Sunday, December 28, 2014

Curried Butternut Squash Soup: That'll do

It's amazing how quickly the switch flips. When I swatted the sleep out of my eyes on Friday morning, my head still hazy from perhaps one too many glasses of red wine the night prior, I couldn't even contemplate eating a radish.

It was a grand departure from the days proceeding it when I had feasted on Butterscotch Cashew Bars and Christmas Cocoa Cookies and Walnut Sea Salt Caramels as though they were the building blocks of a healthy, balanced diet. My five-a-days, if you will. (I most certainly did will.)

In the moment it seemed impossible to stop this no-holds-barred style of eating and drinking for the monotony of regular food that doesn't come dusted with powdered sugar or dipped in chocolate. Yet, as soon as December 25th gave way to December 26th, my desire for sugar-driven sustenance gave with it, as though my body was finally putting up a Babe-esque protest.

"That'll do, Pig. That'll do."

As I slugged out of bed, I wanted nothing to do with the batches of cookies that still lingered, uneaten, on the kitchen countertops nor my favorite dark chocolate turtles, a gift from my dad. The hours that followed seemed marked by a resistance to anything edible. A half-hearted bowl of Greek yogurt with banana, raspberries, and a scant amount of almonds after a long, purging run by the beach, then nothing until nearly 3 pm when my mom and I decided, reluctantly, that food was probably a necessary order of business.

And so there was soup.

A cinnamon and cumin-scented butternut squash puree from our favorite local haunt, Zinc Cafe, that was everything we wanted in that precise moment. Soothing, delicately-spiced without edging into the territory of over-eventful, and satisfying enough that hunger wouldn't nag our consciousness again until dinner.

A re-creation at home was an inevitability.

The soup you'll find here is far from a consolation prize during a period that, for many, becomes an exercise in self-flagellation. Instead, it feels like an appropriate and welcome interlude to transition from a place of gluttony to one of, well, less gluttony. The curry-flavored butternut squash puree gets further heft from the addition of blended chickpeas, and a silkening ribbon of light coconut milk melds everything together just as the soup is about to be doled out into bowls.

With two sturdy slices of Clark Street Bread's Danish Rye (startling even in its unfettered, unbuttered state), this is holiday rehab at its finest. It'll do. It'll do perfectly fine.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup
Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium white or brown onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon tumeric
6 cups cubed butternut squash
1 16-ounce can chickpeas, drained
5 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup - 3/4 cup light coconut milk

Heat olive oil in the base of large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onion and sauté over medium heat for 7-10 minutes while breaking down your squash. Stir from time to time to ensure the onions don't burn, turning down the heat, as needed.

Reduce heat to low, stir in the spices, and cook for 1 minute.

Add the squash, chickpeas and chicken broth, and bring to a low boil. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, or until squash is completely tender. Remove from the stove.

Using either a blender, or immersion blender (which will make this task far easier), blend the squash, chickpeas and broth together until smooth. If using an immersion blender, you can do this right in the pot you cooked the soup in, but if using a blender, you'll need to work in batches.

Once completely smooth, transfer the soup back to the stove to re-warm. Stir in the coconut milk, starting with half a cup, and adding more if you prefer a thinner soup. (Note: The soup will get thicker as it sits, so hold on to that extra coconut milk to thin out the leftovers.)

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