Easy butternut squash and apple soup full of autumn flavors.
After the festive abundance and chaos of the holidays, January is a time to celebrate emptiness. Naked trees, unburdened by heavy clusters of leaves and fruit; fields resting in a barren state, while nature quietly replenishes.
I think about how to do the same, even while filling myself up on resolutions, affirmations, and goals for the year ahead. I start each year with the best of intentions: to fill my life only with things truly meaningful to me.
A weekly yoga class with a favorite teacher.
Morning hikes in the quiet, new day to listen to nature.
A weekly forage at the local Farmer’s Markets.
A nice start, I’ll think. But, then I want to add a little more to the mix. So I add a ¼ cup of volunteer projects. Oops, the phone just rang, make that ½ cup. Two handfuls of freshly squeezed friends, family and loved ones, and a pinch of reading, which of course leads to a book club, and hey I’d love to host the next one at my house.
As I start to slowly mix, correcting the seasoning with a dash of language and writing classes, it becomes clear that the bowl is far too small for everything I'm piling in. Ingredients spill over; the mixture is lumpy; and I end up with an unappealing mess. How did this happen, again?
By thinking more is better.
And sometimes it is. Life, like most recipes, is more than just one or two ingredients. But the secret with both is to know when to stop.
A great example is my butternut squash soup. It was the first winter soup I made, and through the years it evolved from a soup of 12 ingredients that took a couple hours to make, to my newest version of seven ingredients, including the water and seasoning.
The pure flavors of this largely unadorned soup reveals how the multiple layers of my former versions muted the butternut. I'm a big fan of layering flavor, but this soup is a shining butternut squash solo versus a symphony. A soup where restraint creates that perfect balance of abundant flavor unmuted by surrounding noise.
Now If I could just figure out how to do that in life.
Butternut Squash Apple Soup
- 2 medium butternut squash
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 5 cups water
- 1 cup apple cider
- 1 teaspoon salt to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400° F. Slice off the top and bottom from the butternut squash; slice in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds and pulp with a spoon. Peel the squash with a potato peeler, and chop the squash into 1" cubes. Toss in a little olive oil, lightly salt and spread on a baking sheet. Roast until very, very soft and lightly caramelized, about 30 minutes.
- In a large pot, melt the butter over medium high heat and cook until lightly browned. Lower the heat and add the remaining olive oil and the onion. Saute until the onion begins to caramelize - about 20 minutes.
- Add the squash, water, apple cider, and salt to the pot, and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes to mingle the flavors.
- Pour the soup into a blender and puree to a smooth, silky soup. See Cook's Notes for tips.
- Pour the pureed soup back into the pot and reheat. Correct seasoning if needed before serving.
- It's important to roast the squash past the tender stage into a slight caramelization, to bring up the natural sweetness of the squash. This contributes to the fabulous squash flavor of the soup.
- An immersible blender can be used to puree the soup, but it likely achieve the smooth texture that's possible with a counter-top blender.
- When using a blender to puree soup, never fill the container more than half way with hot liquid; one-third full is best. Trust me.