The solstice is behind us, and sun is slowly returning to the land, but if you live in a northern climate chances are you’re still shoveling snow and huddling by the fire to keep warm during this dark time of year.
Jessica Prentice’s cookbook Full Moon Feast shares traditions from each “moon” of the year, along with seasonal recipes. The excerpt and recipe below are for the deep midwinter, or Wolf Moon.
The Wolf Moon comes in the deep dark of winter, when the North is covered with snow. At this time of year our northern ancestors would have taken refuge in their homes, staying close to the fire as the winds and the wolves howled outside. Families lived off the food they had put up in the fall, often supplemented by hunting for wild game. It was these rations that kept the wolf from the door.
The wolf as a metaphor for hunger, appetite, or famine dates back to at least the fifteenth century. Over the past sixty years we have steadily driven the metaphorical wolf from our door, and we have also steadily driven the actual wolf from the land. We have also, perhaps, driven the wildness of the wolf from our hearts. These developments are not unrelated. By the mid-1970s wolves, once the most populous large mammals in North America, had become an endangered species. The development throughout the American West of large tracts of rangeland for cattle and sheep, and the widespread practice on the part of ranchers of shooting predators on sight, contributed to the wolf ’s demise. Agricultural and urban development also steadily eroded the large, uninterrupted areas of wilderness where wolves thrived.
Cream of Butternut Squash Soup
This is one of my favorite cold-weather standards. The primary recipe is for an herby, European-style squash soup. Then I offer an Asian-style variation.
- 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
- 2–3 leeks, sliced into rounds
- 1 fresh seasonal butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
- Chicken stock or filtered water to cover
- 1 bouquet garni (page 309)
- ½ cup cream, crème fraîche, or yogurt; or 1 cup buttermilk or half-and-half
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Crème fraîche or yogurt, for garnish
- Finely minced rosemary, thyme, sage, or parsley leaves (or a combination of
- these herbs); or a grating of nutmeg; or a grind of black pepper, for garnish
- Heat the butter or oil in a medium-sized soup pot. Add the leeks and sauté until soft.
- Add the butternut squash, then add stock or filtered water to cover the vegetables by about ½ inch. Add the bouquet garni and bring the pot to a boil.
- Reduce the heat and simmer until the squash is soft.
- Turn off the heat and remove the bouquet garni.
- Puree the soup with an immersion blender (or in a standard blender), adding the yogurt or other dairy, and plenty of salt and pepper as you blend. Taste the soup and adjust the seasonings—adding more salt and pepper if it’s too bland.
- Serve in a shallow bowl with a dollop of crème fraîche (or yogurt) and a sprinkling of herbs, nutmeg, or pepper.
Note: This simple recipe shows off the flavor of a good in-season squash, but might be unimpressive if made with an older, less-flavorful squash—in which case you might want to roast the squash first to bring out the sweetness.
Variation: Butternut Soup with Coconut Milk and Ginger
- Replace the butter or olive oil with ghee, if you have it.
- Replace the bouquet garni with 3 to 4 slices fresh gingerroot.
- Add a tablespoon or so of fish sauce to the soup while it’s cooking (reduce the salt).
- Replace the yogurt (or other dairy) in the puree with coconut milk (you can use a whole 13.5-oz can).
- Garnish with a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkling of minced scallions.