Last week, I spied a barrelful of acorn squash at Trader Joe's. The gourds tumbled on top of one another, nestling, nuzzling, like amorous puzzle pieces. I plucked one from its cohorts and set it in my cart, though honestly I had no culinary plans for it at the time. See, I'm generally not a squash person, and when I do buy them I nearly always go for the butternuts. Just the name, butternut, sounds tasty.
Acorn doesn't hold the same linguistic appeal.
When I got home, I placed it in the middle of my kitchen table where it sat, unloved, for days. It might as well have been a green, curvaceous rock for all the attention I paid it.
Here's what ended up happening over the weekend. I made my favorite peanut-coconut dipping sauce and had about a cup of coconut milk left over. I also made matzoh ball soup, so a half can of chicken broth remained too. When I opened the fridge a few days later and spied the leftover liquids, I felt a cool chill. It could have been the fridge, or a drafty window, or, OR, it could have been a chill of inspiration. (Cue dramatic music.)
I turned ever so slowly towards the squash on the table and narrowed my eyes.
Did I dare?
A single onion. A squeeze of lime. A spoonful of Thai red curry paste, which had been in my fridge, untouched, for many, many, many months.
Recipe for Squash Soup with Red Curry and Coconut
Here's a creamy soup with a silky texture and a great combination of complementary flavors. This dish gets some back heat from Thai red curry paste; feel free to adjust the heat level to your preference. Also, you can easily make this soup vegetarian by substituting vegetable broth for the chicken broth.
Makes 3 cups
1 small acorn squash, about 1-3/4 pounds
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons canola oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon Thai red curry paste, or more, to taste
1 cup light coconut milk
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1-1/2 teaspoons lime juice
Unsweetened flaked coconut (toasted) and/or cilantro sprigs, for garnish, wholly optional
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Use a large, heavy knife to cut the squash in half. Scrape out the strings and seeds and discard. Place the squash halves cut side down on a board and cut into 1-inch slices. Lay flat on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer.
Drizzle the squash with 1 tablespoon of the oil and rub in well on both sides. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Slide in the oven and roast for 20 minutes, turning with tongs halfway through, or until nicely browned on both sides. Allow to cool slightly, then use your fingers or a spoon to slip off the peels. It doesn't matter if you make a mess because the soup will be pureed.
In a medium soup pot, heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil over medium heat and saute the onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the red curry paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the peeled, roasted squash, coconut milk, and chicken broth, and raise the heat. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Use a stick blender (or a real blender) to puree the soup until smooth, exercising caution, please, as soup is hot. Season with lime juice and check for salt and pepper. Garnish, if desired, with unsweetened toasted coconut and/or cilantro sprigs.