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Soup for the soul

Local chefs offer warm recipes for chilly autumn evenings

With November just days away and rain in the forecast, fall is fully upon us. It's high time to switch from cold salads to warm, comforting soups.

Two local chefs have shared recipes for soups that they turn to during the fall months, either at their restaurants or in their own homes.

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Butternut squash soup with tie-dye relish

Lee Levig Jr., Bradley's Fine Diner, Menlo Park

Bradley's Fine Diner in Menlo Park has many vegan diners, including a regular who had asked the kitchen for a butternut squash soup that wouldn't use butter, like most do. The staff came up with their own version using coconut milk. They "found it to be much richer and a much more well-balanced dish than its traditional counterpart," said Executive Chef Lee Levig Jr. "It does not lack in flavor."

He also added a "playful" element -- a "tie-dye" relish made of diced celery root, beet and pomegranate seeds. His instructions: Place the relish in the bowl, pour the soup in and top with sunchoke chips to add a crunch.

"The more you eat the soup, the more you disturb the liquid (and) the more ribbons of red beet start to appear in your bowl," he said. "By the time you are done with the dish, your soup has beautiful red and golden yellow almost tiger stripes (with a) tie-dyed look to it."

A gastronomical bonus is that when the beet and celery are warmed by the soup, their flavor changes, "making each bite just ever so slightly different," Levig Jr. said.

Ingredients for soup:

5 pounds roasted and cleaned butternut squash

2 cups yellow onion, diced

3 cans coconut milk

1 tablespoon red curry powder

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 cups vegetable stock

1/4 cup brown sugar

Directions:

Cut squash in half from top to bottom. Clean out the seeds.

Rub with oil and season with salt and pepper.

Roast at 350 F until tender.

In a large rondeau pan or dutch oven, heat a small amount of vegetable oil and add in yellow onions. Sweat until translucent.

Add in curry powder and salt. Continue to toast in pan.

Add butternut squash and brown sugar. Toss rapidly to coat evenly with curry and onion.

Deglaze with vegetable stock and bring to a simmer.

Add in coconut milk. Stir and simmer for 45 minutes.

While hot, purée and pass through a chinois or a fine-meshed sieve. Top with relish and serve.

Note: For busy parents or planners, the soup can be prepared up to three days in advance. After puréeing and passing through a sieve, cool it quickly and store in refrigerator. To serve, re-heat gently in a soup pot, adding a touch of fresh coconut water.

Ingredients for celery root and sunchoke relish:

1/4 cup celery root, diced

15 sunchoke chips (see instructions)

1/4 cup red beet, diced

1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

Directions:

Peel and clean celery root, then blanch in salted water.

Thinly slice sunchokes. Store in ice water.

Shake sunchokes dry and submerge in fryer or pot with at least 2 inches of oil.

Fry 4 to 6 minutes or until crisp; place on towel-lined sheet to drain and cool. While cooling, sprinkle with salt.

Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl for 1 minute (to prevent color bleeding), reserving the sunchoke chips for garnish.

Celery root velouté with currants and duck confit

Jarad Gallagher, Chez TJ, Mountain View

Don't be daunted by this dish's description or its Michelin-star-winning creator. This is what Jarad Gallagher makes at home during his rare off hours -- most often after Thanksgiving, when he has leftover meat. Master the velouté, one of the five "mother sauces" of French cuisine, with his directions.

Gallagher said he's also fond of the taste of celery root during the fall months: "It warms your tummy like meat stocks do. It's like getting a holiday hug."

Ingredients for soup:

2 celery roots, peeled and diced into 2-inch pieces

1 large white onion, peeled and sliced

6 fresh bay leaves (dry is OK)

6 whole garlic cloves

1/4 cup olive oil

4 cups white chicken stock (vegetable stock or water can be used)

2 tablespoon butter

1 cup heavy cream

sea salt

black pepper

extra virgin olive oil

Ingredients for garnish:

1/2 pound leftover dark meat (turkey, duck or chicken)

30 leaves from the inside of a celery head (light-colored yellow ones)

2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon aged balsamic vinegar

1 ounce dried currants or raisins, softened in hot water for a few minutes

Directions:

Using a 2-gallon stainless steel stock pot, add olive oil and heat on medium.

Once warm, add the onion, celery root, bay leaf and garlic. Stir continuously until the onions become translucent; then add stock and bring the pot to a full boil.

Reduce heat to a simmer and continue to simmer until the roots have fallen apart.

Add the butter and cream, return to a full boil.

Set up a strainer over a pot to catch the strained soup.

Using a blender, purée the soup and pass it through the strainer.

Pour into bowls.

To serve: Slightly warm the dark meat and mix with all other garnish ingredients in a bowl. Place a small spoonful of the garnish mix on top of the portioned soup and sprinkle with extra virgin olive oil.

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