I decorate my home with food, not flowers — a bowl of peaches or tomatoes to grab from in the summer, jaunty new herbs like mint in the spring, and a fetching squash of some type to plunk on the coffee table in fall and winter. A great pile of apples often paints the scene, from mid-September to about May. If you’re like me, you’ve probably found yourself equipped with a good squash and clutch of apples from a recent food (or decor) shopping trip. Hear me out — let’s consider the pointsettia: a beautiful, welcoming, seasonal home accent for this time of year. However, you will DIE should you decide to eat it at some point. Then, a lovely winter squash and apples: when done looking at them, you will delight even more senses by roasting and pureeing them in a soup.
I am a sensible person, no?
Anyhoo, whether these plants are purchased for the kitchen or somewhere more display-worthy, winter squash and apples make for one sweet, soulful and hearty soup. We’ve made plenty of butternut and other squash soups here before: with curry, with cream, with honey, with miso, with chorizo, with practically nothing else. But the touch of apples, in sync with the season, made for a simple twist that was luscious and new.
I grabbed a firm, oblong butternut squash from Maxwell’s Farm stand at the Greenmarket some two weeks ago. It never made it onto the Thanksgiving table, but held up perfectly fine, as winter squashes are wont to do when fresh in the fall. A little grab bag of Red Jacket Orchards’ fuji apples from a bodega has helped daily snack cravings for a week or so, too, and a couple of the more bruised ones from the bottom were used to roast with the squash for this soup.
I decided to roast the two ingredients together, and saved the combined juices and caramelized crust that pooled onto the roasting pan. However, they were cooked in quite different ways: the squash was placed cut side-down on the pan so that the flesh mostly steams inside its hardy peel. The apples were peeled and chopped, exposing its much less dense flesh, and they dried out to more concentrated nuggets, which were later reconstituted in a pot. Warm water and a little scraping salvaged the roasty flavors that stuck to the bottom of the pan. Then once the squash was cooled and scooped away from its peel, everything was combined.
Try to procure (or simmer down) a very good, flavorful chicken stock to add that savory note that helps balance the sweet. You can also use a vegetable stock, but make sure it has a good depth of flavor — you could even reduce it to strengthen this first on your stovetop. I used a pint of chicken stock that was deep tan-colored, made with quite a hefty load of ingredients sometime in the summer and frozen as such. If you’ve kept your Thanksgiving turkey carcass or have already made a turkey stock with it, this is one great way to use that, too (you probably won’t detect it’s turkey after it’s blended in).
This soup is best enjoyed pureed, as little chunks of apples and squash pulp don’t sound like good textural complements to me. A stick or immersion blender works great for this task, and takes all of a couple minutes, without any transferring from the pot. A pat of butter and simple seasonings of salt and pepper, and this soup is finished. I sprinkled my bowl with some thyme leaves, which was also steeped into the soup pre-blending, along with some rosemary as a bouquet garni. (Rosemary and thyme are great winter decorations, too.) Finally, I drizzled on an interesting oil from the cupboard: butternut squash seed oil, which is made with butternut squash seeds from farms in the Finger Lakes, by Stony Brook WholeHearted Foods. I think I’ve written about this in another post, but it’s truly a wonderfully distinct finishing oil. I’ve had the same bottle for more than a year now, and its flavor is still very strong. Noting the hardiness of the winter squashes themselves, I’m not terribly surprised.
Butternut Squash & Apple Soup
(makes 4-6 servings)
3 lb butternut squash
2 medium-sized apples, peeled, cored and quartered
1 pint chicken or vegetable stock
few sprigs of fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, sage, bay leaves or oregano, in any combination, tied with kitchen twine
1-2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste
optional: drizzle of a flavorful olive oil or butternut squash seed oil (mentioned above)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Carefully slice squash in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and pulp from each half. Place cut side-down on a roasting tray along with the peeled and chopped apples. Roast for about 45 minutes, or until the tops of the squash feel soft when pressed down on. Flip over the squash halves to cool and once cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh away from the skins, and discard the skins.
Combine the roasted squash flesh and apples in a soup pot. Add about a cup of hot water to the bottom of the roasting pan and scrape gently to extract any caramelization on the pan (don’t do this if the “caramelization” is instead pitch-black, burnt bits), and add the soaked water to the pot. Add the chicken stock and the bouquet garni and bring just to a boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and let simmer, partially covered, for about 30-45 minutes. Remove the bouquet garni and puree the soup by using an immersion blender or transferring to a blender or food processor. Stir in the butter, salt and pepper to taste. Serve in bowls garnished with a touch of fresh herbs and optional drizzling oil.
(for about 6 servings)
3-lb butternut squash: $3.00
2 apples: $1.00
1 pint chicken stock (homemade): $2.00
fresh herbs for bouquet garni and garnish (from houseplants): $0.50
2 Tb butter, salt and pepper: $0.50
about 2 tsp butternut squash seed oil (optional): $0.75
Four brownie points: A bounty of beta-carotenes awaits in this soup; as it’s mostly cooked butternut squash flesh, there is loads of Vitamin A which you can detect from its intense orange shade. The squash is also a good source of Vitamin C, potassium, and calcium, and has a bit of protein, while its negative side is its natural sugars. This is furthered by the addition of apples, but certainly no additional sweeteners are needed in this recipe thanks to it all.
Nine maple leaves: Quite possibly the most green-happy recipe on this blog, it integrates two in-season vegetables that are simply popping off the vines and trees at this time of year in this region, and little else. The stock is a great way to salvage the bones and other bits from poultry (such as your Thanksgiving turkey) as well as vegetable scraps, and the rosemary and other herbs used here grow great indoors, even in the winter. Also, that Finger Lakes butternut squash seed oil was fashioned from a byproduct of the squashes — their seeds. Very resourceful, and local, as well.