I’ve always enjoyed the thought of cooking with butternut squash. The few times I ate it when others prepared it for me, I loved it. But something about that strange little vegetable intimidated me. This fall, however, as I saw its bulbous shape popping up at all the market stands on the country roads of Lancaster county, I decided to stare it down and conquer it once and for all.
Actually it all began with a recipe. I like to keep a little accordion folder with recipes that look interesting or irresistible, and then leaf through them every once in a while when I need to spice up our family’s menu a little bit. (What I really mean is: I pull out the accordion folder when I’m sick and tired of eating chicken noodle soup, chili, and tacos. My children would gladly eat all three on a constant rotation for the rest of their lives. Me? Not so much.)
So one day as I leafed through my collection, I stumbled upon a recipe for curried butternut squash soup. Let me tell you right up front: I’d eat about anything if it’s curried. I love curry. I think my adoration probably hearkens back to my childhood when my dad would regularly whip up a big pot of the most amazing curry stew. Curry means “home” in my book.
Knowing that I had a slight fear of the butternut squash, I seized this recipe as the perfect opportunity to overcome it. I loaded the kids in the car, drove down to my favorite little market stand nestled by an orchard on a windy country road, and I bought me a very modest looking squash. Just the buying it made me feel good, like I’d really accomplished something. I took it home and sat it on the kitchen counter.
And there it sat.
For three weeks.
I had no idea how long that sucker would even last before it rotted right before my eyes. It looked durable enough. So I lingered over the idea of cutting it up, thinking about it in the shower, developing my game plan as I lay in bed at night. I gave myself pep talks. I reminded myself, “it’s okay to fail”. I gathered the ingredients for recipe around the squash, hoping that would spur me on, bolster my confidence somehow.
And then, on Tuesday afternoon, when I tired of looking at the cloudy skies and windy downpour of Hurricane Sandy, out of sheer boredom, I drew my butcher’s knife from the drawer and went to work.
Truthfully, it wasn’t that big of a deal, as usual. I tend to do this in life. I really build a task up in my mind to be the Titanic when if I’d buckle down and just do it, I’d realize I’m dealing with a rowboat here. I peeled that bad boy, chopped it up, and added it to a boiling pot of broth, curry, potatoes, parsnips and onions, and 30 minutes later I had the most velvety smooth, deliciously healthy meal with which to drown the cold that Sandy blew in.
Really, try this recipe. It’s almost insulting how easy it is, especially when you get such a sophisticated tasting dish at the end. And it's perfect if you're having those "cool cats" over who are all gluten-free and vegan and all that jazz; it's gets a check in every category. Lastly, if you’re a butternut squash virgin, don’t sweat it. You got this.
Mai's Curried Butternut Squash Soup
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 c. sweet onion, chopped
1 c. parsnip, peeled and chopped (If you don't know what a parsnip is, well, look for the albino carrots at your grocery store; that's a parsnip. I first started cooking with them when we lived in England and instantly fell in love. They're a perfect cross between a carrot and a potato; weird, but good.)
2 tsp. curry powder
1/2 of a 4 lb. butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and chopped (Okay, so the original recipe called for 1 1/2 pounds of butternut squash. All I knew is that I had a squash that was around 4 lbs. but I had no scale to accurately measure whether 1/2 of that squash peeled and deseeded was what the recipe called for. So I proceeded to try and measure the weight of the squash by balancing a box of spaghetti in one hand and the halved, peeled squash in the other. It really should have been on video.)
1 1/2 c. chopped potatoes
1 (32 oz.) carton of vegetable broth
1 (14.5 oz.) can vegetable broth
2 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, parsnip and curry powder and saute for about 5-7 minutes, or until everything is softening and starting to turn golden brown. Add squash, potato, and broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook everything for about 25 minutes, or until veggies are nice and soft. Add the salt and pepper.
With the next step, you have some options. If your husband just so happened to score really big by getting you an immersion blender for Christmas last year, then whip that baby out, stick it in the pot and blend away. If you belong to the other category (poor you), then grab your blender or food processor and blend the soup in batches, being sure to let the steam escape while you are processing.
Ladle the soup in bowls, perhaps garnish with a bit of plain yogurt or a sprinkling of chives, and you, my friend, are done.