat was not going to be on the menu. Not when a block of tofu is $2 and will feed me for days. My fate was sealed. Vegetarian, I became. Not necessarily out of desire, but out of necessity.
Coming from cattle country, meat is cheaper than vegetables. The standard dinner table fare is meat and potatoes. I can say, with great certainty, that well over half the population of my home state has never tried tofu and never will. When I tried tofu for the first time, I can't say my attitude was any better. I held the package with two fingers and at arm's length from my body. But once I tasted it, I came around. Tofu and I have since become the greatest of friends.
But here's the twist. I have an unusual and dysfunctional digestive system. As far as my body is concerned, I might as well have been a vegetarian for years. After a couple months of going tofu, I have lost my ability to eat meat without consequence. And so here I am, stuck between two different realms of food. I am the reluctant vegetarian.
This vegetarian roasted butternut squash and apple soup is a nutritiously delicious. It is a thick puree of roasted vegetables, where the squash and apple take center stage. The flavors of the mushrooms and celery are hidden, which makes this soup easily adaptable. You could add cauliflower or any other vegetable with a subtle flavor to pack in more nutrients. This soup smells sweet and is warm and comforting on a cool, fall day.
Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup
Yields 8 dinner-sized portions
1 kilogram (about 2.2 lbs) butternut squash
4 sweet or tart apples
8 ounces mushrooms
1 cup (about 4 stalks) celery
1/2 cup onion
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pumpkin seeds (optional)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Peel and seed butternut squash, cutting into a large dice. Core the apples and cut into a large dice. Cut the mushrooms in half, lengthwise. Chop the celery stalks into 3 inch long pieces. Cut the onion into a large dice.
In a large bowl, mix together the butternut squash, celery, and onion with 1/8 cup of olive oil. If you need more to cover evenly, feel free to add more oil. Place the vegetables in a large baking pan.
Now, in that same large bowl, mix together the apples and mushrooms with 1/8 cup olive oil. Place these fruits/vegetables onto a different baking sheet.
Place both baking sheets in the oven. The apples/mushrooms pan will roast for 15-20 minutes. The squash pan should roast between 30 and 40 minutes, or until the vegetables are fork tender.
Remove from the oven and place both batches of roasted vegetables in a blender. Puree the mixture with the chicken broth and pour into a large soup pot. You may have to do this more than once if your blender is not large enough. If the soup is too thick, additional chicken broth or water can be added to thin it out. Simmer the soup over medium-low heat and season with the salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Feel free to add more or less of each spice to achieve your desired flavor.
Serve warm and garnish with pumpkin seeds!