soft scarves, cute slickers, twirling umbrellas and humidity-inspired curls in your hair are great in theory, but sloshing through a torrential downpour at 8:30AM on the way to work is not. today was one of those mornings where it feels like the universe has conspired against you, and you'd give like ANYthing to just stay snuggled under the covers, hitting the snooze button until the numbers read double digits.
alas, when you are a grown up ("semi-grown up?" i never really know how to identify myself) with a full time job, this isn't really an option. you gotta face the rain, the crowds, the stuffy public transportation, and haul yourself to the office. when you get there, maybe you have the luxury of drying your socks off on the radiator:
there, that's a little better. i'll take a leap here and say that the food equivalent of putting toasty socks on cold, damp feet is a winter squash soup. there are many ways to prepare this classic autumn dish, and every last one of them feels nourishing. i always feel an extra sense of accomplishment when i use squash and root vegetables - they're kind of the misunderstood loser vegetables, but they're healthy, in season and unparalleled in the comfort department if prepared properly. and, usually priced at 99 cents per pound or below and complemented nicely by some garlic bread made from a forgotten heel of baguette in the back of the freezer, this is dinner on the cheap!
while these kinds of vegetables are often (wrongly, i say) associated with earthy aka dirt-y, less-than-desirable flavors or textures, the recipe below is smooth, rich and anything but spartan! this soup is like a pair of silk stockings, like an expensive perfume. even the word feels good in your mouth: "bisque." is it the "q" that makes it feel fancy?
Pumpkin/Winter Squash Bisque
~takes 40 minutes~
1 tablespoon oil, butter, or margarine
2-3 pounds winter squash (cook's choice), peeled, seeded and chopped
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 large potato, rutabega, or a few parsnips, peeled and chopped (optional)
2-4 cups of vegetable broth, depending on how thick or thin you want the soup to be
1 can of light coconut milk - make sure you shake it up to mix the cream and the water!
salt & pepper
mixed spices: this is kind of cool - you can steer this soup in any direction. some suggestions are sage + thyme + a bay leaf for a more traditional wintry profile, paprika + cinnamon + red pepper flakes for a spicier, more savory feel, or curry + cumin + garam masala for an indian flavor. start with a teaspoon or two and taste as you go. you can always add but you can't subtract!
- heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. add the onion and garlic, and cook for 3 minutes.
-then add carrots and root vegetables (if using) and saute until it starts to softens up, maybe 6 minutes. sprinkle these vegs with about 1/2 of your spice mixture.
- add the squash. stir it around with the satueed veg mixture and let it cook all together for a minute or two. getting the squash coated in some savory onion juices helps to deepen the flavor.
- add enough vegetable broth to the pot so that it almost covers the squash. raise the heat and bring it all to a boil.
- once it has achieved a boil, lower the heat to a brisk simmer, and cover. stir occasionally and after about 20 minutes, check the squash to see if it's soft. the more tender, the better.
- once the squash is almost falling apart, take the pot off the heat and let it cool down a bit.
- blast that sucker to hell with your immersion blender until smooth. or, puree it in batches in a food processor or blender, being very, very careful not to burn yourself or splatter soup all over your kitchen.
- stir in the can of coconut milk and watch the magic happen. what was just moments ago mere pureed vegetables is now a sexy pot of bisque.
- heat the soup back up. taste it for more spices, salt and pepper. a little hot sauce or lime juice stirred in can add some pop, too!