Warm Up Thanksgiving with This Exceptional Soup Recipe
In the cooler months, my kitchen counter is permanently decorated with an array of winter squashes. Hubbard, acorn, butternut, pumpkin, turban – whatever I can find at the grocery store or farmers’ market. They serve the dual purpose of appealing to my aesthetic senses as well as fueling my appetite for seasonal cooking. All winter squashes shine especially brightly in soups, which magnify their flavor and color intensity and smooth texture beautifully. Thankfully, the heirloom varieties (my current favorite is Hubbard) are increasingly available. Lately, I’ve been roasting Hubbard squash, halved and skin-side down in a hot oven (425F) until very soft. Once cool, I mash the flesh with a splash of salt and pepper, cinnamon, perhaps a bit of maple syrup and a pat of butter. It has an exquisite bright orange color and possesses deep, rich winter squash flavor. With a sauteed filet of salmon or cod, it makes a complete and very satisfying meal.
The acorn squash in this soup is treated similarly and finished with minimalist ingredients so the clean, earthy squash flavor takes center stage. The maple syrup is cooked into the soup with just a few more ingredients and the elegance of shallots and a tiny bit of cream. It is pureed to a velvety finish with an immersion blender or a food processor. Because it is so elegant, delicious, seasonal, and just the right, light weight, it is the perfect way to kick off any special meal, especially Thanksgiving. The reverence and gratitude associated with Thanksgiving make soup the perfect starter – a slow and easy debut that gives you and your guests time to sink their hearts and minds into the occasion, pausing for reflection and slow sipping as they go. It also gives the turkey and the cook a little much needed time to rest before the gigantic feast begins.
This Maple Acorn Squash Soup from Mashed – Beyond the Potato (Gibbs Smith) was inspired by the maple syrup and butter-filled acorn squash halves my mother made often for my brothers and sisters when we were children. Do use real maple syrup. It makes a huge difference in the authenticity of the soup’s flavor.
Maple Acorn Squash Soup
(Yields 6 to 8 Servings)
2 large acorn squash, halved horizontally and seeded
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1-inch fresh ginger, peeled and halved vertically
Generous pinch of kosher or sea salt and ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons bourbon (optional but delicious!)
4 cups low sodium vegetable stock
1 cup water
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons real maple syrup
2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons heavy cream
3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
Preheat oven to 425F (22oC). Place the acorn squash, cut side down, on a baking sheet. Roast for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until the flesh is very tender. Set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh from the interior of the squash, discarding the shells. You should have about 4 cups.
In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and celery and cook for 5 minutes, stirring, until just softened. Add the ginger, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and bourbon; stir to combine. Cook until the bourbon has reduced to a glaze, about 3 minutes. Add the stock, water, squash, maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil over high and reduce to a simmer, cooking, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Remove ginger pieces and discard.
In the same pot, puree the soup with an immersion blender until very smooth. Finish with the cream, heating through. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve hot in individual soup bowls garnished with a flutter of fresh chives. (Note: The soup can be prepared ahead a day or 2 and refrigerated, but remember to add the cream and the chives when reheating, not prior).
Wishing everyone a beautiful, happy and delicious Thanksgiving!
Barley, Mushroom, Butternut Squash, and Spinach Soup Recipe – and new culinary tours!
October in Charleston is officially the beginning of the fall season for me, at least emotionally and also from a cooking standpoint. Most of the beastly heat and hurricane threats are behind us, and we can settle into the beautiful winter squashes, greens, apples, and root vegetables of the season and the grains and flavors that pair so well with them. I’ve been thinking about barley a lot lately. It reminds me of my Nanna who loved to cook with whole grains and simple, unprocessed ingredients like barley, because we all should eat more of it (just one cup contains 128% of a day’s worth of dietary fiber), and because its chewy/soft, nutty goodness is a shoe-in pairing with winter squash, which are bursting from the grocers’ bins and farmers’ markets these days.
I love cooking with all kinds of winter squash. Hubbard, delicata, acorn, butternut, pumpkin, turban – all of them. A preferred way to use them is to roast them, halved, and puree them with seasonings, a little stock, cream or butter. They make beautiful soups practically all on their own. I have several such recipes in Mashed – Beyond the Potato (Gibbs Smith, 2017) . One of my favorites is the luscious and deceptively simple Maple Acorn Squash Soup (page 97) which was inspired by my mother’s maple syrup and butter-filled bacon acorn squash halves that we regularly enjoyed at our fall dinner table and sometimes for holidays.
I’m using butternut here because it can increasingly be found pre-cut, the pesky hard cover removed, and already cubed for handy additions to soups (such as these), or a steamed, roasted or pureed side. Any of the others would work just as well. Be careful to cut and peel with care. A sharp, sturdy paring knife and ample patience will do the trick. Simmering the barley with the mushrooms and squash adds a lovely richness to the soup with virtually no added fat except for the olive oil used to sweat the onions and celery. Fresh or frozen spinach (or substitute kale) is added near the very end. You will likely need to add more liquid to the soup left-overs, as the barley is notorious for absorbing extra liquid as much as bad cholesterol from our bodies – another reason to love it and eat it often. Most of all, the soup comes together simply and quickly in one hour. I enjoyed its aromas watching football this weekend and recalling fond memories of my favorite season.
