Squash Soup with Pumpkin Seed Oil

Serves 6 / This warming, savory soup, created by chef Russell Scott, is a specialty of the American Bounty Restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Many stores sell raw pumpkin seeds in the bulk section; toast in a 350º oven until fragrant and light brown to garnish this dish. For extra elegance, Scott tops the soup with a dollop of whipped cream mixed with cinnamon.

2 - 2-1/2 pounds butternut squash
1 quart water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
Vegetable stock (about 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 small onion, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 leek, white parts only, washed and sliced into thin rounds
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg or mace
Pinch cayenne
Pinch ground cloves
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 cup low-fat milk
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, for garnish
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds, for garnish
1-2 tablespoons pumpkin seed oil

1. Peel and seed the squash. Cut 1/3 of the squash into medium dice (1/2 -inch cubes) and set aside. Roughly chop remaining squash.

2. In a large pot, combine 1 quart water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 4–5 minutes. Add medium-diced squash and simmer 3–5 minutes, or until tender. Do not overcook. With a slotted spoon, remove squash cubes and set aside (they will be added back into the finished soup). Remove and discard bay leaf and measure the cooking water. If necessary, add enough vegetable stock to make 1 quart and set aside.

3. In the same large pot, heat olive oil and add garlic, onion, and sugar. Sauté until onion is translucent, 3–4 minutes. Add leek, spices, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute longer, or until leeks are soft. Add the raw, roughly chopped squash and 1 quart reserved cooking water. Stir, bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until squash is very tender.

4. Remove from heat. Using a blender, purée mixture in several batches, adding milk a little at a time. Return soup to pot and heat. Add cooked squash cubes, stir, and correct seasoning with salt and pepper. To serve, sprinkle with fresh dill and toasted pumpkin seeds; drizzle with pumpkin seed oil.