Saturday, January 23, 2016

It's cold out there!! Warm up with some soup!

It's my favorite time of year. Soup season. I mean come on, what could possibly be better on a cold winter day than a warm bowl of soup, some fuzzy slippers, and a warm kitty on your lap? Not much folks, not much.

Now that I am back in the city and working a sort of weird work schedule, getting home after 6 pm every night, cooking a full meal is often an overwhelming proposition. That is where soup comes in. With the right ingredients in the pantry I can come up with a bowl of wonderful that tastes like I've been cooking all day. I have been trying to expand my cooking horizons as much as possible and trying new things and squash soup is one of those expansions. There are so many wonderful flavors that go with squash I can't wait to try as many as I can.

Lately I have seen a growing trend of ready-made meal recipes for canning, like stews and soups, something people can just heat and eat. I have never been that kind of canner. I enjoy cooking too much and prefer to can the ingredients for a meal and spend time creating. This soup is going to make great use of something I canned an excess of- winter squash. Silly me, besides the normal pumpkin, acorn and butternut squashes I got for putting up, on a visit to an apple orchard one day I fell in love with a Blue Hubbard. If you have never seen a Hubbard squash these things are massive- weighing as much as 40-50 pounds even. I guess I learned my lesson the hard way- dozens of jars of canned squash chunks later I had way more than a family of two can reasonably use. 

I didn't learn my lesson when it came to apples either. When a couple friends offered apple trees for free picking, as much as we wanted, we picked about 25 grocery bags full. Cases of jars of apple butter, applesauce (we don't really like), apple pie jam and loads of pies I still had more apples. Time to can some apple slices to use in something else! 

I was browsing Saveur's website and came across a recipe for a winter squash soup that looked really delicious, and used a couple things I have more than enough of- squash and apples. So by switching up a few ingredients to utilize what I had on hand I was able to create a warm and filling soup, perfect for a cool autumn night. With cooler weather in the forecast it's time to bake some homemade bread and cook up a pot of soup!

Little Lake House Winter Squash and Apple Soup
adapted from 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
  • 3 cups mashed Hubbard squash (2 quart jars of cubes)*
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced apples (2 pint jars)*
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon dried mint
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • homemade garlic croutons
Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Add ginger and garlic. Cook and stir for one more minute. Add spices and stir a minute, then add remaining ingredients (except butter, mint and paprika).

Allow to simmer for about 15-20 minutes to meld the flavors. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Puree using an immersion blender or food processor. Return to pot, heat through.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add the mint and paprika. Remove from heat and allow to steep. Make the croutons using crusty bread and garlic olive oil.

To serve, ladle soup into bowls, drizzle with a bit of the mint butter and top with croutons.

Being a home canner I also had plenty of chicken stock on hand for this recipe, but store bought is just as good. You definitely want to make the croutons too. Get a good crusty French baguette, cut into nice size cubes and toss with melted butter and olive oil and toast them up in a cast iron skillet instead of in the oven. They retain a chewy texture that is just perfect for this creamy soup. Paired with a fall salad of mixed greens, toasted pecans and chopped fresh pears you have a delicious dinner in no time.

*You can also substitute 3 cups canned squash or pumpkin puree from the grocery store, and a little less than 1 1/2 cups of applesauce if you have it on hand- you're going to puree the soup anyway right? If you use fresh sliced apples you will want to simmer the soup until the apples are tender, which may be a bit longer.

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