One of my favorite things about fall is the rich feast of winter vegetables that become available at local farmers markets. Top on the list are the many varieties of winter squash. They add substance and punch to just about any meal in hearty soups, oven roasted with other winter vegetables, fine diced for use in winter hash recipes, and shredded for squash fritters.
What is a Winter Squash?
Winter squash is an annual fruit representing several squash species within the genus Cucurbita. Unlike summer squash, it is harvested and eaten in the mature fruit stage when the seeds within have matured fully and the skin has hardened into a tough rind. Most varieties of winter squash can be stored for use during the winter. They are generally cooked before being eaten and the skin or rind is not usually eaten.
Winter squash is a low-calorie food and a good source of complex vegetable carbohydrates and dietary fiber. It is an excellent source of vitamin A, a great source of vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber and manganese, and a good source of folate, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B1 (thiamin), copper, tryptophan, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B3 (niacin) and vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid). It is also a source of iron and beta-carotene. Generally speaking, the darker the skin is, the higher the beta-carotene content.
If you joined us for lunch at Chair 6 during the winter, you may have sampled one of recipes I developed over the years for Hubbard Squash, a simple soup recipe that became a surprising favorite for many of our regulars.
For those of you who missed out, and for those who have wanted a chance to make the soup, here is the recipe:
Butternut Squash & Granny Apple Bisque
3 large butternut squash
4 Granny Smith apples
1/2 gal fresh apple cider
1/2 tbl Kosher Salt
2 tbl ground ginger
8 star anise
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp Chinese five spice
FOR THE SOUP
Peel and seed the butternut squash.
Chop the squash pieces into small chunks and place in a soup pot.
Cut the apple from the core. I leave the skins on for more texture in the soup but you can remove them.
Chop the apple slices into small chucks and place in the soup pot.
Add the 1/2 gallon of apple cider to the soup pot.
Add the remaining ingredients to the soup pot.
Bring the soup mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
Simmer the soup mixture till the squash and the apple pieces are soft. This will take about 2-3 hours.
Take soup pot off the heat and let cool in the pot.
Remove the star anise pieces from the soup.
At this point you can either stir the soup with a kitchen spoon until the soup reaches the desired consistency, or you can puree the soup with a kitchen wand until smooth.
I prefer the spoon method for a chunkier soup.
PHOTO: George Chernilevsky