I read recipes all the time – from magazines, online and books. I cut out the ones the interest me or pin them to a board or mark them with little sticky note flags. Then this happens to me. Something sticks in my mind and the next time I am at the grocery (which is several times a week) I think oh! I want to make that recipe I saw…but I don’t precisely remember what all it calls for. So I try to piece it together and I think, well, I am in the store so I ought to get at least some of the ingredients. So I buy butternut squash, say. Then I get home and realize I don’t have the other necessary ingredients, but I have whatever it is I bought, so I have to do something. And that’s how this soup was born. I saw a recipe in a fabulous new cookbook that glazed the squash with maple syrup and soy sauce. and knew I had to try it. I bought prepared butternut. When I got around to making it, I realized I had only a few of the ingredients in the cookbook recipe on hand. So I punted. I happened to have some fennel (from another poorly thought out plan) and the soy and maple in the pantry, so I gave it a try. When I pureed the soup, I realized it needed a little something, and thought to add a splash of cider vinegar, but when I went to the pantry, it hit me that balsamic would add a lot of depth. I originally just intended this soup to be something I would eat myself (I freeze portions for a quick meal or snack), but it turned out really well, so I wrote down the recipe and have made it several times. And I really think it is worth sharing.
Butternut and Fennel Soup
32 ounces butternut squash cubes
1 large fennel bulb
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup soy sauce
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup water
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 °. Spread the cubed squash in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Remove the stalks and frons from the fennel, reserving the feathery fronds for topping, and cut the bulb in half. Cut out the tough core from the center and discard, then cut the halves into three wedges each. Add them to the squash on the roasting tray. Whisk the oil, maple syrup and soy sauce together in a small bowl, then drizzle it over the squash and fennel. Toss everything around with your good, clean hands to coat evenly (don’t worry if the fennel separates, just coat every piece with the mixture). Sprinkle over some kosher salt and generous grinds of pepper and roast for 45 minutes, or until the squash and the fennel are soft and browned on the edges. Transfer the vegetables to a large Dutch oven and pour in the broth and water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. With an immersion blender, or carefully in batches in a blender, puree the soup until smooth. Add the balsamic vinegar, stir well and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper if desired – the soy and the vinegar add a lot of oomph already. Simmer a further ten minutes.
Served drizzled with a little balsamic and some chopped fennel fronds.
Serves 4 – 6