Fall is a fickle season: summer weather one day, icy breezes the next too toasty for lentils, too cool for gazpacho. So we're celebrating the season with some sublime fall soups, potages that showcase autumn's harvest and work equally well no matter what the temperature.
And we're dipping into two of the hottest cookbooks for inspiration.
Food maven and frequent Bon Appetit magazine writer Betty Rosbottom believes there's a soup for every season, but she came to that realization only later in life.
"The soups of my youth," she writes, "came from a can."
That's all changed now. Rosbottom's latest book, Sunday Soup: A Year's Worth of Mouthwatering, Easy-to- Make Recipes, contains 60 such creations, from a richly robust roasted tomato with homemade garlic croutons we guarantee, you'll never use store-bought croutons again to a velvety carrot soup spiked with cumin and fresh lime that works beautifully hot or cold.
One doesn't normally associate butternut squash with Mexican cuisine, says Marcela Valladolid in her new book Fresh Mexico: 100 Simple Recipes for True Mexican Flavor. But the vivid golden squash appears in many authentic south-of-the-border dishes, and the seeds are often used in sauces. Here, she blends the rich autumnal squash with the smoky hot flavors of chipotle chiles and adobo sauce.
(A word of caution: That spicy flavor blooms over time, so if you make the soup ahead of time, use a light hand on the chiles.)
Carrot soup with cumin and lime
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds carrots, peeled and chopped
2 cups chopped leeks
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
3-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
6-1/2 cups chicken stock
8 tablespoons sour cream, divided
2 tablespoons lime juice
Kosher salt, pepper
Garnish: chopped cilantro and grated lime zest 1. Heat oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add carrot and leeks and saut until leeks begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saut 1 minute. Add cumin and red pepper flakes and saut 30 seconds more.
2. Add the stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered, about 35 minutes.
3. Puree the soup in batches and return soup to the pot. Serve hot, with a dollop of sour cream and a squeeze of lime juice stirred into each bowl. Or cool the soup, whisk in 6 tablespoons of sour cream and refrigerate for three hours or overnight. When ready to serve, stir in lime juice, season to taste and serve topped with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkling of cilantro and lime zest.
Betty Rosbottom, Sunday Soup (Chronicle Books, $19.95, 168 pages)
Butternut squash chipotle bisque
1 medium butternut squash
3 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 cups chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrot
2 garlic cloves, minced
4-6 cups chicken broth
3 teaspoons minced, canned chipotle in adobo
1/2 cup Mexican crema or sour cream
Salt, fresh ground pepper
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds, discarding the stringy pulp. Put the seeds in a sieve and rinse. Set aside.
2. Grease a glass baking dish with 1 tablespoon oil, then place the squash in the dish, cut side down. Pierce all over with a fork and roast 45 minutes or until tender. Let cool.
3. Heat remaining oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Saut onion, celery and carrot for 10 minutes. Add garlic; cook 2 minutes more.
4. Scoop the flesh of the squash into the pot and stir. Add 4 cups broth and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are very tender.
5. Meanwhile, toast the reserved squash seeds in a small pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until crunchy, about 30 minutes. Season heavily with salt and set aside.
6. Puree the soup in batches in a blender, adding more broth to get the desired consistency.
7. In a separate bowl, stir 1 teaspoon of the minced chipotle into the crema. Season with salt and pepper.
8. Stir the remaining 2 teaspoons chipotle into the bisque and ladle into soup bowls. Top each with a dollop of cream and a sprinkling of seeds.
Marcela Valladolid, Fresh Mexico (Clarkson Potter 2009, $22.50, 240 pages) (c) 2009, Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)