Butternut Squash Soup (Soupe a la Courge), or Why I Miss Switzerland

When I was a junior in college (it wasn’t that long ago…just two years…), I spent my fall semester studying and working in Geneva.  I hopped on a plane with 22 other students at JFK airport, and I landed here, in Paris:

I immediately bought some of these:

After a few days in Paris, we took train. (The program director didn’t like to use articles when he spoke English, little important words like “a” or “the”.)

When we got off the train, we were in a little town outside of Geneva called Nyon.

Nice looking, no?  In Nyon, I met my host mom – Renate – a.k.a. my Swiss mommy:

She took me to my new home, at 52 Chemin du Wellingtonia in a town called Mont-sur-Rolle (it’s the blue-green one).

For the next 2 months I went to classes in Nyon and places like this – the UN – in Geneva:

That chair means no more land mines! And welcome to the UN.

I traveled around and ended up here:

Neuschwanstein castle in southern Germany

Neuschwanstein castle in southern Germany


And here:

St. Peter's Basilica in Rome

And here:

Sagrada Familia in Barcelona


I spent my time in Switz hiking,

Zermatt - the Matterhorn!

and being surrounded by vineyards.

I also watched a lot of German TV, even though I speak French, because Renate spoke German AND French.

For the last month, I worked my butt off at this place:

That’s the World Health Organization = Organisation mondiale de la Santé.  I wrote a big paper and pretended to save the world.

There is good food in Switz.  There is cheese.  And chocolate.  And fresh fish from le Lac Léman.  And then there is Soupe à la Courge.  This is what Renate would make when it was especially dreary outside.  This is the food I remember most from my time in Mont-sur-Rolle.  Renate tried to tell me that Soupe à la Courge was pumpkin soup.  This was a mis-translation.  It was really butternut squash soup (I helped her cut up those squash).  It is perfect.  It is simple.  It tastes like home, even though my home is no longer at 52 Chemin du Wellingtonia, and was only my home for a few months.

When I left Switz, I asked Renate for two things.  One, a jar of her honey, which came from her very own bees.  (In case you haven’t picked up on this yet, my Swiss mommy was more than a little awesome.)  And two, her recipe for this soup(e).  I translated it and decided to share it with the world because my jam-making, golf-playing, French-and-German-speaking Swiss mommy would want everyone to have some!  I have always made it with butternut squash, and this time I made it with sweet potatoes, and I stirred in a little chopped spinach at the end.  It is still perfect, and it still tastes like home.

Soupe à la Courge = Perfect Butternut Squash Soup

Makes 4ish servings

2 TBS olive oil
1 pound butternut squash, cut into cubes, or 2 medium-large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced or finely chopped
1 medium russet potato, peeled and cut into cubes (same size as the squash or sweet potato)
2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
2 tsp curry powder
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup coconut milk (I use nonfat)
salt and pepper to taste
(To make it extra special, save the squash seeds and rinse them off.  Pat dry and toast until fragrant, about 7 minutes.  Serve these with the soup.)

1.  In a large, heavy saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Saute onion until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and saute until fragrant, 1 minute.  Add squash or sweet potato, russet potato, ginger, and curry powder.  Cook together about 7 minutes.  Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to medium and cook together about 20 minutes, until potatoes and/or squash are fork tender.

2.  Using a blender or food processor, puree soup in batches until smooth.  Return soup to pot.  (Alternatively, you could just use a handheld immersion blender.)  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Stir in coconut milk and warm soup over low heat, if necessary.  Serve with toasted squash seeds if desired.  Soup will keep in an airtight container, refrigerated, for 2 days.

Recipe adapted from Renate Schwegler, my Swiss mommy extraordinaire

This stuff is best eaten with crusty bread you just bought from your local boulangerie while looking out over your small bright green vegetable garden, which in turn looks out over Lake Geneva.

Sigh.  If that’s not possible, you can settle for your kitchen table, like I’m about to do right now.  I miss Switz.



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