I’m not sure about where you live, but for those of us in Sonoma, right now the weather continues to mess with us” a little. Mornings are cold, sometimes foggy assuring us that indeed the calendar is correct and we are well into autumn. Then by afternoon when the temperature has reached 80 degrees, we think we are in summer. So, of course it is layering for our clothing choices, but somehow, love those summer salads as we do, when it comes to culinary choices, we really do find ourselves in sync with the calendar.
Fortunately, our winter squash beds are prolific so “the fig’s” popular butternut squash soup, featured on page 204 of Plats du Jour: the girl & the fig’s Journey Through the Seasons in Wine Country will be appearing on the menu at the restaurant, or is an easy go-to meal for you too.
Butternut Squash Soup, Balsamic Reduction, Fried Sage
When summer squash transitions to winter squash, soup always comes to mind. Butternut squash is a wonderful, hard variety that when cooked just right will utterly delight you. At this time of year, you’ll find several squash varieties at the market, so give the others a try in this recipe. There are a handful of options to garnish this soup. Fried sage has a nice earthy flavor and will be a wonderful flavor contrast to the creamy soup. Another option is Candied Pumpkin Seeds (page 315). They will definitely add a textural surprise!
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 large leek, white part only, cleaned and chopped
2 shallots, chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
21⁄2 pounds Butternut squash, peeled, seeded, chopped
Salt and white pepper to taste
1⁄2 cup heavy cream
1 bunch fresh sage leaves, picked, for garnish
Balsamic Reduction (page 311), for garnish
Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, leek, shallots, and garlic and sauté until the vegetables are soft, about 7 minutes. Stir the vegetables occasionally to prevent browning. Add the squash to the vegetables and stir. Add 2 quarts of water and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the squash is just tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
Add the heavy cream and the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. Remove the vegetables from the heat and purée immediately in a blender or food processor. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and adjust seasoning if necessary. Heat a small amount of blended oil to 300°F and fry the sage leaves until crispy. Transfer the sage leaves to paper towels to drain and cool. Ladle the soup into 6 bowls and garnish each with a drizzle of the balsamic vinegar reduction and a few fried sage leaves.
By the way, as we explain in Plats du Jour cookbook: “Even though they are harvested in the fall, they are called winter squash because their hard, thick skins protect them during the winter storage, which was crucial in the days before refrigeration. Their large size and sometimes odd-looking exterior seem to intimidate some cooks but they are actually very easy to work with. Once you remove the tough outer skin or cut one in half and roast it with the skin on, you’ve got a very nutritious and adaptable ingredient.”
There are many varieties of winter squash and you can substitute one for the other in recipes. Here are some other winter squash recipe ideas. Planting squash always yields great bounty, and similarly, there is no shortage of other tips on cooking winter squash.
The recipes are all well and good you say, but that thick skin, which may be good for the squash, kind of scares you when it comes to cutting the squash? Of course you can’t enjoy the versatility of winter squash and experiment with these recipes if you are unsure how to cut it.
We have other vegetables growing at the farm that say “fall” including cauliflower. Our chefs feature a popular cauliflower & romanesco gratin with cauliflower cream, sort of a “mac & cheese in disguise!”
Romanesco broccoli is an especially delicious variety of green cauliflower, but can be hard to find, so yo can substitute broccoli in the recipe. Did you know there is also orange and purple cauliflower? (More: color in the garden). Chef tip: look for cauliflower heads (called curds) that are tightly closed, surrounded by bright green leaves.
So, you can see that cauliflower is not as dull as it might seem—it’s colorful and healthy and much more versatile than you think. Besides our “mac & cheese” version, did you know that if you grate cauliflower curds to “rice like” shape, you can use them to make risotto? Use the cauliflower instead of the Arborio rice! At 25 calories per cup for cauliflower, that’s tempting, right? Check out a cauliflower risotto recipe which ensures the flavor and consistency will be creamy and savory.
Got you thinking of how to be creative with cauliflower? How about savory kale, garlic & cauliflower puree pop tarts?
Fun way to get your Vitamin B, C, K and manganese.
All this rivals summer’s bounty at the farm, which helps on these cold autumn mornings. But actually, with recipes and ideas like this cooking, we might not mind if it doesn’t warm up in the afternoon. After all, could be a perfect time for soups and stews and we have just the right ingredients growing at our farm.
What’s growing at your farm? And do you have a favorite fall recipe to share?