We have a fantastic grocery store here called Woodman’s. It’s Wisconsin-based and employee owned. There are 3 locations in Illinois, and luckily for us, my husband works really close to one of them. Woodman’s is huge. Huge! If you like to grocery shop, you could spend hours in there. But because of their massive inventory, they have to watch their expiration dates closely.
Woodman’s is one of my favorite places. Besides the vast selection of products, one of the best things about it is the clearance sections. They sell many close-dated items at half-price– dry goods, meats, dairy, seasonal. You never know what you’ll find, which is a budding chef’s dream. 5 pound bag of overripe avocados for 99 cents? Yes, please! 3 pound slab of ribs for $8? Break out the smoker! Giant bag of jalapeno peppers for 99 cents? Roast those and throw a couple of tablespoons in every soup you make! Brown grocery bag full of fresh corn or bananas (sometimes underripe) for 99 cents? I’ll figure something out! You get the picture. More on Woodman’s in a minute.
A couple of weeks ago, we received a gigantic (4 pound!) butternut squash in our CSA box. I made a delicious soup with it, and at the last minute threw in a handful of baby carrots to brighten up the color. It was perfect timing for soup, as we had our first taste of blustery Fall weather at the same time.
Last week my husband came home with 6 pounds of clearance carrots. He’s always a little sheepish when he shows me the clearance treasures, but neither of us can resist a bargain, and we hate seeing food go to waste. Clearance produce isn’t always pristine– you might have a moldy strawberry or raspberry in your haul, but for the most part, it’s still in good condition. I pulled out and tossed a few questionable carrots from the first 2 pound bag and set to work, using that recent squash soup as my guide. Here’s what I came up with:
Carrot Squash Soup
yield – about 4 quarts
1 tbs olive or avocado oil
approximately 2 pounds carrots, cut into 1 inch chunks
one large onion, chopped
1 to 2 tbs minced fresh garlic
2 lbs winter squash, roasted/seeds removed (I used Hubbard Squash)
32 oz chicken or vegetable stock
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/3 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
To roast squash: Cut each squash in half and place on foil or parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 425 until squash is fork tender, about 30 minutes. Set aside. Once cool enough to handle, scrape the flesh from the skins, discarding the seeds.
In dutch oven or stock pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and carrots and saute until onion is translucent and carrots begin to soften, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and thyme and saute for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add stock, salt, pepper, and squash flesh. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until carrots are tender, 15-20 minutes.
If you have an immersible blender, puree the soup right in the pot. If not, transfer the soup to a blender and puree in batches (make sure to remove the center of the blender cap to allow the steam to escape–cover it with a towel to keep splashes inside!). Return to the pot and stir in the cream or half-and-half. Add more salt and pepper to taste.