Squash Soup with Nutmeg and Walnut Oil

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I’m actually not a soup person, no matter what time of year it is. But I was highly intrigued by this recipe in Eric Ripert’s cookbook, A Return to Cooking. Interestingly enough, the other recipe I’ve blogged about from the same cookbook was an outstanding seafood chowder.


Chef Ripert’s name for this soup is Pumpkin, Acorn, and Butternut Squash Soup with Nutmeg and Walnut Oil. I like the idea of mixing the squashes, and then nutmeg and walnut oil as finishing touches?! Yes please.

Here is the cookbook, published in 2009.

From the author, Michael Ruhlman, regarding this recipe: “Eric almost didn’t make this soup because he’s so put off by overspiced squash soups. While he does add some gratings of fresh nutmeg at the end, the fresh thyme and the walnut oil are the primary seasonings, and the soup retains the flavors of the squash.”

Pumpkin, Acorn, and Butternut Squash Soup with Nutmeg and Walnut Oil
Printable recipe below

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sliced onions
2 cups peeled and diced sugar pumpkin
2 cups peeled and diced acorn squash
2 cups peeled and diced butternut squash
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground white pepper
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
3 thyme sprigs
3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon walnut oil
1 whole nutmeg, for grating

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the pumpkin, acorn and butternut squash dice and sauté until softened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cover with the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Cook until the squash is tender, about 30 minutes.

Purée the soup in batches in a blender until satiny-smooth. Pass through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any remaining lumps, and return the soup to the pot. Add the cream and the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. Bring to a simmer.

Wrap the thyme sprigs in a square of cheesecloth and tie with kitchen string. Add to the simmering soup and let infuse for 10 minutes. Remove the thyme bundle and adjust the seasoning.

To serve, divide the soup among six warmed soup bowls. Shave the cheese over each bowl and drizzle the walnut oil over the cheese.

Grate nutmeg over each bowl to taste and serve immediately.

The walnut oil I purchased in August of 2021 and opened in October to make this recipe was rancid. The bottle was sealed, so I was surprised and disappointed. I don’t recommend this brand.

 

 

Curried Pumpkin White Bean Soup

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My first introduction to pumpkin was probably like every other American’s – pumpkin pie. I had no idea that this lovely pie was made with a vegetable! The horror! I was married and just learning how to cook when I figured this out.

Pumpkin, the squash, does not taste like pumpkin pie. It’s kind of plain, really, but with some sweetness. But boy does it lend itself to all things sweet and savory.

When my kids were little, I snuck canned pumpkin into just about everything, from oatmeal and pancakes to soups, stews, and pastas. To me, the pumpkin just increased the nutrition of whatever I was making, and the girls never minded the color. Puréed spinach is a different story!

The only way to get canned pumpkin in the “old” days, was in cans. Nowadays, I purchase puréed organic pumpkin in cans or aseptic cartons. I learned a long time ago not to buy inferior brands of pumpkin. They are tasteless and watery.

If you want to be a purist, grab a cooking pumpkin, chop it in half, remove the seeds. If desired, drizzle the flesh with a little olive oil and season (if you’re using the pumpkin for something savory.) Cover the halves securely with foil, then bake in a 350 degree oven for 2 hours.

After the pumpkin has cooled, remove the flesh and place it on paper towels or a clean dish towel to remove the water. This step takes a couple of hours. If you want to expedite this, place a heavy baking dish over the paper towel-wrapped pumpkin flesh. This isn’t as critical of a step if you’re using the pumpkin purée for a soup.

Baking a pumpkin from scratch is an important thing to do once. It’s fun. Afterwards, you figure out it’s much easier to buy good puréed pumpkin! Plus, you know the weight of the pumpkin in the can, if you’re using a recipe.

You might have noticed this post published the day after America’s Thanksgiving event. That is because pumpkin to me is something that can be used year around. It isn’t just for autumnal dishes.

Curried Pumpkin White Bean Soup
serves 4
printable recipe below

2 tablespoons butter or ghee
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1” piece of fresh ginger, sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled, halved
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 – 15 ounce can pumpkin purée
1 – 15.8 ounce can Great Northern beans, well drained
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 – 1/3 cup heavy cream, or other options, below

Heat butter in a stock pot over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes; a little browning is okay.

