As the season draws to a close, I find myself eager to snatch up the last of the fall goodies at the farmer's market before it's gone until spring. This soup gives me a good excuse for that, and, in keeping with my newly-founded tradition of dedicating soups to people I know, this one goes out to my friend, Kate.
Both Kate and this soup are sweet with a kick of spice. They're also full of midwestern goodness and local flavor. Kate is a classic small town girl with big dreams, and although she's traveled around the country, she's recently come back home to the corn belt to share her insights. She has professional experience in both science education and cooking, making her very knowledgeable when it comes to food, agriculture and the living world around us. One of my most cherished pastimes is to go for a walk in the woods with Kate while she patiently answers my endless stream of questions about every plant and insect that catches my eye. Her wisdom is a treasure that connects the nature of this place to the people living within it.
I'll try my best to guide you through this recipe the way Kate guides me through the wonders of a nature trail, but that shouldn't be too difficult because this soup is pretty easy to make.
There's a fair amount of flexibility in terms of the produce that goes into it, so you can pick out whatever type of squash, apples and pears you like. It's a good opportunity to experiment with heirloom varieties. This time I've chosen a silverbell squash. It belongs to the same species as blue hubbard squash and is similar in appearance, only smaller. It has a very bright, sweet flesh with a fragrance that comes closer to a cantaloupe or peach.
The base of the soup includes onion, carrots, celery, garlic, jalapeños and ginger. After you've softened them up in the pot, add your squash, apple and pears along with some vegetable broth, sage and bay leaf. Cover the pot and let it simmer for a half hour so that the squash is very tender and breaks easily when you pierce it with a fork.
Once the squash has softened, it's time to add some seasoning and blend everything up. You can do this with a regular blender, but you'll have to transfer the soup in batches, purée it, then return it to the pot. I find that having an immersion blender makes things a lot easier. Some people like to leave a few chunks of veggies in their soup. I like mine completely smooth.
Feel free to garnish it with anything that sounds good to you. I tried some balsamic vinegar and fresh thyme, which was great, but to be honest, the soup is also pretty fantastic on its own.
2 tablespoons vegan margarine
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 rib celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced (see tip)
2-3 lbs hard winter squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1” pieces
1 medium apple, peeled, cored and chopped
2 medium pears, peeled, cored and chopped
4 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 bay leaf
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of cloves
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
- Melt margarine in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, celery and cook for 7-10 minutes or until onion is translucent and vegetables are tender. Add garlic, ginger and jalapeño. Cook another 2-3 minutes or until fragrant.
- Add squash, apple, pears, broth, sage and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes or until squash is fork tender.
- Remove bay leaf and add spices, salt and pepper. Using either an immersion blender or working in batches with an upright blender, puree the soup to your desired level of smoothness.