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Squash me all fall long 

Impromptu Winter Squash Soup

With autumn officially underway, I have to be a big girl and let go of my melons. I must blow a kiss goodbye to my tomato lovers, my peach darlings, my curvaceous eggplant.

It's time to get reacquainted with the orange flesh of the winter squash. I need not worry about a long, boring winter with just the acorn variety, however; the winter squash is a motley crew of various shapes, sizes and flavors. I'll catch up with Kabocha, Hubbard, banana, butternut and buttercup, to name a few.

The most redeeming quality about the winter squash -- other than its mother lode of antioxidants, vitamins and fiber -- is its easygoing personality. After you cut through its often tough skin, the gorgeous, easily coaxed flesh cooks in about 30 minutes, making soup a reality even on a weeknight. Roasted, steamed or boiled, squash allows seasonings of all varieties. It's a great ingredient for experimentation and impromptu preparation.

With a hand-held stick blender, cooked squash purees into comforting orange crushed velvet, in just two magic minutes. If you don't have a stick blender, a whiz in a standing blender or food processor works fine, too.

So don't just look at that pretty squash. Eat her.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, quartered

1 medium or 2 small winter squash (about 2 pounds)

1 handful fresh thyme or rosemary sprigs

Water or stock

Salt, black pepper to taste

Possible extras: Diced seeded chile pepper of choice, 1 tablespoon of honey, 2 teaspoons curry powder, 1 chopped chipotle chile packed in adobo sauce

• Peel, quarter and seed squash. In a medium pot, add olive oil and heat. Add onion and chile, if using, and cook for 2 minutes, until softened. This is the time to add optional curry powder; stir with a wooden spoon.

• Add squash, herbs, if using, and just enough liquid to barely cover the squash. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until squash is fork tender. Remove from heat and cool for five minutes. Remove herbs. Place stick blender in pot and carefully pulse, pureeing the contents of the pot, until smooth. Add honey and chipotle, if using, and salt and pepper to taste.

• Reheat if necessary and serve in bowls immediately. Serves at least two squash lovers.

Culinary questions? Contact Kim O'Donnel at kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com.

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