HARD CIDER, SQUASH PEAR SOUP
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
3 pounds winter squash (I prefer Kabocha*)
1 whole cinnamon stick
1 leek, white and light green part only, halved lengthwise, washed well and thinly sliced
1 large or two small carrots, diced
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 pears, peeled, cored and diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups hard cider of your choice (I prefer Finnriver Pear
1 quart low-sodium vegetable broth (or water)
1 tablespoon grade B maple syrup
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
Sea salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
With a large sharp chef’s knife, carefully slice through the squash from top to bottom.
Remove the seeds and strings, then coat the cut sides and inside with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.
Place the squash cut-side down on a rimmed baking sheet and cook until very tender, about 45 minutes.
Let stand until it is cool enough to handle.
While the squash is cooking, prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Carefully hold the cinnamon stick over an open flame until half of it is slightly charred. Let cool, then hold the charred end and char the other half. Set aside.
In a heavy soup pot, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium-low heat. Add the leeks, carrots and salt and cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables soften but do not brown, around 15 minutes.
Mix in the pears and garlic and stir to combine for 2 minutes. Scoop out the flesh of the squash and add it to the pot along with the cinnamon stick, cider and broth or water.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the cinnamon stick and set aside.
Use an immersion blender to purée soup. Alternatively, let the soup cool slightly and carefully purée in batches in a traditional blender, then transfer back to the pot. Add the cinnamon stick back to the pot, then bring to a simmer over medium-low heat then add the vinegar, maple syrup and salt and pepper to taste. Add water or more stock if needed to thin soup to desired consistency.
*Kabocha squash skin is edible! Finely slice it and use it as a garnish on the
soup, chop it up and add it to a salad or grain/bean bowl.
The recipes of Lauren Chandler Cooks celebrate the colors, flavors and textures of the Pacific Northwest.