Curried Butternut Squash and Coconut Milk Soup

Fall

Fall is here, which is kind of sad because it’s getting colder and the days are getting shorter, but it’s just. so. beautiful. I don’t know…there’s something romantic about the colors of the leaves changing and the cool air arriving. It’s cozy. Soups are good for cozy weather, but I’ll get to that in a moment. First…these trees!!

Rideau Canal

Last weekend we took advantage of that sweet spot between mid-september when most of the leaves have turned and the first serious rains which make the leaves fall off and took a little hike up into Gatineau Park. (By the way, I don’t just know these things – fall sweet spots and whatnot – the more experienced ones tell me. They say, “Lisa, it’s time. This is the weekend to go see the leaves.”)

Gatineau Park

They were right. And the views from the top did not disappoint.

Gatineau Park

It looks like a colorful carpet! And that’s lil’ ol’ Ottawa in the distance. We even saw a few Turkey Vultures.

Gatineau Park

A couple more, and then I’ll tell you quickly about my soup.

Gatineau Park

Gatineau Park

Really, the soup is simple; I needed an excuse to show you all the fall! I know most of you, my lovely readers, are still in hundred degree weather that shows no signs of ever letting up, and I’m sorry about that. And about what it’s doing to our beautiful state. And you probably don’t feel like even thinking about making or eating or even looking at soup. But I do. You all can just keep this one in your back pocket for when the temperatures do finally cool down.

Butternut Squash SoupIt’s a quick and simple soup with a rich silky texture. Oh, also, it has like only 200 calories per serving. That’s always nice. Also, if you’re totally bored just thinking about cutting and peeling that sucker, you could slice it down the middle and then roast it in the oven.

Curried Butternut Squash and Coconut Milk Soup

Makes 4 servings or 8 cups

Ingredients:

4 pounds butternut squash, peeled and chopped into cubes

1 small onion, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons curry powder

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more or less or not at all – up to you!)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 can of light coconut milk (reserve 1/4 cup for garnishing, if you want)

1 or 2 cups broth (whatever kind you like, I use vegetable)

1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds (optional)

  • Peel and chop the butternut squash and chop the onion.
  • In a large pot, heat the olive oil on medium high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they start to lightly brown. You may need to lower the heat so you can get some color, without them burning or sticking to the bottom of the pan. About 5 – 8┬áminutes
  • Add the spices to the onion and stir to toast the curry a bit. About a minute
  • Add the chopped butternut squash, coconut milk, and then add broth until the liquids just barely cover the squash. Cover and bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until the squash is tender, stirring occasionally.
  • In the mean time, lightly toast the pumpkin seeds (if using them) either in a pan or in the oven. Keep an eye on them – they toast super fast and I am guilty of throwing away more than one batch!!
  • Use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Or pour it into a stand-up blender in batches. Serve and garnish with a tablespoon of the reserved coconut milk, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and the pumpkin seeds.
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Calabaza, Corn, and Coconut Soup

Calabaza Squash looks similar to a Butternut Squash, but has the texture and flavor of a pumpkin or Kabocha Squash. They sell this squash here in Spain and call it “Calabaza”, and the first time I bought it, I mistook it for Butternut Squash thinking that, since calabaza means “pumpkin”, it was just a generic name for squash. Imagine my disappointment when the recipe I was making turned out badly.

So, when I came across a recipe that had this mysterious gourd in it’s title, I had to try it. This recipe got four out of four forks on epicurious.com and rightfully so – the soup is creamy and satisfying and the relish adds a complexity of contrasting flavors. Basically, it’s a party in your mouth.

Start with a base of onion and garlic, and then add cubed Calabaza and chopped Cilantro stems (save the leaves for the corn relish). Water and coconut milk get added to this mix and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Once the Calabaza is tender, turn off the heat and use an immersion blender to puree until smooth.

The corn relish is marinated in a dressing of lemon juice, salt, a pinch of sugar, Cilantro and olive oil. After serving the soup, add a spoonful of this relish and the tangy flavor of the lemon and cilantro provide a clean, fresh balance to the coconut milk’s creaminess and cayenne’s spice. I had some coconut milk left over so I drizzled a little bit at the end just to make it look awesome.

The recipe, which is below, says you can substitute Kabocha Squash if you can’t get your hands on Calabaza. Also, the relish calls for lime juice, but I can’t always find limes here (same old story) so I used lemon, and just a tad less than the recipe calls for because lemon is more bitter than lime. The spice level is right on in my opinion, spicy but not detracting from the flavors, but if you are more sensitive you could use less. Lastly, my boyfriend is not completely on board with Cilantro, so I used about half of what the recipe called for – still delicious!

OK, here you have it (it’s really easy, so you should definitely try it!)

Soup:

  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped Cilantro stems
  • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 (2 1/4 lb) piece of Calabaza Squash, or 1 (2 and 1/2 lb) piece of Kabocha Squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (6 cups)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 1/4 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk, well-stirred
  • 3 ears of corn (fresh or frozen), kernels cut off and reserved for relish
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Relish:

  • 4 1/2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • pinch of sugar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups corn kernels
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped Cilantro
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped shallot

To make soup: Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, add onion and saute until lightly browned around the edges, about 4 minutes. Add Cilantro and garlic, cook 3 more minutes. Add Calabaza pieces, cook, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Add water and coconut juice, corn cobs, salt and cayenne pepper. Bring to simmer and cook until squash is tender, about 15 minutes.

To make relish: Mix lime juice, salt and sugar in a bowl. Add olive oil and whisk until combined. Cook corn in boiling water until just tender, about 3 minutes, drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking. Drain completely and add corn, cilantro and shallot and toss well to coat.

To finish the soup, discard the corn cobs and puree with an immersion blender, or in batches in a blender. Serve in bowls and add a spoonful of relish to be gently stirred into soup.

*Recipe courtesy of Gourmet on epicurious.com (link)