Monday, October 17, 2011

"Mystery Squash" Soup

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Melissa hosted a very cool inaugural event at our local co-op, a home-canned food swap and potluck. People also brought some veggies from their gardens to trade, and I made off with some dill relish, habanero hot sauce, pureed tomatoes, daikon radishes, summer squash (like a zucchini but round--the one closest to the camera in the picture on the left), plus a couple of winter squashes of unclear origin/variety. SCORE!

I used the tomatoes and zucchini-like squash last week, along with some of that fabulous homemade sausage that we got in Maine and stashed in the freezer, to make one of my favorite stews.

As for the winter squashes, I wasn't really sure what their flavor and texture was going to be like. One was a pumpkin-zucchini cross that my friend Diane lets self-sow every season, and the other was from a plant another friend of ours (another Gina!) gave her. All Diane could remember is that it was an heirloom variety. You can see a couple of them in the picture up there, all the way at the end of the table by the quiche. Someone please confirm or deny if you are in the know about heritage squashes, but a cursory search of Google images tells me it may be a cushaw/kershaw squash?

In any case, both seemed a little milder in flavor than most winter squashes, so I decided to ramp up the flavors and the heat with a spicy, curried soup tamed with a generous amount of creamy coconut milk. I also added extra tumeric to give the soup a richer color. Turned out GREAT! Here is the recipe, which I made in my crock pot...of course.

Curried "Mystery Squash" Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 stalks celery, roughly chopped
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon garlic (3-4 cloves), minced
8 cups winter squash, peeled, gutted, and cut into large chunks
2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock (preferably, homemade)
2 teaspoons chicken or vegetable soup base
bunch of fresh thyme, bundled with kitchen twine
2 bay leaves
1 habanero pepper (whole)
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon sugar, or to taste
2 cans coconut milk

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil, and sauté the celery and onions until tender. When the veggies have softened, stir in the garlic, and cook for a minute or two more.

In at least a five quart crock pot, add the chunks of squash and the sautéed veggies and cover with stock (you may need more than 2 quarts--eyeball it). Stir in a couple of teaspoons of soup base, then tuck in a bundle of fresh thyme, the bay leaves, and a whole habanero (do not cut it!). Cook on high for four hours or low for 6-8.

Fish out the thyme bundle, the bay leaves, and the habanero. Stir in the spices, sugar, and coconut milk (or half-and-half, if you prefer), and puree until smooth with a stick blender. Correct seasonings to your taste before serving.

Oh, one more recipe before I sign off. For the potluck portion of the swap, I made a vegetarian version of Cowgirl Beans for the co-op crowd (leaving out the bacon and hot peppers, adding sauteed mushrooms and a chipotle instead, and using vegetable soup base not beef, of course). I asked Cyd to be my taste-tester, as usual, and I asked her a trick question, to identify the meat I used in the beans. Her guess was sausage, then I surprised her by revealing that there was no meat in it! She said you definitely couldn't tell, and that they were very flavorful without it, so maybe try these beans for your next Meatless Monday or any occasion where vegetarians might attend.

In addition to the beans, I made a double batch of a very easy cornbread that I saw on Paula Deen's show recently. Normally, I might have jazzed it up by adding creamed corn, or whole kernel corn, or green chilies or jalapenos, or cheese (or all of the above!), but I kept it quite plain to serve with beans on top and a garnish of homemade corn relish. So you could play around with this cornbread, but it's a good boilerplate recipe to have on file.

Moist and Easy Cornbread
(Source: Paula Deen)

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus butter for baking dish
1 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8-inch baking dish.

In a large bowl, mix together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, buttermilk, and butter. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the cornmeal mixture and fold together until there are no dry spots (the batter will still be lumpy). Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish.

Bake until the top is golden brown and tester inserted into the middle of the corn bread comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the cornbread from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes before serving.

1 comment:

tamtam said...

the garlic dills I got from you are excellent.