As far as I’m concerned, there are two ways to make vegetable soups. Method one is what I call the Ina Garten method – take all your vegetables, roast them, then mix them with stock and puree. Method two is the Jane Brody method – saute your aromatics, add your vegetables and stock, cook until soft, and then puree. The Ina method makes some pretty great soups – full of flavors and often prepared with minimal chopping (although a lot of pan scrubbing). In fact I would say the best tomato soup is Ina’s roasted tomato soup with red peppers. But for all that I love roasted vegetables, sometimes there’s more comfort to be had in a dish that is *gasp* boiled. This is not a fashionable opinion these days, and for this and many other reasons Jane Brody has fallen from her status as a household cooking name. But I think her squash soup will change your mind.
If you were a foodie in the 90s, you might have known Jane Brody’s name from her New York Times food column. Brody’s perspective was cooking healthy, homey food, and unlike many of the health crazes of the 80s and 90s, we would still agree today that her food is good for you. In my house, we particularly knew Brody from her Good Food Book: Living the High-Carbohydrate Way, published in 1990. This book was my mom’s cooking bible and the majority of her vegetable-forward meals came out of it. The name probably became a bit of a problem for people only about a decade after publication, with the rise of the Atkins diet and the vilification of carbs. But when Brody wanted you to eat a lot of carbs, what she meant was complex carbs – vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. From that perspective alone, the book is probably worth revisiting for many people today who are at a loss for how to eat vegetarian, vegan, or simply with plants.
But beyond Brody’s plant-focused recipes, the book offered cooking that was simple and straightforward. There were very few recipes that involved any particularly complex methods or tools – just using a blender to puree soup always seemed like a big to-do. And there was at least a nod toward flavors beyond the typical American WASP palate, like curry powder in the cauliflower soup or a recipe for West African beef stew. And perhaps Brody’s purpose in putting these recipes in her cookbook had something to do with her obviously hippie mentality. But she simply saw them as “good food” and in that sense they were offered without pretense.
While there are many recipes from this book that became staples of my own cooking (cinnamon toast made with cottage cheese, for instance), the only one that I really think of as a recipe, as her recipe, is the butternut squash soup. That’s because butternut squash soup is so simple, and yet so often not good enough for me to want to finish a bowl. Either it’s too sweet, with apples or made to taste like pumpkin pie, or it’s too rich with intense pumpkin seeds or oils. This soup is flavorful, soothing, and nutritious. I think they key is that it’s just treating the squash as a vegetable, and letting the flavors shine through.
* Fair warning about prepping hard winter squash: they have a very sticky residue that will get on your knife and hands, so make sure to wash both with soap immediately after handling or you’ll end up with some weird peeling. For details about how to safely prep a squash, see my post about pumpkin seeds.
So here’s my version of the recipe:
Butternut Squash Soup
Makes 3 quarts.