Friday, September 21, 2012

Happy almost Equinox! Spiced Squash Harvest Soup

Tomorrow it will finally be fall for real! I'm posting this recipe a day early in case you want to make it part of your celebration.  It's a sweet and savory spiced soup with butternut squash, carnival squash, acorn squash, Macintosh apples, yellow onions, fennel and apple cider. Yummm.

I've been making a variation of this recipe for the past couple years, just throwing things together.  I found a similar recipe on the Whole Foods website and drew some inspiration from that, including a crème fraîche apple cider cinnamon topping.  Hungry yet?

  • Apple Cream:
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche
  • 1/4 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Squash Soup:
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion, chopped
  • 2 small Macintosh apples, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (I used a cube of frozen ginger instead)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 4 cups squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 cup chopped fennel
  • 3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1-1/4 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (I used 1% but I'm sure it would be delicious with whole milk!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
I made a couple alterations to the original recipe - I used three kinds of squash because I like variety.  I ended up with way more squash than I needed, so I packed it up in the fridge to use later.  The spice amounts above are doubled from the original recipe (and if I made it again, I might even use more!)  I added chopped apples and prepared them separately with the onions.  And when I tasted it, I didn't think it needed any salt - but it's all personal taste!
I couldn't find any crème fraîche, so I tried making some with 1 cup heavy cream and 2 tbsp buttermilk (I used half for the recipe and put half away) and letting it sit out, covered at room temperature.  
The recommended time to do this is 8-24 hours, I let mine sit for about 12.  Next time I will let it sit for the full 24 to thicken up, because it became very thin when the apple cider was added to make the apple cream.  Still tasty!
First, make the apple cream: combine crème fraîche, apple cider and cinnamon in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate to allow the flavors to combine.

For the soup, melt the butter in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. 

Here's where I departed from the original recipe.  I don't like creamy foods that are all one texture.  I like my mashed potatoes skin-on and chunky, my pudding full of rice, my oatmeal and yogurt full of pieces of fruit.  Tomato soup is only acceptable as a condiment for dipping grilled cheese or loaded with crackers.  So because this soup is going to be pureed, I saved the onions and apples for after the blender, and just added the butter, spices, and moved on to the squash.  If you like it smooth and creamy, proceed as directed: 

Add onions and apples and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, about 6 minutes. Stir in cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, ginger and cardamom. Cook until fragrant, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Stir in butternut squash, fennel, chicken stock and apple cider. Cover, reduce heat to medium and cook until the butternut squash is tender, about 15 minutes. Take from heat and let cool.

Blend the soup in small batches until a smooth purée is obtained. Return to pot and stir in milk and salt. Bring soup to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more spice if desired. 

If you saved the onions and apples, heat a tablespoon or so of butter in a pan and add the onions first, along with a sprinkling of the spices used in the soup.  Cook thoroughly, until they get soft.  Add apples when it looks like the onions will be done in 2-3 minutes and thoroughly stir them in.  You want to make sure all the raw flavor is cooked out of the onions and they're not still chewy, but you don't want the apples to cook too long so they'll still have a little crunch.  When finished, add to the pureed soup.

Serve soup with a generous drizzle of apple cream.

My good friend Kitt, aka Hippy Druid Chick, told me yesterday about a similar recipe she made as a sautee rather than a soup (here's the witch's brew method description!)

Throw some oil in a pan, slice squash and onions and cube an apple.  Put apples and onion in and cook until onions are clear, then add squash and generous splashes of apple cider vinegar. Add cloves and nutmeg, cook until squash is tender.

I think I know what I'm doing with my leftover squash!

What's going to be on your table for the first day of fall?

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