Closing for the Winter Season

Winter at Estancia Tierra Santa

Winter at Estancia Tierra Santa

It’s always bittersweet when the leaves on the Sycamore trees (platanos, en espanol) begin to yellow and then fall. . .when the pumpkins, Butternut and Kabocha squashes fully ripen in the patch (a riot of “construction zone” orange and yellow and green). . .when the local farmers come by to negotiate the price they want to pay for row after row of our alfalfa harvest. I know I’ll begin moving all the terrace furniture (with help from Roberto, our caretaker) inside and making sure there is a really, really large stockpile of wood for the main house and the caretakers’ (cassero) house. It’s only a matter of a few weeks before I’ll board the plane to San Francisco, chasing summer into the Northern Hemisphere.

Estancia Butternut Squash Soup
Resist the temptation to add chicken stock to this soup–it muddies the natural sweetness of the squash.

1 medium Butternut squash, about 3 lbs.
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 shallots or 1 yellow onion, diced
6 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
Optional spices: a little freshly grated nutmeg, ground cardamom or ground coriander seed.
Chopped chives, for garnish

Cut the squash open and scrape out and reserve all the seeds and stringy membrane from the cavity. With a large knife or cleaver, cut the squash into 6 or 8 chunks (do not peel).

Place butter in large stockpot and saute the shallots or onion for a few minutes, until translucent. Add the reserved squash seeds and membrane and saute until the butter turns the color of saffron, about 5 minutes. Add the 6 cups of water and lower a steamer basket into the stockpot, then place all the squash pieces in the basket, flesh side down. Steam until completely tender, approximately 45 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces.

Remove squash with tongs and allow to cool. Strain the seeds and membrane from the broth then put broth back into stockpot, discarding seeds. Scrape all of the flesh from the cooled squash, discarding skin, and place in the stockpot with broth. Using a stick blender (or a conventional blender in batches), puree the soup until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and spice, if using. Stir in cream, if using, and return to heat. Served with snippets of chopped chives.
Note: for a smoother soup, you may strain the puree in a chinois.