Garnishes are an exciting way to dress up a simple soup, and if ever there was a time for soup, Sukkot is it. Who doesn't crave a warm bowl of soup on chilly Sukkot evenings? This is the most basic butternut squash soup—just onion, butternut, water and salt (recipe below)—but the garnishes provide flavor and texture in every bite.

Here I've used popped quinoa, puffed rice, sautéed pastrami, fried garlic and fried parsley leaves.

You can use assorted nuts and seeds to change it up. Most seeds pop/puff up so you can experiment with that. Crispy fried shallots, ginger, or shitake mushrooms are also delicious. And things like toasted sunflower seeds, pine nuts, and pepitas work too.

Here are the techniques I've used:

popped quinoa

Rinse the quinoa 2-3 times. Drain. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat and add the quinoa. Mix gently with a wooden spoon, shaking the pan occasionally (as you would with popcorn). First the quinoa will dry off. Then it will start to jump and pop, (much like popcorn). As the quinoa pops it will begin to smell fragrant and toasty, and will darken in color. Stand over the pan, moving the quinoa around the pan with the wooden spoon, to ensure it doesn't burn. When most of the quinoa is golden in color, transfer to a cold bowl.

puffed rice

Heat ¼ cup oil in a shallow frying pan. When the oil is hot, toss in some raw rice. The rice will puff quickly. Use a small mesh strainer to scoop out the puffed rice. Repeat in small batches.

fried parsley

Drop parsley leaves into hot oil for a couple of seconds. Parsley will become crisp. I wouldn't bother heating oil just for this, but if you're making the puffed rice or sautéing anything else, drop some parsley in while you're at it.

sautéed pastrami

Dice pastrami and sauté briefly. Too long and it will become leathery. You could also do it in thin strips for a different look and texture.

fried garlic

Fry thin slices of garlic in hot oil very briefly—don't take your eyes off it or it will burn. Remove as soon as garlic turns golden. The darker it gets, the more bitter it will become. Sprinkle with salt.

Basic Butternut Soup

  • 1 onion
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 2 tbsp. oil
  • salt
  1. Cut the onion into half rounds. Sauté in oil.
  2. Add the cubed butternut squash to the pot. Add water so that about ⅔ of the butternut is covered.
  3. Cover and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and cook until butternut squash is soft. Blend and salt to taste.

Note: here is my other Butternut Squash Soup recipe if you prefer something with more complexity of flavor.