Autumn is my favorite time for soup. I know winter is the coldest and most soup-oriented, but I love the flavors of fall and squash soups are pretty much the tastiest thing ever. The origin of this particular soup goes back a couple weeks, when I agreed to participate in an ingredient challenge. I’ve always been a huge fan of the show Iron Chef, and love the idea of being spurred to come up with something creative based on specific set of must-use ingredients, so when I was approached by McCormick to come up with something for their Go4Gourmet challenge, I immediately accepted. The items I had to include in this recipe were acorn squash, honey, pecans, and ground chipotle chili powder. A very interesting set of flavors, indeed. There were a lot of ways the recipe could have gone, both sweet and savory, but I decided to go with a soup due to the changing winds of fall and my love of liquified and pureed squash.
I roasted the squash and the nuts separately, and then pureed them in a blender along with some chicken broth, honey, and seasonings. After that I warmed it up over the stovetop and added a dash of cream and parmesan cheese. I was originally planning on putting in more cream but the nuts really added a wonderful creamy element to the soup so I ended up putting in a lot less, and if you want to be a bit healthier you could definitely cut out the cream entirely and still not loose out on that rich warm flavor.
Once all of the ingredients were combined and I tepidly scooped my spoon into the pot for a taste, I was blown away by the depth of flavor of the soup. The roasted pecans added a wonderfully rich and subtle toasted element, almost smokey even. The honey really enhanced the flavor of the pecans and paired incredibly well with the nutty roasted acorn squash.
The chipotle powder added a very subtle kick and another smokey element to the mixture, and the cream and parmesan rounded it out with some extra richness and saltiness. If you wanted to make it vegan, however, you could definitely leave out both those last two and just add more salt to taste, since parmesan is a very salty cheese and not including it in the soup will reduce the sodium content.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Drizzle the inside of the squash with the olive oil and rub it down with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, 1/4 teaspoon of the black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon of the chipotle chili powder. Place it on a baking sheet with the insides facing up and roast for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool until safe to handle. While it’s cooling, sprinkle the pecans on a baking sheet in an even layer and roast them in the oven (still at 375 degrees Fahrenheit) for 10 minutes, then remove and allow to cool.
Once the squash has cooled down a bit, scoop out the soft flesh with a large metal spoon and place it in a blender or food processor. Add the pecans, honey, chicken or vegetable broth, and the remaining spices. Blend at high speed until a smooth puree forms, about 1 minute.
Pour the mixture into a medium-sized pot and warm over medium heat. Add the cream and parmesan and stir until combined. Continue heating the soup for 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until nice and hot. Taste and add more salt, pepper, or chipotle if desired. Scoop out into individual bowls for serving and garnish with a teaspoon of cream, a pecan, and a sprinkle of black pepper and ground chipotle chili.