Add the ginger and garlic and sauté gently for about 2 minutes.

Pour in the chicken broth, let boil, then reduce the liquid by about half.

Add the pumpkin and beans and stir well. Add the seasoning and taste. Let cool before adding to the blender.

Now you’ve got curried pumpkin and white beans and you have options.

1. For a less creamy soup, use broth to blend the pumpkin and beans to your desired consistency. Serve with a dollop of yogurt or creme fraiche.

2. Use heavy cream to blend the pumpkin and beans for a super creamy and rich soup, and serve with cilantro and cayenne pepper flakes.

3. Use either of the above liquids, and top your soup with bacon bits or slices of grilled sausage. And the curry powder ingredients are optional, of course.

Because I’m a sucker for rich soups, I opted for number 2, using heavy cream. You can use 1/2 and 1/2, evaporated milk, or even goat milk. They will all work.

Stop blending when the soup is as thin as you want it; I prefer thicker soups, especially during cold months.

If you haven’t used white beans in a soup before, they’re a miracle worker. They thicken, just like potatoes, but they also add a creaminess and healthy fiber, without adding any significant flavor. It would be like adding tofu for creaminess, fiber, and thickness, which also works well.

Once you use white beans for a soup, you’ll be hooked. I promise.

 

 

Pumpkin Mousse

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Someone recently asked me what my favorite dessert is. Without hesitation, I responded chocolate mousse. Not the fluffy, creamy chocolate stuff, but the dark, rich, almost fudge-like chocolate mousse.

I was honestly surprised that I didn’t have to think about it, not being much of a dessert eater. If you’d asked me for my favorite meal, I’d still be thinking of an answer, although a course of foie gras would be part of it…

So after I thought about how much I really do love chocolate mousse, I realized that it’s not on my blog.

But because it is my favorite time of year, and I’m one of those pumpkin “freaks,” I decided to create a pumpkin mousse recipe instead of preparing my traditional chocolate favorite. I wanted it to taste like pumpkin spice, yet still be fluffy, without the use of gelatin.

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Here’s what I did.

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Pumpkin Mousse
Makes about 10 8-ounce servings

3 egg whites
Pinch of salt
1/2 can pumpkin purée
16 ounces marscapone, at room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2-3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon powdered vanilla
Pinch of ground cloves

Beat the egg whites and salt in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until firm peaks form. Set in the refrigerator.

In a larger bowl, beat the pumpkin, marscapone, and sugar until smooth.

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Add the spices and blend. Taste the pumpkin mixture for sweetness and flavor. The strength of cinnamon really varies based on the source, so adjust the flavor according to your personal taste.

Also, pumpkin by itself tastes like, well, squash. So the spices, especially the cinnamon, are quite important!

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Gently but carefully fold in the egg whites into the pumpkin mixture. Try not to over fold, so as not to deflate the egg whites.

When more or less combined, place the pumpkin mousse in individual serving dishes.

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Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight, well covered. Serve either chilled or at room temperature; I prefer room temperature.

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Add a little dollop of whipped cream or marscapone on top, and add some freshly grated nutmeg if desired. A little cookie doesn’t hurt!

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After I made the mousse, I realized I’d forgotten the vanilla powder. If you’ve never used it, I highly recommend it for situations when you want vanilla flavor without the extract liquid.

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Pumpkin Pasta Alfredo

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Pumpkin Pasta Alfredo

I am a sucker for unique pasta shapes. I just can’t help myself. Traditional varieties are also fun, like bucatini and radiatore, but if I come across pumpkin-shaped pasta, like I did recently at Trader Joe’s, I just have to grab it.

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I wasn’t sure how sturdy the little pumpkin pastas would be once cooked, so I didn’t want to make a really heavy sauce. Instead I decided on the recipe that first introduced me to fettuccine al burro, also known as alfredo sauce, from the Italian cookbook of the Time-Life Foods of the World Cookbook. The word burro reminds me of donkeys, so I prefer the term alfredo!

