An Apple A Day- Choosing for Butternut Squash Soup with Wild Rice & Apples

We are already on our third recipe in this Apple A Day series and I just realized we never really talked about choosing a good apple.

You know the phrase about one bad apple spoiling the bunch. That can be interpreted very broadly and metaphorically if you like. But it’s also a literal truism when it comes to actual apples. Ripe apples emit ethylene gas as they age and ethylene gas is a party drug to apples. One whiff of the stuff and perfectly fine apples think the party is ending and they hasten their own ripening process, leading quite quickly to the rotting process. Chilling apples can slow the party down, so it is one fruit I do keep in the fridge. But chilled or no, apples should not be kept in a bag or a pile. They are less likely to pass (ethylene) gas onto their neighbors if they are stored in a single layer.

Since bad apples can be so detrimental to good apples, I usually start my choosing process by eliminating the bad apples.

grant henry wine pairing for sippitysupBruising is often an indicator of apples having been stored or handled poorly. A few little bruises won’t actually harm the apple too much, but bruises certainly makes apples less appealing– especially when eaten out of hand. So I immediately eliminate apples with obvious bruising.

The best tasting apples are not always the prettiest. So don’t dismiss them on looks alone. Some of the best varieties are indeed ugly ducklings. That’s because some varieties often have russeting (brown spots or streaks). This russeting indicates sugar and lets you know these varieties are at their peek. Minnesota’s famed Honeycrisp is an example of an apple that naturally russets when ripe, as is Granny Smith.

But in general, pretty or no, apples should be free of bruises and blemishes.

Color can be a good indicator of flavor, especially in the more common non-russet varieties. Which does not mean that redder apples are better than green apples. You need to consider the color of each individual variety. For instance a dark hued green Granny Smith, will be tarter and crisper than a more yellow toned one.  However a pale-ish green Golden Delicious will be less delicious than a deep yellow specimen. So common sense is in order.

Apples should have a slight sheen, but super shiny apples may have been treated with a waxy polish that is just unnecessary in my opinion. A gentle scratch with your fingernail will let you know this apple’s secret beauty regimen in this regard.

Here in North America the bulk of the harvest is from late August through November. Many of my favorite varieties are only available during this time. That’s because these varieties must be sold and eaten soon after picking. But other varieties, such as Fuji, Winesap and Northern Spy, are more easily stored and are often refrigerated in warehouses to slow their ripening. This is an acceptable way to lengthen the availability of some types. But be aware, after months of storage; apples may still look great but can be mealy or mushy. So if you’re choosing apples after peak harvest, choose carefully.

For today’s Apple A Day recipe I am making a soup. Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Wild Rice and Apples. I am choosing the variety, Jonathan, for it’s complex sweet-tart flavor. It is particularly crisp and will hold up well in the pan frying I plan to put it through. But Cortland would be a good choice too for all the same reasons. Avoid Red Delicious as they tend to lose all their flavor when cooked. Save those big red shiners for the lunch pail.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Wild Rice and Apples serves  6 CLICK here for a printable recipe

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living

  • 1  butternut squash 1 1/2 to 2 pounds
  • 4 T whole almonds
  • 3 T unsalted butter
  • 1 onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 large turnip, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 large parsnip, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 t kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1/2 c wild rice (or brown rice mixture)
  • 2 apples, cored and chopped into rough 1/2 inch dice
  • 2 scallions, finely sliced (green parts only)
  • 1 pn cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • 4 c vegetable broth

brown and wild ricePre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the almonds on a baking sheet; toast until fragrant, shaking the pan once or twice, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and roughly chop.

Raise the heat in the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and strings. Place cut side down on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Once the oven has pre-heated place the squash on the center rack and roast until soft and fragrant about 30–40 minutes, depending on the size of the squash. Remove from oven and let cool almost completely before proceeding.

Scoop the flesh from the squash placing it in a bowl and set aside. Discard skins.

Using a large soup pot, heat 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat, add the onion, celery and carrot and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 prepping squash soupminutes. Add the reserved squash, turnips, parsnips, 2 teaspoons of the salt, and some pepper; cook stirring until the vegetables are well coated.

Add about 3 1/2 cups of the vegetable broth to the pot along with the thyme; bring this to a boil, the lower the heat to a simmer. Cook stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened, about 30 minutes.

Fill a small sauce pan with water, add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the rice. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat. Simmer until the rice is tender, about 45 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Remove the soup from the heat and let it cool some. Using an immersion blender process the soup until smooth and creamy adjust texture with the remaining stock as necessary. Return the soup to a medium heat and allow it to re-heat.

Melt the remainy 1 tablespoon butter in a saute pan . Add the apple and cook with out disturbing until slightly browned and soft, about 3 minutes. Add the scallion slices, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of cayenne. Cook an additional minute gently stirring the mixture together.

Add the cooked rice to the pot and mix it in well and is heated through.

Ladle the soup into individual soup bowls, and garnish with the apples, scallions and almonds. Serve warm.


Greg Henry