Sunday, October 7, 2012

Flavors of Fall - Butternut Squash & Apple Soup and Fig Pasta

Fall Time! The season of leaf-peeping and fuzzy sweaters. The time of year when a girl's thoughts turn towards pumpkin spice lattes, hot apple cider, and pumpkin beer (we ladies sure do love us some pumpkin beer).

Beautiful Pumpkins, Photo by Kate DuBois

From Oktoberfest to football, there's something for everyone.
Another thing I love about Fall? Amazing produce. Whether Pumpkins, Brussels Sprouts, Squash or Apples, Autumn's bounty can equal major cooking inspiration. In this week's spotlight we have Figs, Apples, and Butternut Squash - all fantastic right now, and very versatile. Tune in next week for an exciting twist on my long time love, Brussels Sprouts. 

Here, we road tested a (new to us) Squash and Apple Soup Recipe, and prepare beautifully ripe Figs in an unexpected way. Enjoy!

First - The soup. I'm a big fan of Squash and Apple Soup. I love it as an easy, make-ahead addition to a fall feast, (check out a Foolproof Fall Dinner Party Menu here) or as a hearty side dish for an everyday weeknight meal. We tested out Martha Stewart's recipe (she is my main squeeze, after all), whereas I usually rely on Ina Garten's delicious version of this classic. The verdict - Martha's was great as well. Different. A bit spicier and lighter. Ina's version is a touch sweeter, a wee bit richer, and seemed more apple focused. You can't really go wrong with either. This soup freezes easily and keeps for up to a month. In the fridge, it will keep for 3 days.

Golden Delicious Apples and Butternut Squash, Photo: NK

Apple-Butternut Squash Soup
Lightly Adapted from Martha Stewart
Serves 6 

1 Tablespoon Salted Butter
1 medium Vidalia or Spanish Onion, diced 
1 Butternut Squash (about 2 Lbs) peeled, cored, and chopped. 
4 Red or Golden Apples (we used Golden Delicious), peeled, cored and chopped
2 Tablespoons Course Salt
1.5 teaspoons Cumin
1/2 teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/2 teaspoon Ground Coriander
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/4 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
2 Cups Low Sodium Chicken or Vegetable Stock
2.5 Cups Water, plus more if needed
1 Jalapeno Chile sliced thinly - Optional - for garnish
Optional Garnishes:
1 Granny Smith Apple sliced into thin crescents
Fromage Blanc (sour cream works as well)
Several Pinches of Cilantro 
Melt Butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add Onion and cook, stirring occasionally until it begins to soften, 4 minutes or so. Next, add Squash and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, about 10 minutes.

Add Apples, Salt, Cumin, Coriander, Ginger, Cayenne, Black Pepper, Chicken or Veggie Stock, and the water, until the solid ingredients are fully covered (add a bit more if you need). Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until vegetables are very soft, 30 to 35 minutes.

Puree the mixture in batches in a food processor, or better yet, blend it using an immersion blender right in your pot until you reach your desired consistency. You may thin it further with a bit more water if you like.

To serve, portion soup into shallow bowls, lay the Green Apple Crescents in the middle of the bowl, dot the middle with Fromage Blanc, and sprinkle Jalapeno Slices around the middle. 

Apple-Butternut Squash Soup Garnished with Fromage Blanc, Jalapeno, Green Apple, Cilantro
Photo: NK

Next Up - A really delicious and easy fig pasta that I adapted considerably from a recipe I found in Southern Living. Their version of the pasta included more of cream sauce, which we aren't  big fans of around here. My version has just a touch of creaminess. In this dish, the taste of the sweet Figs (use only the ripest), salty, smokey Pancetta and bright Basil really do stand on their own. Use lots of black pepper to wake up all the flavors in this delightful, fast, and attractive plate. 

Whole Wheat Fetttucine with Pancetta and Figs
Adapted from Southern Living
Beautifully Ripe Black Mission Figs, Photo: NK
Serves 2 

1/2 Lb Whole Wheat Fettucine
3 Oz Thick Cut Pancetta, diced
1 Shallot, minced
1 Clove Garlic, minced
1/4 Cup freshly grated Parmigiana Cheese plus more for serving

6 fresh Figs, cut in quarters
(We used Mission Figs -the purple skinned ones)*

1/4 Cup Basil, torn into pieces
2 Tbsp Cream or Half and Half
Salt and Fresh Black Pepper

*How do you know when a fig is ripe? - Click Here  and Here

Cook Pasta in Salted boiling water according to package instructions, making sure to reserve a cup of cooking water when you drain. Set pasta aside.

Next, saute Pancetta, Garlic and Shallot in a large skillet over medium heat stirring very often until the Pancetta is golden and the Shallots have become tender. To the skillet, add the Grated Parmigiana Cheese, Half and Half or Cream, and 4 Tablespoons Pasta Water. Stir vigorously until the liquids are incorporated and the Cheese is melted. 

To the skillet, immediately add the Cooked Fettucine and toss everything gently. Turn the burner up a bit and add more reserved Pasta Water, Tablespoon by Tablespoon, until sauce thickens a little bit and your desired consistency is reached - you can use up to about a half cup if needed. Taste for seasoning and add a bit of Salt if necessary (the salty Pancetta will have most likely given it enough flavor) and lots of ground Black Pepper. 

To Serve - Plate the Pasta, top with torn Basil, and place equal amounts of quartered Figs on each bowl. Serve with extra Black Pepper and grated Parmigiana on the side.  
Whole Wheat Fettucine with Figs and Pancetta, The Tastes of Fall. Photo: NK

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  1. OMG.. I am so having both of these this weekend.. We have squash and we have figs.... just need the apples.. Thank Sami, again another home run for you :)

    1. Ok so I couldn't wait for the weekend.. this soup was OUTSTANDING.. I hope there will be enough for tonight for dinner =-)

  2. So pleased to hear it, Freddie!! And I love that it is so healthy - no guilt and all taste!

  3. This is a great cake. I have friends and family with allergies and its great to know there is a cake I can make that we can all celebrate with. Thanks for a brilliant recipe.
    Regards: Eve Hunt