My mother is a very good cook. She is also an expert woodworker, makes a killer chocolate biscotti, and she picks up the phone whenever one of her four daughters calls, which (if you know anything about family) should earn her sainthood since at least one of us four is always in the midst of a crisis. That's just basic math.
In addition to those sterling qualities, she makes cooking dinner look effortless (she will laugh when she reads this, but it's true) -- I can picture her in the kitchen: listening intently to one of us telling a story while simultaneously kneading bread dough, stirring soup, and keeping one eye on the chicken baking in the oven.
I aspire to this level of multitasking, but I am afraid that in this case, the apple falls very far from the tree (so far that the apple in question is probably an orange).
But everyone needs goals, so I'll work on the multitasking. In the meantime, I'll continue to nicely request some of the recipes for her soups (which are perfection, and range from fancier ones, like a velvety potato leek, and simple kinds, like vegetable and stock soups that can absorb whatever odds and ends she has sitting around). I'll learn those recipes, and thusly nourish myself all winter.
This year she's been making butternut squash soup with the glut of squash in our garden. It's a comforting, deceptively simple-looking puree of squash and vegetable stock, but tastes complex. It's the sort of food that you can't help but take another bite of (and another, and another). A bit of fresh ginger and a glug of sherry give it a nice depth of flavor, and then you add some heavy cream at the end because no soup ever suffered from the addition of cream.
Gingered Butternut Squash Soup
Note: If you have (or can make) homemade vegetable stock, do! It makes a big difference, but it will be delicious regardless.
1 onion, diced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
5 thick slices of fresh ginger (peeled)
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 cups vegetable stock (plus 1-2 additional cups, as needed)
salt to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream
In a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Once it has melted, add the diced onion and sauté until soft and translucent.
Add the slices of fresh ginger (count them before you add them so you don't forget to take them all out later!). Cook for 2 minutes.
Add the sherry and cook until almost gone.
Add the peeled squash and 2 cups of stock. Bring the liquid to a simmer and cover and cook until the squash is tender (about 20 minutes).
Remove all the slices of ginger. Using an immersion blender (or carefully ladle the hot soup into a regular blender), purée the soup until smooth. Depending on the size of your squash, you may need to add up to 2 more cups of stock. The consistency is really up to you though, so add more liquid if you like a thinner soup.
Taste the soup and season with salt to taste.
Add the heavy cream and stir well.