Returning Home


And suddenly, it’s fall. I find that realization always comes not so much with the dates on the calendar as it does the leaves on the ground, the first crank of the heat in the morning, the dusky light on the way home from an evening run. Because we were gone on the train for nearly a week, I feel like fall happened here in Seattle during that very time. I left town eating tomatoes and corn and returned to find squashes and pumpkins in the market. It was that quick. And so, it only seemed fitting that I make this soup, one that has graced the fall table of each and every apartment (and now house) I’ve ever lived. In fact, I’m surprised that I hadn’t yet made it for you here, and delighted to share it with you today. 


I told you about our train trip on the last post and I wanted to share a few more pictures with you here.  I ended up flying home from New York, as planned, and Sam took the train home, stopping over in New Orleans for gumbo, beignets, bananas foster french toast and Sazeracs. As you do. I picked him up from the train station Friday late afternoon. He was sporting a new haircut he’d gotten from an old-timey Chicago barber, we picked up a coffee from Analog coffee and headed home.

We fell quickly into our long-distance relationship routine of sending each other photos of our feet and the scenery around us, and Sam sent me postcards from many of the small stations where he stopped.


Many of you wrote me emails asking questions about the train, and I started to think how funny it is that so many of us may have traveled on trains overseas, but never in the U.S. I’m not quite sure why this is. I suppose it’s our get-there-quick culture, but I will say the train was much more comfortable than a plane (far more space and larger seats that actually recline almost fully), and yes there is a dining car with real silverware and linen. I had roast chicken one night that was actually pretty good, the coffee was strong, and the oatmeal I dare say was fantastic. When the dining car is closed, there’s a little cafe car with coffee, bottled water, chocolate bars and the like and a large viewing car with expansive windows that go almost to the top of the car itself. It has chairs facing out towards the landscape, so you can just sit and watch everything go by. Perhaps with an aforementioned coffee and chocolate bar. And a good book.


There were many stops where you have a mere few minutes to race out of the train and see what North Dakota air smells like. And then, much like in the movies, they yell “All Aboard!” and you have to race right back in or they will absolutely leave you behind. The train does not wait. Nope.


So while seeing a good chunk of the country on the train was an entirely new experience, it was nice to return back to our house, too. To a place that doesn’t necessarily have a rotating roster of interesting folks to talk to at breakfast or different landscapes each morning, but to a place that now very solidly feels like home.


I’m not sure I know a better way to celebrate being at home together than having folks over for dinner. We’ve had a houseguest for a few days and it was her birthday Sunday evening, so we went to the market that morning and picked up a few things to make this soup. A good baguette from Tall Grass Bakery, a hefty squash, a few local apples, a pint of huckleberries and dinner was made. We invited another friend over to join us, Sam played records, we drank good wine, and had lively discussions on everything from The West Wing to the state of the publishing industry. Sam makes this wonderful cornmeal custard on occasion, and we spent some time tweaking the recipe using whole grain flours and natural sugar, hoping it could be a contender for the cookbook. We folded in local huckleberries and a bit of cream. It’s a winner. Tara confirmed it was just as good the next morning as it was that evening.

This soup is from The Healthy Kitchen by Andrew Weil and Rosie Daley, a book my mom gave me when I was in college. Most cookbooks that I’ve had for that long have found their way to Goodwill, but this one has moved with me through many states. I mainly keep it for this recipe, although I’ve tried a few others and have always been pleased. It’s a book that focuses on healthy recipes using whole foods, and it came out far before many of my current favorites like this one and this one and especially this one. It’s the kind of book that contains lots of great basics, but doesn’t necessarily wow you with intereseting flavor profiles or ingredients. Sometimes you need that. It’s as simple as roasting squash, apple and onion together and pureeing them with glugs of broth and a few spices. And it’s enough to make you realize that you really should invite folks over for dinner more often. We’re already in talks to have a bi-monthly gathering. And for these fall months, I vote soup.

*Most of the landscape images above were taken by Sam with our trusty new camera

Fall Soups from A Sweet Spoonful:

Fall Soups From Around the Web: 

Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup with Cilantro Pesto

Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup with Cilantro Pesto

  • Yield: 6-8 servings
  • Prep time: 20 mins
  • Cook time: 40 mins
  • Total time: 1 hr

Ingredients

For the soup:

1 large winter squash (butternut, kabocha) - about 3 pounds
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and quartered
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tart, firm apples, peeled, cored and quartered
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
few dashes freshly-ground black pepper
healthy pinch red chili powder
5-6 cups vegetable stock

For the Cilantro Walnut Pesto:

1/2 cup walnuts
1 cup washed cilantro leaves, stems removed
2 cloves garlic, peeled
generous pinch of salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
cold water, as needed to thin pesto

Instructions

To make the pesto:  Preheat the oven to 350 F and toast the walnuts for 5-7 minutes, or until fragrant. Allow to cool. Put walnuts in the food processor and grind until fine. Add the cilantro, garlic, salt, vinegar, and olive oil. Blend. If the pesto is too thick, add water, 1 teaspoon at a time, to make it smoother and the consistency you’d like. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

To make the soup: Increase the oven temperature to 400 F. In a large roasting pan, toss the squash, onions, garlic, and apples with the oil to coat. Season well with the salt, pepper and chili powder. Roast, stirring every 10 minutes, until the vegetables are fork-tender and lightly browned, about 40 minutes.

Put all of the vegetables into a big soup pot and blend until smooth with an immersion blender. Alternatively, blend the soup in batches in your food processor or blender. Return pureed soup to a large soup pot. Add more broth if the soup seems too thick. Taste and adjust the seasoning as you see fit. Serve hot in bowls with a dollop of walnut cilantro pesto.

