Crisp days, harvest moon, falling leaves, bountiful harvest, these ares the signs of Autumn and the transition into colder weather. It seems what everyone needs this time of year is comfort and nothing says comfort more than sweaters and warming soup. Saturday two friends and I donned our sweaters and scarves and took off on a chilly morning to check out the farmer’s offerings at the market. Beautiful shades of orange gourds, squashes and pumpkins, green spinach and leeks, multi-colored root vegetables and peppers of various shades delighted us as we foraged our way through the many vendors.
On thing that tempted our noses was huge bouquets of silver dollar eucalyptus. Being from Northern California, I am not a stranger to eucalyptus as it grows abundantly along the coastlines and was planted inland as wind barriers throughout the fertile farm valleys. A silver dollar eucalyptus grew at the foot of the deck at my home in Sacramento and the aroma was delightful especially when it rained or was foggy. Oh, but I digress. What I was not aware of, was its growth here in the midwest. It is now being cultivated locally for use in floral arrangements and decorative purposes. Thrilled with the aroma and beauty of its leaves, we all three had to carry a large bouquet of the fragrant branches home with us.
Another feature viewed throughout the market was ornamental kale. I am always amazed at how this vegetable with its hues of green and purple can be transformed into a lovely arrangement that rivals any floral bouquet I have ever seen. I would be happy to have this grace my table anytime, but alas, it is only available here after the Summer’s heat is gone and before the Winter’s freeze has settled in. We must enjoy it while that brief window is open.
The farmers displayed many varieties of Winter squash this week; butternut, acorn, delicata, kabocha to name a few. I am a big fan of all, but this year I discovered the red kuri squash. My friend and fellow blogger, Maggie, sent me a recipe for Red Kuri Squash Soup that I was dying to try. Here’s the thing! You don’t have to peel it! How easy is that? It also has very few ingredients which make it even easier.
This is how it goes down.
3 slender or 1 1/2 larger leeks, white part only, split lengthwise, washed and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 c whole milk, or as needed
3 c water, or as needed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Freshly ground nutmeg
1 tart apple, peeled, cored, and cut into a tiny dice
1/3 c chopped toasted hazelnuts or walnuts
1/2 c creme fraiche or sour cream
- Scrub the squash with a brush to remove any dirt. With a sharp knife, cut off the pointy end and cut the squash in half from top to bottom. Scoop out the seeds and the strings and cut into 1-2 inch squares, skin and all. Yes! Do not peel! Toss into a soup pot.
- Add the leeks, milk, water, and salt generously. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 25-35 minutes or until squash is soft enough to mash with the back of a spoon.
- Using a blender, food processor or immersion blender, puree until very smooth. Thin with water or milk if too thick. Taste and adjust the salt. Season with pepper and nutmeg to taste.
- Reheat the soup if necessary. It is best if served hot.
- Spoon the apple and nuts into serving bowls and ladle in the soup. Top with the creme fraiche or sour cream, if using.
NOTE: Other garnish ideas include olive oil sautéed bread cubes tossed with torn sage leaves or top with slices of baguette that have been sprinkled with grated cheese and melted under the broiler–use nutty cheeses such as, Gruyère or Emmenthal or a blue cheese such as, Gorgonzola or Roquefort. Another idea is to saute cooked chopped chestnuts in a little butter or oil, season with salt and pepper and chopped fresh thyme or sage, spoon a little over the soup.
This simple but complex tasting soup is really good and comforting. My husband commented on the glowing color which is quite stunning but when he tasted it, he said the flavor glowed as well. We both enjoyed it very much. I changed it up a bit using toasted almonds instead of hazelnuts, skipped the apple, although I think it would be good, but I didn’t have any at the time. A toasted crouton was my garnish with melted Gruyère cheese and a sprinkle of smoked paprika. Yum!
Soup weather is upon us so I urge you to try this recipe and let me know how it was received in your household. I forgot to mention that I did feel it needed thinned (I used water) as it was quite thick after it was pureed.
We are blessed to be able to revel in the bountiful harvest. Don’t forget to thank a farmer today!