Curry Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Milk

IMG_20181101_122925192For most of my life I was anti-squash soup. I found the texture off-putting, and I didn’t care for the flavor enough to try to overcome that aversion. But five years ago Molly Wizenberg introduced me to this soup. It isn’t a Pumpkin Spice Latte in soup form. It has rich coconut milk to provide a velvety texture without the need for a high powered blender. Instead of cinnamon or another official fall spice, it has curry powder to bring additional warmth, fish sauce for salty funk, and lime juice for the hit of acid so many squash soups are missing. It was the potential I tasted every time I had a spoonful of lackluster soup before this.

I’ve made it so many times I felt it deserved a spot here. I’ve made a few changes from Molly’s, mainly that I always double it because that means I can use a whole squash and a whole quart of broth. It is perfect for freezing in individual portions and grabbing on those days when you need an emergency lunch because maybe you went out for pizza the night before instead of cooking (like I did this week).

It is nearing the end of our CSA season, which means it is time to stock up the ole root cellar! But in reality I live in an apartment on the top floor of a classic Worcester triple decker so there is no cellar to speak of. If you are in a similar situation, you can still store winter crops for quite a while. The share this week was carrots, chard, butternut, potatoes, and onions. I store the carrots in a plastic bag in the produce drawer of my fridge and they will last for months there. Butternut stores well in a dark, dry place but should not be refrigerated (unless it is cut). Potatoes and onions should be stored in complete darkness, separately if possible because the gas from onions encourages potatoes to sprout (as I learned here). Potatoes do best in a paper bag and onions prefer the open air (I keep them in those wood boxes clementines come in).

If you do want to cook with your veg from this week right away, then you can do that too! Before I found this soup, Ottolenghi was the first one to truly show me the merits of butternut squash. This recipe with tahini and za’atar and this recipe with yogurt and chili are both great. I’m going classic this week and making a roasted chicken with roasted potatoes. I’ve also been using the potatoes for a quick breakfast hash with whatever else I have around, like broccoli and onions (egg on top required).

Curry Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Milk

I put a range for the squash size because they can be so variable. No need to do something silly like use a squash a half (unless you already have a plan for the other half). Just know that the bigger your squash is, the thicker and heartier the soup will be.

  •  3 tablespoons coconut oil (you can also use vegetable or olive oil)
  •  2 cups of chopped onion (this was one medium onion and 2 small ones for me)
  •  6 garlic cloves, minced
  •  2 tablespoons curry powder
  •  1 large butternut squash (about 3-4 pounds), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  •  2 14-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk
  •  4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  •  2 tablespoons maple syrup
  •  2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
  •  2 teaspoons Sriracha or other Asian chili sauce, plus more for serving
  •  Lime wedges, for serving

In a large soup pot, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook for 5 minutes, or until it becomes soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook 1-2 minutes more, until it is fragrant. Add the curry powder and cook for another minute. Add in the squash, broth, coconut milk, maple syrup, fish sauce, and Sriracha. Turn the heat up to high, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 30-40 minutes (until the squash can be easily pierced with a fork).

Using an immersion blender, puree the soup (or, you can use a blender and puree it in batches). Serve with extra Sriracha and lime wedges.

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Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup

IMG_20181018_173543805I have a certain affinity for unappetizing foods. Foods that look terrible no matter what, but taste so good. Poutine. Beans and rice. Baba ghanoush. This soup certainly fits into that category. It is completely brown. Not the rich, glistening brown of a crispy French fry, but the flat brown of a pureed soup. But (but!) it is worth making.

It starts with summer vegetables you know would taste so good roasted, but in August you can’t bring yourself to turn on the oven. While August may be their peak season, tomatoes and eggplant are usually hanging around until the first frost. Which is a point you welcome turning on the oven, and can take those vegetables that are no longer quite at their peak and concentrate their flavor.

You halve them, along with an onion and a few garlic cloves, and stick them in the oven for 45 minutes to get a little bit caramelized. Then you simmer them with some stock for another 45 minutes and puree. What you have is warm and comforting, but not a heavy soup. It is a fall soup made with summer ingredients, or a perfect soup for the transition of seasons. It’s not pretty, but we all have our days.

