Serves 4–6 | 1 hour
For the soup
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 pounds winter squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped into 1” pieces (5–6 cups)
- 1 medium apple, peeled, seeded, and chopped into 1” pieces
- 2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise (about 2 heaping cups)
- kosher or sea salt
- black pepper, freshly ground
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 quart (4 cups) chicken or vegetable stock
- a few sprigs of fresh thyme
- freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
For the brown butter
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons ginger, peeled and minced
- 2 teaspoons thyme leaves, left whole or chopped if large
- kosher or sea salt
- to serve:
- cooked grain, such as brown rice, spelt, or wheat berries
- plain yogurt or crème fraîche
- toasted seeds or nuts, such as pepitas, cashews, or pecans
Warm a large soup pot over medium heat. Add butter and olive oil. Once the butter begins to foam, toss in the squash and apple. Stir to combine and cook down a bit, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, rinse the leek stalks under running water to remove any remaining dirt or sand, holding the layers together and peeling back a section at a time to clean. Pat dry with a clean towel. Place the leeks cut-side face down on a cutting board and slice them into half moons about 1/4” thick across the stalk.
Stir leeks into the pot and add a large pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until leeks are soft, then add garlic and stir to combine. Cook for another minute or two, then add stock, thyme, and a few good squeezes of lemon juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer until the squash and apples can be pierced through with a fork, about 15 minutes.
While the soup is cooking, make the brown butter. Place butter in a small pot with a light-colored bottom so you are able to see the butter start to brown. Melt it over medium-low heat, and swirl or stir occasionally to ensure even cooking. The butter will begin to foam as it melts, and the color will become darker. Once you see tiny brown specks and it smells toasty and nutty, immediately remove the pan from the heat and stir in the ginger. It will seize up; stir a bit, then allow to settle and cool slightly. Stir in thyme and a pinch of salt.
After the soup is finished cooking, turn off the heat and discard thyme sprigs. Use an immersion blender to purée the soup until smooth and creamy. Alternatively, transfer soup to a blender and purée in batches, then return soup to the pot. Stir in maple syrup. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, pepper, or lemon juice as needed until it tastes well-balanced.
To serve, ladle soup into bowls and spoon a scoop of grain on top if you wish. Add toppings, such as a dollop of yogurt or crème fraîche and toasted seeds or nuts. Drizzle with a spoonful of the ginger-thyme brown butter.