It all comes together this time of year, in a soup pot. sweet delicata winter squash, creamy yellow fruits with green stripes, hand-picked from a local organic farmers market basket; red onions from the same grower; and crisp apples straight from orchard trees: the season’s harvest pureed into a hearty soup that makes the perfect meal for a chilly autumn evening, with surplus frozen for February.
I make this soup in double batches, two pots simmering together on the front burners, filling the house with delicious smells. I cooked up a batch last weekend, beginning with a Saturday trip to the Ellsworth Farmers’ Market where I picked through a grower’s basket of mixed squash, selecting all of the larger delicatas.
“You do need a lot of squash,” said the woman at the till as she handed me a large paper bag.
“I’m making soup,” I replied, “with these, some of those red onions,” pointing to another basket on her table, “apples we picked last weekend, ginger and cilantro.”
As she weighed my squash and onions, she asked with a lovely smile whether I would be coming back next week and, if so, could I please bring her the recipe. I made a promise.
Saturday evening I cooked the squash, cutting each fruit lengthwise and scooping out the seeds, then filling as many roasting pans as the oven could hold with squash halves turned upside down in an inch of water. Roasted at 400 degrees, they were soft to the tines of a fork in an hour and removed from the oven to cool.
I scooped out the soft flesh from still-warm squash shells while Marjorie snipped the empty skins into small pieces for the worm bin. Little goes to waste in our kitchen.
An oven’s worth of squash is far more than the 6 cups needed for two pots of soup, and I packaged up the excess for the freezer. The soup squash went into the refrigerator until Sunday evening.
The recipe calls for three-quarters of a cup of dry white wine per pot. I found some pinot grigio in the refrigerator, opened two weeks ago, and set aside the required cup and a half, then poured a glass for the cook.
Each pot requires two large red onions, coarsely chopped, a task that always brings tears, and I had to stop between onions to rub my eyes and take a sip of wine. I sauteed these onions in melted butter (2½ tablespoons per pot), stirring and sipping until they were very soft.
To the onions in each pot I added about a pound of sweet apples that were peeled, cored and sliced while the onions were cooking. This is a recipe with a lot of leeway, so if you have more apples, throw in a few more.
After adding a little salt to each pot, the apples and onions simmered over medium heat for a while, until everything was very soft. Then to each pot I added about 4½ cups vegetable broth, the wine, 1½ tablespoons minced fresh ginger and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro. You can add some pepper too, if you like.
Now, about the cilantro. I was reading lately that a taste for cilantro is genetically linked; some of us, such as Marjorie, love it, while some, including this writer, tolerate it in small doses. So I pretty much stick with the recipe and never let Marjorie near the pot when it’s time to add the cilantro.
I let the soup simmer for another half-hour or so, then pureed it in a blender until perfectly smooth. Done! I served it hot, garnished with cilantro leaves (Marjorie’s idea), along with a crusty boule.
Eat the leftovers, warmed or cold, through the week. The pure flavors of the vegetables and fruit only get livelier and more concentrated, with time.
This Saturday, as you are reading this, I will deliver a copy to the smiling lady at the farmers market, keeping a promise. And perhaps get started on another batch of gingered squash and apple soup.