With the coming of cooler weather, leaves are turning bright and muted shades of red, gold, bronze and orange. The summer crops are finishing up in the garden, with just a few cherry tomatoes still on the vines. I've harvested the butternut squash and have put them in storage, ready for winter cooking and baking, their sunflower color serving as a reminder that summer will come again.
Time, also, to make soup. A few days ago I made a quick soup with canned beef broth, celery, carrots, onions, corn, zucchini and some frozen meatballs and cheese-filled tortellini, plus herbs and spices. Four days ago I started some butternut squash soup based on a recipe from the Press Democrat October 9th newspaper. The recipe follows much of the one from Kay Baumhefner of Come Home to Cooking. I used half the amounts since it would take a week for us to finish 8 servings worth of this hearty soup. I used dried thyme instead of fresh, no bay leaf, Scotch whiskey instead of Grand Marnier and left out the spinach. For the onions I used some that I had cooked in the crockpot so there was no butter used, either, only a bit of olive oil. I'm going to post that crockpot caramelized onion recipe next because it is a keeper if you like your onions slow cooked, mellow, and brown.
This is a think ahead recipe; it takes two days before it's ready to eat. For this recipe you'll need either an immersion blender (preferred) or a food processor or blender, because part of the joy of this soup is the thick texture and creaminess. You make it over a couple of days, as I did. I roasted the squash and garnet yam first, then peeled and cut them into chunks (I cut the squash in half before roasting and used that opportunity to remove the seeds and stringy bits). They were stored overnight. The next morning I started the crockpot onions. That afternoon I used some of those onions, added them in a pot to the squash and yam pieces, added the herb and spices and stirred it all up with a cup of chicken broth. This sat in the fridge for a couple of hours until I had time to finish off the soup and fix the rest of the meal. I like to think that the passage of time helped meld the flavors, too.
The finished soup was fairly smooth, creamy, thick, beautifully flavored, hot and filling. I garnished each bowl with a dribble of heavy cream and a sprinkle of freshly chopped Italian parsley. Served up with a salad and grilled cheese sandwiches, it was a wonderful meal for a chilly evening in fall.
Butternut and Yam Soup with Crockpot OnionsBased on a recipe by Kay Baumhefner of Come Home to Cooking2 1/2 pounds butternut squash
1 large garnet yam
1 tablespoon oil (I used only oil, no butter)
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups thinly sliced onions (1 large)
1 bay leaf (I didn't use this)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (I used Scotch whiskey)
3-4 cups hot chicken stock, homemade if possible
1 can evaporated milk
drizzle heavy cream
garnish: finely chopped Italian parsley
Cut squash in half and remove seeds and stringy bits. Place cut side down on lightly oiled foil or parchment lined baking sheet with rim. Wash and pierce yam in a few places and place on baking sheet.
Bake in preheated 400 degree F. oven until tender (time will vary with size of squash). Remove from oven, let cool, peel both squash and yam, then cut each into small pieces. Set aside until onions are cooked.
Meanwhile, peel the onions, slice in half, then slice thinly. Spray the insides of a crockpot crock and add the onions. Drizzle with the oil (OK to use 2 tablespoons), cover tightly and cook on high for 6-8 hours. Onions will be light gold.
In a large, heavy bottomed pot, place the squash and yam pieces, the onions, one cup of stock, the dried thyme, ground ginger, and ground nutmeg. Stir, cover and let sit in fridge overnight. You can also cook the onions the following day and add them then, instead, but be sure to allow a few hours for the soup, including onions, to sit.
The next day, about 1/2 hour before serving time, add the salt, pepper and Scotch, then add 1 cup more of stock and the can of evaporated milk. Use an immersion blender to blend to a smooth consistency. If you don't have an immersion blender, process small batches in a food processor or regular blender.
When mixture is smooth, add additional stock until mixture is a little thinner than desired thickness. Set over low heat with a pot lid askew and heat gently, stirring often, until soup is heated through and thickens a little, about 15 - 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Ladle soup into soup bowls, drizzle with about a teaspoon heavy cream, swirl with a spoon, then sprinkle with parsley. Serve at once.