If you've never had rutabaga, or, if the last time you had rutabaga was so long ago that you can't quite remember if you like it, try this soup. It's a gentle way to get to know this vegetable, which I always think of as a cross between a turnip and a butternut squash. Or, make this with all butternut squash (you'll need one large one, about 2 1/4 pounds), or substitute sweet potato.
But in any case, this is a restorative soup, the kind of thing to simmer together if you're feeling permanently cold, as if the winter has settled into your spine and isn't planning to leave. Or perhaps you're feeling worn out, under-the-weather, fatigued by holiday cheer, or just downright blah. This soup will heal you. (Then again, you should make it if you're feeling perfectly well and chipper because it's mighty tasty beyond all its curative properties.)
In any case, you'll be rewarded with a creamy, deeply-flavored, slightly sweet puree that will warm your bones and fill your belly.
Those who like things spicy might want to spike this with chili powder. But I left it out to play up the sweetness of the butternut squash. The spinach isn't strictly necessary; I always like to stir greens into my winter soups so I can eat my soup and salad at the same time. But you can skip it. Make sure to use some fresh lemon juice at the end. It really brightens and rounds out the flavors. Balsamic would accomplish the same thing if you prefer it. But it isn't as sunny as lemon. And in winter sunny counts for a lot.
Roasted Butternut Squash and Rutabaga Puree with Spinach
Serves 6 to 8
1 small (1 1/4 pounds) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 pound rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to finish
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large (or 4 small) leeks, halved lengthwise, rinsed, and sliced (white and pale green parts only)
2 shallots, chopped
4 fat cloves garlic, chopped
1 large russet potato (or 2 medium Yukon gold potatoes), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2 cups any kind of stock (I used duck stock, made in the wake of this video)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
3 sprigs fresh sage
3 sprigs fresh parsley
1 (5-ounce) package washed baby spinach
1 meyer or regular lemon, sliced into wedges, seeds removed
1. Preheat oven to 450ºF. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss squash and rutabaga with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, and a few good turns of freshly ground black pepper. Spread squash and rutabaga in a single layer and roast for about 30 minutes, or until there’s some solid browning all over.
2. Meanwhile, in a soup pot, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add leeks, shallots, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and sauté. Stir frequently until lightly golden, about 5 minutes.
3. Add potato, roasted squash and rutabaga, and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper to pot, and stir it around a bit.
4. Using kitchen string, the thyme, sage, and parsley in a little bundle and add to pot (if you don't have kitchen string, you could stuff the herbs into a tea ball). Add 4 cups of water and the 2 cups of stock to pot and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat, and continue simmering for 30 minutes.
5. Remove herb bundle from soup. With an immersion blender, puree soup to desired consistency (or puree in batches in a blender or food processor, then return to pot) and adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper if needed.
6. Stir baby spinach into soup and bring to a simmer. Once spinach is silky and wilted, ladle into bowls.
7. Drizzle the soup with a little good olive oil and serve with wedges of meyer or regular lemon.