October 22, 2012

Recipe: Curried Butternut-Coconut Bisque

I know blogs and restaurants everywhere are offering up autumnal soups of the pumpkin and squash variety, but that's for two good reasons:

1. Winter squashes are perfectly in season.
2. Squash soups are freaking delicious.

Pureed winter squash creates a silky soup with a ton of sweet-yet-vegetal flavor that screams "Fall!". That's because pumpkin and butternut squash are the unofficial ambassadors of fall food, along with freshly picked orchard apples and cloudy apple cider. And donuts. Ah, donuts... but I digress. Today is not about donuts - today is about squash soup!

In an effort to introduce a little variation into the squash-soup-around-every-corner scene we've got going on, I gussied up this soup a bit. Curry powder and ginger give the soup a more savory backbone than traditional pumpkin pie-esque additions like cinnamon or cloves, while maintaining the expected notes of warming spice. Apple cider's hit of sweet is balanced by a healthy dash of smoked salt, and coconut milk's fatty goodness rounds everything out into a rich pool of yum.

Curried Butternut-Coconut Bisque
serves 6

1/2 of one large or 1 small butternut squash
1/2 of one large or 1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus additional drizzle for roasting squash
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon smoked salt
1/2 cup apple cider (apple juice would be fine as well)
1 cup warm water
2 teaspoons vegan bouillon paste (light broth/"chicken" style) or 1 1/2 vegan bouillon cubes
1 can light coconut milk
1-2 teaspoons lime juice, to taste
salt and black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Rub squash interior with a bit of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and place cut-side down in a rimmed baking dish (I line mine with parchment for easier clean-up). Fill baking dish with enough water to cover bottom with 1/2 inch water. Transfer to oven and roast until squash is softened, about 1 hour (you should be able to easily pierce the squash with a fork). Remove from oven, turn cut side up, and let cool.

While squash is cooling, bring a heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven over medium heat and saute the onions in the olive oil until translucent. Add the curry powder, ginger, and salt, stirring to coat onions. Add the apple cider, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot, and simmer cider until reduced by half. Remove from heat.

Add the onion and cider mixture to a food processor or blender. Scoop the squash flesh from the rind and add to the onion and cider mixture. Remove the center from the blender top/ feed tube of the processor to allow steam to escape, cover opening with a dish towel, and puree the mixture until smooth, scraping down sides as necessary. Transfer puree back to pot and place over low heat. Dissolve bouillon in warm water. Add bouillon broth and coconut milk to the pot, stirring to combine with puree. Simmer soup for 10 minutes or until heated through, add 1 teaspoon lime juice, and taste for seasoning. Add additional lime juice, salt, and pepper as needed.

While the soup can be served immediately, the flavors come together best after resting for at least a few hours to overnight, making this a great make-ahead soup for a busy day's dinner or a week's worth of lunches.

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