Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Apple-Butternut Squash Soup with Ancho Pepitas

Butternut squash or any winter squash soup can taste really bland unless you combine it with certain ingredients that bring out its natural sweetness.  Some squash soups that I've ordered out in restaurants or from store bought containers almost taste like baby food--pure squash puree with no added flavors whatsoever.  This is great if your are introducing your baby to squash for the first time and you want to whip up a bland blended puree, but not so much for the paying customer.  Ingredients that I like to use with butternut are apples, oranges, ancho chilies, maple syrup and toasted nuts or seeds.  Also the consistency of the puree has to be velvety smooth--not to thin or not to thick.

When I worked for the restaurant we always had butternut squash soup on our banquet menu in winter and it was really good.  We would make 10 gallon batches of it for parties and it would be gone by the end of the evening.  Here's a photo of the soup ready for food runners to take out to guests.  You can't tell from the photo but there is at least 30 bowls in the window for pickup.  

I have been really trying to cut back on all processed oils in my diet since the new year.  The only oil I use is first-cold pressed extra virgin olive oil and I use it sparingly.  In this recipe I used 3 tsp and that was for roasting the butternut and apples--so this recipe is basically oil free and you can't even tell that the oil is missing!

Disclaimer:  I never measure for my recipes unless it's a difficult recipe or a new technique that I've never used before, or if I'm baking.  Everything that I make is by sight, smell and most importantly taste.  Therefore, if the soup is too thick then add additional vegetable stock--if it's too thin then reduce it down further.  If you want more kick to the recipe then add additional ancho chili powder.


3 1/2-4 lbs butternut squash, washed, sliced in half, roasted
2 organic apples such as pink lady, fuji, or gala, sliced into 1/4" slices, roasted, about 2 cups (leave skin on)
3 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 cup Martinelli's Sparkling Apple Cider
8 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
1-2 tsp ancho chili powder (more or less depending on taste)
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1/2 orange, squeezed
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Toasted ancho chili pepper pepitas for garnish

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Slice butternut squash in half and rub with 2 tsp olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven for about 30-35 minutes until tender and lightly golden brown.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Scoop out seeds, peel and dice into large chunks.  Set aside.
  • Turn oven down to 350 degrees and toss apple slices in 1 tsp olive oil.  Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes until tender and lightly golden brown.  Remove from oven and set aside.
  • In a large dutch oven or stock pot, add onion, garlic, thyme and apple cider.  Bring mixture to a simmer and cook until apple cider is reduced and onions are soft.
  • Add squash, apples, vegetable stock, maple syrup, ancho chili powder to taste and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes for flavors to combine, adding salt and pepper to taste during cooking process.
  • Puree mixture in several batches in a blender on high until smooth.  Return to pan and add freshly squeezed orange juice and adjust seasoning if necessary.
  • Garnish with toasted pepitas.  
  • For the pepitas I used a 1/3 cup of raw pepitas, 3/4 tsp ancho chili powder, 1/4 tsp finely grated sea salt and 1/4 tsp olive oil.  Toast the pepitas first, then add to a bowl and then toss with olive oil and spices. 

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