With the explosion of farmers’ markets and their fresh from-field-to-market produce has come another amazing benefit: variety.
I’m certain that location has something to do with it, and that some of you have already been enjoying access to unusual produce for years. But here in the Midwest, if you wanted, say, funky, painfully delicious heirloom tomatoes in every color of the rainbow (and I did), you had to grow your own (so I did. And still do).
But today, I can find heirloom and antique varieties every day of the week. And even just the old-school produce that Kroger has only recently started to carry (in response, I’m certain, to farmers’ markets chipping away at their bottom line with their gorgeous open-air displays of the season’s best fruits and vegetables — something fluorescent lights and fake turf displays just can never duplicate).
One recent find that I’m absolutely tickled pink over is the delicata squash. A smallish squash, long and narrow like an overgrown cucumber, only pale yellow with dark green or orange stripes, it has the sweet flesh of its winter squash brethren, with one distinct advantage: you don’t have to peel it. Remove the seeds yes, peel no. Woo hoo! Super easy squash soup, here I come.
Of course, I had a complete [headdesk] moment when, after reviewing my photos of the soup, I realized I hadn’t taken a picture of the squash itself. Cauliflower, garlic and leeks (pulled fresh from SoupAddict’s own garden), cheeeyeck. Pretty little delicata squash. D’oh! Although you can see a bit of the squash used as a garnish in the first and third photos.
This soup is proof that not all soups need to be hovered over on the stove. The vegetables roast hands-off in the oven, while a simple stock warms on the stove. Whirl it all together, and you have a lovely, savory first-course soup with the best flavors of Autumn.
Roasted Cauliflower Squash Soup
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Yield: 4 first-course servings, or 2 generous main meal servings
2 tablespoons oil, plus extra for drizzling
splash white wine or champagne vinegar
2 heads garlic, tops cut off to reveal tips of cloves
1 medium head cauliflower, florets only
1 large leek, white and green parts only, sliced
1 small delicata squash, sliced in half lengthwise, seeds removed, then sliced into 1/4″ half moons (reserve 4 half-rings for garnish)
salt and pepper
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup water
½ teaspoon fish sauce
2 sprigs thyme, leaves only
1 bay leaf
1 2″-piece Parmesan cheese rind (optional)
salt and pepper for seasoning
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or foil sprayed with non-stick spray
Drizzle olive oil over garlic heads and season with salt and pepper. Wrap in foil and place in oven (they can sit right on the rack).
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk 2 tablespoons olive and vinegar. Add cauliflower, leeks, and squash slices. Toss to coat well. Spread out vegetables on the baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Place in oven and roast for 30 minutes.
While vegetables roast, heat stock and water in a medium pot over medium heat. Add fish sauce, thyme, bay leaf and cheese rind. Simmer on low until vegetables are finished roasting. Taste, and add salt, if necessary. It should be flavorful.
Scoop half of the vegetables into a food processor or blender. Unwrap one garlic head and squeeze cloves on top of the vegetables (discard the skins). Add half of the stock mixture. (Make sure you don’t exceed the capacity of your machine. If necessary, split into 3 batches.) Blend until the soup reaches your desired texture (longer, for a very smooth result). Repeat until all batches (plus the other head of garlic) are processed.
Ladle into serving bowls and top with delicata rings.