We had the good fortune to have a young man from the Czech Republic stay with us these past two weeks. Trying to describe each other's worlds to one another was at times a challenge due to language barriers, but food and flavor always seemed to break through any hindrances we had in communication. Michael asked me to teach him to cook two things: American steak— we chose a locally raised T-bone done on the grill with a bit of herb butter at serving time—and Chocolate Chip Cookies. Yum. He wanted to learn about foods unique to New England. My most immediate thoughts conjured up steaming bowls of clam chowder and pancakes dripping with maple syrup. But, as we travelled together through New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts, I realized how eclectic our cuisine has become.
There were Italian dishes—handmade past, proscuitto with melon, tiramisu—at our favorite trattoria and in the shops on the North End of Boston; then there were the hot, crispy samosas for sale at the farmers' market in Montpelier; and the Korean foods we savored, mad by our neighbors at a local restaurant. By the time Michael left our home, he had experienced many worlds of fabulous flavors. We exchanged recipes—I now have a book of Czech cookery to explore—and tearful hugs as we said good-bye.
This Butternut Squash Soup with Apples and Apple Cider is filled with the flavors of New England, the colors of autumn, so much so that it is a soothing elixir to the now cool weather. Apple cider is to New Englanders, what wine is to the French. It adds a bold flavor to cooked items and is wonderful to drink freshly pressed. We had this soup and cider for dinner last night with whole grain toast dripping with hand-made butter from Maine and a wedge of Cabot Creamery cheddar cheese from Vermont. Try making this heart warming meal for yourselves very soon.
I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors, soon.
UTUMN BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP WITH APPLES
Yield: 6 Servings
- One and one half pounds peeled butternut squash, cut in to large chunks
- 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large Vidalia onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons Gathering Flavors French Spice Blend* or 2 teaspoons herbes de Provence
- 4 cups chicken, beef or vegetable broth
- 2 cups apple cider
- 2 ripe apples, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- finely chopped apples, cider syrup* , and herbes de Provence
- toasted whole grain bread, butter, Vermont Cheddar Cheese (optional)
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. .
- Line 2 baking sheets (with raised edges) with parchment paper.
- Toss the squash with a small amount of oil. Put the prepared squash on one of the prepared baking sheet and slide it in the oven. Roast until the squash is softened and browned to a light golden color, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.
- Toss the sliced onion with a bit of olive oil and herbes de Provence. Scatter them on the second baking sheet. Place in the oven and roast until the onion slices are beginning to brown, about 25 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
- Place the roasted squash and onions in a slow cooker or crock pot. * Add the broth, apple cider and peeled apples. Cover and set to cook on high. Allow the soup to simmer until the apples are completely softened, about one to two hours. Puree the soup directly in the slow cooker, using an immersion blender, taking care not to splatter the hot liquids.
- Cover and heat through again. Taste. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper, as needed.
- Serve in large bowls garnished with chopped fresh apples, drizzled cider syrup* and a sprinkling of herbes de Provence.
- Accompany the soup with buttered whole grain toast and a wedge of Vermont cheddar cheese, if you like.
1. This soup can be made on the stove in a large soup pot rather than in a crock pot or slow cooker. Simply follow all the initial steps. Once you have all the ingredients in your soup pot, bring the liquids to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer. Continue as directed.
2. Cider syrup is apple cider that has been reduced to a the consistency of a syrup. Upper Valley residents can purchase it at The Hanover Consumer COOP Stores, The White River COOP or King Arthur Flour. It can also be purchased on-line at King Arthur Flour. If none is available in your area, substitute maple syrup as a garnish.