Butternut Squash Soup: Ready for Its Closeup

Recipe Butternut Squash Soup

I recently had the pleasure of conducting my first food photography class for the students of the FoodBank of Monmouth & Ocean Counties‘s culinary school. This semester’s class is being held in the new B.E.A.T. Center in Toms River. (B.E.A.T. stands for Bringing Everyone All Together.) The facility is home to JBJ Soul Foundation Soul Kitchen Community Restaurant, the Peoples Pantry which serves more than 4,000 Ocean County families per month, five days per week, a large warehouse for food distribution to Ocean County’s food pantries, and the production kitchen that prepares meals for at-risk children and the elderly. In addition to all of that, they also offer client services which include NJ SNAP (formerly Food Stamps), free tax preparation and affordable healthcare counseling. The place is truly amazing.

Our class took place in the big production kitchen. I’m a self-taught photographer and I’m still learning every day, but I knew I could give the students some practical tips on taking attractive photos of their beautiful creations. And, in this day of social media photo sharing, I think it’s an important skill for each of these new chefs to have in their toolbox.

Foodbanks Culinary Class

After our class, I spent an entire Saturday in my kitchen trying out different table settings, bowls, backgrounds and lighting. See below for another soup shot. I hope my students can get some more ideas from this and experiment on their own photos. And I hope you enjoy this recipe for the butternut squash soup we shot that day!

Butternut squash recipe

Butternut Squash Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion medium diced
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
3 lbs. cubed butternut squash (about 5 cups)
1½ teaspoons garam masala
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups of heavy cream
1 tsp salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
Optional: fried sage leaves, croutons, or roasted pumpkin seeds, for garnish.

1. In a large soup pot over medium heat add olive oil and butter. When butter is foamy, add the onion, salt, pepper and sweat until translucent, 5 minutes. Add the apple and garam masala and cook for 3 minutes. Add butternut squash and stock. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until squash is fork tender, about 20 minutes.

2. Using a blender, puree soup in batches until smooth. Return soup to pot, add cream. Warm gently. Season as needed.

3. Garnish with fried sage leaves, croutons or roasted pumpkin seeds.

My kitchen studio
Photography note: Place a table by a well-lit window. Sheer curtain for diffusing the light and reducing shadows. White foam boards, cut in half then taped for reflecting the light. Use foil for stronger reflection. Play with angles, background props and lighting.