Invite the pleasures of fall indoors with a nutritious golden bowl of squash soup.
When the hot days of summer give way to cooler windy weather, our bodies need food that is warming, grounding, and soothing. Ayurveda tells us warm foods with sweet, sour, or salty tastes calm and rebalance vata—the cool, dry, restless energy that tends to become excessive in the fall. Your body knows this intuitively, which is why a steaming bowl of soup and a hunk of crusty sourdough bread is so appealing on a blustery autumn night. Ayurveda also tells us that our digestive fire weakens as the sun sets. This is why many yoga practitioners eat a light supper—it improves the quality of sleep and frees the body to cleanse and repair itself.
Because of its smooth texture and rich nutrients, squash makes a particularly good base for soup. One cup of cooked winter squash provides 80 calories, about 25 percent of the daily requirements of vitamin C, potassium, manganese, and dietary fiber. Squash is also an excellent source of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, which has powerful antioxidant properties and supports bone health, vision, and immunity.
This easy soup can be prepared with any variety of winter squash. Look for Hubbard, acorn, butternut, and buttercup squash at your local farmers’ market. If you find a good source, stock up. These hard-skinned beauties will last for months in a cool, dry place. Serve this soup with bread and cooked greens (their bitter taste will complement the sweetness of the squash) for a grounding supper.
Yield: 4 servings
1 small winter squash
3 tablespoons butter or ghee
1 onion, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh gingerroot, minced
2–3 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Cut the squash in half, remove the seeds, and brush the flesh with oil. Place in a roasting pan cut-side down and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. As the natural sugars caramelize, the squash will brown, giving it a richer flavor. It’s done when you can easily pierce the flesh with a fork. Allow the squash to cool for at least 10 minutes before scooping the flesh into a bowl. Mash the cooked squash with the back of a spoon or your hands into a thick paste with an even consistency.
2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, sauté the sliced onion in butter or ghee (clarified butter) until it is soft. Add the garlic and ginger and cook 30 to 60 seconds.
3. Combine the squash with one cup of water and bring to a slow boil. Thin with more water until it reaches the desired consistency, simmering for 5 to 10 minutes.
4. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with chives, chopped nuts, grated cheese, or roasted garlic.
For a richer soup, use milk or yogurt instead of water. If you like a little more spice in your life, add 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg or curry powder when you cook the onion.
Jon Janaka is a sanskrit scholar who worked in the Himalayan Institute kitchen for over five years.