Thursday, October 2, 2014

A Fall Soup with Butternut Squash and Apples

Nothing quite says "Fall" like seeing literally hundreds of squash, pumpkins and gourds at the Farmers' Market. There seem to be more and more varieties, most of which I have never even tried. Just like with all the heirloom tomatoes this year, there were lots of heirloom squash on display. There were French varieties I heard someone describing. Every color under the rainbow it seems, from pale tan to bright yellow, green, orange and aqua. Too pretty. I just wish I could have gotten one of each.
Squash of all sorts at the Farmers' Market in Aberdeen SD

I asked one person about Delicata squash. I have been seeing them around, but have never tried them. I want to. Last year I bought a Hubbard and a Kabocha to try. They were very good. During the short summer we had, I tried Pattypan squash for the first time this year. I wish my husband was a squash eater, but sadly he is not. Unless I cut it up small in a vegetable soup, he won't eat them. So, any squash I buy is mine alone. 

A few years back, our first year up here, I bought a Jarradale squash; one of the aqua or green blue colored varieties. I baked it whole, just only punching tiny vent holes around the stem. Once baked and cut into, it had the most vibrant yellow orange flesh inside, so striking against that bluish exterior. It was smooth inside; no strings. It pureed into the smoothest mixture for "pumpkin pie" I ever used. Just seeing all these varieties makes my heart sing at the beauty and bounty and just pure gladness that people are planting all these things. 

Ultimately, today the only squash I bought was a butternut. Same old, same old, but they are unfailingly good, and the meat makes a wonderfully smooth soup when pureed, which was what I planned for dinner. I have made various squash soups in past, though it has certainly been quite a while since I made this kind. I have been working on my website and blog for 2 years now, and have yet to have a butternut squash soup in either site. I was surprised. I decided to remedy that situation right away, and since today was Farmers' Market day here, I went with that in mind. There won't be many Farmers' Market days left here. The weather is dipping chillier and chillier. We will be in the 30s at night in the next couple of days or so. 

For this soup, either an onion or leeks will work just fine. Onion has a stronger flavor, where leeks are mild. Leeks need to have more attention given, as they can gather mud and grit in between the leaves, so if using leeks, slice off the root ends and the tough darker green tops. Slice down the length of the white and light green parts and fan then under running water before proceeding to slice them into 1/2-inch pieces. For the apples, a combination of sweeter and tart apples will make the best flavors, such as a combination of Pink Lady and Granny Smith. Meanwhile, here is the recipe for my Butternut Squash and Apple Soup:

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

makes about 5 - 7 servings

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped or 4 leeks, cleaned and sliced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, sliced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 cups water or low/no-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
4 cups (1 1/2 lbs) peeled, cubed butternut squash
4 apples, peeled, cored, in chunks
1 bay leaf
1 - 2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon sugar, optional (it rounds out the taste)
1 - 2 teaspoons salt, as needed
1/2 cup heavy cream, optional

If using leeks instead of onion, make sure to clean them well, as noted above. Heat a large soup pot over medium to medium-low heat and add int he butter. When the butter melts, add the onions or leeks, celery and garlic. Cook slowly, stirring often until the vegetables are softened and translucent. Add int he tomato paste and stir well, then add in the water or stock with the squash and apples, bay leaf and thyme sprig(s). If using water, add in 1 or more teaspoons of salt. If using stock, the amount of salt will depend on the saltiness of the stock. Best to wait until the vegetables are cooked and you can taste the results before adding salt. Cover the pot, bring to a simmer and cook for about 25 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Puree the soup in two batches. Off the heat, add in the heavy cream if using.

MAKE AHEAD NOTE: This soup can be made up to the point of adding the cream and kept refrigerated for up to 3 days. When ready to serve, bring the soup slowly to a simmer, then off the heat, add in the cream to serve. 

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.