Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Pepitas

Serves 4-8 / Creamy and comforting, this classy soup serves eight as a first course or four as a main dish on a fall evening.

2 to 2-1/2 pounds butternut squash
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
3 cups low-fat milk
1 cup vegetable stock or water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cumin
Pinch of allspice
2 tablespoons dry sherry or marsala
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds (pepitas) or reserved butternut squash seeds

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut squash in half; scrape out and reserve some of the seeds (optional). Place squash, cut side down, on a baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until tender and easily pierced with a fork.

2. While the butternut squash is baking, heat oil in a small pan and sauté onion and celery for about 3 minutes, or until soft and clear.

3. When squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out pulp with a large spoon, place in a large bowl, and add onion, celery, milk, and stock or water. Stir to combine. In a blender, purée mixture in batches until smooth, being careful not to overfill blender. Stir in lemon juice, cumin, allspice, and sherry. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Return to stove until heated through.

4. Spread pumpkin seeds or cleaned reserved butternut squash seeds on a baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes, or until toasted. Divide soup among four warmed soup bowls. Sprinkle with seeds and serve.