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The recipe is really straight-forward. It’s practically equal parts butter, cream, and Parmesan. Yes, it’s pretty rich. You’re welcome.

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Pumpkin Pasta Alfredo
Adapted from The Cooking of Italy

8 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly and finely grated Parmesan
14 ounces dried pasta, cooked according to the package
Freshly grated Parmesan

Cream the softened butter by beating it vigorously against the sides of a large, heavy bowl with a wooden spoon until it is light and fluffy. Beat in the cream a little at a time, and then, a few tablespoonfuls at a time, beat in the grated cheese.

Cover the bowl and set it aside. It needs to stay at room temperature.

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Cook the pasta, test for bite, then drain in a colander.

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Place the hot pasta in the bowl with the creamed butter and cheese mixture and toss gently until the pasta is evenly coated.

Taste and season generously with salt and pepper; I used a little salt and white pepper.

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You can also add thinly-sliced white truffle, which is included in the original recipe.

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I instead added a few pinches of freshly grated nutmeg.

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Offer extra grated cheese because, you can never have too much cheese!

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Note: I came across pumpkin-shaped pasta at Williams-Sonoma a week or so after I purchased this package at Trader Joe’s. It was almost five times the price!

Pumpkin Pancakes

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Pumpkin is not only for Thanksgiving time, or for just making pumpkin pie. After all, it is a squash. It’s healthy, delicious, and really versatile.

I used to make pumpkin pancakes year-round for my daughters when they were growing up. They loved the pancakes and, unbeknownst to them, the pancakes were terribly healthy.

This is a version of what I made for them:

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Pumpkin Pancakes with Raisins and Walnuts

1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup milk – almond, soy, hemp, whatever you prefer
2 eggs
3/4 cup pumpkin purée
Ground walnuts, optional
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup whole-grain pancake mix
Butter
Maple syrup, or agave syrup

Place the raisins in a small bowl. Pour the milk over them and let them sit for about 15 minutes, or even overnight in the refrigerator. Warm the milk slightly if the raisins are hard.

In a separate larger bowl, add the eggs and pumpkin and whisk until smooth.

Stir in the walnuts, cinnamon, and the raisins with the milk.

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Gradually add the pancake mix, but don’t overstir. You might have to adjust the quantity.

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Place about one tablespoon of butter in a skillet or on a griddle. Heat it up over medium-high heat. I let my butter brown and even burn a little.

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When the butter is ready, make pancakes with the batter, spreading it evenly. Let cook for about a minute, then turn over, turn down the heat a little, and cook them for about 2 minutes. I like the outsides browned, but the insides need to be cooked through.

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When the pancakes have cooked, place them on a plate and continue with the remaining batter.

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Of course I add more butter to the warm pancakes.

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This recipe makes about one dozen pancakes, about 3″ round or so.

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Drizzle with maple syrup.

Enjoy!
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note: Children may not like the walnuts unless they’re more finely chopped. Oats that have been soaked in liquid are another option for added texture and nutrition.

Pumpkin Spatzele

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My goal in the kitchen is not to be super creative and serve fancy food presentations. That’s just not me. I go to restaurants for that enjoyment. I’m just a self-trained home cook.

Spazele with pumpkin might seem like I’m trying to be creative, but my use of pumpkin began innocently enough, many years ago, for two different reasons. 1. I love pumpkin, and although a fall ingredient, can be used year round. 2. I always used canned pumpkin in my cooking as a way to enrich the food I prepared for my family. Sneaking in the pumpkin is perhaps a better term for what I did – sneaking it into stews, soups, chili, spaghetti sauce, meat loaf – you name it.

So my posting of spazele made with pumpkin is not meant to be show-offy or gourmet. It was just a natural thing for me to do because I became adept at sneaking in ingredients. And pumpkin, is fortunately pretty. Kids tend to be a little more suspicious of green ingredients.

I grew up with spazele because although my mother is French, her father was Alsatian. Spazele are German. They’re also spelled spaetzle. And perhaps even more ways than I realize.

I don’t think my mother ever put pumpkin in them, or anything else, because she always made them the traditional way. But they’re seriously fun to play with. You can add fresh herbs, pesto, tomato paste, cheeses, paprika crème, and just about anything that won’t ruin their cooking integrity. Because they all work.