(Makes 10 to 12 servings)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, medium dice
3 stalks celery, medium dice
Light kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped button mushrooms
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped shitake mushrooms
4 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
2 teaspoons dried, rubbed sage
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup uncooked pearl barley
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 quart chicken stock
1 quart water
3 cups cubed, peeled, fresh butternut squash
Juice of 1/2 lemon, about 2 tablespoons
3 tablespoons local honey
4 cups additional stock or water as needed
2 cups chopped, frozen spinach
Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, and light salt and pepper. Stir to coat and sweat until softened, three minutes. Add the button and shitake mushrooms, garlic, garlic, sage, 2 teaspoons kosher salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Stir to coat and cook another three minutes until just wilted. Add the barley and wine. Stir and cook a minute or so until wine has reduced to nothing. Add chicken stock, water, butternut squash squash, lemon juice and honey. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, uncovered. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. After thirty minutes, add additional water/stock as needed (you want soup consistency, not porridge). After forty five minutes of cooking, add the spinach, stir and heat through for a final fifteen minutes. Serve hot. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley, grated Parmesan cheese or finely chopped walnuts as desired. (Note: The soup will store well, refrigerated and covered, for several days. More liquid may need to be added before reheating and serving).
Cooking Classes and Now Culinary Tours
A lot of my cooking class students have been asking for culinary tours for themselves, friends or even their businesses. I have added customized tours – those built around individual tastes, budgets, interests (history, culinary, chefs, restaurants, menu items, etc.), and timeline, to my repertoire. These can be bundled with classes in my kitchen, signed copies of my cookbooks, and a personalized tour led by me. Pricing dependent on dates, tour size, length and details of tour. Contact me on my website if you’re interested in finding out more.
Happy cooking, enjoy the cool and wonderful days of October.
Bon appetit – Holly
I love this time of year anywhere north of the Equator, but I especially love fall in Charleston. The reasons are many, and I’ve outlined and given information about some of them in this post on Charleston The Permanent Tourist:
Remember to keep up with me on facebook.com/tptcharleston and twitter: @tptcharleston.
Happy fall tidings! Holly
The temperature is rising and it really is beginning to feel like the summer that officially began earlier this week.
Take advantage of these two recipes for delicious cool soups as posted earlier today at charleston.thepermanenttourist.com
These are two of my favorites from my latest cookbook, The French Cook-Soups & Stews (Gibbs Smith) to be released Sept. 1 – details provided in the link above.
As always, happy (and cool!) cooking!
The brutal winter weather of the past few weeks has left me with a near constant craving for soups and also long-braised stews. Combine this with the near constant recipe testing for my next cookbook, The French Cook: Soups and Stews (Gibbs Smith,Late summer, 2014) my beloved Dutch ovens are getting daily work-outs and I’m a very well-fed girl. The soup that follows is layered with the earthy, peppery flavors and chewy density of the Puy lentil. I love these guys so much, I once suffered an hour delay in customs trying to convince the agent they were legal. This soup is remarkably delicious, easy to make and a little dressier than most lentil soups. I think you’ll love it. It’s adapted from the yet to be published pages of the new cookbook.
French Green Lentil Soup with Bacon
(Makes 8 servings)
Deep in the volcanic rich-soil of Auvergne in South Central France reside the nutrients that help create the special flavor and color of the Puy lentil. It is an extra firm, dark green lentil with sage-hued threads and a peppery flavor. Unlike other lentils, it holds its shape and its firm, toothsome texture even when cooked, rather than breaking down into mushy legume puddles. Referred to as French Green Lentils in the United States, they are increasingly easy to find here at regular grocery stores and markets. They are worth tracking down, as their body and flavor are what make this simple, yet delicious soup so outstanding. Be sure to rinse the lentils and pick over for any small stones. It’s ok to salt them very lightly in the beginning of the cooking process, but save the bulk of the salt until finishing the seasoning after they’re cooked. Salt can harden the lentils. This soup can be left in its whole lentil state, but I like to lighten it and puree it with an immersion blender. A dash of cloves and dried sage give it an extra earthy, hard to resist flavor that works magic with the peppery nature of the lentils. Not only do these lentils make delicious soups, they are outstanding cooked in salads or as a seasoned garnish to fish, particularly salmon.
1 1/2 cups (about 8 slices) bacon cut into a 1/2” dice
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 leeks, trimmed to 1” above the white part of the stalk, halved vertically, finely chopped, and well-rinsed
2 medium stalks celery, finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed and coarsely chopped
Light salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup good quality full-bodied red wine (suggest Cabernet Sauvignon)
1 1/2 cups French Green Lentils
4 cups vegetable stock
1 cup water
2 bay leaves
Generous pinch ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons ground sage
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the garnish:
1/2 reserved cooked bacon
1/4 cup crème fraiche or sour cream
3 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
Heat a 5 1/2 quart Dutch oven or similarly sized soup pot over medium high. Add the diced bacon and black pepper. Cook to render fat and brown the bacon, stirring every minute or so. Reduce heat to medium low and continue cooking the bacon until it’s cooked through and nicely browned. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Set aside. Drain off all but 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat in the cooking pot. Add the onion, leeks, celery, carrot, and garlic. Season very lightly with salt and pepper. Stir to coat. Cook until just softened, about 5 minutes. Deglaze with the red wine, stirring to pick up any brown bits from the bacon. Increase heat to high and reduce the wine by about half. Add the lentils, vegetable stock, water, bay leaves, ground cloves and ground sage. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Bring up to a boil over high heat and reduce to a simmer over medium low heat. Cook uncovered until the lentils have softened to a gentle chew state (al dente), 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the bay leaves. Puree in a blender or with an immersion blender until aerated and chunky-smooth. Return to the pot and bring to a low simmer. If it seems too thick, add enough water to adjust more to your taste, about 1/2 – 1 cup of water should do it. Stir in 1/2 of the reserved bacon. Taste carefully and adjust the salt and pepper as needed. To serve, ladle the soup into individual bowls, garnishing each with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraiche and a drizzle of bacon and fresh parsley. (Note: The soup can be made ahead and refrigerated for 1 or 2 days or frozen up to 2 months and reheated before serving).