Toothsome is The Cheshire Herald’s newest monthly food/culture column, written by Heather Kiesling, a self-taught, home-cook from the South who moved to Cheshire with her family nearly 20 years ago. Possessed by a life-long passion for making (plus eating!) good food, and a love for writing about those very pursuits, Heather can’t wait to share her “kitcheny” endeavors with you.
These are the adjectives that popped up on my computer’s thesaurus when I sat down to write this week and searched “emotions evoked by autumn”. Or maybe it was “Pumpkin Spice Latte” that I had actually typed in, but either way...
Welcome back to Toothsome. It has been a whole month since the first installment, which means it’s September … which means it’s fall! There is not a single time of year that so many of us love more than this one. EVERYTHING is just somehow … better. The air is fresher, the temps are cooler, patios are aglow with firepits filling evenings with the zephyr and crackle of burning wood (we are still working through the downed branches from last month’s storms, so lots of “zephyr and crackle” happening in our backyard), and cooking is renewed by warmer, earthier spices and heartier fare.
Add in Halloween and Thanksgiving, and I’m a hopeless giddy mess!
My apologies if all this sounds a bit mawkish, but last weekend I made my first pot of soup of the season — a roasted butternut squash concoction, brewed up on Sunday afternoon with alternating trips around the house plotting where to put pumpkins and mums in the coming days. Nourishing, robust and comforting: I can’t help it; this soup makes me gush.
The recipe that follows, authored by Sarah Foster (a brilliantly talented North Carolina chef/restaurant owner/writer), is autumn in a bowl and has been on repeat in our house for at least 20 years. It’s one of those prized stand-outs that is best when made as-written; no tweaks, adjustments, additions or omissions needed.
Too often, soups made with butternut squash tend to be sweet and syrupy, almost dessert-like, which leaves me sorely disappointed most of the time. This one though is full-on savory, utilizing a half cup of fresh herbs. So many are its attributes, I wind up making it (and devouring it!) multiple times throughout the fall — before the relentless march of dried beans or pasta for dinner all winter begins … not that I’m really complaining about that.
Inexpensive and chock full of farmstand victuals, it uses up the end-of-season tomatoes left languishing on the kitchen window sill, roasting them to a bubbling, caramelized, balsamic-y righteousness alongside a peeled and seeded butternut squash; it freezes beautifully, and makes a ton! So … leftovers aplenty.
Also, your house will smell so much like an autumnal paradise as it simmers away on the stove, your family may wander around the yard looking for the corn maze and cider doughnut stand. And not to gild the lily too much, but if you opt to bake the cornbread croutons to crumble over top, wel … you won’t regret it.
The thick, full-bodied consistency keeps this potage safely in the “meal-in-a-bowl” category, and far away from the thin, feeble “is there anything else to eat?” variety of a Monday night. Careful though; if the weather is nice and you cook with windows open and screen door cracked, don’t be surprised if the odd neighbor or two meander over in subterfuge to “chat,” and stay just long enough that it might be rude not to invite them in for a taste.
I hope you’ll make a pot of this, or your own favorite fall soup, over the weekend, tuck into a warm bowlful with a glass of cabernet and see where it takes you. You just may find yourself leading that search for the corn maze.
Keep well and keep on cooking. —H.K.
(Recipe from Foster’s Market)
Makes about 2½ quarts.
Serves 6 to 8
•1 butternut squash, cut in
half lengthwise and seeds re
•¼ cup olive oil
•6 plum tomatoes, cored
•4 garlic cloves
•1 tablespoon balsamic
•4 tablespoons (½ stick)
•1 red onion, diced
•1 carrot, peeled
•2 ribs celery, chopped
•6 cups chicken broth or
•2 teaspoons salt
•1 teaspoon freshly ground
•¼ cup fresh thyme leaves or
•4 teaspoons dried thyme
chives or fresh parsley,
•1 tablespoon chopped fresh
sage or 1 teaspoon dried
•Juice of 2 oranges
•2 cups Corn Bread
•Additional fresh sage and
thyme, to garnish, optional
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2. Place the squash cut side down in a large baking dish. Add 1 cup water and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the dish and roast 35 to 40 minutes, until the squash is soft and tender to the touch.
3. Meanwhile, toss the tomatoes and garlic with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the vinegar in a baking dish. Roast 30 to 35 minutes or until soft and the skin is slightly shriveled. Let stand until cool enough to handle, and then lightly crush the tomatoes with your hands or a potato masher into small pieces, reserving the liquid. Set aside until ready to use.
4. Heat the remaining olive oil and the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the onion and cook and stir about 10 minutes, until onion is soft and translucent. Add the carrot and celery and cook 10 to 15 minutes longer, stirring constantly, until the vegetables are soft.
5. Add the broth, salt, and pepper and reduce heat to low; simmer, uncovered, 20 to 25 minutes.
6. Remove the squash from its skin by scooping out the flesh with a spoon. Discard the skin and add the flesh to the soup. Simmer about 20 minutes longer, stirring occasionally.
7. Remove from the heat
and add the thyme, chives, and sage. Cool slightly, then, working in batches, pour the soup into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and puree until smooth. Return the soup to the pot and add the tomatoes and their liquid and the orange juice; stir to mix. Season with additional salt and pepper if desired. Reheat the soup on low if necessary. Serve immediately.
Any type of winter squash can be used instead of butternut squash. For added richness, swirl in a little heavy cream or top each serving with jalapeño cream (combine minced jalapeños and fresh lime juice with sour cream or unsweetened whipped cream). Or float crostini topped with lump crabmeat on each serving. For a heartier soup, add cooked ravioli (pumpkin ravioli is great) to each serving. You can also use this soup to flavor risotto, by alternating broth and some of this soup instead of just using broth.