Just when I thought graduate school had hit its ultimate peak of mania, I had one of “those weeks”. I can’t tell you exactly what my week consisted of. In a blurred tizzy of studying for my first in-class midterm since I was 20 (I’m a research paper girl), an exceptionally chaotic few days at work, remembering to feed my cat every day (reason #5,000 that I don’t yet have an infant), and drinking enough wine to keep my mind from imploding…I found time to cook something. It’s an art, really—finding that happy place in my mind that still possesses creative thought and can string together a recipe amid apocalyptic surroundings. In retrospect, it’s probably a survival tactic honed from years of being the kind of person who is hungry the moment I wake up.
Butternut squash is a pretty safe choice for an October comfort meal, and it doesn’t hurt that Fairway carries them by the truckloads this time of year. I’ve posted about butternut squash soup before, but like most of my creations, I tend to go back and make adjustments. I usually do this in a less fragile state than I am in now, but oh well. Enjoy.
Butternut Squash and Apple Soup with Honey Parmesan Croutons
-Approx 5 cups of cut-up butternut squash, or 1 medium sized squash
-4 cloves of garlic, minced
-3 shallots, finely chopped
-1 large granny smith apple, diced finely
-30oz of chicken stock
-1/3 cup of coconut milk for the soup, and a little extra for swirling in before serving
-2 tablespoons of raw honey, and a little extra for the crouton
-2 tablespoons of fresh butter
-Dash of nutmeg, chili powder, sage, cinnamon, pepper
-1 fresh French baguette
-Fresh grated Parmesan cheese, for the croutons
**You will need a medium sized food processor or emulsion blender.
If you bought a whole butternut squash (recommended), peel the thick skin off and chop into quarters. Scoop out all the seeds and stringy bits, saving a handful of seeds to toast later. Chop the squash into approximately 1 inch pieces and set aside. Chop your shallots, garlic, and peeled apple finely.
In a large, thick stock pot, heat the 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for several minutes, until they become fragrant and translucent, stirring frequently with a rubber spatula. Add the chopped apple and cook for another few minutes. Add the chopped butternut squash and add all seasonings—just a few dashes of everything except for the pepper, which you can apply more generously. Be frugal with the nutmeg, just a tiny bit will have a hefty flavor. I hold off on the salt, as the chicken stock added later contributes much of that.
Cook the mixture for several minutes, stirring well. Add the chicken stock and turn the heat up to high, until the soup begins to simmer. Add the honey. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. After that, uncover and add the 1/3 cup coconut milk, cooking for another 10 minutes uncovered, until the squash is very tender.
If you saved some squash seeds, rinse them with water, pat dry and arrange on a sheet of aluminum foil. Set the oven to 350 degrees and roast the seeds for about 10 minutes until they begin to pop. Set aside.
Turn the heat on the soup pot down very low, and scoop out all the butternut squash, onion, and apple bits and put them into your food processor, leaving only the broth to simmer. Puree the mixture until it is creamy and silky. Return the mixture to the soup pot, scraping the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Mix well and allow to cook over low heat for about 5 minutes, tasting, salting, and seasoning as needed until the soup is thick and flavorful.
Slice your baguette into chunky pieces. Spread a bit of honey on each slice and sprinkle generously with the grated Parmesan. Arrange the slices on a baking sheet lined with olive oil, and toast under the broiler until crispy.
Before serving, swirl in a few spoonfuls of coconut milk and sprinkle the toasted seeds on top. The croutons can be broken up and served in the soup, or alongside to dip. Butternut squash has an infinitely comforting scent that literally screams “fall”, with a bold sweetness alongside the savory aroma of sage and nutmeg. The croutons crunch with honey baked into a caramelized frenzy and the salt from the Parmesan cuts through it all. Lightly creamy, bright, and delicious—an autumn dinner to keep you down on earth, even when life is spinning.