I spent a few perfect hours at the park this afternoon with my two sweet munchkins. Today is my son’s second birthday, so we brought his new bike and let him ride to his heart’s content. We couldn’t have asked for a lovelier day; warm, bright sunshine, clear skies, and a brisk breeze with just enough bite to make it feel like fall.
This soup is a lot like a perfect fall afternoon. It’s warm and bright, but the Thai spices give it just enough bite to be bracing.
3 lbs butternut squash (1 large squash or 2-3 small ones) 2 TBSP coconut oil or other vegetable oil 2-3 shallots, chopped fine (about 1/2 cup) 2-3 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 tsp) 2 tsp fresh ginger, minced or grated (one 1 1/2 inch piece) 1/2 tsp salt 1 cup coconut milk 3 cups water 1 tsp red or green Thai curry paste 1 TBSP brown sugar
1. Arrange your squash into a pretty still life and admire them for a moment.
2. Peel your squash and scoop out the seeds and pulp. Mine were easy to peel with a vegetable peeler, but larger squash can sometimes be pretty tough, in which case a sharp knife might be more effective.
3. Cut the squash into chunks. I cut them into roughly 1 inch pieces, but there is no need to be precise. If my squash had been tougher and harder to cut I probably would have done larger pieces, which would have needed a few extra minutes to cook but otherwise would have worked just fine.
4. Mince your shallots, garlic, and ginger. (You mince a shallot pretty much just like you would mince an onion).
*Shortcut alert! If you hate chopping veggies or just don’t have time, you can certainly use frozen butternut squash and garlic and ginger from a jar or a tube. You’ll lose a little in freshness and flavor, but it will still be yummier and more nutritious than soup from a can.
5. Heat a large pot over medium heat until you can feel warmth when you hold your hand a few inches from the bottom. Melt coconut oil (or heat other oil, if you’re not using coconut). Add shallots, garlic, ginger, and a 1/2 tsp of salt. Stir immediately, then cover the pot. Let it all cook for 4-5 minutes until it’s getting soft and just a tiny bit brown. Stir every minute or two and turn down the heat if it’s getting brown too quickly.
6. Add squash to the pot, stirring briefly to coat with oil. Splash in the coconut milk, then add water until the squash are not quite covered.
7. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover the pot, and walk away. Do some dishes, drink a cup of tea, or let the kids Skype with Grandma (we picked the last one). The squash should be done cooking in about half an hour, but test by pressing one of your largest chunks with a fork or the back of a wooden spoon. If it is done it should be very soft and smoosh easily. (It’s a word! Seriously! Can you believe my spell-check doesn’t recognize “smoosh?”)
8. You have a difficult decision to make now. Do you go for quick and easy or perfect velvet smoothness? If you want perfect velvety soup you should turn off the heat, let the soup cool just a tiny bit, then puree it in batches in the blender. Fill the blender with squash and add just enough liquid to get the right consistency. (You may have extra liquid at the end. Just discard it unless you can think of another use for it.) Rinse your pot, pour the soup back in, reheat, and serve. My blender is broken, so it was quick and easy in the shape of an immersion blender for me. A food processor would also do the trick, just be very careful not to overfill it or you’ll have hot soup everywhere. Food processors and immersion blenders do tend to leave small pieces of ginger and shallot un-blended, but my family didn’t seem to mind at all. Add the curry paste, brown sugar, and another 1/2 tsp of salt to your first batch if you’re using a blender or food processor, or to the pot just before blending if you are using an immersion blender. Taste before serving to see if you want it hotter, sweeter, or saltier, and add more as needed. *You might want to remove a little liquid from the pot and only add it in as needed if you are using an immersion blender. I didn’t think about this and my soup was a little thinner than I prefer.
9. Garnish with chopped cilantro, crispy fried shallots, or a friendly drizzle of coconut milk, and enjoy!