Thursday, January 19, 2012

Spicy Butternut Soup

This is the best butternut soup I've ever had. It's savory and punchy and perfect. I'm not a burn-your-mouth kind of spice girl and this is not that kind of a soup. But it's got the perfect amount of kick to play off of the sweet of the butternut. I like it without any dairy softening the blow as a matter of fact, though if you did find it a little too edgy you could add sour cream, yogurt, or cream.

The only sad thing about this soup is that it's not of my own creation. But I'm a humble enough woman to post it for you anyway because it's stinking awesome, though I must mention that if certain members of your family are averse to anything remotely spicy (hello, ginger, curry, cumin,and mustard), you might have to go with something more like this, which was our old standby and which will still make appearances on our dinner table since Kip and spices like to keep things simple, as in salt, pepper, and ketchup (ketchup being, as we all know, at the very foundation of both the American spice rack and a healthy food pyramid).

As a final note on the soup, I made it two ways. I made it the fussy peel-your-squash way, which was yummy. And I made it the lazy use-leftover-cooked-squash, which was also super yummy (in fact, I couldn't tell the difference). So although the recipe might not be mine, I'd like to take credit for this LABOR SAVING TIP: Buy a 3 lb squash, chop it into slices, take seeds out, and steam it one night as a side for dinner. Eat about 1/3 of the simple steamed squash (with salt, pepper, and a pat of butter if you please--it's wonderful). And then scoop out the remaining flesh and make this soup the next night. This will save you a good 25 minutes on soup night (and possibly a finger or two--seriously) and give you a healthy side dish the night before--for only 5 minutes of hands-on effort. Win and win.

I'd also like to point out that this very butternut squash was from my garden. I'v even got one more.

I'd also like to point out that it is January. Of course my point in all this pointing out is that I'm completely awesome and that--should there come to be some type of Armageddon-style disaster that destroys all our food sources--our family will survive for approximately 1 meal longer than we otherwise would have survived. Check that, I will survive for approximately 2 meals longer than I otherwise would have survived while my family will perish while watching me and moaning, 'gross' as they faint in their kitchen chairs.

Spicy Butternut Soup
adapted from Simply Recipes
Prep time: 5 minutes with above labor-saving tip; 15-20 minutes otherwise
Cook time: 15-20 minutes with above labor-saving tip; 40 minutes otherwise
Cost: about $2.10
(squash: 1.29--Alid-style, onion: .20, chicken stock: .50-ish if made with granules; more if made with canned stuff, other stuff: .10)

Note: You could substitute an equal amount of acorn squash for the butternut.

1 two-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, diced, and cut into cubes.
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp butter
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 tsp yellow curry powder
1 tsp whole mustard seeds or 1/4 tsp dried mustard (I made with both and both were good; also I worried the whole seeds wouldn't puree well and would be yucky chunks, but they weren't so don't fear them if you've got them)
dash ground cumin
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced (or 1 tsp ground ginger)
4 C chicken stock
1/2 C sour cream, cream, or yogurt (optional)
garnish with cilantro (optional)

1. Peel your squash. I do this by first slicing (and seeding) my butternut and then using a GOOD paring knife to peel the slices. Be sure you've got a good knife. If you don't, your fingers are at serious risk (seriously, I'm not kidding here). They're at a bit of a risk anyway, so be careful. If you don't have a good knife or don't want to take a risk, steam or boil your slices for 20 minutes and then scoop out the flesh.

2. Heat 1/2 Tbsp olive oil and a pat of butter and toss your peeled, cubed, seeded squash in. Add a few dashes salt and stir around. Cook until browned. (If using pre-cooked squash, you can skip this step altogether.)

3. Remove squash (it won't be soft, just browned) and set aside.

4. Add 1/2 Tbsp olive oil and add onion. Cook until lightly browned and fairly soft. Add curry, ginger, cumin, and mustard seeds. Stir until fragrant (about 1 minute). Add squash back to pan. Add chicken stock. Bring to boil. Then reduce to simmer, cover the pot, and simmer for 40 minutes. (If using pre-cooked squash, you'll only need to simmer about 10 minutes.)

5. When done, use an immersion blender and blend until smooth. You can also blend it in a blender. You'll likely need to do this in batches and put a hot pad or dish towel over the top of the blender just in case some hot soup tries to come squirting out at you. (Who knew cooking could be so fraught with peril?).

6. Add dairy if using. And garnish with cilantro if you wish.


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