They say that years of careful nurturing and gentle pruning—from seed to tree—makes a significant difference in the way oak trees develop. If tended to well, an oak tree grows strong and is able to provide shade, comfort, and beauty for many years. But, if left to chance, a vulnerable tree can become weak and gnarled, providing shade for no one.
My son, a pre-schooler, is at the age when children like to store little treasures they find. At the end of his day, his jacket pockets are filled with pebbles, sticks, dried leaves, wood chips and more. Like a squirrel preparing for winter, he’s recently amassed an impressive supply of autumn trinkets—smooth and hatted (some) acorns, little nuts that come from oak trees.
Everyday I empty pockets and find little handfuls of acorns. I can’t help but smile and think of my own seedling whose small fingers put them there. I’m reminded of his vulnerability and how, as the oak tree, he needs careful nurturing and gentle pruning to grow strong and able to provide comfort and beauty to those around him.
I’ve been making pots of this simple, yet flavorful soup a lot the past few weeks. My friends and family love it! Acorn squash is roasted and blended with a few other ingredients to create a deliciously smooth and delicious soup. Go light on the spices. Think subtlety—you want the notes of ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg to be subtle, allowing the mellow flavor of the acorn squash to come through. To enhance the sweetness of the acorn squash, I added a little maple syrup. To balance the sweetness, I topped this soup with caramelized tart Granny Smith apples and a savory mix of sage roasted nuts. All together this soup hits a nice balance of salty, sour and sweet. With its list of simple ingredients, this is a great soup to have any night of the week. If you need to, you can switch out the acorn squash for butternut or a sugar pumpkin. They both work well here.
Roasted Acorn Squash Soup
Serves about 4
1 acorn squash
1-2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon or more ginger, peeled and grated
1 carrot, diced
1/8 teaspoon cloves
pinch of cardamom, cinnamon, and nutmeg
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 cups low sodium vegetable stock
salt and pepper
1/4-1/2 cup or more cashew cream
Optional toppings for garnish
fresh parsley, chopped
sage roasted nuts, recipe below,
caramelized apples, recipe below
Sage Roasted Nuts
2 cups mixed nuts (pecans, walnuts and almonds)
1 cup fresh sage leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon and a generous pinch salt
Preheat oven to 275 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a bowl, combine nuts and sage leaves. Add olive oil and salt and toss until nuts and leaves are well coated. Spread nuts and sage in a single layer on baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, stirring once or twice during baking time.
1 cup cane sugar
1/2 cup water
2 Granny Smith apples, diced
Pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg
In a small pan under medium heat, combine sugar and water and heat until sugar begins to caramelize, about 15 minutes. The sugar should turn slightly amber in color. Add apples and spices and simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes.
For Soup: Preheat oven to 375 F.
Cut squash in half and remove seeds. Brush inner flesh with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place squash on baking sheet and roast until tender, about 45 minutes. Allow to cool.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium-sized pot. Add onions and cook with salt and pepper about 5 minutes. Then add garlic, ginger and carrots. Cook until carrots soften a bit, about 5 more minutes or so. Add spices and stir.
Remove squash flesh from the skin. I use a large spoon to scoop out the flesh. Discard skin and add flesh to the pot with vinegar. After vinegar has evaporated, stir in maple syrup. Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 20-30 minutes. It’s ready when the carrots have fully softened.
Transfer soup to a blender and blitz until very smooth. Add cashew cream. Taste, adjust seasoning and consistency, adding more salt and/or stock, if necessary.
For an ultra-smooth soup, use a fine mesh strainer (I use a Chinois ) before ladling into bowls. Garnish with sage roasted nuts, caramelized apples, parsley, and/or cashew cream.