But first, it's "back to school" for a quick lesson about vegetables, specifically 'squash'. What's the difference between 'summer squash' and 'winter squash'?
Is it that one grows in summer and one grows in winter? Nope.
Is it that one's eaten in summer and one's eaten in winter? Nope, at least not in today's global food distribution system that delivers year-round availability of many of our staple fruits and vegetables.
This book you can read by its cover, for the difference between summer squash and winter squash is up-front and visible, right in the skins.
Summer squash have tender, edible skins. Think zucchini (called 'courgette' in many parts of the world) and yellow squash.
Winter squash have tough, inedible skins. Think butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash and even pumpkin.
But why are the skins so different, why are the skins of summer squash edible and skins of winter squash inedible? Summer squash are harvested when they are still quite young and small. They can easily be eaten raw, the skins and flesh both, and are quite perishable so must be eaten a short while after picking. Winter squash are harvested when the plants are mature, their skins thick and tough. They can be stored for long periods in a cool place and need a longer time to cook.
Here in Missouri, the winter squash start appearing in the farmers market in mid August. Too soon!, my seasonal sensibility shouts. Stay away until October when the oven comes back on! Right now it's too hot to cook and we're gorging on tomatoes and sweet corn!
Enter the recipe for this gorgeous, silky creamy-but-no-cream butternut squash soup from my Canadian cousin Lynda. I made it last November during a long stretch of unseasonably warm days and nights, when 'chilled soup' was a welcome starter to supper. Oooo, this is good, I heard, then nothing but quietly clinking spoons. No one taste comes through more than another, it's perfectly balanced, creating a whole 'new' taste, a blend of the squash, the mango and the coconut. Lime juices adds an appreciated brightness. A few days later, the temperatures dropped and I warmed up the leftover soup in the microwave. My goodness, so good, especialy because the fruity mango revealed itself in a new way, the creaminess too.
To my taste, this is a 'starter' soup, best served in small portions, rather than a 'dinner soup'. The color is beautiful, it's just a tad bit unusual. During cold weather, I also love this Butternut Squash That Actually Tastes Like Butternut Squash. But for warm-weather meals? Chilled butternut squash soup it is.
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KITCHEN PARADE, LAST WEEK Homemade Granola with Almonds & Apricots
RECIPE for BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP with MANGO & TOASTED COCONUT
Time to table: 3 hours but best when the flavors are allowed to meld overnight
Makes 5 cups
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger (see TIPS)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups butternut squash (see TIPS)
2 cups frozen mango (see TIPS)
14 ounces light coconut milk
2 cups vegetable stock or chicken broth (NOT homemade chicken stock, see TIPS)
1 tablespoon brown sugar or honey
1 - 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (don't skip this!)
Salt & pepper to taste
Unsweetened coconut, dry toasted in a skillet for a few minutes
In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over MEDIUM until shimmery, stir in the ginger and spices and cook until fragrant, just a few seconds. Stir in the onion and let cook, stirring occasionally. Stir in the butternut squash and mango as they're prepped, then cook until just beginning to soften. Stir in the coconut milk, stock and brown sugar. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to maintain a slow simmer and let cook for about 25 minutes or until the squash is very soft.
Transfer to a blender or food processor and process until smooth -- but be careful with hot liquids in a blender or food processor, they can spew hot soup, it's best to work in small batches.
Transfer to a storage container, stir in the lime juice and seasoning to taste. Chill until ready to serve.
TO SERVE Fill bowls with soup, top with the diced mango and sprinkles of toasted coconut (see TIPS).
ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
FRESH GINGER I use this wonderful jar of minced ginger from an international market.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH I used the neck of a large butternut squash, weighing about 3/4 of a pound (325 grams). Here's How to Cut, Peel and Cube a Butternut Squash and Keep All Ten Fingers. Once you know the quick technique, it goes quick-quick.
MANGO I get bags of frozen mango at Trader Joe's but understand that Costco and some supermarkets sell them too. There's no reason why ripe, fresh mango couldn't be used.
VEGETARIAN? VEGAN? (Note to Vegetarians) The inspiring recipe called for chicken stock but I used vegetable stock to make this a vegan soup. Commercial chicken stock is much preferable to homemade chicken stock in a chilled soup. Homemade chicken is too gelatinous, it gets clumpy when cold, not good!
ON THE SIDE Lynda serves the toasted coconut on the side in case someone doesn't like it.
~ My Favorite Winter Squash Recipes ~
~ 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
~ Roasted Butternut Squash & Apple ~
~ Chicken & Wild Rice Soup ~
~ Acorn Squash with Quinoa & Cherries ~
~ more winter squash ~
from Kitchen Parade, my food column