Soup days

I puffed out plumes of hot air into the autumn chill Monday morning as I embarked on my morning commute. THIS is the feeling I’ve been waiting for; the sun is out, but the air is cool and smells of fall.  It’s hard to believe that just a week ago in was 100 degrees.

Last Friday before I departed Petaluma, Amber asked, “Can we have soup next week?” In the pleading sort of way that a child might ask for their favorite meal. “Yes,” I said, “we can have soup next week.” And she beamed brightly.

Throughout the year, I often find myself fretting over whether I got my fill of seasonal produce. In spring, its favas and peas, in summer, its tomatoes and melons and peppers; and now as we creep into fall – yes I dare say it this time, we are transitioning – I look to squash, apples and pears.

With soup on the horizon, I thought I would give Amber a few options to choose from: tomato (as there are still plenty left to use) or butternut squash and apple, since they are coming into season. I told Amber we should find a bunch of recipes and have soup every week. “Or more!” She exclaimed. I don’t know anyone who loves soup as much as Amber. I’m not sure what her fascination is, but I think she would be happy eating soup all the time. Don’t get my wrong, I love a good soup, but I think once a week is enough.

Whenever I’m cooking something seasonal, I get really excited, hoping that it will be just the first of many seasonal offerings that I will get to enjoy. Over the years, butternut squash has become one of my favorite things to cook with. Its sweet and nutty flavor compliments the comfort food I like to cook during the colder months.

Maybe it was the melodic sounds of Bon Iver as I was cooking, but smelling the aromas as I built the layers of soup immediately set the mood. The bacon and mirepoix and bay commingling, wafting up aromas of the holidays, and I’m transported to all the nostalgic autumnal places in my memory. To Mom’s kitchen and to my childhood house front yard where we would take pictures with our prized, home-grown pumpkins. Soup days are here.

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup (adapted from Epicurious)

  • 4 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 2 carrot, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 medium Granny Smith apples, chopped – ¼ apple reserved for garnish
  • 1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (3 1/2 to 4 cups)
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 to 2 1/2 cups water

Cook bacon in a 6-quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp. Add celery, carrot, onion, and bay leaf in fat in pot over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Add cinnamon and cook, uncovered, stirring, 1 minute.

Add squash and apple, and stir to incorporate. Add stock, 2 cups water, 1-teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, then simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Puree soup in batches in a blender and transfer to cleaned pot and warm over medium low heat, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste.

While soup is heating, cut enough of remaining apple into thin matchsticks for garnish.

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