The ever-so-slight chill of autumn has set in, and while the last of the peach harvest is coming to an end, the beginning of apples, squashes and gourds is also here. Middle Georgia has breathed a collective sigh of relief to see the record high temperatures of summer fade away, making way for cooler weather and warmer kitchens full of soups, stews and all things braised.
This soup-and-salad pairing of Acorn Squash and Sage Soup with Kale, Apple and Chicken Salad is full of healthy ingredients as well as bold flavor.
The acorn squash gives a natural thickness to the soup without adding heavy cream. The base of onions and brown butter sets a baseline flavor of earthy and nutty tones, and the apple gives a slight natural sweetness to round out the soup. The sage adds the scent and overall flavor of fall alongside the soul-warming chicken stock to create depth for this autumnal soup.
The kale salad is brimming with lean protein, sweet apple skins and roasted pecans. The roasted pecans in the salad are a perfect connector to the warm soup, while the acidity of the balsamic vinaigrette serves as a desirable flavor contrast.
While the hotter summer months may call for more delicate salad greens, the raw kale is an excellent way to usher in cooler months. Be sure to massage the kale with olive oil and salt first; this will reduce the volume of the greens slightly and work to break down the harsh bite of the bitter green.
These two dishes work well together, but could also be prepared separately and paired with a bone-in pork chop or a roast chicken. The soup could also be a great first course for Thanksgiving dinner with family or friends.
Alex and Eleta Morrison live in Macon and write a food blog, Bungalow Kitchen. Visit their blog at bungalowkitchen.wordpress.com or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BUNGALOW KITCHEN RECIPE
Acorn Squash and Sage Soup with Kale, Apple and Chicken Salad
1 acorn squash
1 apple (a sweet variety, like Honeycrisp)
1 sweet onion, halved, peeled, and sliced
3 1/2 cups chicken stock (homemade or store-bought)
2 tablespoons butter
20 fresh sage leaves
1 bunch Dino kale
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup pecan halves
1 large cooked chicken breast
3 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing (homemade or store-bought)
Salt and pepper
Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Slice the acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds; discard. Coat the flesh side of the squash halves with 1 tablespoon olive oil, then place cut side down in a baking dish. Roast for 40 minutes.
While the squash is roasting, brown the butter in a large pot over medium heat. When the butter begins to brown slightly, add the onions and about1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir, then let the onions cook for 5 minutes.
While the onions are cooking, slice 12 of the sage leaves into tiny ribbons. After the onions have cooked, add the sage and stir, then turn the heat down to low.
When the squash is ready, take it out of the oven. Scoop the flesh of the squash into the pot with the onions and sage.
Core the apple, then cut into sixths. Slice the skin off of the apple in shards, and keep the shards for use in the salad. Dice the cored and peeled apple. Add the diced apple to the pot with the chicken stock. Bring the soup to a boil, then place the lid on the pot, reduce the heat to low, and let simmer for 15 minutes.
Slice the kale leaves into 1/2-inch ribbons, discarding the stems. Add the kale ribbons to a large mixing bowl with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt. Using your hands, massage the oil and salt into the kale for about 30 seconds, then set aside.
Toast the pecan halves in the oven or toaster oven at 400 degrees for 4-5 minutes, then take out and let cool.
Shred the chicken breast with your hands, then add to the kale. Add the pecans and apple skins to the kale, add a desired amount of balsamic vinaigrette, and toss to combine. Divide among four small plates.
When the soup has simmered for 15 minutes, turn the heat off. Puree the soup using an immersion blender or a traditional blender, then divide evenly among four bowls. Top each bowl of soup with two sage leaves.