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Signature dish: butternut squash soup

Kathleen Kurpe of St. Petersburg has been making her butternut squash soup for years. One of her tips: Use a meat cleaver to dismantle the squash.


Kathleen Kurpe of St. Petersburg has been making her butternut squash soup for years. One of her tips: Use a meat cleaver to dismantle the squash.

Who: Kathleen Kurpe of St. Petersburg, 60, homeschooling mother with six children and two grandchildren.

What: Butternut Squash Soup

About the recipe: "When fall comes, it's a chance to bake and make (my) soup," Kurpe says.

Always "on the prowl" for new soup recipes, she experimented with different recipes until she created one of her favorites, butternut squash soup. She has been making it for years.

"Most people aren't in the habit of eating fresh cream soup," she says. But fresh is where the flavor is, she insists.

Although she makes the soup year-round, it's especially good for the beginning of autumn, when its color matches the definition of the season.

Born and raised in Ohio, Kurpe still misses the Northern fall color. As a college student, she rode her yellow bike everywhere, its red wheels spinning across crunchy fall leaves. She could smell bonfires and see the "plethora of color" in the trees – red, orange and yellow. To Kurpe, fall is "life on steroids."

When she moved to Florida in the 1970s, she planted sycamore trees in her yard so she could still watch the leaves fall when the weather changed. "We love it and play in our leaves and pretend we don't live here," she says.

As soon as the temperatures drop, the Kurpes eat dinner on their deck outside. "We get to touch base," Kurpe says. "And I get to unwind in the kitchen.

"(Cooking) is one of the ways I love people."

Can't cook without: She likes to turn on one of her favorite musicians, like Sara Groves, when she starts experimenting with food. "I love the creativity of being in (the kitchen), of figuring things out and trying new recipes," she says. "I get to (make) whatever I want. And my family's very agreeable. My husband's an . . . adventuresome eater."

ON THE SIDE: Kurpe likes to serve the soup with a simple salad of romaine and iceberg lettuce, Vidalia onions and red peppers, with an oil-and-vinegar dressing. A little lemon juice adds zest.

Tips: Rather than taking the time to peel the squash, she says it's easier to dismantle it with a meat cleaver. "A meat cleaver gives me a little power trip," she jokes. Once the squash is open, a grapefruit spoon works best for scooping out the seeds.

Emily Young, special to the Times

Signature Dish is published periodically in Taste. If you have a recipe that you would like featured or would like to nominate other home cooks and their dishes, please e-mail the information to with a name and daytime phone number. Include SIGNATURE DISH in the subject line. Nominations can be mailed to Taste, St. Petersburg Times, 490 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.


Butternut Squash Soup

1 large butternut squash, about 2 ½ pounds

½ cup Vidalia onion, diced

2 tablespoons butter

1 can chicken broth, or 2 cups homemade

½ teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch of salt

¼ teaspoon white pepper


Cut the butternut squash in half by separating the bulbous part from its neck with a sharp knife or meat cleaver. Cut each piece of the squash in half again. Remove the seeds. Place the squash flesh-side down on paper towels in the microwave and cook on high for 10 minutes, or wrap in foil and bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

In a saute pan, heat butter and saute onion until softened. Then add spices and stir. Remove from heat.

Scoop the flesh of the squash from the skin. In a food processor or blender, add squash, onion mixture and broth. Puree until smooth.

Return the soup to the pan to heat.

As you ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with a swirl of cream.

Serves 4.

Source: Kathleen Kurpe, St. Petersburg

Signature dish: butternut squash soup 10/18/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 18, 2011 4:30am]
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