Besides the eggplant, tomato, and onions I used for this recipe, the rest of my Potter Hill CSA share this week was celeriac, spicy lettuce mix, chard, mustard greens, Tokyo bekana, parsley, and a jalapeño. Alongside this soup, we had a salad of spicy greens dressed with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. I’m going to use basically all of the greens in the Olive Oil-Braised Chickpeas with Swiss Chard and Cumin from Dinner: Changing the Game. I haven’t decided how to use the celeriac and parsley yet, but I’ve made this slaw in the past and loved it. If you can’t decide how to use a jalapeño, you could always slice it and throw it into the jar of pickles you’ve already made, or use it to flavor a jar of pickles of another vegetable (spicy pickles carrots!!!).

Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

  • 3 medium tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large eggplant (about 1 1/2  pounds), halved lengthwise
  • 1 small onion, halved
  • 6 large garlic cloves (do not peel)
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F. Place tomatoes, eggplant, onion, and garlic cloves on baking sheet and drizzle with oil. Roast for 20 minutes, then check to make sure everything is doing okay (especially the garlic cloves). Rotate the pan and return to the oven for 25 more minutes. All of the vegetables should be soft and slightly charred.

Let cool slightly and remove the skin/peel from the eggplant, onion, and garlic. Add all to the pot along with the tomatoes, broth, salt, and garlic. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook with the lid on for 45 minutes. Using a stick blender puree the soup (or, you can blend in batches in a food processor or blender). Taste for seasoning and serve with crusty bread and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Chipotle Black Bean Soup with Lime Crema

Chipotle Black Bean Soup with Lime Crema - Vegetal MattersWhen I first began cooking in earnest, I watched a lot of the Food Network. Recipes cooked and loved were printed out, inserted into plastic sleeves (so cooking splatters were easily removed), and organized in a binder. Within a few years I shifted more heavily and then completely to blog and cookbook content, and started saving most recipes on Pinterest.

Unable to completely let go of that stage in my cooking education, the binder has moved five times with me in the last five years and still holds some recipe gems. This black bean soup was an early addition, but my cooking style has changed enough that the method and ingredients needed an update. This version requires a little more time because it uses dried beans, but is even more economical and tastier because of them. The chipotles make for a smokey undercurrent in this rich tasting but humble soup.

Chipotle Black Bean Soup with Lime Crema

Serves 6. Adapted from David Lieberman and Joy the Baker.

  • 1 lb black beans, soaked overnight and drained
  • ½ lb bacon, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced (about 2½ cups)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 quart of stock, such as vegetable or chicken
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 28-oz can diced or crushed tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1-2 chipotles en adobo, minced
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • juice from ½ a lime
  • ½ cup sour cream

Put your bacon in a large pot over medium heat. Cook 5-10 minutes, until the fat has rendered out and the bits are starting to crisp. Drain out all but a tablespoon of the fat (save it for cooking!!), and add in the onion and garlic. Saute for 5 minutes or until the onion becomes translucent. Add in the beans, bay leaf, stock, and water, cover, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes check your beans – they should be close to done. If they still have some crunch let them cook for another few minutes. When they are tender add the canned tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, chipotles en adobo (1 makes for a nice smoky flavor, 2 for heat), and salt. Stir to combine and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.

You can serve the soup as is, partially pureed, or entirely pureed (use a potato masher, stick blender, or spoon part/all of the soup into an upright blender). I go in the middle, so the soup is thickened a bit but there are still whole beans and tomato.

Stir the sour cream and lime together until uniformly combined.

Serve with extra chipotle en adobo or hot sauce, crema, and any crumbs from the bottom of the bag of tortilla chips.

Last Week I Cooked….

Last Week I Cooked.... - Vegetal MattersButternut squash curry. This is essentially my favorite butternut squash soup, in curry form. I put in the whole can of coconut milk instead of just a cup. In a shockingly short amount of time you have a rich, fragrant, creamy curry with spice to your liking. Chickpeas would not be unwelcome here. I also made cauliflower that I roasted at 425F for about 20 minutes with a healthy dusting of cumin and cayenne. This is also a vegan meal which is fully satisfying and company worthy.

