Friday, November 4, 2016

Spinach Soup in Carnival Squash


Even though our daughter is long gone from the house, my husband and I still carve pumpkins to invite in all the children from the neighborhood (and beyond) on Halloween, and we hand out plenty of candy. But we’re usually slow to select and carve our pumpkins—and this year we didn’t get to it until last weekend. Off we went to our local farm stand--and then I went crazy.

I couldn't help myself!

Choosing which pumpkins to carve was easy: we prefer the traditional shape but we’ve gone over to warty ones because they’re interesting. But then at the pumpkin stand I spied a batch of crazy gourds. I picked one up and said, “It’s a swan!” And I had this immediate image of a nest of wacky multi-colored swans sitting together, so I had to buy a basket for the nest and scavenge some straw for it.

But I didn’t stop there. I stumbled upon a selection of squashes. Confession: my mother used to make acorn squash, by cutting them in half and, after removing the seeds, filling the cavity with butter and brown sugar. But despite that I hated the things—I think it was the pasty stringy texture.

But! There were some lovely striped squashes called Carnival. I looked at them and didn’t see dinner—I saw a soup bowl with dark green soup in it. Maybe with some white accents—cheese? Sour cream? So I brought home two squashes.

Then I went looking for a green soup recipe. Spinach is the obvious choice (sorrel a close second, but I couldn’t find any), and fresh spinach is easy to come by, but after that I couldn’t find just the right combination of ingredients in any available recipe. So I improvised, borrowing from at least four different recipes, old and current.

Spinach Soup in a Carnival Squash


3 Tblsp butter
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 leek, sliced (white part only)
4 cups stock (vegetable or chicken) or, if you want a creamier soup, a combination of stock and milk or cream
1 lb fresh spinach (I know it looks like a lot, but it will cook down)
1/2 cup crème fraiche or sour cream (you can mix it in or add it at the end as garnish)
Salt and pepper to taste


In a large deep pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the green onions and the leek. Stir the vegetables in the butter, then cover and let them “sweat” for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally. (Do not let the vegetables brown.)

Pour in the liquid and simmer for a few minutes.

Buy baby spinach leaves if you can. Rinse them and dry them (a salad spinner is a good choice!). If they are large, remove the tough stems. Chop roughly.

Add the spinach to the liquid and cook over low heat until the leaves are wilted. Use a food processor or an immersion blender to puree the soup.

Stir in the crème fraiche or sour cream (or save it for garnish). Taste for seasoning. Heat through and serve (in those wonderful squashes, with the top sliced off and the seeds removed) with a tangy bread such as cheese biscuits.

Various sources suggested possible additions: a dash of cayenne, minced garlic, onion rather than green onion. If you want to make it heartier, cook a peeled potato along with the other vegetables until it is soft, and add chopped ham at the end. It’s a quick, simple basic recipe, so you can experiment!

Halloween may have come and gone, but the spirits are still with us! Here's the fifth book in the Relatively Dead series, Search for the Dead, which came out last week.

Find it at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


  1. I love your swans! I recognized them immediately.

    The soup looks very pretty in the squash bowl.
    But what happens to the squash afterwards?

    1. Well...I love to look at them, but. And I don't know if you can eat the swans. I did see an article in the Boston Globe saying that there are local pig farms that would love the have your discarded pumpkins and squash. They roll them around for a while before they eat them--talk about playing with your food!

    2. Actually I was thinking about the soup squash.

  2. They DO look like swans! What fun. You're so daring. I never know what to do with all those interesting varieties of squash.

  3. I know. They're hard like rock, and I'm at a loss about how anyone could cook them. Or even hollow them out and use them as bird feeders? Maybe I'll offer one to my squirrels and see if they have any ideas.