As the days get shorter, I’m spending as much time as possible outside with the kids soaking up the warm sun, cool air and golden leaves. With the urge to enjoy these last hints of summer to the fullest comes a need for easy meals that stretch throughout the week. This simple soup delivers and then some.

Tis the season of pumpkin and all kinds of squash, so while I use butternut squash here, you could easily substitute any other hard variety of squash or pumpkin. You could add other spices like turmeric, ginger or coriander. Here I drizzled some of the chile oil I wrote about a few weeks ago, but the topping possibilities are almost endless: a dollop of plain Greek yogurt, sprouts, caramelized onions, some crunchy garlic croutons, a drizzle of aged vinegar, etc. For an easy lunch or dinner, you could sip this out of a mug. Or you could pair it with salad, chicken, fish, grilled cheese, fresh apples slices, sharp cheddar cheese or a slice of fresh bread.

I’ve been noticing that when I have a particularly hard week with work or school or just life, it can be easy for everything else to feel hard, too. Even as a professionally trained chef, with everything going on and endless to-do lists, sometimes cooking can tinker toward the “chore” category. This soup is a reminder that simple, nourishing foods are not only a gift for our weary body and minds, they can also be delightful.

Butternut Squash Soup

Makes: 6-8 servings; total time: around 1½ hours

For the soup:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1-3 sweet onions, depending on size, diced

2 garlic cloves

1 apple

3 stalks of celery

2 carrots

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, around 5 cups diced

2 teaspoons mild-medium chile powder

6 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 can coconut milk

Salt to taste

For the sage leaves:

4 tablespoon butter

1 bunch of sage leaves, picked from stem

Make the soup: In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, add the olive oil. After a minute, add the onions, garlic, apple, celery, carrots, squash and chile powder. Cover with broth and coconut milk. Bring to a simmer and cook over low heat for around an hour or until the squash is tender when pierced with a knife. Turn off heat and very carefully, blend until smooth with a blender or immersion blender.

Make the crispy sage leaves: In a saucepan over medium-heat, cook the butter until it’s melted and bubbling. Add the sage leaves and cook until fragrant and the butter starts to brown, around 30 seconds. Remove the leaves with a slotted spoon onto a paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Garnish each soup bowl with a few sage leaves. Enjoy!

Marianne Sundquist is a chef, food business consultant and shares recipes for home cooks on Instagram @chefmariannesundquist. She owns the catering business Daya, which has shifted for the time being into an online general store, sourcing and delivering pantry staples to area residents. Visit dayasantafe.square.site and email her at marianne@dayasantafe.com.

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