The trip I took to Portland did everything I had hoped it would. It gave me a breather and a much needed change of scenery. It inspired me to pick up the camera more when food isn’t around. Its independent spirit renewed my faith in doing your own thing and making your own way. There’s been an unexpected side effect, though – a screeching case of wanderlust. In between the chaos of working non-stop since my return, I wake up in the mornings thinking about weekend cabin getaways. Surfing the Internet in search of information for our big trip next year. Even plotting a culture filled staycation on my next full day off.
While my sweetie was out of town in New Orleans, I headed to North Georgia with Chris for an early morning travel fix. Our destination: Mercier Orchards, which is about an hour north of Atlanta. I’d been there many times for their preserves, still warm apple hand pies and bags of local produce…but I had never been there to pick my own apples. On a glorious September day, we wandered around the orchard grounds & picked as many apples as our bags would hold. Plotting the baking and soup making that would happen with all the incredible Granny Smiths. Marveling at the simple pleasure of eating a Beni Shogun apple straight off the tree in the warm sunshine.
Just as I’d enjoyed the simple pleasure of just eating a plain ol’ apple, I knew I wanted to incorporate these beauties into a simple soup. A lot of times with winter squash soups, those flavors get bogged down by the addition of curries, baking spices, ginger. There’s a place for those soups, don’t get me wrong…but sometimes, it’s nice to taste the essence of perfectly fresh food you’re cooking with. No fussy garnish, no dollops or croutons – you can add those if you’d like. This was early fall – and the beauty of those apples – in a bowl.
Apple & Winter Squash Soup – serves 4 as a soup course or light entree
This soup is vegetarian and vegan if you keep to the recipe directly. I love the ease and simplicity of it. The addition of the apple cider at the end really enhances the apple taste. This would be a great starter in some small cups or shot style glasses at fall dinners or holiday entertaining. While I’m being a purist here, certainly add a bit of creme fraiche, nutmeg or ginger if you’d like.
- In a large soup pot or stock pot, heat the oil until slightly shimmering. Add in the diced apples and squash. Stir to coat with oil and saute, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add in the water until the apples & squash are just covered. Bring mixture to a boil then turn down to a simmer and cook until the chunks are fork-tender – for me, this took about 20 minutes. Remove from heat & allow to cool. In a high powered blender – as usual, I endorse my Vitamix for this – puree the chunks of apple & squash along with the liquid until smooth. Return to the pot, bring the soup back to a simmer and stir in the apple cider. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Once heated through, serve immediately. This soup will keep for up to a week in a tightly sealed storage container.