Originally Posted: 09 Sept 2009 09:55 PM PDT
Autumn is easily my favorite season, from a personal standpoint. Professionally, I love Spring for the bounty of short seasoned vegetables like fava beans, leeks, nettles, morels, green garlic and peas. These are the items I wait patiently for, items I plan my menus around and I die a little every year when they are no longer available. While fall brings a whole new set of wonderful ingredients such as squash, apples and pears, I look forward to this time of the year personally. The world is a little more comfortable, the weather cools, football starts, both European and American and life seems to slow down somewhat, just enough to enjoy what is happening around me at a more leisurely pace. Autumn is a faint reminder that you should enjoy what she has to offer before the snow and cold move in.
Butternut Squash-Apple Soup with Apple, Walnut & Cilantro Salad
One of my favorite offerings she provides is butternut squash, a sweet, earthy and rich winter squash. The applications of butternut squash are limitless. Pastries, breads, salads, sauces, soups, pasta fillings, you name it. A recipe I have always been extremely happy with is this Butternut Squash-Apple Soup, combining two of Autumns wonderful products. The soup is silky smooth with a slight sweet-tart finish.
This recipe was inspired by one of my chefs roughly 12 years ago. He was my mentor then and remains so to this day, although we don’t speak as often as I would like. While David had a profound influence on my culinary philosophy, it was his ability to manage and deal with people that left the biggest impression with me. He handled every situation and conflict with the same quiet resolve, he was candid, direct and you knew he was on your side whether you agreed with him or not.
From a culinary perspective, David was sure that the mettle of a chef was in his soup. The goal was to take the fewest ingredients possible and create a soup that reflected the freshness of those ingredients without letting anything else in the way. It took over a year and dozens of soups before I was allowed to serve one that hadn’t been ‘fixed’ by David, but it was a complete lesson in simplicity. As the ingredients in my soups became less and less, I got ever closer to mastering soups in David’s kitchen. This Butternut Squash-Apple Soup was the soup that David served that night, unchanged from what I presented to him.
As rich as this soup is, I like to garnish with a bright splash of flavor. For this recipe, I’ve made a petite salad of apple, walnut and cilantro. This little salad also offers a crunchy counterpoint to the soup. I’m dedicating this recipe to David, who taught me that it isn’t what goes in the soup, it’s what you take out.
Serves 8 (approximately 2 quarts)
• 3 medium butternut squash (or 2 large) halved lengthwise and deseeded (you will need roughly 1 1/2 pounds cooked flesh for the soup)
• 2 Tbs. vegetable oil
• 1 yellow onion, julienne
• 3 Tbs. butter
• 3 Gala apples, peeled, cored and rough chopped (you can substitute virtually any other apple, depending on your taste)
• 3 Tbs. red miso paste
• 3 cups warm water
• 3 cups fresh apple cider
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 2 Tbs. kosher salt
• White pepper, ground
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Line a baking sheet with foil and grease the foil with the vegetable oil
3. Place the butternut squash flesh side down on the greased foil.
4. Add 1/2 cup of water to the baking pan and cover with foil.
5. Bake at 375 degrees F. until the squash are soft to the touch, 1-1 1/2 hours.
6. When finished, removed the squash from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature.
7. Remove the meat from the squash with a spoon. If you have a cooling rack, you can press the squash, flesh side down onto the cooling rack over a mixing bowl to quickly remove the skin. Reserve for later.
8. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat.
9. Add the onions and apples and sweat until the onions become translucent. Do not allow the onions to brown as this will color your soup.
10. While the onions are sweating, mix the miso paste with the 3 cups of warm water. This will be our vegetarian stock.
11. Add the squash to the pot and add both the miso stock and apple cider.
12. Cover and simmer over low heat till the apples are soft, approximately 25 minutes.
13. Puree the soup in a blender or with a buerre mixer till smooth.
14. Add the heavy cream.
15. Strain through a china cap to give it a silky texture (optional).
16. Add the salt and season with white pepper to taste.
Apple, Walnut and Cilantro Salad (Garnish) Serves 4
• 1/2 cup diced apple, preferably the same variety you used for your soup
• 1/4 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
• 1 Tbs. cilantro, chiffonade
• 2 Tbs. olive oil
• 1 Tbs. apple cider or champagne vinegar
Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and season to taste with kosher salt. Place a small pile in the center of your warm soup and serve.
Note: I like to use miso paste for soups that I want to have the option to make vegetarian. To keep this recipe vegan, you can replace the butter with olive oil to sweat your onions and omit the cream.