Tomato Basil Bisque


Update 1/11: I've edited the recipe below to include the changes I've made over the last year - using nonfat half-and-half and fleshing out the instructions just a little.

Note: the butternut squash can be cooked a day in advance and stored in the refrigerator. Also, this soup definitely tastes best served warm.

*Serves 4-6

1 medium butternut squash (for about 1 1/2 cups cooked squash)

1 tablespoon butter

¼ cup finely diced onion

3 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 can (14.5 ounces) Italian-style stewed tomatoes (or 1 can stewed tomatoes with 1 ½ teaspoons Italian seasoning)

1 cup chicken stock

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar (add more or less to taste)

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 cup nonfat half-and-half

Tapatio or other hot sauce to taste

Prepare the butternut squash by preheating the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the squash in half, lengthwise, so you have two long pieces. Scoop out the seeds and pulp from each half. Place both sides cut-side down in a 9X13-inch pan. Add enough water to come about 1/4-inch up the sides of the squash. Cover with foil and bake for about an hour. Test with a fork to make sure the squash is very tender when pierced with the fork in several places. If the flesh doesn't easily give to the pressure of the fork, continue cooking in ten minute increments, and testing again, until the squash is tender. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the squash to a large cutting board or plate. Let it cool about 15 minutes before scooping out the flesh. If preparing the day before, scoop out the flesh and place in a tupperware. Let cool completely. Cover and refrigerate until using it in the soup. If using the squash immediately, scoop the squash into the blender.

While the squash is cooking, in a medium saucepan, melt the butter and saute the onion until soft and translucent. Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Scoop the onion/garlic mixture into the blender with the squash.

Add the canned tomatoes (undrained) to the blender. Process until the mixture is smooth - if the mixture is too thick to blend well, you can add the chicken broth/stock into the blender to help it along. Pour the blended mixture back into the saucepan and add the chicken broth (if you didn't already add it to the blender), salt, sugar, basil and cream (or half-and-half). Stir to combine well. Heat over medium-low heat until the soup is warm (but don't let it boil or simmer to avoid the cream curdling). Serve immediately and add hot sauce to taste, if desired.