Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Snooping for Soup - Part 1

Squashed Squash Soup with Cilantro Lime Cream

If you live in one of the chillier parts of North America as I do, you know that we have a long and nasty winter ahead. We're talking blizzards, ice, sub zero temperatures, and an entire population of disgruntled people cursing Mother Nature. There are many ways to fight the cold: layered clothing, thick down coats, hot beverages, and foods that warm us both inside and out. It is on that note that I present you with this series on soups.

I learned to make soups not from my mother, but because she, despite being an AMAZING cook, has yet to master soups (with one exception: her chicken soup is wonderful!). Most of my mother's soups are fit to insulate the walls rather than one's stomach. After eating one too many of her "experiments", I made it my culinary mission to master at least 3 soups. On this mission, I learned to make Chinese Hot and Sour Soup, my mother's Chicken Soup, and Butternut Squash and Curry. Once I got the principles of soup making down, I was able to expand my repertoire and am constantly doing so.

For those unseasoned cooks, I present you with the same mission...

Should you choose to accept it, of course.

In this and the next 2 entries, you'll find 3 recipes to get you started.

Good luck!

Squashed Squash Soup with Cilantro Lime Cream

I have to confess that before I discovered that you could make squash into a soup, I didn't like it. I found it too sweet, too starchy, and reminiscent of baby food when mashed or pureed. And then I started playing with spices and seasonings and discovered that squash can be lovely if flavored correctly and presented in a smooth soup. It is with this discovery that I developed this one. It's ridiculously easy to make, and the cilantro lime cream, while not necessary, makes it extra special by adding a refreshing citrusy richness.

Here's How You Do It

Ingredients

SOUP

1 Large Butternut Squash - about 4.5 pounds - most grocery stores will have a scale that you can weigh it in. I chose Butternut Squash because they're currently in season and easily recognizable. Just in case don't know what to look for, here's a picture.
Butternut Squash
5 or 6 Cups of Water

1 Tablespoon of Curry Powder

1 Tablespoon of Grated Fresh or Frozen Ginger Root - Ginger root can now be found in almost any grocery store that carries fresh fruits and vegetables. It's usually kept near the onions and garlic. Peeled and sliced, it can be added to stir fries and curries, and grated, to marinades, salad dressings, soups, and even teas. Ginger root is great for the stomach, and keeps for a few weeks in the fridge. I keep mine in the freezer where it will stay fresh even longer and once frozen, will be even easier to grate. Don't know what to look for?  Here's a picture of a small piece.
 
Ginger Root


Salt and Pepper - to taste

CILANTRO LIME CREAM

1 Cup of Sour Cream or Greek Yogurt

1/2 Cup of chopped, fresh Cilantro

Juice and Zest of half a Lime

Salt - to taste - optional

Equipment

1 Large Pot with Lid

1 Knife and Cutting Board

1 Potato Peeler

Measuring Spoons

Measuring Cups

1 Box Grater

1 Regular Spoon

1 Potato Masher or Immersion/Hand Blender - the latter looks like the motor of a boat with a handle. See Choose Your Weapons! You can buy one in any store that carries small appliances now for as little as 20 bucks

1 Slotted Spoon

1 Wooden Spoon

1 Regular Bowl or Plastic Container

Oven Mitts

Carefully slice the squash down the middle and scoop out the seeds and thready bits in the hollow on the inside of the base. See the images below. You can now CAREFULLY - as raw squash is quite tough - peel the tough outer skin off the squash with a peeler or with a (small) paring knife. 


Cut the peeled squash into chunks and dump them in your pot. Add about 6 cups of water or just enough to make the squash float a bit.

Put the pot on the stove and bring the contents to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the pot, positioning the lid so a little steam is escaping, and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the squash is tender. You can test for tenderness by pulling a chunk out of the pot with a slotted spoon, putting it on a plate or cutting board and trying to mash it with a fork or your potato masher. See the image below. If it mashes easily, the squash is ready. If it doesn't... and/or goes flying across the room... it probably needs more time.


Turn off the heat and let the contents cool for at least 10 minutes.

You can now squash your squash in the water using your trusty potato masher OR if you like your soup extra smooth, use an immersion blender. If you opt to use the blender, BE CAREFUL! Hot liquid and puree tends to splatter a bit during blending, so be sure to wear an apron or old T-shirt and use your free hand to use the pot lid as a shield when doing this.

Add the Curry Powder, put the pot back on the heat, and boil for another 10 minutes or so to bring out the flavor of the curry.  

Remove from the heat and stir in the Ginger.

Season it with Salt and Pepper to your taste and serve as is or with the Lime Cilantro Cream.

To make the cream, rinse a handful of fresh cilantro (leaves and stems but not the roots) to get the dirt off and then either dry it with paper towel or shake it vigorously. For added fun, you can do this to music, or shake the water onto an unsuspecting loved one.

Chop the cilantro as finely as you can and put it in a bowl or plastic container. Add the yogurt or sour cream, lime zest (outer skin of the lime grated right off the lime using your trusty box grater), and mix well. Give it a taste. If it's tart enough for you, you're ready to go! If not, season it with a little salt. You could also make this cream in the food processor if you have one, but the food processor will most likely make the cream runnier as processing the fresh cilantro will bring out more of the water in it.

To serve your soup with the Cilantro Cream, scoop some hot soup into a bowl and put a healthy spoonful of the cilantro cream in the center. To make it look extra fancy, you can top it with a little more fresh chopped cilantro.

Serves 6 people or 1 person for at least a week if kept in the fridge, depending on appetite. 

Next time I'll be teaching you my personal favorite: Chinese Hot and Sour Soup!

So stick around!

-Samantha R. Gold

Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.



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