Archives for posts with tag: Coconut Milk

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Any dish that ends “…with ginger and chili” I am predisposed to like. It’s kind of my current favorite flavor profile. I generally like heat over sweet, and there is something medicinal, healing, about the combination. When I can remember to, I like to start my mornings steeping ginger and chili in hot water, sometimes with a little bit of fresh squeezed lemon, and if I’m feeling a stuffy nose coming on, a tiny bit of honey.

So when I stumbled upon a recipe for a spicy butternut squash soup I perused the ingredient list and liked what I saw: coconut milk, fresh ginger, fresh chili, cilantro, turmeric. This was a recipe for October, for crisp weather and fending off colds. It is warmth in a bowl.

I’m in Vermont for a few days watching over a two-month-old kitten named Sam—short for Sammy Davis Jr., naturally. While born feral and therefore fearful of humans, she surprised me this morning when I woke to discover her resting peacefully on my chest. Up, down, with my breath. I picked long red chili peppers with my stepmother from her garden before she headed out of town, putting the better part of one to good use in this recipe. Now I just need to find something to do with all the Swiss chard, white eggplant, and green tomatoes we picked. In the meantime…

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Butternut Squash Soup with Ginger and Chili
adapted from Brooklyn Vegetarian

2 tablespoons coconut oil (olive oil works well too)
1 medium onion, diced
Knob of fresh ginger, approx. 1 inch, peeled and minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Fresh red chili pepper, minced, to taste (I used a piece 2 inches long)
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 medium to large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup coconut milk
Salt and pepper, to taste
Parsley or cilantro, to garnish
Scallions, to garnish

In a large saucepan heat the oil on medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until it turns translucent. Add the ginger, garlic, and chili and sauté for about 1 minute, then add the cumin and turmeric. Stir, then add the carrot and celery and sauté for several minutes until they begin to soften. If the pan gets too dry you can add a spoonful or two of water, so the onions don’t stick. Add the squash, broth, and coconut milk, season with salt and pepper, and slowly bring to just before the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer until the squash is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Allow the soup to cool some before transferring to a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth, in batches if necessary. You can reheat the soup in its pan before serving if you’d like. Garnish the soup with sliced scallions and parsley or cilantro.

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I am the first to admit that I am somewhat of a whimp when it comes to cold weather. Not like LA whimpy where you pull out a puffy down coat around the 60-degree mark (I did live in Vermont and Ithaca after all), but this time of year I do start to wonder when the heat will come on in my apartment, how long I can stay in the shower each morning, and what’s an acceptable number of hot beverages to consume before noon. My eating habits change quite a bit too. I trade in the green smoothies and raw salads for warmer, more comforting fare. And this soup is no exception.

This is one of the simplest soups to make. Not quite as easy as the avocado soup I made this summer, but not as time-consuming as this black bean soup I made back in January. It makes good use of the beautiful late-harvest squash at farmer’s markets this time of year and provides just the right amount of warmth and spice to help you ease into fall.

The secret weapon of this soup is the roasting. Not just roasting the squash—which adds more flavor and richness than sautéing—but you’re roasting an onion and whole small head of garlic that also gets puréed into the mix. Shazam! This soup gets its bright color not only from the butternut squash but the turmeric that’s in the curry powder or garam masala. The coconut milk adds a luscious richness and depth, and the red chile pepper flakes kick the heat factor up a notch. Oh, and don’t discard those squash seeds! Toast them on the baking sheet with the squash for about fifteen minutes and then serve with the soup, if there are any left after you snack on them warm from the oven. Key word: warm.

Coconut Curry Butternut Squash Soup
Serves 4

1 large butternut squash, or 2 small
1 small head of garlic
1 onion, any variety
Olive oil, for drizzling
1/2 c unsweetened light coconut milk
1 1/2 c vegetable stock
3/4 tbsp curry powder
Red chile pepper flakes
Salt
Pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Cut the squash into quarters, discarding the stringy bits in the center and setting the seeds aside. Place the squash, flesh side up, on a baking sheet. No need to peel. Place the garlic, skin and all, on a small piece of tin foil and drizzle with olive oil, and then wrap the garlic entirely in the foil. Place on the baking sheet. Slice the onion in half and add to the baking sheet as well. Drizzle the squash and onion with oil, salt, and pepper, and place in the oven for 50 minutes to an hour. You may need to remove the onion earlier than the squash.

2. While the vegetables are roasting, rinse the seeds and pat dry. About fifteen minutes before pulling the vegetables out of the oven, place the seeds on the baking sheet. They will roast and turn brown. Remove before they get too dark, about 15 minutes.

3. Remove the vegetables and seeds from the oven and let cool. When cool enough to handle, transfer the flesh of the squash to a blender or food processor, along with the onion and the roasted cloves of garlic. You should be able to just pinch the roasted garlic from its skin. Blend until smooth, adding a little bit of broth if needed.

4. Transfer the purée mixture to a large pot on the stove, stirring in the coconut milk and rest of the broth. Let simmer on medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes, adding the spices and seasoning to taste. Serve with the toasted seeds, and, if you’d like, a dollop of crème fraîche. I also served with a salad of green Boston lettuce, pears, walnuts, sliced grapes, and an olive oil-tahini dressing. If I had blue cheese, that would’ve been in the salad too.

I’m back up in Vermont for two glorious weeks. The first part of this trip I’m dog-sitting for my sister Emily. To me, her pup Julius sometimes looks like the bat, Fidget, from Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective. We were lucky to be joined by my dear friend Melony and her dog Kima, who came up from Boston for the weekend.

We swam in Lake Champlain, hiked along beautiful trails flanked by wildflowers, and made some good grub. This chilled avocado soup is a snap to make and dairy-free (but can also be made with regular milk). All it takes is a few raw ingredients and a blender. No cooking, and not much chopping. We were nearly melting in the hot sun yesterday so the thought of using fire (even the grill) did not call to me. In addition to this soup we had chilled soba noodles with ginger, scallions, and wasabi (see this post from one year ago for how to make). Cold summer food for those hot summer nights, even in Vermont.

Chilled Avocado Soup
Serves 4

2 ripe avocados
2 c milk (coconut milk, whole milk, etc.)
1 clove garlic
Juice from 1/2 lime
1/4 c fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
Chopped scallions and lime wedges, for garnish

Scoop the flesh from the avocados and place into a blender. Add the milk (in order to keep it vegan I used Coconut Dream Coconut Milk—you could use whatever milk you prefer), garlic, lime juice, and cilantro. Blend until smooth and creamy. Thin out with water or vegetable stock if too thick.

Top with chopped scallions and cilantro. Serve with fresh lime wedges. You can also serve topped with fresh crab or lobster meat for a more decadent meal. Or a dollop of sour cream, crumbled ricotta salata, or homemade crème fraîche, which I’ve been meaning to make. Eat up!

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