Butternut Squash Soup: A recipe beloved by the infant cognoscenti
A few weeks ago, we hosted a housewarming party that was to be attended by several individuals in the under 12(months) set. Surely I had to offer a texture-and-ingredient appropriate dish for these babies-in-the-know, whose refined palettes had been cultivated on the finest breastmilk and premium organic complementary foods. But what?
A humble Butternut Squash soup turned out to be the solution. Not only is it super-fast to prepare (even faster if you own an immersion blender, which I highly recommend for anyone who cooks soups with any sort of regularity), but its short ingredient list make it an ideal offering for infants just starting on solid foods whose parents wish to limit the number of foods introduced at a time so as to identify potential food allergies more easily. It’s very nutritious*, a good source of fiber, and beloved by children of all ages (including those of us in our 30s, and our parents in their 60s…). The recipe below can be multiplied ad infinitum, making it a perfect offering for fall or winter brunches, lunches or dinner parties. And it freezes very well, too.
This particular recipe would be appropriate for (1) infants 6 months and older (2) who are already comfortable with Stage I foods (single-ingredient strained purees) and ready to dabble in Stage II foods (mixed ingredient purees), so long as you take care to puree the soup carefully to make sure there are no chunks of onion or squash floating about. Squash is a great early vegetable for babies, since its relatively mild in flavor and sweet, which appeals to young taste buds. It’s important to note that since fresh squash can be higher in nitrates than some other vegetables–especially if it is not organically-grown– it is best to introduce it after 6 months of age, especially if the baby was born prematurely. This is to make sure that the baby’s digestive tract is sufficiently mature to prevent the conversion of nitrates from the squash into potentially harmful nitrites… a very rare occurrence, but nonetheless a serious enough one that we try to avoid it!)
The recipe below is an everso slightly modified version of one I found on the Food Network website. It’s milk/dairy free, making it appropriate for babies under 12 months; if you wish, you can make it vegan by using a vegetable broth as well. If you are making this recipe to share with an infant or toddler, be sure to use low-sodium broth or the equivalent amount of water mixed with low-sodium bouillon. Adults can always salt their portions to taste, and babies need not be trained in our over-salted ways unnecessarily early. They’ll learn soon enough…
Easy Butternut Squash Soup
1 medium butternut squash (~2 1/4 lbs)
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 medium onion, chopped
OPTIONAL: 1 TBSP freshly-grated ginger OR 1 tsp dried ginger
2 TBSP olive oil or canola oil
3 cups (low-sodium) broth…chicken or vegetable (or 3 cups water + 3 tsp low-sodium bouillon of your choice)
1-2 cups water, as needed
To serve (adults only): salt & pepper to taste
Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds**. Arrange the halves cut side down in roasting pan or on cookie sheet that has been sprayed with the non-stick oil spray. Bake squash at 400-degrees for about 40 minutes, or until tender. Set aside to cool. When squash is completely cool, scoop the flesh from the skin.
While squash is baking, cook the onion (and ginger, if desired) in the oil in a saucepan/soup pot over medium-low heat for 5 minutes or until the onion is softened. Add the broth and simmer for 10 minutes, covered. Add the squash pulp to the saucepan. Puree the mixture until smooth, either by inserting an immersion blender into the pot, or by transferring the mixture to a blender or food processor in batches. Add enough additional water to achieve your desired consistency. Return the soup to pot and cook over medium heat until your desired serving temperature is reached. If you wish, you may salt and pepper the soup to taste at this point, or you can do so for individual servings. Voila!
You may also sprinkle with nutmeg before serving if you’re so inclined.
Note: To make this recipe super-fast on the day you plan to serve it (~10 minutes), roast the squash the day before you plan to serve the soup. Have it roasting while you’re catching up on your Law & Order re-runs and it will be finished right when the jury hands down their verdict.
* When I say it’s nutritious, here’s what I mean: a modest 1/2 cup portion of cooked butternut squash contains about 64% of the recommended daily Vitamin A intake for an adult male and 82% of the recommended daily Vitamin A intake for an adult female. This size portion contains about 40 calories and 3g of fiber.
A more baby-sized portion of 1/4 cup butternut squash contains 57% of recommended Vitamin A needs for a 7-12 month old baby and 95% of the recommended Vitamin A intake for a 1-3 year old.
** If you want to get more bang for your butternut buck, go ahead and toast the seeds as a snack to reward yourself for spoiling the people in your life with copious amounts of Vitamin A. Just do your best to remove the stringy fibers from the seeds and dry them with a paper towel if necessary. Toss the seeds with just enough olive oil to coat them but no more (otherwise they’ll be greasy). Sprinkle a touch of salt on the mixture… as well as any other spice that catches your fancy. (A dash of cayenne pepper is always fun…and I use cumin in almost everything…) Bake on a pan for about 10 minutes (or until they start to pop) in a 325 degree oven or toaster oven.
NB: The bittersweet end to my housewarming tale: the baby mamas of the aforementioned baby cognoscenti have since replicated this recipe at home, and the babies therefore have no further need to visit me. But before they’re out of diapers, I thought it would be fun to invite them over for a special batch of asparagus soup …if only so that their moms and dads can experience the aroma second-hand during that first post-meal diaper change. Heh heh.Did you like this? If so, please bookmark it, RSS feed.