First of all, massive shout-out to my father for making what was arguable the best roast beef hash ever. By the time we thought to take a picture of it, it looked like this:
It was ridiculously good! Roast beef from the roast he and my mom made the night before, potatoes, hatch chilies, thyme, and cream. Those chilies do something truly amazing to whatever you put them in. I can’t describe it any other way than saying that they transport the dish, which makes even me vomit a little in the back of my throat. There’s no better way to describe them, though!
I wasn’t sure I’d ever be hungry again (not really. I’m pretty much always in the mood for something tasty), but once the sun went down and the house got cool, I just needed some soup. In keeping with the chili theme from breakfast and because I have a ton of them to use from my garden (still!), I decided on a roasted butternut squash soup with jalapenos and curry coconut milk garnished with fried Japanese eggplant and pickled rooster peppers. I also threw a few of the pumpkin seeds I made last week on there as well. That was a solid way to end the night.
Sitting here watching the rain fall gently on my garden, listening to Ann Peebles sing “I Can’t Stand the Rain” Samantha Fish’s “Down in the Swamp,” and Joe Bonamassana & Beth Hart’s “I’ll Take Care of You,” I can’t help but be absolutely grateful to be sitting in a warm living room curled up with a couple of cute dogs and cats.
I’ve spent so much time watching the rain. Unsure of life and the future in Minnesota, the rain would scream sideways to the ground, obscuring any possibility of seeing what lay right in front of you. San Francisco could be counted on to provide day after day of a cool hanging mist, greying the walk to and from work every day and draped heavily outside my window, the sky darkening while I relaxed after a long shift at the restaurant, listening to the transvestite prostitutes ply their trade and the gentleman who slept directly below my window conversing with his dog, Little Baby Jesus, late into the night.
The rain today reminds me most of London. When I wasn’t in class or at work, I would so often curl up with a simple bowl of soup, listening to music and watching the rain through the small window in my flat. I’d listen to the conversations of people walking on Marylebone or sitting, huddled around little tables, smoking cigarettes and drinking pint after pint at the Tudor Rose across the street. There’s just something about the chill air and the grey sky stretching endlessly that puts me right back there. It seems impossible that I left five years ago! It feels like yesterday.
The soup! Back to the food! Butternut Squash Soup. For soups and sauces where I really want to take advantage of the flavor of roast squash, what I tend to do is just cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, drizzle it with oil and some spices (even just salt and pepper) and roast it just like that in the oven. When it’s out, it’s so easy to just scoop the flesh out of the skin, no peeling necessary! (I may as well just admit now that I flat-out do not enjoy peeling squash. This may come up again.) Roast butternut squash is really easy this way, and the caramelization that happens in the roasting process really sweetens and deepens the flavor.
A note on the garnishes: I love garnishes! Frequently, it’s the garnishes that really take the food out of the home-cooking arena and send it towards restaurant-quality. The flavors and textures that you add will totally change the dish and can take it in a whole new direction or send it deeper into the direction you are already going. Plus, when you make garnishes, people think you’re extra impressive! Friends and family start to treat you like you’re putting on some kind of magic show. That being said, you don’t have to make them! They’re extra work, extra ingredients, extra time, and extra dishes to wash! If you just want a soup or a salad, you can always just ignore the garnishes I have in the recipes. It will still be awesome! A solid roast butternut squash soup doesn’t need eggplants or pumpkin seeds to be fabulous! I make them because they’re fun and I love them. I like to take a good dish and play with it to make it exciting and new. If you only want to take things one little step further, ignore the eggplant, peppers, and pumpkin seeds and just drizzle a little good olive oil around the top! Anti-climactic? Throw some chili powder (like Aleppo) or fresh herbs on there too! I also recommend buying one special salt (Maldon Salt is a great all-purpose awesome salt to have on hand that works with everything)(However, if you get into salts, black lava salt knocks this dish out of the park), and sprinkling a little over the top of your dish as well. So many dishes can be taken to the next level of cool with a drizzle of good oil, a sprinkle of good salt, and maybe a little freshly cracked black pepper.
