Curried Coconut-Squash Soup

Remember a few weeks back when I mentioned currant-picking? No? Understandable. It’s not like I put up any currant-related recipes after said picking adventure. I can see why it wouldn’t register. To be honest, my only excuse is that I really love currants, and so I ate them all. They make a wonderfully tannic foil to rich cheeses, just so you know. But, that’s not the point of this post. The point, in fact, is that in addition to currants I also picked some squash. And also some blueberries, broccoli, collard greens, potatoes, and zucchini blossoms (which is terrifying not only because I’m allergic to zucchini but also because bees like to hide inside the blossoms and when you pick them the whole flower starts to buzz and like, seriously, a million bees come flying out at your face. Don’t pick zucchini blossoms, it sucks.) It was a great trip, and I highly recommend Kelder’s U-Pick if you have a free day and an urge to forage. Also, they have a petting zoo. Which rules.

I’ve been known to go overboard with produce purchases, letting herbs wilt and berries go mushy, but I’m happy to say that I’ve eaten or preserved my way through the bounty and enjoyed every bit of it. It hasn’t really been squash-roasting weather, but squashes are hardy little creatures, so no harm has come to my hand-picked acorn and it has made for an excellent centerpiece on my kitchen table. Fortunately, the weather broke this week and I was able to roast up the sucker to use in one of my favorite dishes; a recipe that I’ve made for Thanksgivings, Seders, pot-lucks, and dinner parties so many times I don’t need a recipe or a grocery list to put it together. It’s great hot or chilled, can be spicy or mild, and can be made with very little effort. It’s a great way to get into curry-making, since it uses the standard Thai base without a lot of specialty ingredients. It’s vegan if you leave out the fish sauce and healthy and nourishing and probably my favorite comfort food.

One last thing before we get down to the recipe: do any of you readers out there use coconut oil regularly? I love it for vegan baking, roasting sweet potatoes, and for dealing with my painfully dry skin. But, this summer has been brutally hot in New York and my industrial size jug of the stuff is all melted. I tried keeping it in the fridge for awhile, but it got so cold and congealed that it took me 20 minutes to scoop some out for cooking. Any suggestions on storing it properly? I’d love to hear some feedback!

Curried Coconut-Squash Soup
serves 4 as a main course

1 medium-sized squash, I used acorn
1 tsp+2 tbsp coconut oil, or another fragrant cooking oil
1 medium-sized onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1″ chunk of ginger, peeled and chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, or 1 Thai chile, seeded and chopped
1 tbsp fish sauce* (optional, leave out to make vegan)
Sriracha* or another Thai curry paste or hot sauce to taste
1 14-oz can coconut milk
Juice of 1 lime
Handful of cilantro, chopped

Preheat oven to 350º. Halve the squash and scoop out the stringy center and seeds. Reserve seeds. Lightly oil the flesh of the squash and place, cut sides down, on a baking sheet lined with foil. Bake until tender, approximately 30 minutes. Let cool while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

In a soup pot over medium-high heat bring remaining coconut oil to a shimmer. Add onions and saute until lightly caramelized. Add garlic, ginger, and pepper. Saute, stirring often, until onions are fully caramelized. Add fish sauce and Sriracha or curry paste (I use about 2 tbsp of Sriracha, but I love spice) and stir to coat. Scoop out the squash flesh and any caramelized bits that may be on the foil into the pot and stir, squishing the squash to break down. Cook, stirring to break down squash even further for 10 minutes. Shake can of coconut milk well to combine solids and add to pot. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove cover and simmer for another 10 minutes. Puree using an immersion blender (or, a regular blender: transfer half of the soup to blender, puree, and transfer to a separate bowl. Repeat with remaining half). Add lime juice, chopped cilantro, salt and more hot sauce to taste. Serve hot or refrigerate and serve chilled.

I like to roast the leftover seeds with some salt and a bit of Garam Masala to top the soup with. I also like to eat about half a loaf of crusty, buttered bread with every bowl, which helps to negate the whole healthy thing.

*Fish sauce and Sriracha can be found at most grocery stores, but if yours doesn’t carry them check out any local Asian markets or specialty shops.