If you’re not familiar with spazele, they’re kind of like gnocchi’s ugly cousin. I could also call them lazy man’s gnocchi. Either way, they’re simply made by adding spoonfuls of batter to boiling water, very similar to American dumplings.

There are spazele makers that turn out grated-looking “worms” of spazele, but I really like the rustic dumpling look. But taste and texture wise? Spazele are just as fabulous as gnocchi. They’re little puffy pillows of goodness. And simply tossed in brown butter? Dynamite.

With the beautiful orange color and that hint of pumpkin, they should be loved by every one of all ages. So here’s my recipe. Enjoy!

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Pumpkin Spazele

2 eggs
1 cup goat’s milk, heavy cream, milk, dairy or non-dairy
1 cup pumpkin purée

1 2/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter
Parmesan
see note below for seasoning options

Place a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and goat’s milk together with the pumpkin purée and salt.

Slowly incorporate the flour into the batter, adding just a little at a time. Whisk to remove any flour lumps, then switch to a spatula. Don’t overstir.

The resulting batter can’t be too thin because it will disintegrate in the boiling water. But you also don’t want too stiff of a batter from too much flour and over whisking because the spazele will be hard and tough. You want a soft, tender spazele.

When the water is boiling, test one spazele if you want to time them. It’s worth doing if you don’t trust yourself, but honestly dumplings like these are very straight forward to cook.

Place a teaspoon of batter into the boiling water. Notice it will fall to the bottom of the pan. After it rises to the surface, scoop it up and place it on a plate.

Cut the spazele in half and study the middle. It should be soft, but not raw or tough.

When you are ready to begin, place uniformly-sized spoonfuls of batter in the water – only about ten or so at a time. Again, they will eventually rise to the surface of the water, at which point I let them cook another 30 seconds.

When the first batch is done, remove them from the water using a spider sieve, and place them in a colander or on a paper towel-lined platter to drain excess water. Then continue with the remaining batter. When cool enough to handle, I also turn over each spazele to drain any water on the top.

When you’re all done, place the spazeles in a serving bowl.

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Brown the butter on the stove.

While still hot, pour over the spazele.

Look at those lovely browned butter bits on the pumpkin spazele.
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If desired, sprinkle with grated Parmesan.

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note: Regarding seasoning, I’ve used a few different ones over the years – Chinese 5 spice, nutmeg, white pepper, and thyme. If you’re serving the spazele as a side dish, season in complement to the protein. Also, I chose goat’s milk for today’s spazele, but cream, or any dairy and non-dairy liquid would work. It’s your choice.

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Pumpkin Polenta

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Over the years I’ve been asked quite frequently about the difference between polenta and grits. But they are the same thing – essentially, cornmeal. Polenta is the Italian name for the dish, and grits are well known in the states as a Southern staple. They are both a savory porridge of sorts, made with ground corn. The only thing that is different is the grind of the cornmeal. There are finer grinds and coarser ones.

The reason I love polenta (and grits) is that I can do wonderful things with it depending on my mood and the season. For example, with fall approaching, I’ve begun stocking up on one of my favorite canned ingredient – pumpkin puree. I add pumpkin to soups, stews, pastas, meat loaves, risottos, and today, polenta. Pumpkin not only complements the cornmeal flavor, but it creates a beautiful orange color as well. It just screams autumn!

When you go to cook your cornmeal as polenta, you need to read the package directions. Because polenta comes in various grinds, the cooking times vary. Just as with purchased pasta, read the directions. Also keep in mind that cornmeal nearly triples in volume when it cooks, so unless you’re cooking for an army, don’t be tempted to use more than 1 cup of polenta, which is perfect for 4-5 servings. Here’s what I did.

This post is also at The Not So Creative Cook today. Jhuls is the author of this blog, and she actually is very creative! She was kind enough to ask me for a guest post, and I chose this dish because of fall approaching, although not fast enough for me. She used the Pumpkin Polenta for Fiesta Friday, which is a weekly post created by Angie over at The Novice Gardener.

