Apple and Butternut Squash Soup with Toasted Pecans and Sage

Apple and Butternut Squash Soup with Toasted Pecans and Sage
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About This Recipe

Ah, Napa Valley in the fall — when the grapevines wear their fiery hues, the crisp air whispers tales of harvest, and the culinary landscape is a celebration of nature's bounty. The inspiration for my Apple and Butternut Squash Soup was born on one such autumn day. Every home chef knows that authentic recipes come from the heart and are a reflection of the surroundings. And where else but in the heart of wine country can a chef find better ingredients, steeped in tradition, nurtured by nature, and kissed by Californian sunshine?

You see, our valley isn’t just famous for its world-renowned wines. It's a gastronomic wonderland that promises a farm to table experience in every bite. I ventured into one of our local groves, where old pecan trees stand tall, their leaves a canvas of russet and gold. A few miles down, I chanced upon an orchard with apples so fresh, they seemed to have captured all of summer’s sweetness in their juicy crunch.

The recipe itself is quite simple. It's the harmony of butternut squash's earthiness with the tartness of fresh apples, both so abundantly available in Napa, that makes this dish shine. Now, every dish needs that extra touch — a hint of luxury, if you will. Toasted pecans and sage provide just that. As you savor the soup, each spoonful feels like a warm embrace on a cool day.

Now, let’s talk sides. Picture a rustic sourdough bread, sourced from one of St. Helena's artisanal bakeries. The bread's crusty exterior and soft interior are perfect for soaking up the last drops of the soup. If you’re in the mood for a light salad, a blend of fresh arugula, roasted beets, and a sprinkle of goat cheese from Sonoma would be an excellent choice.

And for dessert? Ah, a slice of pear and almond tart, perhaps from the hidden gem, Sweetie Pies in downtown Napa, with its subtle flavors playing a symphony on your palate, would be the cherry on top.

But, no meal in the wine country is complete without wine. The buttery undertones and hints of apple in a well-balanced Chardonnay, like the one from Frog's Leap, pair perfectly with the soup's creamy texture. For those with a penchant for floral aromatics, Albini Family Vineyards in Sonoma offers an expressive Viognier. The subtle minerality in the wine beautifully highlights the sage's earthy notes.

When you're in Napa, you don't just dine; you experience. Every meal, especially a chef's meal at home, becomes a journey — a tour through vineyards, a stroll by the orchards, a chef recipe review in every bite. If you ever find yourself visiting our valley, take a detour from the oft-trodden tourist paths. Maybe pop by Truchard Vineyards, an off-the-beaten-path winery with a charm that's quintessentially Napa.

I hope this dish transports you to Napa, if only for a dinner. It's a quick dinner idea, a symphony of wine country flavors, and, most importantly, a piece of my home that I’m sharing with you. Enjoy it with friends, family, or a quiet evening with a glass of wine, and let Napa Valley come to you.

Hero Ingredient Spotlight: Butternut Squash

Butternut squash, a winter squash variety, is the hero of our dish. With its rich, nutty flavor and creamy texture, it’s the epitome of fall comfort food. Loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, it's as nutritious as it is delicious. When combined with the tartness of apples and aromatic sage, butternut squash transforms into a soup that's not just heartwarming but also soul-satisfying. Its vibrant orange hue, attributed to the high levels of beta-carotene, promises a visual as well as a gastronomic delight.

How to Perfectly Toast Pecans

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C).
  2. Spread pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet. No need for oil or any additions – the natural oils in the pecans will suffice.
  3. Toast in the oven for 8-10 minutes. Make sure to toss or stir them around halfway through to ensure even toasting.
  4. Watch closely to prevent over-toasting, as pecans can go from toasted to burnt quickly.
  5. Once they're golden brown and emit a nutty aroma, remove them from the oven.
  6. Cool before using. Toasted pecans not only offer a delightful crunch to dishes but also an intensified depth of flavor.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. What apples are best for this soup? While the recipe suggests Granny Smith due to its tartness, you can also use Fuji or Honeycrisp for a sweeter profile.
  2. How do I store leftovers? Cool the soup completely and transfer to an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 3 days. To reheat, warm gently on the stovetop.
  3. Can I make this soup vegan? Absolutely! Swap the chicken broth for vegetable broth, and either omit the heavy cream or use a plant-based cream alternative.
  4. I'm allergic to nuts. What can I use in place of pecans? Roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas) or sunflower seeds make excellent nut-free toppings that still provide crunch.
  5. Can I make this soup without an immersion blender? Yes, you can use a regular blender. Just be sure to let the soup cool a bit before blending in batches, returning it to the pot to reheat.

Tips for Success

  1. Opt for Fresh Sage: While dried sage can work in a pinch, fresh sage truly elevates the soup's flavor profile. It’s worth seeking out fresh sage for this dish.
  2. Adjust Consistency as Desired: If you find your soup too thick after blending, add a bit more broth or apple cider to thin it to your liking. Conversely, if it’s too thin, let it simmer a little longer to reduce and thicken.
  3. Pair with Perfect Wine: Enhance your dining experience by pairing your soup with a bottle of Chardonnay or Viognier, both of which complement the dish’s flavors exquisitely.

Recipe Overview

Recipe:
Apple and Butternut Squash Soup with Toasted Pecans and Sage
Author:
Lily Anderson
Season:
Fall
Yield:
6 servings
Calories Per Serving:
210
Prep Time:
PT15M
Cook Time:
PT40M
Total Time:
PT55M

Ingredients List

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium-sized butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 2 large apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (preferably a tart variety like Granny Smith)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 teaspoon fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (optional, for a creamier texture)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Fresh sage leaves, for garnish

Step-by-Step Directions

  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 4-5 minutes.
  2. Add the cubed butternut squash, chopped apples, and sage to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, for another 7-8 minutes or until the apples begin to soften.
  3. Pour in the broth and apple cider, bringing the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and let it cook for about 20-25 minutes or until the butternut squash is tender.
  4. Once cooked, use an immersion blender or transfer to a blender in batches, and puree the soup until smooth. If using heavy cream, stir it in now and bring the soup back to a gentle simmer.
  5. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  6. Serve hot, garnished with toasted pecans and fresh sage leaves.

Share Your Results

Was it everything you dreamed it could be? Let me know how it turned out for you and share a picture on social media with the hashtag #LilyCooksNapa

Hello and welcome to Napa Home Chef! We're thrilled you're joining us to explore the vibrant world of wine country cooking. Our team has crafted bold, creative recipes inspired by Napa Valley's lush landscapes, bountiful harvests, and world-renowned wines. We hope you enjoy the journey with us!

Get ready to experience the rich flavors and unique culinary delights that embody the essence of wine country living. Happy cooking!

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