Butternut Squash Soup with Sage Croutons

I'm not sure if it's the arrival of Fall's oven-friendly weather, the fact that it's been getting darker earlier, or simply that there's just been a lot to celebrate, but lately, my baking activity has been off the charts. I've whipped up four loaves of pumpkin bread, which have stepped nicely in to the roles of  "just because," "thank you present," and "congrats on tying the knot!" (we've dubbed it Newlywed-Bread, btw). I've baked a pan of brownies for a 26th birthday, a funfetti cake for a 31st, cheesecake squares for a 40th, plus a batch of chocolate chip M&M cookies as yet another (belated) wedding present, and with Thanksgiving on the horizon, I'm plotting my pie-plan-of-action (pumpkin! apple! pecan! pear!) I've had to run to the supermarket to replenish my sugar supplies twice now; the usually ever-present blocks of butter in my fridge have vanished; I'm running low on cinnamon and sprinkles. If my oven could talk, she would probably be telling me it needs a vacation (I imagine somewhere cool, in the mountains). 

Long story short, I've been eating a lot of batter, a lot of cookie dough, and obviously, a lot of the finished product (it's called quality control, obviously) and though I wouldn't have it any other way (the only thing I love than baking, is baking for the people I love!) there does come a point where said food blogger's taste buds (and stomach) begin to crave something a little more, well, wholesome. There are the usual signs: your teeth are threatening cavities; you realize all your clothes smell like all the baked goods that have been coming out of your kitchen; you can't remember the last time you ate a vegetable. You get the idea! In the midst of my buttery, sugary rush then, I went to my stove instead of the oven and reached for savory, grounding ingredients -- olive oil! onions! sage! -- and whipped up today's Butternut Squash Soup, a thoroughly cozy, autumnal meal to counteract my dessert-marathon. This is one of those dishes that manages to be nutritious but also delicious, packed with lots of sweet, vibrant squash and slowly cooked onions, their sweetness tempered with not one but two kinds of herbs -- cozy-as-your-favorite-sweater sage and breath-of-fresh-air parsley -- plus a bit of aromatic garlic. Not to be underestimated here: the power of the cheese rind, which adds an extra nudge of flavor and depth to your soup (always, always, always save your cheese rinds! I can't stress this enough!) The croutons on the top make the whole dish, adding a little crunch, a little carb, and an extra hit of sage, and a bowl of this, topped with a few gratings of Parmesan, has many a function: cake&cookie antidote! but also cozy Fall dinner! healthyish meal! vehicle for a mountain of toasty-baguette-croutons! You get the idea. Whatever your soup-goal may be, I highly suggest you make this.

A couple of notes: I made this recipe as written and though Epicurious says the serving size is 6, I found it really only served 3 for a main course serving -- go figure! Feel free to double the recipe if needed. As far as the croutons go, I sort of eyeballed it -- cut up as much bread as you think you might like to scatter on your soup and melt enough butter to coat the pan and lightly fry your croutons (the amounts below are approximate). This is a vegetarian soup, but if you'd like to add a little meat, some pancetta crisped in a pan and sprinkled over the top would be nice too. Finally, I kept the garlic clove whole here and then removed it (as I always do) but feel free to mince the clove up if you like garlic more than me. 

Looking for other cozy soup recipes? I've got this Chickpea, Kale, and Sausage Soup, this Turkey, White Bean, and Spinach Soup, this Pasta e Ceci, and this Roasted Tomato Basil Soup. Looking for other recipes with butternut squash? I've got this Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette, this Pappardelle with Butternut Squash and Porcini, this Butternut Squash Lasagna, and this Butternut Squash Risotto

Recipe adapted from www.epicurious.com

Ingredients for the soup:
1 1/2 tablespoons (21 grams) butter
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium sized yellow onions, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
4 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled seeded butternut squash
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
1 garlic clove, minced
5 to 6 cups (a little bit more than 1 liter) chicken broth
A cheese rind (optional)

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving 

Ingredients for the croutons:
A large piece of a baguette, cut into chunks 
1 tablespoon butter, plus a little more if needed
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage

Melt butter with oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, parsley, and sage; sauté until onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Add squash and coarse salt; sauté until squash softens and onions are golden, about 6 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Add 5 cups stock; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until squash is very soft, about 25 minutes. Cool slightly.

Working in batches, puree soup in blender, allowing some texture to remain. Return soup to pot, and if you're me, you'll add the cheese rind you've just discovered in the fridge, and then let the soup simmer a bit more so it becomes a little thicker. Season with pepper and more salt, if desired. 

Next make your croutons! Place bread in processor; blend until fine crumbs form but some slightly coarser crumbs remain. Cook butter in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until golden, about 2 minutes. Add breadcrumbs and sage. Cook until crumbs are crisp, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle with croutons. Sprinkle with some extra freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if you'd like. Serves 2.

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