Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Yet Another Squash and Curry Soup

Seriously—does the world need another curried squash soup? Well, I thought this one was really good. I’m not lying, either, because I’m not much of a “soup” person. This made me happy! It turned out spicy-hot, the kind of heat that lights up the back of your mouth a few seconds after you swallow, which I adore! (A result of the type of chilis I used, no doubt; “your results may vary.”)

And it’s so creamy you’d almost think there’s cream in it, but there’s not even milk.

Vegans take note: With a few tweaks (substituting oil for the butter, and veggie stock for chicken), this becomes a perfectly vegan recipe! Anyway you go, it’s pretty low fat, and doesn’t need much salt due to all the lovely spices.

It’s based on a recipe in the Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook, by the Editors of Vegetarian Times and Lucy Moll (New York: Macmillan, 1995). The recipe I used as my guide is called “Squash–and–White Bean Soup,” on page 172 of that volume. But you know . . . who follows a soup recipe exactly? I’m not a recipe tester!

The original uses curry powder, plus cumin and allspice. I used some curry powder, but I used even more of my homemade garam masala. What is garam masala? You could conceptualize it as the “curry powder” that actual Indian cooks use! You can get g.m. at grocery stores nowadays. It’s really fun to make your own, however, and then it’s fresh and you may end up using it more (and using salt less). All the Indian cookbooks have recipes for it.

The original (soup) recipe also has you throw in the spices and stock at once—but I use an Indian cooking technique that heightens the spice flavors by incorporating them into the oil: I sauté the aromatics in butter first, then add all the spices, stirring them into the oil to make a paste (kind of like a roux). Butter and curry spices love each other! After they make love for a few moments is when I add the stock and squash.

By the way, the butternut squash can, of course, be substituted with canned pumpkin puree, though it’s not the same. The squash is sweeter, I think.

The ingredients and method are interspersed with the instructions below.

1 butternut squash
—split in half lengthwise, bake in oven with a small amount of water until soft; let cool so you can handle it; spoon pulp out of skin and puree in a food processor until smooth. Yield is about 4 cups. Set this aside.

While the squash is baking, you can prep the other stuff.

Chop up aromatic veggies and set aside in a bowl:
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup sliced celery (soup is a good way to use the leafy, pale inner parts of the celery that no one wants as crudité)
2 cloves garlic, pressed (or minced)
4 tiny hot chili peppers, with seeds, minced (I have a bag of little red cayennes in my freezer, harvested from my garden before the killing frost—but use whatever hot chilis you want—to taste)
1 or 1.5 T minced fresh ginger root (did you know you can process ginger way ahead of time and keep it frozen flat in zip bags? It’s very, very handy!)

Measure spices into a little bowl:
1 t dried thyme leaves
1/2–1 T store-bought curry powder
1–1 .5 T garam masala (I have 3 types, and for this I used mostly a kind I made that’s heavy on the cumin. If your g.m. doesn’t have a strong cumin presence, then add more cumin, about 1/2 t.; consider adding allspice, too)

Also have ready:
2 T butter
4 cups (32 oz.) chicken or vegetable stock

Finally, prep the ingredients that will go in last:
1 can white beans
2 big handfuls of chopped kale (stems discarded)
2 T fresh parsley, chopped

The soup will take about a half hour to cook; do it all in one big pot. Heat butter over medium heat, add aromatic vegetables and sauté until veggies are translucent and fairly soft. Sprinkle in a little water if it wants to stick. Add the spices and stir to make a paste. Then stir in stock and squash and bring back to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, for 15 or 20 minutes. Add beans, kale, and parsley, and cook another 5 minutes, or until the kale is cooked and still pretty green. Add salt to taste.

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