Soupapalooza! Kicking Off the New Year with Four Rockin' Soups in Four Weeks

It's a good thing Minnesota is (typically) such a cold and snowy place as we turn the calendar page to a new year, because for the second year in a row, my New Year's resolution has involved soup. Here's a tip apropos of resolutions, people: Don't bite off more than you can chew, or slurp. Last year, I resolved to figure out a way to make a delicious vegetable soup that satisfied my hungry, winter (read: carnivorous) self and I did it! It pays to make super attainable resolutions. The vegetable stock and the soup itself are recipes I go back to time and time again, and each time I do, I feel warm, nourished, happy and yes, a wee bit virtuous. This year, as I was thinking of things in my life I wanted to change in 2012, I somehow fell right back into a pot of soup.

My original resolution was to find more ways to move meat to a supporting role, or out of the picture altogether, as I planned meals for my family. Soup seemed like the easiest way to do that, in no small part because it is eaten out of a bowl. On a plate, the spot where the meat goes tends to look so lonely and forlorn. I decided to make one new soup a week for one month and Soupapalooza was born.

For my first soup, I wanted to use the butternut squash I had picked up at the Minneapolis Farmers Market in December. My nine year old has a habit of doodling on any and every available smooth surface and the squash hanging around in my kitchen were starting to resemble a heavily tattooed speed metal band. They looked way too ornery for their own good - their time had come.

I had made a traditional Thanksgiving-type squash soup in the past, but I had a notion that perhaps there was something more interesting out there, so I took to the internet and within minutes had found my recipe: Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut and Ginger from Food and Wine. Squash and coconut are so delicious together in curries, it seemed a slam dunk to try it in a soup. The coconut milk takes the place of traditionally used cream and adds a subtly nutty dimension to this silky soup. I tweaked the recipe only to remove the thyme sprig and to substitute cilantro as a garnish in lieu of the shaved coconut. Paired with a baguette and a simple salad of bitter greens, this squash soup is so deliriously unctuous and satisfying, I found myself scraping the bowl with my spoon. It manages to be simultaneously comforting and exotic. And it's vegan, to boot. 

 Rock ON!

Squash Soup with Coconut and Ginger - adapted from Jeanette Peabody's recipe on Food and Wine

 2 large butternut squash (5 pounds total)—halved lengthwise, peeled and seeded

 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

 Salt and freshly ground pepper

 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

 1 medium onion, finely chopped

 1 leek, white and tender green part only, thinly sliced

 1 shallot, finely chopped

 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

 1 teaspoon curry powder

 1/2 cup dry white wine

 6 cups water (I used vegetable stock. See recipe below)

 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Set the squash, cut sides up, on a baking sheet. Fill each cavity with 1/2 tablespoon butter; season with salt and pepper. Roast for about 1 hour and 20 minutes until tender; cut into large pieces. (I find it much easier to leave the skin on and then scoop the squash out once cooked).

In large soup pot, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in the olive oil. Add the onion, leek, shallot, ginger and curry powder and cook over moderate heat until soft and translucent. Add the wine and cook until evaporated. Add the cooked squash, water or broth, and coconut milk. Simmer over moderately low heat for 15 minutes.

Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth or, do yourself a favor, and use an immersion blender (possibly my favorite kitchen gadget ever). 

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and garnish with cilantro or coconut shavings or go crazy and use both!

This soup can be refrigerated for up to two days. It also freezes well.

Light Vegetable Broth (I find myself making this broth to freeze when I find a couple lonely parsnips at the back of my crisper or some carrots that are looking ever so slightly past their prime. I have played around with the ingredients depending on what I have on hand, and it always seems to work out. This broth has a delicate, slightly sweet flavor). Adapted from Bon Appetit.

3 ¼ quarts water (14 cups)

2 whole large leeks, trimmed, halved lengthwise, sliced (about 6 cups)

2 large unpeeled onions cut into 1 inch cubes

3 large celery stalks, sliced

1 pound carrots, peeled, cut into ½ rounds

2 large parsnips, peeled, cut into ½ inch rounds

1 cup chopped fennel stalks and fronds (reserve bulb for another use)

1 cup coarsely chopped fresh Italian parsley (with stems)

6 garlic cloves, peeled

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Combine all ingredients in large pot. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until vegetables are very soft and broth is pale golden, stirring occasionally and adjusting heat if necessary to maintain low simmer (about 45 minutes). Season to taste with more salt. Strain broth through colander; discard vegetables. Can be made 3 days ahead. Cool, cover and refrigerate or freeze.

Gabriela Lambert is a frequent contributor to Simple, Good and Tasty. You can also read more of her writing on her blog Her last post for SGT was: Ever wonder what the farmers market vendors do during the winter.