Marcella’s broccoli and potato soup. Mondays are when all the errands happen after work. Pick up produce at Potter Hill, go to the library. It also happened to be the night I didn’t plan a meal for. So I weighed options…there was broccoli I just picked up, potatoes I had. Salad was too cold a dinner for the blustery day, something on toast not enough of a meal. So I landed on this quick soup. The broccoli does get soft, but that didn’t bother me. As usual with soup the night of the flavors hadn’t really developed so a lot of parm was used, but the leftovers were great alone. To fill this out a bit more next time I would add some white beans.

Last Week I Cooked.... - Vegetal MattersCabbage and white bean soup. This was the first making of this soup, but I can promise there will be more. This is a hard soup for me not to love as it is entirely comprised of my favorite soup components: rich tomato broth, cabbage (and lots of other vegetables), and white beans. Again, better the next day.

Last Week I Cooked.... - Vegetal MattersPepperoni meatball spaghetti. This is not your grandmother’s spaghetti and meatballs. The meatballs are huge and full of rich meats and spices. The sauce is intensely flavored, and the one spot I would pull back a bit. A full tablespoon of red pepper flakes is aggressive and they totally dominate the sauce. My date was a fan of this, but I would probably dial it down to a teaspoon and a half next time. This was a great dish to let bubble over a Friday night in, with a sumptuous finale.

Ruth Reichl’s spicy Tuscan kale. This might be taboo to Lady and Pups, but I felt the urge to serve an aggressively healthy vegetable along with giant meatballs and pasta. I halved the amount of kale and just used one anchovy, as I had a single one in the fridge and didn’t want to open another can, but also…the last time I cooked with anchovies I added one too many and they totally overpowered the dish, so I’m treading lightly. I also used regular curly kale and it worked just fine. The kale still retained it’s fresh green color, with a linger saltiness from the anchovy and the sweetness from onion and garlic. I left out the bread crumbs, but would add them next time if I wasn’t so focused on spaghetti and meatballs (and there will be many more next times with this dish).

Breakfasts this week included scrambled eggs with kale on toast with whipped feta (yes again, it’s SO good), a big omelette with kale, caramelized onions, brie, and ham (pictured at top), toast with jam, and whole wheat yogurt pancakes, with the raspberries replaced with one small apple, grated.

Last Week I Cooked…

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersDan dan noodles (from Every Grain of Rice). A trip to an awesome Sichuanese restaurant renewed my desire for all things Sichuan (which started after I read Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper). The dish was not entirely authentic as I haven’t been able to get my hands on the pickled vegetables called for, and I used tahini instead of Chinese sesame paste…but it still made for some awesome noodles. There are two recipes in the book for dan dan noodles, one with beef and one with pork. I mostly followed the beef recipe but used pork. Weirdly neither of the recipes in Every Grain of Rice call for greens, but the photo has greens in the bowl and I’ve been served dan dan noodles with greens, so I stir fried some tat soi and added it in with the noodles and sauce.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal Matters

Burnt eggplant and Israeli couscous soup. Tomato eggplant soup is perfect for the changing of the seasons when summer produce is still coming in but the air is nippy. I loved the couscous and bits of eggplant in this soup, but it was a process with lots of parts. A great alternative is this Smitten Kitchen Roasted Eggplant Soup, which is really as easy as putting all the ingredients on a baking sheet, roasting, then blending with stock. I don’t think the goat cheese topping is necessary (and I just about never turn down goat cheese), but I like the consistent soup texture. It is really ugly soup, but very lovable.

Roasted broccoli with romanesco. The broccoli from the farm up the hill from me is more broccolini-like, so I couldn’t make steaks like these but desperately wanted to make this sauce. I cheated and used a pre-roasted red pepper and a chili instead of the Asian long red chili and it still made for a spicy, savory sauce that I slathered all over the broccoli and enjoyed with gusto.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal Matters

Roasted chicken thighs with green peaches and summer herbs. I would have never guessed peaches, chicken, herbs and ginger would pair together so magically. I don’t make enough things that are as easy as tossing everything together and sticking the pan in the oven. Couscous seemed like a fittingly easy side to serve under the chicken. I used a little bit more than a pound of chicken thighs, but still used 2 peaches (and would have liked even more if there was room).