One more note: the real key to making this butternut squash soup look good is to puree the absolute crap out of it! When you’ve got all of the ingredients ready in the pot, it’s not going to look good. You might question what you’ve done wrong and whether or not to hide the evidence of what is obviously some kind of terrible mistake. Don’t! Grab your blender and puree the hell out of it for at least 20-30 seconds. The color will brighten and the soup will become absolutely velvety. If your blender has a setting for “liquefy,” now’s the time to take that baby for a test drive! If you want a crazy smooth soup, strain it through a fine-mesh strainer or colander. If your soup is thicker than you want, just add a little water or milk to get it to the right consistency.
Oh yeah–if you want this to be vegan or vegetarian, just leave out the fish sauce and bump up the salt! Also, this butternut squash soup can be made ahead and reheated when you want to eat it! The eggplant, though, needs to be done on the same day.
Roast Butternut Squash Soup with Curried Coconut Milk, Fried Eggplant, Pickled Rooster Peppers, Spiced and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, and some random thoughts that popped into my head while I was writing this gluten-free recipe.
- 1 ea butternut squash
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp chili powder (I used Aleppo, but Chipotle or even cayenne or paprika would work well)
- 1 ea Japanese eggplant, cut in small pieces-diced or wedges
- 3 Tbs neutral oil (like safflower or vegetable)
- 1 Tbs herbs, minced. A mix of cilantro and Thai basil is great here. Just cilantro is totally fine too.
- Roast squash from above
- 1 ea sweet potato, peeled and cut in small cubes
- 2 Tbs oil (coconut is great here, but anything with a neutral flavor will work well)
- 2 ea cloves garlic, minced
- 1-2 ea shallots, minced
- 1 ea jalapeño, minced (seeds and membranes out if you don't like spicy)
- 2 Tbs curry powder (I used yellow)
- 1 Tbs turmeric
- 1/4 tsp chili powder (whichever you used for your squash)
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 can coconut milk
- 3 cups water or vegetable stock
- 1.5 Tbs fish sauce
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 lime-juice
- salt to taste
- 1-2 tsp pickled rooster peppers
- 1-2 tsp spiced pumpkin seeds
- Preheat the oven to 375
- Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds.
- Place the squash cut-side up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper
- Drizzle with oil, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and chili
- Roast for 1-1.5 hours, or until the flesh is soft
- Remove from oven, allow to cool, and remove the flesh from the peel.
- Heat the oil in a small pot or sauté pan over medium heat until nearly smoking.
- Off the heat, carefully add your eggplant. Try to make sure you have a single layer. Do this in batches if necessary.
- Remove from oil and sprinkle liberally with salt.
- Toss with cilantro
- Warm the oil in a pot over low heat. Add the shallots, garlic, and jalapeño. Cook for five minutes, stirring, making sure the ingredients get no color at all.
- When the shallots are soft, add the turmeric, curry powder, chili, and pepper. Stir frequently for another 5 minutes over low heat, allowing the spices to toast gently and almost turn into a paste with the other ingredients.
- Add the cubed sweet potatoes and stir.
- Add the coconut milk, water, and salt.
- Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
- Add the fish sauce.
- When the potatoes are getting soft, add the squash.
- Cook gently for 15-20 minutes, really allowing the flavors to come together.
- Remove from heat.
- Puree thoroughly in batches, passing through a strainer if you want a really smooth soup. Make sure you blend the soup really well, for a minimum of 20 seconds after you can see that everything has been pureed completely.
- Add the lime juice and mix well.
- Taste, adjust seasoning with salt, lime juice, and fish sauce.
- Put the soup in bowls and garnish with the eggplant, pickled peppers, and pumpkin seeds, if using.
I’m loving roast squash! If you’re in a squash frame of mind, you might like:
or maybe the chorizo and wild rice stuffed squash,
and, of course, if you’re feeling juuuuust a little nostalgic (but not quite enough to break away from healthier choices) there’s the gooey, creamy baked “mac & cheese” spaghetti squash!