Butternut Squash Soup with Apple and Spices

img_3146     This Butternut Squash Soup with Apple and Spices is perfect for Fall, and good enough for Thanksgiving too.  I love it.  Sauté shallots and a little garlic in olive oil and white wine, add an apple and a bit of real maple syrup for sweetness.  Warming spices and coconut milk round it out.  Dress it up any which way, with homemade croutons, toasted pumpkin seeds, dried apple slices, etc.

INGREDIENTS
2.5 to 3 lb. butternut squash  (cooked, seeded, peeled and chopped)
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon Earth Balance vegan butter
1 Cup chopped shallots  (about 6 shallots, depending on size)
2 garlic cloves chopped
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 bay leaf,  one thyme sprig
1 Cup white wine
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric  (for color–you won’t taste it)
2 Tablespoons real maple syrup
4 Cups vegetable stock
1/2 Cup coconut creamer or coconut milk
one single star anise

Any toppings you desire, such as homemade croutons, toasted pumpkin seeds, dried apple bits, etc.

DIRECTIONS
In a large pot over medium heat, heat olive oil and butter and then add shallots, garlic, salt, pepper, bay leaf and thyme.  Cook until shallots are soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the wine, cinnamon, nutmeg and turmeric, and cook 3-5 minutes more.  Add squash, chopped apple, maple syrup, vegetable stock, coconut milk, and the single anise star.  Cook on low simmer for about 10 minutes.  Remove bay leaf, thyme and star anise.  Let soup cool.

Puree soup in blender.  Re-heat and serve with any toppings you desire.

Notes:  I like Better Than Bouillon “No Chicken” base for this soup, but any vegetable stock will do.  Substitute onion for the shallots if necessary.   An easy way to cook the squash is to poke some slits down one side with a sharp knife, and then place it in a baking dish with about an inch of water.  Place in cold oven, set oven to 375 and bake for 90 minutes to 2 hours.  I add the anise star later in the cooking process so it doesn’t overpower the other flavors, but instead gives a delicate hint.