Summer squash pasta with green goddess dressing. I was so excited to squeeze this dish in with what could very well be my last fresh zucchini of the season. I was also excited to actually have some anchovies in the fridge to add to the dressing, which I  haven’t had the past times I’ve made it (and opening a can for one anchovy seems silly). I halved the recipe though, and didn’t think it would really matter that much to put a whole anchovy in….whoops. It was a little fishy. Next time I’ll just use the capers.

BBQ bean burritos with peach salsa. Can you tell I bought a big box of peaches this week? I like the spicy sweet balance of these burritos which are a little more fun than my usual beans and vegetables. This time I upped the chipotle and left out the sugar and molasses to make for spicy smokey beans without the sweetness.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal Matters

Peach cornmeal upside-down cake. As mentioned, this cake came out of the pan like a dream. Next time I will really squish the peaches in so every cake bite gets some. I added in a little dried lavender since I had it, but I couldn’t taste it and don’t think it’s necessary. This is really best within the first couple days, so plan to share.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersBarbecued chicken. I had a craving for traditional, sticky, barbecue chicken. I used a whole chicken that I broke down for grilling. The sauce was nicely sticky but not overly sweet and the chicken was nice and tender. Everything I wanted.

Cabbage salad with apples and ginger dressing. I made a bare bones version of this with just the cabbage and apples, but I do like adding in dried cranberries when I have them. Some version of this will be making many more appearances through apple season.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal Matters

Spicy polenta breakfast bowl. Why do I always forget about polenta? I go months without eating it and then become obsessed for a little bit before letting it get pushed into the back of the cabinet again. I didn’t make the sweet potatoes and used salsa I made and thought about how I should make polenta for breakfast more often.

Soups/Salads

20150114_1858011The beginning of the new year brought frigid temperatures in New England, as if winter wanted to prove that she was really, truly here. I get it winter, I’ve embraced your chill as an excuse to make at least a pot of soup a week. But it’s also January, a month of resolutions and eating at least 1 cup of vegetables to make up for every baked good consumed in December. Hearty winter salads though, with cabbage and kale and toasted chickpeas and homemade dressings. December is always a month of extremes, and this steady soup/salad diet is bringing me back to equilibrium.

Soups

Cassoulet with Lots of Vegetables – This is not the traditional French cassoulet, which involves many separate components to be cooked and layered into an earthenware pot for long cooking. It embraces the same flavors and ingredients though, and translates them into a hearty soup that can be put together in 20 minutes, with a cooking time not much longer. As with many Bittman recipes a small amount of meat is used to great effect. I’ve only made it with sausages (the better they are, the better the soup is), but I imagine it would be even more enjoyable with chops or duck as he suggests.

Hot and Sour Soup – My allegiance to Joanne Chang is no secret. I’ll stop worshiping her when she stops putting out amazing, foolproof recipes. There is a lot of vinegar in this, but it is what makes the soup so delightfully sour. This one also comes together real quick, ready to eat in under half an hour. I’ve left out the pork in a pinch, but I like it best when included.

Winter Vegetable Chowder with Mustard, Lemon, and Crispy Cabbage – I’ve been drooling over this soup since Laura posted it last week. Such interesting vegetables and flavor combinations! It did not disappoint, with brightness from the lemon and mustard that we need on chilly days. The cabbage topping was my favorite part, which I can foresee on many a future soup. It’s also vegan, and pairs very well with white wine.

Salads

Roasted Cabbage Wedge Salad – I think savoy cabbage is one of the most beautiful vegetables, and I’ve seen quite a few of them around recently. Plus I love the presentation of this salad, which seems so much more refined than a tangle of greens.

Shredded Kale Salad with Tomatoes, Olives, and Feta – I successfully served this to a friend who had never had kale before (another kale lover! rejoice!). Winter tomatoes are on my list of least favorite things, so instead I use sun dried tomatoes (packed in oil) or roasted red peppers.

Chopped Thai Salad with Sesame Garlic Dressing – Yes, another kale salad. I could devote a whole blog to them if I was so inclined. I love heartier green salads in the winter months because the greens are much more likely to come from closer by, and they pair so well with soups. Peppers are not in their prime right now, and I think a few colors of carrots would be just as nice.

PS – Lacinato kale, or more preferably dinosaur kale, because it makes me picture t-rex’s scaled in kale (someone! make a t-shirt!), is my favorite for raw salads. It’s more tender than other kales, especially when chopped small in a salad.