03 October 2012

Fall Harvest Soup With Two Grains

This is my first Autumn "transition" soup. It lies somewhere in between a light summer soup and a rich winter stew. But accented with the fall flavors of squash and apple it is gently luring me towards the season's bounty.

Apples are now overflowing at my market, which also means there is plenty of freshly pressed apple cider. The juice is sold in 1.5 liter bottles for 2.50 CHF. This cost-to-quantity ratio for something of this quality is unheard of here in Switzerland, except for apparently in Autumn when local apple orchards have a surplus of apples. This clearly made my day, and I started to think of ways to use the cider. My husband enjoys drinking it as is (yes, I did share some with him!), but when I have special seasonal ingredients I like to work them into a recipe as a way of celebrating their uniqueness even more.

So I decided to use the apple cider along with apple cider vinegar to deglaze the pan for a sweet-tart component in the background of the soup. The sweet acidity contrasts nicely against the starchiness provided by cooking the grains directly in the soup. I used half of a very large acorn squash, but you could swap it out for your favorite squash variety. Butternut squash would be lovely here, but please avoid overcooking it so that it doesn't become mushy!

Enjoy your transition into fall!

Fall Harvest Soup With Two Grains
Serves 4-6
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red chili (sometimes called Fresno)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. chipotle chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
2-3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup apple cider
1 medium Acorn squash (or another squash variety of your choosing such as butternut or buttercup), chopped into bite-size pieces
6 cups of liquid (a mix of good quality vegetable stock + water, or all water + a few organic no-salt added vegetable bouillon cubes)
3/4 cup pearled barley
1/2 cup millet
1 15 oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Juice of 1 lemon
Plain yogurt or ricotta, dressed with lemon, salt & pepper
Pumpkin seeds, if desired

In a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, saute onion, chili, and garlic in oil, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften. Stir in salt and pepper to taste and spices (through cinnamon). Cook another minute until spices are fragrant and beginning to toast. Stir in tomato paste and warm through, then deglaze the pan with apple cider vinegar and apple cider.

Add chopped squash, season with salt and pepper, then add the liquid. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes, then add the barley, cover again and simmer for 10 minutes. Finally, add the millet and cannellini beans and simmer another 10 minutes or until the grains are cooked al dente.

Taste broth, adjust for seasoning, add lemon juice, and serve. Pass yogurt or ricotta at table to dollop on top as well as pumpkin seeds, if desired.

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