Butternut Squash Soup, Grilled Cheese, Fall Salad, and Apple Crumble with Chef Lia

On the Menu

Butternut Squash Soup

Grilled Cheddar Sandwich with Chipotle Aioli and Tomato

Fall Salad with Mixed Greens, Pomegranate, Bosc Pear, Spicy Pecans and Tangerine Sherry Vinaigrette

Apple Tasting – Fuji, Pink Lady, Red Delicious, Arkansas Black, Pippin, Granny Smith, etc.

Apple Crumble

It was a fun and ambitious fall afternoon at the SF Cooking School. Chef Lia put together the most delicious fall menu that was simple but impressive enough to serve at any dinner party.

First, we learned how to cut up a butternut squash. This is a long process, but is totally worth the taste of the creamy, nutty soup at the end. After we chopped it up, we put it into a pot with onions, garlic, spices and water (but you can use stock too), covered it, and let it simmer for around 45 minutes.

While the soup simmered, we split up into groups and followed recipes for: homemade aioli (mayonnaise) with chipotle for some zing, spicy pecans, and apple crumble. It was exciting to see how easy it is to make mayo from scratch with just eggs, oil, and lemon juice! We chopped up some apples, mixed them in with sugar and spices and folded the crumble topping. The kitchen smelled like Thanksgiving!

After the crumble went into the oven and one of the groups finished stirring brown sugar and cayenne into the pecans for our fall salad, we learned how professional chefs make soup extra creamy: using a Chinois sieve (see right).

Meanwhile, we cut up the season’s best apple offerings and tried them side by side. This apple tasting revealed the complex and subtle flavors of farmers’ market apples. In the grocery store, you usually only see three to five kinds of apples, but there are over 7,000 varieties of apples around the world! Also, chef Lia told us that grocery store apples sometimes are significantly older than farmers’ market apples, which have to come straight from the farm.

Lastly. we gathered ingredients for our grilled cheddar cheese. After grating sharp cheddar and slicing bread, we created a Cooking Project assembly line (see top photo), slathering our homemade chipotle aioli on the bread topping with cheddar and sliced tomatoes, put them together, and toasted them on the griddle.

We couldn’t believe we got that all done in under two hours! Phew! A big thank you to chef Lia for all of your fantastic recipes. See below for how to make them.




Butternut Squash Soup – Serves 8 people

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 Butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded, cubed into 1” cubes

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 large yellow onions, diced

1 bay leaf

2 sprigs of fresh thyme

A pinch of ground nutmeg

Sea salt to taste and freshly ground pepper

4 cups stock or water

  1. Using a medium-high flame, heat the olive oil in a 6-7 quart pot until it is hot, but not smoking.
  2. Add the onions and sauté them until they are translucent and start to caramelize.
  3. Add the bay leaf, garlic and squash and sauté for a few minutes to allow the squash to brown a little, turning the squash so that it cooks evenly.  
  4. Add the water or stock, thyme, nutmeg, salt and pepper, and bring to boil.
  5. Cook until the squash is tender, depending on squash size, around 45 minutes.
  6. Purée in a food processor or by using an immersion blender.
  7. Serve hot. If the soup is too thick, add a little more stock or water to thin it.
  8. Taste for salt level and serve hot.


Grilled Cheddar Sandwich with Chipotle Aioli and Tomato – Serves 2

4   ½” slices of hearty bread. Acme Levain works well for this

4   thin slices of tomato

4  ⅛” slices of sharp cheddar

2 teaspoons Chipotle chile aioli

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Brush one side of each slice of bread. On the opposite side of each slice, spread a thin layer of the Chipotle aioli and lay them face up. On one slice, add 2 slices of cheddar and 2 slices of tomatoes, and top a slice of bread, olive oil side out. Repeat for the second sandwich.

Heat a griddle or large pan until medium hot. Lay the sandwiches on the griddle. They should make a slight sizzle noise, indicating your pan is hot enough. Lower the heat slightly, so the bread can toast, but not scorch. When one side is toasted brown evenly, using a metal spatula, flip the sandwich on the other side and toast. When the cheese is melted and the bread evenly toasted, remove from the griddle, slice the sandwich in half, and serve hot.


Chipotle Aïoli

4 cloves garlic

2 egg yolks

1 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons chopped canned chipotle peppers in adobo, including the sauce

Salt to taste (approximately ½ teaspoon)

Crush the garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle. Transfer to a quart-size bowl. Add the egg yolks and whisk them. Very slowly, drip by drip, add the olive oil. As the eggs emulsify with the oil, you can increase the amount of oil per drip. Be patient and just at a little at a time, so that the emulsion doesn’t break. Whisk in the lemon juice, Chipotle chiles, and salt, to taste.

The aioli can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 days.

Spiced Pecans

2 tablespoons raw brown sugar

½ cup pecan halves

A pinch of cayenne

Parchment paper

In an oven or toaster oven, toast the pecans lightly. This takes about 2-3 minutes. Be sure to keep an eye on them, as they will burn quickly. Remove them from the oven and place them in a bowl beside the stove. In a small sauté pan, add the sugar and cook on a medium flame until it starts to caramelize. Add the toasted pecans, turning them to coat evenly. Do this step very quickly, so the caramel doesn’t burn. Remove from the heat and add a pinch of cayenne, stirring quickly. Quickly remove the nuts to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Cool and serve.


Sherry Vinaigrette

1 part good quality Sherry

2 part fruity olive oil

Salt and pepper

Whisk ingredients together and drizzle on salad greens, grilled veges, etc.


Apple Crumble – Serves 6 – 8


4 Pink Lady apples, peeled, cored and sliced in ¼” slices

¼ cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon cardammon

1 tablespoon tapioca


1 cup walnut halves, roughly chopped

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 ¼ cup rolled oats

½ cup raw brown sugar

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

8 tablespoons cold butter

Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  1. Mix the apples, lemon juice, sugar, spices and tapioca in a bowl.
  2. Spread the apple mixture in a 9” x 13” baking dish.
  3. Mix the flour, oats, spices, and nuts in a bowl. Cube the butter and using your fingers, mix them into the flour mixture until the butter mix is pea-sized.
  4. Top the apple mixture with the crumble.
  5. Bake for 35 – 45 minutes, rotating the pan midway before it’s cooked.
  6. Using a toothpick, test for doneness. The apples should be soft.
  7. Serve bubbling hot or cold.


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