The road to soup is sometimes filled with detours
Last Friday evening I flipped through one of my favorite vegan cookbooks and became intrigued with the "Butternut Squash and Pear Soup" recipe. Ginger was the first ingredient and since this is the time of year for fresh ginger at the market, I bookmarked the page.
If you want fresh ginger at the market, this is the time to get it in the Northwest. It freezes well, so you could buy extra. That's what I do. I found these tips at Steamy Kitchen if you want to freeze ginger.
I jotted down a rough list and the next day at the market, I got ginger from Mair Farm-Taki, and I bought bosc pears and a bag of organic golden delicious apples from Cliffside Orchards. Farmers Jeanette and Jeff Herman come to the market later (September through November) than row crop farms, and Cliffside is the only farm I know that grows and sells perfect golden delicious apples--my favorite apples. I thought about adding one to the soup, but I added apples to last week's soup.
I love these goldens, and I've tasted goldens everywhere--at PCC Natural Market, Whole Paycheck and even Top Foods--but none have goldens that compares with the crisp delicate sweet-tart flavor from Cliffside Orchards. "The problem," says Jeff Herman, "is these apples aren't keepers." The skin bruises easily, and the apple doesn't ship well. Picked green, they never get sweet and flavorful.
My friend Bill rolls his eyes when I mention golden delicious apples. He grows apples, works for WSU extension and he prefers Rubinettes. But look into the family of Rubinettes and you'll find golden delicious and cox orange pippin as apple parents. Golden delicious is one of the founding varieties of many of our favorite apples today. Try Jonagold, a direct descendant or Honeycrisp which came from a cross between Honeygold (a golden cross) and Macoun. With so many apple contenders in home gardens these days, it's easy to fall in love with an apple no one else has ever heard of.
Seattle Tree Fruit Show
I came home with soup ingredients plus a big bag of goldens, O'Henry peaches, elephant heart plums and bosc pears. Then on Sunday I went to the Seattle Tree Fruit Show where I'd vowed not to bring home apples but of course I came home with 5 pounds of Rubinettes. The price was right and they were good with a complex sweet-tart flavor and just a hint of golden flavor. Try them side by side and you'll see.
The Seattle Tree Fruit Society show was in my own neighborhood at the Lynnwood Grange. Next year, it will be held at Sky Nursery. Look for it around the same time next year.
There were lots of apples to sample and it was amazing how different they all tasted. Some had hints of spices, the tart varieties seemed more complex and even the sweet tones varied.
I spent a long time looking at the new blueberry threat--the spotted wing drosophila--under a microscope. Magnified, the big red eyes looked frightening. Home gardeners hang homemade traps for it--water bottles with apple cider vinegar on fruit trees where the flies will enter but drown in the vinegar. All soft fruit is at risk now in the state; fruit experts at the show said they start hanging the bottles in February since the fly attacks green fruit.
I also lingered over the table with all the apple and pear diseases. One often hears about coddling moth, apple maggot disease or scab but when you actually see it on the apples and pears you realize growing fruit isn't easy. And apples stay on the tree longer than any fruit, so plenty of things can go wrong.
When I arrived home from the Sunday event, Finn was intrigued by the tiny Rubinettes with stems. These apples are keepers and if you keep them cool (store them outside in the garage) they will keep until January. Tasted together, I think the Rubinette slightly edged out the golden in flavor but the skin of the Rubinette is tougher. Five pounds won't last long at our house.
You could probably substitute apples in this soup, but my idea was to follow a recipe from a book. At first glance I thought the recipe listed cooked squash, so the minute I popped the squash into the oven to bake, the written recipe was altered in a major way. Also since it never specified what type of pear to use, I selected Bosc because it's my favorite. So use the any kind of pear you prefer.
I got Refresh by Ruth Tal last year when I went to Barbara Jo's Books to Cooks in Vancouver, BC. The book contains contemporary vegan recipes from a famous vegetarian restaurant in Toronto and not only are the recipes healthy with whole grain flour and fresh fruits and vegetables, they're all really good.
So for all those people out there who think vegetarians are bad cooks and serve up bland vegetables, they need to read this book. Flavorful, fresh and vegan--I'm tired of people like Anthony Bourdain who continually dismiss vegetarian cooks as people who don't know how to cook vegetables. Really? Is he serious or just drumming up more support for the meat camp?
Enough whining--my Cooking Assistant is tired of the costumes. One last Halloween outfit, I'd said. But from the stink eye he gave me, you'd think I'd asked him to fetch a stick.
I had red currants in my freezer and decided to use them to tweak the flavor, much the same way fresh lemon juice does. I freeze the currants, stems and all. They're easier to remove when frozen but still take a bit of time.
If you don't have red currants in your freezer, no worries, add fresh lemon juice to kick up the flavors. Just make sure it's fresh lemon.
I used Rockridge Orchards Skipping Stone hard apple cider, but the original recipe listed white wine.
Butternut Squash and Pear Soup with Red Currants
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup minced shallots
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, diced
1 tablespoon grated ginger root
1 pear, core removed, chopped
1 cinnamon stick
1/3 cup hard cider or white wine
1/2 cup mashed potatoes (or cooked pureed celery root)
2 cups cooked butternut squash
2 roasted red peppers, seeded and stem removed
3 cups water or stock
1 to 2 cups coconut milk
Freshly ground pepper
Red or orange currants or fresh lemon juice to taste
1. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add oil and shallots. Cook until shallots turn translucent. Add garlic and carrots. Stir and cook for a few minutes. Try not to let the garlic or shallots brown because the soup will turn a darker color.
2. Add ginger, pear, cinnamon stick and wine. Simmer over medium low until carrots are soft.
3. Remove cinnamon stick and puree shallots and wine with potatoes, squash, roasted peppers, water and 1/4 cup currants. Return to soup pot, heat and gradually add coconut milk until you have the desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with red currants.
Someone doesn't mind clean up duties at our house.