Apple-squash soup

This apple-squash soup has apple as its dominant flavor. (Photo and styling by John Houser III, for The Baltimore Sun / September 25, 2012)

One bite of a cool, crisp and bittersweet apple, and it's apparent why it is so intertwined with autumn.

No fruit has had a more schizophrenic symbolic history — from the tantalizing tempter of Eve to the sign of appreciation for favorite teachers (and many meanings in between).

At area farmers' markets, you will find the forbidden fruit in more varieties than you could have ever hoped to find at a supermarket. With some orchards selling dozens of varieties, it can get daunting trying to choose. Luckily, many of the purveyors will let you sample their wares.

Local chefs revel in the diversity of local apples. With names like Tsugaru and Cox orange (my current favorite), the bounty provides inspiration for cooks at restaurants as well as in the home.

"I'm all over the place with apples," says Chris Becker, executive chef at Fleet Street Kitchen and director of culinary operations for the Bagby Restaurant Group. "I like to poach them, put them in salads with arugula, walnuts and blue cheese with a champagne vinaigrette."

Becker also has a go-to dessert when cooking at home: "I roast apples and then place them sliced up on puff pastry and bake them for a quick and easy apple galette."

Irena Stein, chef-owner of Cafe Azafran and Alkimia on the Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus, also likes to make desserts at home. "My favorite way to eat apples is simply roasted, with butter and brown sugar in the center [or] in a tarte tatin flambeed with orange rum liqueur [and] a dollop of creme fraiche."

While apples are great in various confections, you shouldn't overlook them as a savory ingredient. These recipes focus on the not-so-sweet aspect of the apple.

john@rouxde.com

Apple-squash soup

Most apple soups use the apple as a background flavor for squash. This version uses apple as the main ingredient, with some squash to add a bit of body. The aromatics (onion and garlic) increase the savory levels, and the spices give the soup a mystery that makes it a joy to eat. Chinese five-spice powder and curry powder are both easily available at your local source for spices.

Makes: 8-12 servings, depending on bowl size

1 pound orange squash, cut in half and seeded (I used delicata, but acorn or butternut work just as well)

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil plus extra to coat the squash

1 large onion, medium dice

6 large cloves garlic, crushed and roughly chopped

3 pounds mixed apples, medium dice (I used 3 each of the following: Cox orange, Macintosh, Fuji and Braeburn)

8 cups chicken stock