With crunchy, two-day-old snow 8 inches deep outside my back door, I am craving comfort foods. Winter brings with it a peaceful garden slumber, and a strong desire to savor warming foods and slow cooking. With a limited supply of locally grown fresh produce this time of year, I have a great appreciation for the variety and abundance of long-storing winter squashes. With knobbly, hardened exteriors, and enticing, poetic names like ‘Burgess Buttercup’, ‘Pink Banana’, and ‘Honeyboat’ Delicata, winter squash grow in shapes spherical or elongated, sometimes with scalloped ridges disguising their golden-yellow or brilliant orange interiors.
Most winter squash grows on vines and the fruits are harvested when fully mature (which takes longer than summer squash) and are best harvested in the cooler temperatures of late fall. Because winter squash can be stored for months in a cool basement, they offer a perfect way to enjoy your garden efforts long into the winter season. A great a guide for harvesting and storing winter squash can be found here. In the kitchen, most varieties of squash are interchangeable. While they each offer different tastes and textures, there are no strict rules about how to best cook with and enjoy the earthy sweet flesh of these winter fruits. In fact, even though this recipe calls for the more common butternut squash, most other varieties would be a welcome substitution. Try ‘Gold Nugget’, ‘Sweet Meat’ heirloom, ‘Table King’ Acorn, or even pumpkin, such as ‘Red Warty Thing.’
Adapted from Terry Walter’s, Clean Food, this soup is the perfect comforting supper on a cold winter’s night. Tempered by sweet coconut milk and the creamy texture of butternut squash, the traditional Thai ingredients offer just enough spice to make this soup interesting. If you can’t find galangal (a root that looks similar to fresh ginger) or the other Thai ingredients, you certainly could omit them, and this soup would be delicious as a sweet-coconut concoction. It would, however, be worth the trip to a local Asian market to procure the ingredients if your supermarket doesn’t carry them.
Spicy Coconut Butternut Squash Soup
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil (or olive oil)
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
- 1 large butternut squash, peeled, halved, seeded, and cut into 1″ cubes
- 2 cups coconut milk
- 4 to 5 cups vegetable stock
- 6 lemongrass stalks, chopped
- 1 1-inch piece of galangal root, peeled and finely chopped
- 4-5 dried Thai chiles, quartered
- 4 kaffir lime leaves, chopped
- Sea salt to taste
- In large, heavy-bottomed stockpot, over medium-high heat, sauté onion, garlic and ginger in 1 tablespoon of coconut oil until soft.
- Add 4 cups stock, squash, and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat.
- Simmer on low heat until squash is soft, usually about 20 minutes.
- While the soup is simmering, sauté (on medium heat) the lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and chilies in 1 tablespoon coconut oil until lightly browned and aromatic. Set aside.
- Using handheld blender, or by transferring liquid and cooked squash to an upright blender in small batches, purée soup until smooth.
- Note, depending on the amount of squash, you may need to add additional stock to achieve the consistency you desire.
- Add in the chili, lemongrass mixture and simmer soup on low heat for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Pour through a fine sieve or strainer and serve warm.