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Original Post 2005: Mmm, mmmm, good. This is the second week cooking for a neighbor sick with cancer and his wife: comfort food for him, a reprieve for her. Last week the objective was lots of calories. As happens in these situations, however, this is a new week and the new alternative medicine doctor has prescribed what I think would be called a macrobiotic diet. No meat, no fish, no dairy. No refined flour or sugar. So vegetables and fruits and grains are the order of the day – yet he still needs dense calories because his appetite is diminished. It's a challenge, cooking with so many restrictions, but fascinating too.
Update 2014: My neighbor lost his battle with cancer in 2006 and just this week, his widow passed away too. They were good people: he was a brother and she was a nun when they met, fell in love, married and grew old together. Warm summer evenings, she would take his arm and slowly they'd stroll around their small house, taking stock of the flowers, then sit on a hanging swing, just quietly visiting, just enjoying one another's company. Mutual friends and I laugh about their reunion in heaven, it's a nice thought, we hope, we believe, it's true. It's a small thing perhaps, but I made this soup again in their honor and served it to much acclaim for my book club. I said it in 2005 and I'll repeat it now. Mmm, mmmmm, good. Very very good.
Over the years, I've collected several butternut squash soups, all slightly different, all wonderful. Here's how they vary.
2005 Squash & Pear Soup – Uses pear for fruitiness and coconut milk for creaminess. Vegan.
2006 Butternut Squash Soup with Cider Cream – Uses apple and apple cider for fruitiness. Vegetarian.
2007 Simple Butternut Squash Soup – Quick to make, the simplest soup, really just squash and broth. Vegan.
2010 Butternut Squash Soup that Actually Tastes Like Butternut Squash – More involved but extracts the most squash flavor. Vegetarian.
2011 Butternut Squash Soup with Mango & Toasted Coconut – A good season-transition soup since it's good both hot and cold. Vegan.
"Turned out yummy ..." ~ dvinokur
RECIPE for CURRIED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP with PEAR & COCONUT
Hands-on time: 35 minutes
Time to table: 2-1/2 hours but flavors meld beautifully after several hours in the fridge
Makes about 9 cups
Hands-on time: 5 minutes
Time to finish: about 2 hours
1 or 2 butternut squash, about 3-1/2 to 4 pounds total
Hands-on time: 35 minutes
Time to table: 35 minutes but flavors meld beautifully after several hours in the fridge
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 red pears, fully ripe, cored and chopped with skins on
1 - 3 teaspoons curry powder
3 cups stock
1 cup fruit juice
3-1/2 cups cooked butternut squash
1 - 2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 14-ounce can coconut cream, coconut milk or light coconut milk (if you like, reserve a little for garnish)
A few drops coconut cream (pictured)
Thin slice red pear (doused in lemon juice to prevent browning)
Diced dried pear
ROAST THE SQUASH My favorite way to roast a butternut squash is to roast it whole, here's How to Roast a Whole Butternut Squash. Once it's roasted, let the squash cool until it's cool enough to handle. Cut off the squash "neck" and scrape the flesh off the skin. Then cut off the squash "bulb" and scrape out the seeds, then scrape the flesh off the skin. The squash may be roasted a day or two before, just refrigerate the flesh (or even the whole roasted squash) until ready to make the soup. You need 3-1/2 cups flesh for the soup, reserve anything left over for another purpose.
MAKE THE SOUP
In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil on MEDIUM HEAT until shimmery. Stir in the onion and pear as they're prepped, stirring often to coat with fat, letting cook until the onions begin to turn golden, adjusting the heat to avoid browning or burning the onions and pears. Stir in the curry, let cook 1 minute.
Add the stock and fruit juice, then the squash and salt. With a spatula, break up the squash into pieces, bring to a boil and let cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Use an immersion blender to purée the soup until smooth.
Stir in coconut cream or coconut milk and return to a boil but do not allow to boil. Taste and adjust seasoning. Let cool, then refrigerate for several hours for flavors to meld. Return to just to a boil but do not allow to boil.
Turn into soup bowls, garnish, serve and savor!
ALANNA'S TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
ROAST AN EXTRA SQUASH I've learned to roast an extra butternut squash or two. It maximizes the oven use and it's easy to use up the extra squash, just watch for the "little pot" like this with all the winter squash recipes. But there's another reason: for reasons I can't yet discern, some times a squash is just blah – it's watery and tasteless. You don't want to make soup from a squash like that, better to have an extra on hand just in case.
CURRY POWDER & SALT Depending on the sweetness of the squash, depending on the heat in your curry powder, depending on your taste for salt, I recommend starting the soup with 1 teaspoon of curry powder and 1 teaspoon of salt. Finish the soup and then taste it – then decide whether to add more curry and more salt. To mix it in / distribute it most easily, stir the added curry and salt into a half cup or so of the soup in a small bowl, then turn that into back into the soup pot. In my most recent batch, I used 3 teaspoons of curry and 2 teaspoons of salt for gentle curry flavor and appropriate seasoning.
STOCK I use rich-flavored homemade chicken stock, what I call No-Big-Deal Homemade Chicken Stock. It has no salt but big flavor. A vegetable stock works beautifully too. (Note to Vegetarians)
FRUIT JUICE I use apple cider because it's on hand and fits the season but other ideas include pear nectar (this would further emphasize the pear flavor) or even mango juice or orange juice.
COCONUT CREAM vs COCONUT MILK I've switched from coconut milk to coconut cream in the pantry. When I want "coconut milk" I use half a can plus water, when I want "low-fat coconut milk" I use a quarter can plus water. But for richness, there's no beating coconut cream, making the soup appropriate for a main dish or for someone who really needs dense calories like someone with cancer. As you can tell, it makes a real difference in calories.
TEXTURE The soup's texture is not silky but not gritty either, somewhere in between. For something silky smooth, peel the pears and run the soup through a blender or a food processor.
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MORE FAVORITE BUTTERNUT SQUASH RECIPES~ My Favorite Winter Squash Recipes ~
~ How to Cut, Peel & Cube a Butternut Squash and Keep All Ten Fingers ~
~ How to Roast a Whole Butternut Squash ~
~ Sweet Potato & Butternut Squash Tagine ~
~ Savory Bread Pudding with Butternut Squash, Chard & Cheddar ~
~ Steamed Butternut Squash ~
~ Roasted Butternut Squash with Maple Glaze ~
~ more winter squash recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture
~ Squash Puff ~
~ Roasted Butternut Squash & Apple ~
~ Chicken & Wild Rice Soup ~
~ more winter squash ~
from Kitchen Parade, my food column
famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.
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