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Squash and Leek Soup: Little Fat, Lots of Taste

April 15, 1993|BETTY ROSBOTTOM

This is a soup that proves low-fat food doesn't have to be bland. Butternut squash and leeks, roasted until tender and lightly browned, are simmered with chicken stock and herbs, then pureed and enriched with milk. The roasting adds an extra dimension of flavor--and also means less butter is needed. Also, low-fat milk, rather than cream, is used.

This soup improves if made in advance (it can be prepared up to two days ahead), and it needs no last-minute fuss.

ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND LEEK SOUP 5 1/2 to 6 pounds butternut squash, peeled and seeded 4 medium leeks 2 tablespoons unsalted butter Salt Freshly ground pepper 3/4 teaspoon ground thyme 6 cups chicken stock 5 cups low-fat (1% to 2%) milk, plus more if needed 20 (1/4-inch-thick) slices French baguette, toasted at 350 degrees 6 to 8 minutes until crisp and lightly browned 1 1/4 cups shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese Toasted Walnuts 10 sprigs parsley, optional

Cut squash into 1 1/2-inch cubes. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with foil and arrange squash on sheets. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees until squash is tender, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove and set aside. Retain oven temperature.

Cut off root ends and all but 2 inches of green stems of leeks. Slit lengthwise and rinse under cold water to remove any sand and grit. Carefully pat dry. Line rimmed baking sheets with foil and arrange leeks, cut-side up, on sheet. Brush with butter and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Bake, uncovered, until leeks are tender and light-golden, about 45 minutes. Remove, cool and coarsely chop. (If 2 ovens are available, cook squash in 1 and leeks in another to save time.)

Place cooked squash and leeks in 8-quart pan and sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and thyme. Add stock and bring mixture to simmer. Simmer 15 minutes. Puree soup in food processor, blender or food mill. Return mixture to pan and bring to medium heat. Whisk in milk. Taste to adjust seasonings. Soup can be made 2 days ahead to this point. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat, stirring, when needed.

When ready to serve, ladle warm soup into 10 oven-proof soup bowls. Float 2 croutons in each bowl and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons cheese. Place bowls on rimmed baking sheet and broil 7 to 8 inches from heat source until cheese melts, 30 to 60 seconds. Remove and garnish each serving with 1 tablespoon Toasted Walnuts and sprig of parsley. Makes 10 servings.

Toasted Walnuts 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons very coarsely chopped walnuts

Spread nuts on rimmed baking sheet and bake on center oven shelf at 350 degrees until just lightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove and transfer nuts to work surface to cool.

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