Kick Start 2010

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February 2nd, 2010

It’s a new year, and another opportunity to adopt a healthier lifestyle. This maple butternut squash and apple soup is a great option for the dreary winter months, when you’re looking for something warm and comfortable, but your waistband is still tight from the holidays.

There are so many varieties of hard squashes available, and the flavors are just marvelous. The nutritious benefits are definitely a plus, as winter squash is a great source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, riboflavin and iron. The main reason I love squash is because it’s almost a meal in itself and it’s so darn simple to prepare! Roasted, steamed, baked or pureed into soup – squash simply doesn’t require much prep time.

No matter what kind of squash you choose at the grocery store or your local farmer’s market, there’s no flavor guarantee. A lot of the flavor profile has to do with growing practices, techniques and how long ago the squash was harvested. Many varieties of hard squash get sweeter the longer they sit on the counter.

I’m a huge fan of Kabocha squash for its typically sweet nature and smooth texture. I’ve made this soup with butternut, delicata, turban and hubbard squash and even sugar pumpkins. Talk to your produce specialist to find out which squash is likely to be the sweetest that day.

Cooks Secret: People can’t believe how outrageously delicious this soup is. Squash, garlic and thyme all bring something to the party but my real secret? I keep a bottle of pure Canadian maple syrup with a pour spout near the stove and use it as my primary go-to ingredient when it’s time to season a dish just before serving. This recipe is a perfect example of how to use maple syrup in a condiment context to marry and enhance flavors.

Maple Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

Click for larger image

Click for larger image

Ingredients

  • 2 butternut squash (or one medium squash)
  • 1-2 teaspoons olive oil (to taste)
  • 2 Tablespoons pure Canadian maple syrup
  • coarse grained salt and cracked black pepper
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, sprouts removed
  • sprigs of thyme
  • 2 Northern Spy, Rome Beauty or other baking apple
  • 4 cups homemade chicken stock or canned chicken broth

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds.

Peel, core and cut the apples into quarters. Brush cut surfaces of squash and apples with pure maple syrup and then the oil.

Season apples with coarse-grained salt and cracked black pepper. Set apples aside.

Place squash on a cookie sheet, tuck the garlic and one sprig of thyme in the cavity of each half.

Place cut side down on a cookie sheet and bake 15 minutes.

Place apples on cookie sheet with squash and continue baking until squash and apples are completely soft and tender about 15-20 minutes more.

When the squash is just cool enough to handle, scrape the meat from the skin, place in a medium sauce-pot along with the cooked garlic, discard the thyme sprig.

Using a potato masher, mash apples and squash. If a smoother texture is desired, pass through a ricer or food mill.

Pour only enough chicken broth to achieve desired soup consistency. For a thinner soup use more stock, for a thicker heartier version, use less stock.

Turn heat to medium high and heat, stirring constantly until soup comes to a boil. Turn off heat. Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper and pure maple syrup.

Serve immediately.

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