Here’s To A Spicy New Year

Photo: Courtesy of Kosher Camembert

Anticipating Rosh Hashanah this Thursday, we treat you to this write-up from local blogger Kosher Camembert, who shares her recipe for Spicy Butternut Squash Soup.

Shana tova u’metukah.

This traditional Rosh Hashanah greeting wishes the recipient a good and sweet year. The Rosh Hashanah table is adorned with foods symbolizing a long, prosperous, sweet new year. We dip apples in honey, the round apples representing the cycle of a year and the honey representing sweetness. We shape our challah bread into round loaves – again, the cycle of the year.

Some families display, eat and bless an entire cornucopia of symbolic foods. I went to one of these dinners a few years ago. There was a fish head on the table to represent the hope that we are like the head and not the tail. (Some families use a sheep’s head!) We ate pomegranates and carrots and asked that our merits increase like the seeds of the pomegranate and that we be fruitful (the word carrot in Yiddish and German is mohren, which means ‘to increase’). We ate beets and leeks and asked that our enemies be removed and destroyed (another complicated play on words). We ate dates (whose Hebrew name tamar sounds like sheyitamu, ‘that they be consumed’) and asked that our enemies be consumed.

Personally, I was just hoping for a few literal dates. The tall, dark, handsome kind.

Finally, we ate butternut squash, k’ra in Hebrew and related to the word ‘to read,’ asking that the list of our merits be read before God. I didn’t cook for that meal, but I have since developed a twist on the classic sweet butternut squash soup that my sister requests every Rosh Hashanah. With an intense flavor due to roasting the squash twice and a kick from some red pepper flakes, this spicy butternut squash soup represents to me the hope for not just a sweet New Year, but a spicy one.

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

Adapted from Simple to Spectacular by Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Mark Bittman. What I love about the cookbook is that it presents a limited number of dishes, each with five variations ranging in difficulty, as the title suggests. This particular recipe is second in the butternut squash soup repertoire. It calls for roasting the squash twice – once on the stovetop and once in the oven. When pressed for time, I have skipped the stovetop roasting with only a small drop in the richness of squash flavor. And don’t forget to roast the seeds — they taste a little bit like popcorn.


2 T extra virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves minced garlic
2 medium or 3 small butternut squash (original recipe calls for 2 lbs. of squash, but I never pay attention to weight)
1/2 – 1 t red pepper flakes (to taste)
1 t thyme
4 C broth (vegetable, chicken, etc.)
Parmesan (optional)
salt and pepper


  • Preheat oven to 450°F.
  • Prepare the squash. Peel, seed and cut the squash into 1-inch chunks. I would really encourage you to wash the seeds off and roast them.
  • Pan-roast. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in large skillet that will fit at least 6 C of liquid — I have often done this directly in a large ovenproof pot. Add garlic, squash, red pepper flakes, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook the squash, stirring every few minutes until squash starts to brown. This takes 10-15 minutes.
  • Oven-roast. Put the skillet in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes, checking and shaking 2-3 times.
  • Back to the stove-top. Take the skillet out and put it back on the stove-top over medium heat. Add the stock. Cook another 15-20 minutes until the squash is very tender. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup. If it is too thick, add some water.
  • Serve with some grated Parmesan or roasted squash seeds.

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