Pumpkin Polenta

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 can pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup medium-grind cornmeal

In a large pot, heat the butter and oil over medium-heat until the butter just browns. Add the onion and stir, lower the heat to medium low. Sauté the onion for about 3-4 minutes.

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Add the garlic and cook for just about 30 seconds, then stir in the broth, pumpkin, and salt.

Turn up the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Using a whisk, slowly pour in the cornmeal. Lower the heat and simmer the polenta, whisking occasionally, until all of the liquid is incorporated.

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If it gets too thick, add a little more liquid. This process should only take about 8-10 minutes unless you’re using a coarser cornmeal.

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Serve with grated cheese, if desired, such as Parmesan, or, in my case, Monterey Jack!

If you want your polenta a little more decadent, substitute some heavy cream or even goat’s milk for some of the broth.

Just think of the ways you can make polenta! Add pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, both fresh and dried, ancho chile paste, achiote oil – you name it!

note: Just like oatmeal, polenta will keep thickening with time. If you need to refrigerate any leftover polenta, make it really soupy before you store it. Only then will you have a chance of not discovering a cornmeal frisbee in your frig the next day!

Another White Bean Dip!

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Last year, for the first in my whole life, I started seeing pumpkin hummus recipes all over the place. And it kind of made me mad. Because why hadn’t I thought of this?

I love pumpkin. And I thought I’d made just about everything possible with pumpkin. When my kids were young I was very adept at sneaking pumpkin into so many different kinds of dishes, because to me, it was just another vegetable that would boost the nutritional value of whatever I was “hiding” it in, whether is was soups or stews or pancakes or oatmeal. Sometimes things got a little orange, but kids aren’t as scared of orange as they are green.

But even now, with kids grown and gone, I still use a lot of canned pumpkin, but I never thought about adding it to hummus! Why not?

I’ve presented white bean dips on my blog before, because I honestly prefer them to hummus. I love a good hummus, with the lemon and tahini additions. But with white bean dip, there’s just so much more that you can do. My favorite ways are a spicy version using cumin, coriander, and cayenne, that was actually published in Gourmet magazine, and an herby way I make white bean dip in the summer, using fresh rosemary. Those seem to be the most popular variations for which I get requests from my family. But now I’m going to have to add another to that list. Pumpkin White Bean Dip. Well, actually butternut squash.

Oh, this might not be a popular statement, but I also prefer white beans over garbanzos. They process smoother; they’re never pasty or dry.

What I use for my white bean dips are canned white beans. I typically buy great Northern beans, but you can opt for the more expensive canellini beans just as well. The only rule is that they must be well rinsed and drained before using. And a good olive oil is also a must.

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And for today’s dip, the inclusion butternut squash, first roasted for extra flavor.

So here’s what I did.

White Bean Dip made with Butternut Squash

A chunk of peeled butternut squash, about 10 ounces
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper
1 – 15 ounce can of white beans, rinsed and well-drained

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2 cloves garlic, peeled, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
More olive oil
Pita chips for serving

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.

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Place the butternut squash in some foil. I actually used 4 thick slices from the non-seedy part of the squash. Drizzle with a little olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place the foil packet in the oven for a couple of hours. There should be some caramelization on the squash. I could have roasted it a simply in an open dish, but I didn’t want the squash to dry out. When you’re done it should look about like this.

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Let the squash cool, then place it in the food processor jar. Add the drained beans, garlic, cumin, and salt.

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Process until smooth, adding a little olive oil at a time. White bean dip should be soft and smooth, but not runny. It also shouldn’t be pasty thick. That’s why I always pour in oil slowly. You can’t overprocess the dip; if anything, it will just get smoother. So take your time doing it. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the dip out into a serving bowl.

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It’s a really good dip with pita crisps.

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For a little color, I sprinkled some paprika on the top, but this is completely optional. Enjoy!

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Note: This dip can be doubled or tripled. I always serve white bean dips within a couple hours of making them.

verdict: Like I said above in the post, this will be one of the top favorite requested dips in my house, as soon as everyone has tried it. I think the roasted butternut squash made a significant difference, but I’ll try it once with canned pumpkin or canned sweet potatoes just to see.