Looking back, there are certain periods of my life that are inextricably linked with certain foods. One of my most vivid memories of high school is dipping bite-sized chunks of bagel into single-serving tubs of pale pink strawberry cream cheese. I'm not sure why I didn't slice my bagels and spread cream cheese on them (was my high school too cheap to provide us with any utensils besides sporks? Were the bagels too stale to cut?), but years later, the cafeteria bagels are more memorable than my freshman science class or junior prom. Shortly after my college graduation, I spent a few months working at a boring clerical job, and what I remember most about that summer are the wraps I made for lunch every day: turkey, Swiss, and a few token pieces of pre-washed mixed greens, wrapped in a whole-wheat tortilla and held together with a toothpick. The early giddy days of my relationship with Mike were a time of tofu stir fries served on enormous beds of peanut butter noodles, and 2011 is made up of memories of dozens and dozens of loaves of homemade bread. And as the snow banks slowly but surely melt away and the frigid temperatures subside, it has become apparent that this has been the Winter of Soup: chickpea soup, tofu and pineapple soup, black bean soup, and even corned beef and cabbage soup. Over the past few months, I have discovered that soup is basically the cold weather equivalent of pasta, with innumerable easy-to-prepare vegetarian variations. Even better, many recipes are conducive to slow cooker preparation, and soup always makes delectable leftovers.
My latest favorite, a Thai butternut squash soup, is more similar to a broth than a cream soup, but with a silky mouthfeel thanks to the coconut milk. It's a bit spicy, so decrease the amount of Sriracha sauce to half a teaspoon if you prefer your food on the mild side. It was a nice way to use the last of my farmer's market butternut squash bounty from the freezer: since the squash is pureed at the end, the somewhat soggy texture of frozen squash wasn't an issue.
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens
- 2 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 14-ounce can light unsweetened coconut milk
- 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
- 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
- 1/2 cup unsalted dry roasted peanuts, chopped
- 1 tablespoon grated lime peel
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Combine squash, broth, coconut milk, onion, soy sauce, and Sriracha sauce in slow cooker and stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours, or on high for 2 to 2 1/2 hours (I prefer to cook on low to give the flavors more time to develop).
Meanwhile, combine cilantro, peanuts, and lime peel in a small bowl and set aside.
In batches, puree soup in blender until smooth and pour into a medium saucepan over medium-low heat to keep warm. Stir in lime juice and garnish each serving with cilantro mixture before serving.