Autumn is here and thoughts turn in earnest to hunkering down for cooler weather and preparing more warming meals. Gone are the fresh garden staples that provided quick and easy summer fare; tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, and sweet corn. This is the season for soups and stews that may take a bit of fore thought but easily can be made in bulk, frozen and enjoyed later when moments count.
Have you noticed how efficiently seasonal produce nourishes us? While we are seeking to warm and cheer ourselves, nature provides winter squashes and root vegetables that have vibrantly colored flesh, are nutrient dense and marry well with warming herbs and spices such as hot chilies, curry, ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon.
Chef Rebecca Katz in One Bite at a Time inspired one of my favorite soups, Kabocha and Butternut Squash Soup with Asian Pear, Apple and Ginger. Since I believe that recipes are more ‘suggestion’ than blueprint, I’ve created many variations of this soup by using what I had on hand. You too should take the same liberties, depending upon your taste preferences, and what’s in your garden and cupboard.
Winter Squash Soup with Fall Fruits
- 3 medium sized winter squash; about 7 pounds altogether; halved and seeded
- (Butternut, buttercup, acorn, kabocha, sweet pumpkin, Hubbard or what was in your garden.)
- 1 – 2 yellow onions; coarsely chopped
- 2 pears; peeled, cored and chopped (Asian, Bosc, Anjou or your favorite)
- 1 apple; peeled, cored and chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh garlic or shallot; minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger root; grated
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder or red pepper flakes
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- A few tablespoons of orange marmalade, honey, maple syrup or raw sugar to taste
- Olive oil as needed
- 8 – 10 cups vegetable broth
- Preheat the oven to 425oF
- Place the seeded squash, cut side up, on a sheet pan. Sprinkle the herbs and spices into the seed cavities. Add a spoonful of marmalade, or other sweetner to each.
- Roast for 30 minutes or until the squash is very soft. When fully cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool.
- Meanwhile, sauté the garlic and ginger in a few teaspoons of olive oil. Add the chopped onion and continue sautéing until the onion begins to caramelize. Add the peeled, cored pears and apple. Sauté until everything is quite soft. At this point, add half the broth and allow the soup to simmer on low.
- When the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh into the simmering soup. Add the rest of the broth. Allow everything to simmer together for fifteen minutes.
- Using a hand held blender, carefully puree the soup. Alternatively, you could ladle the soup into a food processor and puree in batches.
- Taste and adjust the final flavor. You might consider a dash of hot sauce, some maple syrup, lemon juice or simply a pinch of salt. Perhaps the soup is perfect just as it is!