Seasonal Obsession – Butternut Squash

Butternut Squash

I love the butternut squash.  It is one of my favorite ingredients ever.  I love the beautiful orange center and its smooth, pale-orange skin.  I love its graceful, hourglass shape and the ease of preparation.  Most of all I love the silky texture and rich flavor of this abundant fall fruit. According to Scott Cunningham, squashes will “increase awareness of the nonphysical reality” that surrounds us, making this an ideal food for Witches and other folk who like to work with the subtle energies of the world. 1

Butternut can be made savory or sweet and is widely available this time of year. If you live in a temperate clime, look for local options at Farmer’s Markets or CSA’s. Each year I eagerly await the ripening of the winter squashes just so I can make the following soup. I prefer my soup to be a little sweet, which is why I season it with nutmeg and cinnamon; but you can make a savory version by supplementing different herbs and spices. Enjoy this creamy soup with a chunk of peasant bread. It’s the perfect comfort food for chilly days and cold nights.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 large sweet onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • 4 c fat-free vegetable broth
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened soy milk
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp fresh nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Remove the skin of the squash with a vegetable peeler.  Cut the squash in half to remove the seeds.  Cut the squash into 1-inch chunks.
  2. Peel the carrot, the onion, and garlic.  Cut the carrot and onion into 1-inch chunks.
  3. Put all the veggies in a large bowl.  Add a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Add salt and pepper and toss to coat.
  4. Pour the veggies out into a large baking dish.  Bake in a 400ºF oven for 30 minutes or until the veggies are fork tender.
  5. Finish the veggies under the broiler for 5 – 10 minutes to add color and caramelization.  Believe me, the browned bits of onion add so much flavor when the soup is done.
  6. Remove the veggies from the oven and allow them to cool a bit.  Have your blender ready.
  7. Begin blending the veggies with the vegetable broth in small batches; making sure each batch is well blended.  Blend this soup longer than you would think.  The longer blending removes the graining texture and delivers a superior flavor.
  8. Pour the blended mixture into a large pot over medium heat.  Add the soy milk and stir well.
  9. Add the cinnamon and the nutmeg.  And please, please, please, don’t rob yourself of genuine flavor by using pre-ground nutmeg. Buy the nutmeg whole and grind what you need for each recipe.  Your taste buds will thank you.
  10. Continue to stir until the entire mixture is heated through.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Enjoy!

1. Cunningham, Scott. (1990). Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Wicca in the Kitchen.  Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.

Seasonal Obsession – “Wild” Apples

 Apples on Tree

Fall is the absolute best season for eating (in my opinion).  The culinary bounty is endless.  From onions to squash and from nuts to fruits, Fall has something scrumptious to offer at every turn.  With all these delights it’s hard to narrow down one seasonal obsession.  Fortunately a little trip to Newton Hill helped me out.

I needed to get away from the overwhelming obligations of my job and the noise of my neighbors so I took a hike up Newton Hill.  At the top of the hill, I was bombarded with the full effects of Fall.  Fall always comes to the Hill quicker than the surrounding city below.  Butter-and-eggs had painted a patch of the hill yellow with their uniquely shaped blossoms.  Oak trees bombarded the ground with acorns and the maples sported brilliant red leaves.  What truly delighted me that day, however, was the discovery of three apple trees!

Most people I know won’t eat a “wild” apple, believing crab apples to be poisonous.  The truth is there is no such thing as a “wild” apple in America.  Apple trees are not native to the Americas so all apple trees you’ll find, rather domesticated or crabby, are edible.  Some crab apples are sour and you may not want to eat them, but they won’t do you any harm.  When picking “wild” apples just remember to only pick fruit that is ripe and worm free.  You don’t want to pick something that looks diseased.  Also, only eat the fruit picked from the tree.  Leave any fruit on the ground for the critters.

I filled my backpack with “wild” apples that day and hurried home to make one of my favorite Fall treats – applesauce.  The following recipe is exceedingly simple, as I created it for cooking with children.  Despite its simplicity (or maybe because of it) this recipe is one of my favorites and I will only use it in the fall when the apples are fresh and local.  Enjoy this Fall treat warm or chilled.  Happy Harvest!

Homemade Applesauce

Ingredients

  • 8 large apples
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Peel, core, and slice the apples.
  2. Cut the apple slices into small chunks.
  3. Put the apples in the pan along with 1/2 cup of water.
  4. Simmer for 15 minutes, occasionally stirring with your spoon. Add more water if apples begin to dry out.
  5. Stir in 1/2 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon.
  6. Once the apples are fork tender, transfer to a blender.  Blend until smooth.
  7. Wait until the applesauce cools, and you can eat this warm. Or refrigerate and eat it when it’s cold.
  8. Enjoy!

Serves 12