There are two things that signal the transition from spring to summer for me: the changing dynamic of the farmers’ market, with the end of tomatoes and zucchini, and the influx of apples and winter squash; and the transition in my garden from summer flowers to my mums.
September and October mark my favorite time of year; there’s a bounty of produce to be enjoyed, and my garden is its most lush. Herbs grow alongside my flowers and strawberries. The greenery is breathtaking, and my neighbors enjoy the splashes of color, or so they tell me.
When I see the burnt orange and deep purple of the mums, it signals to me the change in seasons, and I immediately want to bake cookies and make soup.
I’ve done a lot of both lately. The weather has been spot-on perfect: cool, crisp, sunny days followed by clear, brisk nights. I no longer have to rely on air-conditioning, my allergies have faded enough to allow me to open the windows on nicer days, and I sleep comfortably at night without having to turn on the heat.
This past weekend at the farmers’ market, I picked up my first butternut squash, along with a couple of Cortland apples. I adore the combination of apples and winter squash, and had planned on a curried apple-squash soup. But then I started poking around my bookmarked recipes and saw this winter squash soup from Bon Appétit. Now, I’m not really the biggest fan of acorn squash, and since my butternut was the perfect size, I decided to just go with what I liked. Of course, I also had to add some apple to the pot for a touch of sweetness, and I opted for a whole grain baguette for the croutons, to give me more of a complete meal.
I have to admit, after trying this soup, I discovered I only like roasted squash. Even the extra flavor from the apples and cider weren’t enough to overcome the squash. That said, if you like squash in any form, you’ll probably love this soup.
Winter Squash Soup with Gruyere Croutons
Adapted from Bon Appétit
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
5 cups chicken stock
½ cup apple cider
8 cups 1-inch pieces peeled butternut squash (about 3 pounds)
1 large Cortland apple, diced
1 1/4 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
1 1/4 teaspoons minced fresh sage
1/4 cup whipping cream
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
24 1/4-inch-thick whole grain baguette slices
1 cup grated Gruyère cheese
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon minced fresh sage
Melt the butter in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, sauté until tender, about 10-12 minutes. Add the stock, cider, squash, apple, and herbs and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until squash and apple are tender (20 minutes).
Working in batches, puree soup in blender or use an immersion blender. Return soup to same pot. Stir in cream and brown sugar; bring to simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
(Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill. Rewarm over medium heat before serving.)
Butter 1 side of each baguette slice. Arrange buttered side up, on baking sheet. Broil until golden, about 1 minute. Turn over. Sprinkle cheese, then thyme and sage over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil until cheese melts, about 1 minute. Ladle soup into bowls. Top each with croutons and serve.