The apples are beautiful! The squash is beautiful. And we have locally grown exotic ginger just waiting to enhance just about everything, so it’s soup tonight!
With a side of Apple Bread…
I got lost in the apple orchard today, intentionally of course! The morning was crisp and bright the sky blue, and the car just aimed itself in the direction of the apple trees. What a beautiful year it is for apples here in Vermont. The trees are heavy with colorful fruit, and it makes me want to use them in everything.
A local exotic crop
In recent years, our local farmers have been experimenting with growing ginger, quite successfully, too. I buy a lot of it and tuck it in the freezer for grating all winter long. My luck was doubled when I found some lovely ginger with the greens still attached, something I’d not found before. I was assured the greens were also edible, so I was excited to taste them and use them in whatever I came up with for dinner.
Finding a luscious butternut squash, I decided on Butternut Squash and Apple Soup, enhanced with the ginger and its greens. Of course, since I had a rather large bag of fruit, I had to start with a quick batch of Old Fashioned Applesauce! Then there’s apple bread. And apple crisp, apple muffins, oh, and baked apples…
Butternut Squash, Apple, and Ginger Soup
Because the squash is so sweet, you’ll want a tart apple in this dish. I used Jonathans, but any tart apple would do, such as Granny Smith. If you don’t have leeks, substitute yellow onion. Adjust the cayenne to your own preference, or leave it out.
This soup is creamy but non-dairy until you put the sour cream or yoghurt on top. I think the flavors are brighter without the addition of the extra fat from cream, or even light coconut milk which I often use in creamed soups.
If you don’t have cider, increase the water, or you could use vegetable stock for more flavor, although plain old water works just fine. I add the ginger in two stages, one during the cooking and the other at the end. Whatever you add at the end of a recipe usually shines, and I wanted the ginger to be present.
Makes 12 cups, plenty for freezing for another day.
2 tbsp. Olive oil
2 large leeks, chopped, about a quart
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2- inch piece of ginger, finely minced, divided
1 large butternut squash, chopped, about 8 cups
3 tart apples, chopped, about 2 cups
Greens of fresh ginger, if available
2 large bay leaves
2 star anise
2 cups apple cider
4 cups water
Salt and pepper
Sour cream or yoghurt
Prepare the vegetables. Remove only the toughest, dark green leaves from the leeks, wash them well, and chop. Chop the squash and the apples.
If your ginger is new, you don’t have to peel it, just mince it finely. Chop the ginger greens in halves or thirds and tie with food-safe twine. Reserve this for later.
In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium high heat and sauté until softened.
Add the garlic, turmeric, and cayenne. Stir until the garlic is fragrant, just a minute or two, and add half the ginger, followed immediately by the squash, apples, ginger greens bundle, bay, and anise. Give everything a good stir.
Add the cider and water, and season with salt and pepper to your taste. I like a lot of pepper in this. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce to a simmer and cook for about a half hour.
Remove the ginger greens bundle, bay leaves, and star anise. You will want to puree the soup at this point and you can use whatever means you want: food processor, blender, immersion blender, food mill, or potato masher. I prefer the immersion blender for ease of cleanup. If you want the soup really smooth, put it through the food mill.
Add the juice of the lemon the rest of the ginger and taste. You will probably need more salt and pepper.
You can stop here and enjoy this as is, but I think it benefits greatly from a dollop of sour cream or plain yoghurt. The sour balances out the sweet nicely, but if you are dairy-free, the omission will not be noticed.
To add a crunch, top with anything you like from crispy croutons to pomegranate seeds or fried shallots. You can also toast the butternut squash seeds!
Make it your own. Always taste, taste, and taste again, and adjust to what you like. Don’t car for ginger? You can use your favorite curry blend in this instead, or add Moroccan seasonings for a different take on the dish. This soup is even good with just a little cumin!
Slice two or three shallots very thinly. Put a saucepan over medium high heat and add a cup of canola oil and the shallots. Cook for about 10 minutes, keeping an eye on them. When to the color you wish, drain on a paper towel.
Bonus Shallot Oil. Don’t throw out the oil! It will be flavored deliciously by the shallots.
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