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Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion (1/4-inch dice)
1/4 cup diced celery (1/4-inch dice)
1/4 cup diced carrot (1/4-inch dice)
1 cinnamon stick
Gray salt and freshly ground pepper
About 4 cups Chicken Stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon ground toasted coriander (optional)
1-1/2 cups Roasted Winter Squash
1/2 cup half-and-half (optional)
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese (optional)
2 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add the onion, celery, carrot, and cinnamon stick and sauté until soft but not brown, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the chicken stock and the coriander, if using, and bring to a boil. Simmer for several minutes. Stir in the squash until smooth, then simmer gently to let the flavors meld, about 10 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick.

Puree the soup in a blender until smooth. (The soup can be made ahead to this point, cooled, covered, and refrigerated for several days or frozen for about 1 month. It will thicken as it cools and may need thinning with stock or water when reheating.)

Return the soup to the pan and reheat gently. Add the half-and-half, if using. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Ladle into a warm tureen, a ceramic bowl or 4 soup plates. If desired, garnish with a spoonful of mascarpone and/or a scattering of pumpkin seeds.

Makes about 4-1/2 cups, serves 4.

from the kitchen of Steph