Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Indian-Inspired Butternut Squash Soup

Barely a week had passed since our busy summer came to an end and my family was collectively exhaling into fall, when my mom fell and broke her arm last weekend.  She's very active at work, at home and at play, and while she's putting on a brave face about it, this injury is definitely going to put a kink in her fall.  This morning she had to see an orthopedic surgeon to find out what the healing process will entail, so I thought that the little man and I would make a quick run up to New Hampshire and meet her afterward to bring some good cheer and nourishing soup.

It seems like many in their wonderful community are already rallying and bringing my parents meals, so I wanted my soup to stand out in the mix.  My parents usually subsist largely on salad and seared fish for dinner, and I know they've received lobster mac and cheese and an exotic chick pea-almond-pineapple stew this week, so I thought I'd bring something more like the simple fare their bellies are used to (and if some of said lobster mac and cheese "accidentally" replaced the soup in my cooler bag, well, oops!).

I went on a fall veggie shopping bender at the grocery last week after the cold snap had me craving all things squash and cider, so I had a large butternut squash on hand as the soup's base.  Still, I wanted to give it a little interest, a little special flavor, and not just have it be your run-of-the-mill fall soup.  I've been loving the Indian spice Garam Masala lately; it translates to mean "warming spice" and is a blend of things like cloves, cumin and coriander seeds, cardamom pods and cinnamon.  Garam Masala gives a delicate, sweet/savory Indian flavor to dishes, and I thought with some coconut milk, it could make a squash soup special.  Funny that many of those spices echo those in "pumpkin pie spice", making them a natural accompaniment to squash.  Yes, these are the things I think about in my spare time.

I tinkered with various amounts of Garam Masala in the mix, and finally came out with a beautiful soup that I really love.  Most of my favorite recipes feature bold, hit-you-over-the-head flavors, but this soup is very delicate and almost aromatic.  It is most definitely warming and healing, and the perfect thing to bring to someone feeling under the weather.  With cold season on the way, keep this one in your back packet!

SMJ's Indian-Inspired Butternut Squash Soup
1 butternut squash, halved and seeded
1 sweet potato, holes poked into it with a fork 
1 sweet onion, peeled and quartered
2 leeks, halved lengthwise and thoroughly rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 can light coconut milk
4 cups veggie broth
2 teaspoons Garam Masala
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 heaping teaspoon tomato paste* (optional)
1) Heat oven to 375F.  Place all prepped veggies on a baking sheet and drizzle thoroughly with the olive oil.  Roast for about 90 minutes or until fork tender.
2) Removed skins from roasted vegetables and roughly chop.  Place in large soup pot or Dutch oven.
3) Add liquids and blend with an immersion blender until smooth (note: if you don't have an immersion blender, you can do this process in batches in a blender or food processor).  Stir in spices and tomato paste and adjust to taste.
*One note about the tomato paste: as I adjusted the soup's spices, I just felt something was missing.  Knowing that a strong tomato flavor is common in some of my favorite, similarly spiced Indian dishes like Tikka Masala, I added a bit of double concentrated tomato paste from the tube we keep on hand in the fridge.  I loved the addition, but it is not necessary.  If you buy your tomato paste by the can, it is probably not worth busting into one for this subtle addition.

This soup would be especially delicious served with warm, buttered naan and a crisp, sweet salad (I'm thinking butter lettuce, sliced apples and goat cheese).  However, I'm delivering this batch with a dozen homemade chocolate chip cookies because, let's be real, sometimes chocolate is really life's greatest cure-all.  Time to hit the road!

1 comment:

  1. Calling all SMJ Readers! Make this soup! This is coming from a person who eats soup almost daily....this soup made its way into our top three! It is autumn in a bowl! It is rich and delicious, but super healthy and vegan! Last night we followed SMJ's instructions to the letter: Hot buttered naan, apple and goat cheese salad, and big bowls of this. Yum!!! We are having it again today for lunch...and may even spoon it over rice for a snack this weekend. Yes, it's that good. It may even find its way into the Thanksgiving line-up this year.