Comments

  1. Dana

    Do you see me raising my hand?? I want to be a dinner guest! Maybe you can be my dinner guest in your old hometown. I'll invite Denise and Allison!

  2. la domestique

    It's always good to be home. :) Soup is such a comfort, and this time of year I find myself cooking up a batch at least once a week. The combination of butternut squash and apples looks delicious.

  3. Stacy

    I took my first American train trip just over a year ago, and it was wonderful. My long legs were deeply grateful for that extra space, and I loved watching the landscape zip by. I must say, however, that my food experience left something to be desired -- but then again, we were on a different line. Might have to try your route next time! (:

  4. becky@thecleverfig

    This looks like fall in a bowl. I'm heading to the farmer's market to procure a squash so I can make this for dinner. Yum & thanks!

  5. kickpleat

    I love traveling by train but I do think it's a more mid-west, east coast thing where cities aren't so spread apart. When I grew up in Ontario, we'd take the train to Quebec twice a year and weekend trips to Toronto were not uncommon. I think because the West is so big and it takes forever just to get to the next city, train travel isn't on everyone's mind. But this soup, c'mon, bring on the fall! Lovely.

  6. Danielle

    Welcome home! It is too hot here right now to be thinking about soups, but yes, they are one of my favorite to-go meals for Fall and Winter. And now you have me wistful for a cross-country train ride....those photos....wow, just wow.

  7. tea_austen

    Did I mention in the email that I've had a dream of hosting regular "Sunday Soup Suppers" throughout the winters? Only we might need to start a little earlier, so we can all get a good night's sleep. It's clear there's no lack of conversational topics.

    My favorite part here: that Seattle feels like home, and that I get to come over for dinner. Yay!

    The soup was delicious. Next time, I'll bring bread. xox

    1. megang

      Thanks, Tara. I agree: it's so wonderful that this house and this city already feels like home. I'll shoot that right back to you that it's largely because of friends like you! Thanks for the company. We'll do it again soon. xx, m

  8. Aunt V

    Megan - these are wonderful pictures. If I come to Seattle will you pick me up at the train station? Sounds like Sam took the long route home if he was in New Orleans and Chicago.
    Jill and I had a wonderful Potato Parmesan soup this past weekend in Williamstown, MA. You must add that to your list.
    Love...Aunt V

    1. megang

      Of course we'll pick you up, Aunt V! I have to say: Sam did take the majority of the train shots here. I was, admittedly, using the iphone more than the real camera. But yes, they came out beautifully. The ones from Montana practically take themselves! And, potato parmesan soup sounds wonderful.

  9. momgordon

    Let me chime in with the Bay area folks. It is 90 on the deck right now at 6 pm. When fall gets here this soup is a must. Maybe with some pumpkin cookies!

  10. Eagranie

    ZOMG, that soup was tasty. Also, cilantro-walnut pesto, where have you been all my life? I was actually going to ask for the recipe, but then you went and read my mind and posted it. The gift that keeps on giving!

    1. megang

      Yeah, that pesto is good isn't it?! So great having you and getting to catch up with what's new in your life and the world of chocolate. xx, m

  11. Suzanne Perazzini

    This looks like a great soup. I know all about trains not waiting and having to chase after them. They sure don't stop once they have started.

    1. megang

      Thanks so much, Suzanne. Enjoy! ~m

  12. Tv Food and Drink

    I love these pics. I am a big fan of the train. I take the Amtrak Coast Starlight regularly from Burbank to Jack London Square in Oakland and then spend the weekend in SF. There is no more relaxing way to travel. Get yourself a private couchette, bring some books and a laptop and watch the beautiful scenery fly by your eyes for an entire day. You've got my all pumped for another trip. Maybe I'll take it all the way up to Seattle!

    1. megang

      Ah yes, we may take this route when we head to my folk's place for Thanksgiving. It's supposed to be beautiful! I agree re: private little roomettes: they're sweet. And you can actually lay down!

  13. Kasey

    Absolutely adore this post, M. Your writing is just magical - I especially love your description of briefly getting off the train just in time to smell the air in a new place. Makes me want to take the train! And make soup, too! xo

  14. sara

    I felt like I watched fall come into Seattle while we were in town for four days. On day one I went out for a jog in shorts and a tshirt and the morning I left, I couldn't put enough jackets on to stay warm. I am jealous of the chill you have in the air. Always love reading your writing. Hurry up with that book! I cannot wait! PS thanks for the mention, friend :)

  15. sarah henry

    Perfect timing: Got a butternut squash for roasting, ready to turn into soup, but wanted to make something a little different from my usual fare. This sounds just what I was looking for.

  16. Denise

    I make my butternut squash with roasted veggies as well. And finally last year I added an apple. Then next time a pear. And I loved it. I will have to had a swirl or two of pesto next time, to mix things up.

    We are definitely curious about the train ride. We have talked about taking a short one to Nevada to see family; but, then we drive. May have to try it out this winter. And you are right - what is wrong with us all? Have done it many times in Europe. It can be just as romantic. :)

  17. Celeste Stanley

    I had the good fortune to grow up in a train family, my Grandfather worked for Southern Pacific Railroad and my Mom worked for Amtrak over 30 years. Growing up we made the cross country trek on the train twice! What a great way to travel, I look forward to taking my boys (2 and 4) on train trips in the near future.
    Your recipe looks divine, we love butternut squash soup - the walnut pesto is a nice touch.

  18. Lynn Murphy

    Megan.... made your butternut soup recipe and it is really a delicious treat. It is so creamy & full-bodied w/o any dairy. I offered to make it anew to take it to our daughter's for a family gathering luncheon before Cirque du Soleil.(yes..clap, clap) Great flavors and tonight I made the pesto so tomorrow we will add that surprise topping to the soup. -Lynn

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