Butternut Soup with Crispy Kale and Cranberries
The combination of kale and butternut is a good one, especially enhanced with apples and a hint of bourbon. I had planned to add some cream, but happily, none was needed. The finishing touch is crispy kale roasted with pumpkin seeds and fresh cranberries, which all gives a crunchy, tart contrast to the smooth, pureed soup.
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, diced
5 cups diced butternut squash (large dice), (from 1 medium butternut squash)
2 carrots, peeled and cut into rounds (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 whole leek, sliced (a little over 2 cups)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon finely minced ginger
1/3 cup bourbon whiskey
5 cups water
2 tart apples, peeled, cored and cut in half or in quarters
1 – 2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 bunch kale, stalks removed, chopped into bite-sized pieces (about 3 cups)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup fresh cranberries or dried cranberries
- Melt the butter in a soup pot and sauté the onions for about 5 minutes. Add the squash, carrots and leek on medium to medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring often to cook all sides of the squash. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté about 30 additional seconds until fragrant.
- Before adding the water, turn up the heat a bit and add the bourbon, and let the alcohol cook off, about 1 minute. Add the water, apples and 1 teaspoon salt, bring to a boil, and then lower the heat to a simmer, and cook covered, for about 20 minutes or until the squash and carrots are easily pierced with a fork. Let cool for 5 or so minutes before blending.
- Process the soup, in batches, in a blender until smooth and creamy, or use an immersion blender to puree. (Take care when blending a hot soup by filling the container only 2/3 full, placing a kitchen towel over the blender top, and blending from low to high.) If the soup is too thick, add some water to thin it a bit. Taste for seasoning and add more salt by the pinches, until really flavorful. Add a few grinds of fresh black pepper.
- Preheat the oven to 350 °F while soup is cooking, and roast the kale. Tear the pieces of kale onto the baking sheet. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and knead into the kale. Sprinkle with salt and bake for 15 – 20 minutes, or until crispy, but not browned, stirring a few times. When the kale is done, or on another baking sheet, place the pumpkin seeds, seasoned with a pinch or two of salt, and cranberries, and roast until pumpkin seeds are roasted and cranberries are softened somewhat, 6 – 7 minutes.
- Ladle in bowls, and top with the garnish of about 2 tablespoons of the oven-roasted kale (breaking apart if needed), some of the pumpkin seeds, and 3 or 4 roasted cranberries. Place any remaining toppings in bowls at the table for people to replenish or munch on.