I am starting to feel like a scavenger this week as many of the farmers markets in our area prepare to close for the season. I scooped up the last of the zucchini and made my way to the autumn squash and grabbed a butternut squash. This week’s Autumn Harvest Soup with Crispy Kale and Chile-Roasted Seeds, takes all of its ingredients straight off the shelves and is a fitting welcome to the winter months ahead.
I started making this soup years ago shortly after my husband and I bought our first house and decided to host our first Thanksgiving. I decided to mix up tradition and start the meal with a civilized demitasse of soup. Instead of rushing the buffet, loading up and racing for a seat anywhere other than the kids table, we all took a seat and sipped. It took the edge off of the chaos and the remainder of the meal seemed much more relaxed somehow.
Butternut squash, sweet white turnips, an onion and an apple are surprisingly almost all that is needed to create a warming, sunny soup that balances the more serious flavor of the turnip with the sweetness of the butternut squash.
I tried buying already peeled and chunked butternut squash from the grocery store, which is almost completely without flavor, so I stopped eating it.
Selecting Butternut Squash
This year, I threw in the towel and gave butternut squash another try but this time I picked up a squash from the farmers market and made sure it was no more than 1 1/2 pounds, which I have found is actually quite manageable. Anything larger is more of a beast, and hacking it apart requires more strength and tools than I care to muster.
Pumpkin might be a decent substitute for butternut squash but avoid acorn squash, which can be too watery and lack enough flavor.
Preparing Butternut Squash
The squash for this soup can be prepared in two different ways depending on your mood. Sometimes I just plunk the entire squash onto a sheet pan and roast until it is tender enough to allow a knife to easily puncture the flesh. This makes cutting and peeling a breeze, but it cooks the squash unevenly. The bulbous end will cook much faster and can get mushy before the longer portion is cooked all the way through. Not tragic, but something to be aware of. Each squash is different so it needs to be monitored more closely.
If you can, it is best to cut and peel raw, which requires a little more physical effort. However, using a fresh market squash in a manageable size makes all the difference.
Other Market Vegetables
The winter market is is almost always a great place to stock up on pantry items like garlic, onion and potatoes, as well as root vegetables. Winter greens are also a highlight. I brought home a bunch of Lacinato (or “dinosaur”) kale, which I think tastes best during the winter. My kids prefer it baked in an oven until crispy so I usually just make a big batch. We topped our soup with a few shards and fell in love with its salty, crispy and straight-laced taste that seemed to give the soup a modern edge.
We saved and rinsed the butternut squash seeds, tossed with some olive oil (coconut oil would be outstanding) and chile powder and roasted until crispy. We scattered a few onto the soup to add more crunch and a little spice. The different textures and flavors kept the soup interesting through to the last spoonful.
While it is sad to say goodbye to so many markets next week, more and more markets are deciding to stay open through winter so definitely ask and you may be in luck. The winter markets surprisingly have so much to offer, you’ll find you will rarely need a visit to the produce section of your grocery.
- 3 Tablespoons butter or coconut oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 butternut squash 1½ lbs.
- 1 firm, tart apple (green Granny Smith is a great cooking apple), peeled and chopped
- 2 turnips, peeled and chopped into ½-inch cubes
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped into ½-inch cubes
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 3-4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme or 4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
- Sea salt and pepper, to taste
- ¾ cup heavy cream (optional)
- 1 bunch lacinato kale, washed, dried and cut into 1-2-inch pieces
- 3-4 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1-3 teaspoons sea salt
- Seeds from the butternut squash, rinsed and dried in a clean towel or paper towel
- 1-2 Tablespoons chile powder
- Olive oil, to coat
- Sea salt, to taste
- Using a sharp knife, cut off each stem end. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel. Set the squash upright on the cutting board and cut in half. Spoon out seeds and reserve. Then lay each side down flat on the board. Cut each halve into 4 long slices then cut crosswise to create ½-inch cubes.
- Place butter or oil into a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions. Sauté until onions are translucent and tender, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add the carrot, butternut squash, apple, turnips, thyme and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir to combine, cover and lower heat to medium low or low so that vegetables very gently simmer. Cook for 5-7 minutes until vegetables are beginning to become tender and release juices into the pan.
- Add the broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low, cover and allow to gently simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 15-20 minutes.
- Using a blender, puree until soup is smooth.** Return soup to pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Spread kale out in a single layer onto a cookie sheet, toss with olive oil and salt, to taste.
- Roast for about 7 minutes until you see the leaves flatten to the pan but still green! Everyone's oven is slightly different. Keep a close eye the first few times you make to be sure of timing.
- Toss seeds with olive oil, then a light coating of chile powder and a sprinkling of salt. Roast in the oven until seeds are lightly browned and crispy, about 7-10 minutes.
**Puree the soup in a blender in batches and cover lid with a towel. The heat can make the soup expand, splatter and possibly pop the lid so smaller amounts works best.
***To prepare kale: Once home from the market, prep kale until ready to use. With each leaf, grab the stem from the back and with your other hand, pull the leaf away from the stem, then strip the leaf down off of the stem. Rinse leaves then wrap with a clean dry towel or paper towels and place in a plastic bag until ready to use.