Fall has officially begun! The autumn equinox was just two days ago, and right on cue the weather turned chill, the night seemed to creep into the sky a little quicker, and a few brave leaves started to turn color. One day it was too hot to open the windows, the next too cold.
I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced such a sudden change of season!
The beginning of fall has always been one of my favorite times. Time to break out the cozy sweaters and warm soups, and breathe in the crisp air before it turns frosty.
One of my strongest memories of fall is the smell of fresh sage. My mother had a little patch of sage growing in her garden, and when I was a kid I would pluck a few of its leaves, rub them gently between my fingers, and then press them to my nose. I’m not sure why it stands out in my mind as a fall thing, since sage grows from spring on, but something about the cool air must have attracted me to it.
Now that I’m all grown up, sage finds its way into many of my favorite fall dishes. Especially soups. I find it pairs perfectly with the sweetness of an autumn squash, and gives that added touch of coziness I really crave as the days get colder.
Do you have a favorite herb you associate with fall? Rosemary is another of mine, and it goes along perfectly with sage. I paired my soup with a garlic and rosemary crostini, and it took it to a whole new level. Soup and bread, rosemary and sage — they’re like soul mates.
This soup is easy to make, and once the squash is roasted takes very little time to prepare. If you want to make things even easier, you can roast your squash a day or two in advance and make the soup when you’re ready. Just be sure not to toss the seeds — they can be roasted just like pumpkin seeds and eaten as a snack, or used as a garnish.
I kept my soup vegan, and didn’t miss the butter or cream one bit. It’s thick and velvety smooth, and with a drizzle of toasted hazelnut oil has plenty of richness. Of course, this is entirely up to you — this soup would be decadent to the max with a bit of browned butter and cream, or finished with a dollop of crème fraîche.
For garnish I like to use a pinch of the roasted squash seeds, which add a nice crunch, or a couple fried sage leaves. Other options include: toasted walnuts or pecans, apple chips with cinnamon, a dash of cayenne, or a pinch of brown sugar / drizzle of maple syrup. There are no bad choices, here!
What’s your favorite fall dish? Let me know in the comments below!
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Sage & Toasted Squash Seeds
Serves 4-5 — gluten-free and vegan
2 TBSP coconut oil
1 large butternut squash (about 3 1/2 lbs)
1 small apple or pear, peeled and cored, diced
1 shallot, diced
4-5 fresh sage leaves (or about 1/2 tsp. dried sage)
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. dark brown sugar, or maple syrup (optional)
4-5 cups low sodium vegetable stock, or water
salt and pepper, to taste
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Optional, for serving:
a drizzle of roasted hazelnut oil (like this one)
roasted squash seeds (instructions below), or toasted nuts
garlic and rosemary crostini (recipe below)
1. Preheat oven to 425f., and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Cut the squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds into a bowl. Do not discard the seeds!
2. Place the squash cut-side up on the baking sheet and brush lightly with oil. Sprinkle with salt, and bake for 60-70 minutes, or until squash is fork-tender. Remove from oven and let rest until cool enough to handle. While the squash is roasting, clean the squash seeds in a strainer under running water, removing all of the stringy pulp and rinsing the seeds thoroughly. Shake the strainer to remove as much water as you can, and set aside.
3. In a large pot or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the apple and shallot, and a pinch of salt, and let cook for 4-5 minutes, or until softened. Add the sage leaves and let cook for another 1-2 minutes.
4. Using a spoon, scrape the meat of the squash out of its skin and into the pot. Discard the skin. Add the ginger, brown sugar or maple syrup (if using), and 4 cups of the vegetable stock or water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 15-20 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, reduce the oven temperature to 325f. Lightly grease the foil-covered baking sheet you used for the squash, and spread the seeds into an even layer. Sprinkle with salt (and a dash of any other seasonings you like), and bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the seeds are golden brown, stirring or shaking the pan every 4-5 minutes to keep them from burning. Remove from the oven and set aside.
6. Once the soup is done simmering, puree with an immersion blender until smooth, adding more water or vegetable stock as needed to reach the desired consistency. If you don’t have an immersion blender, carefully transfer your soup to a regular blender (in batches, if necessary). Leave a small gap open at your blenders lid to let steam escape, and place a towel over the top to keep it from spattering. Puree until smooth, then return to the pot.
7. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg. Serve with a drizzle of hazelnut oil, and garnish with roasted squash seeds.
Soup can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week, or stored in the freezer for up to a month. Roasted squash seeds can be kept in a plastic baggie at room temperature for up to a few days.
Garlic and Rosemary Crostini
1 demi baguette (or 1/2 regular baguette), sliced (I used whole wheat, but use whatever you like)
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2-1 tsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
pinch of sea salt
1/3 cup good-quality olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 375f. and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. In a small dish, mix together the minced garlic, rosemary, salt, and olive oil. (This mixture can be made up to a half hour in advance, kept in the fridge.)
2. Place sliced baguette on the baking sheet, and brush each slice generously with the olive oil mixture. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until golden and toasty, rotating the pan halfway through to ensure even browning. Serve warm.