Saturday, February 11, 2017

you could use some soup

It's February in this, our dumbest winter, and you've had a bad week. You haven't gone to see John Wick 2 yet, and you honestly wonder if you should save it for an emergency because John Wick 2 is maybe the only good thing that's left. You're hungry, but you don't feel like cooking something fancy. Maybe you don't feel like cooking anything, period--maybe not ever again--but at the same time some part of you wonders if it making something with your hands might you feel human again.

You know what you need? You need some soup. And I'm going to interrupt all this sweet-ass content at my comics scold blog to be here for you with a recipe.

Every year around February I get together with a group of friends for a soup swap. It's vegetarian, which of course I resent even though I mostly eat vegetarian. The first year we did it I really phoned it in with a lentil number and everyone else shamed me with their elaborate recipes. This one girl made a Thomas Keller recipe, and honestly it wasn't my favorite, but still. My lentil bullshit was the clear loser of the night.

Every year since then my soup has been very good, because I'm only competitive when it comes to things that don't matter at all, but I have to tell you: this year my soup was fucking amazing. (I'm especially proud because this time around I had a lot of limitations due to an allergy situation that's ruining my life.) This recipe truly hits every note: a little special, but not too fussy; a little spicy, but not aggressively so; really healthy and totally, totally satisfying. Also: dead easy and extremely cheap. If you cook a lot you should have all the spices, but if you don't just go somewhere like Whole Foods where you can just buy what you need from the bulk section for cheap. Don't substitute regular paprika for the smoked unless you're desperate. I think that's what really makes the soup.

Probably I'm setting your expectations too high. I'm so sorry. You're probably going to hate this fucking soup. If so, please blame this lady whose recipe I adapted. It's on her.

But seriously...I love this soup so much.


Somewhat Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

I use homemade coconut milk because I had some on hand the first time I made it (long story). Not to be an asshole, but if you want to make a batch, I really think it's worth it. Also makes a hell of a chai. Otherwise use unsweetened coconut milk (preferably from the chilled section at the grocery store, but shelf-stable should also work) or canned (lite or full fat). If you use the canned stuff, esp. full fat, the soup will be on the thick side.
  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds) 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for drizzling 
  • 1 head of garlic (yes, the whole thing)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (olive oil or vegetable oil should also be fine)
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika 
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of thyme
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 14 ounces coconut milk (see note, above)
  • Salt to taste
  • A large handful of roasted salted pistachios, chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

1 - Peel the squash and chop it into 1/2- to 3/4-inch chunks. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss to coat. Spread the squash in an even layer across a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil. Sprinkle with salt and roast for 40 to 60 minutes or until golden brown and soft, stirring occasionally.

2 - Slice the top off the head of garlic so that most of the cloves are exposed. Otherwise don't worry too much about the papery skin; you want the head to stay intact. Put the whole thing in a ramekin and drizzle with olive oil. Stick it in the oven with the squash and roast for 40 minutes or until it's golden brown and very soft. Set it aside to cool for at least 10 minutes.

3 - While everything's roasting, combine your spices--the curry powder, smoked paprika, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and thyme--in a small bowl.

4 - Warm the coconut oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the red bell pepper and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the roasted squash, sprinkle with the spice mixture from Step 3, and cook for 3 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the vegetable broth and the coconut milk. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat to the lowest setting, and leave it to simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes. You just want the flavors to mingle a bit.

5 - Turn off the heat and stir the soup. It will look really fucking dubious; try to have some faith. Let it cool for at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins into a small bowl, sprinkle with salt, and mash with a fork.

6 - Pour the soup in a blender and zip until combined. Add the mashed garlic and blend for a while longer, until it looks really smooth. Taste the soup and add salt to taste, about 3/4 teaspoon. Be conservative because the pistachios are also salty.

7 - Ladle the soup into a bowl and sprinkle with maybe a tablespoon of chopped pistachios, or to taste.



Toasted Coconut Milk 
  • 1.5 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 4 cups water
  • Pinch of sea salt

Preheat the oven to 400 F. 

Spread the coconut flakes in an even layer over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil. Toast for about 7 minutes, stirring once or twice. Keep a close eye on it; you want the coconut flakes browned, not burned. 

Put the toasted coconut in a blender and add the water and salt. Blend for five minutes on the highest setting--maybe longer if you don't have a high-powered blender. It should look white and smooth. It is not smooth, though. Don't be fooled by your lyin' eyes.

Strain using a nut milk bag. If you don't have a nut milk bag, strain it with your finest sieve, pressing to get all the liquid out of the coconut pulp. Then put two layers of cheesecloth over the sieve and strain it again. 

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