I'm not exactly sure when it happened, but at some point in the last several years, ginger butternut squash soup became America's No. 1 vegetarian soup of choice.
Ginger butternut squash soup is everywhere. Google it, and you'll get hundreds of recipes (I stopped counting after the eighth full page load.) Every vegetarian cookbook has a recipe for it. It's the go-to soup for Thanksgiving and for dinner parties, and nine times out of 10, it's the only vegetarian soup available at cafeterias and supermarkets food courts. I've seen brawls break out in Trader Joe's as people frantically try to scoop up as many cartons of butternut squash soup as possible.
I understand the love. I made my first pot of ginger butternut squash soup about 15 years ago from a vegetarian cookbook. It was a revelation: creamy, refreshing, soothing. I have made that soup so many times, the recipe is etched in my brain along with my telephone number and birth date.
Yet my love has grown weary. I'm tired of ginger butternut squash soup. I need something bolder, zestier, hotter!
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So for today's butternut squash soup recipe, I swapped my gentle ginger for assertive chipotle chilis in adobo sauce. Smoky, fiery chipotle chilis are the perfect antidote to boring butternut squash soup. With cilantro, onions and cumin, this soup has a decidedly Southwest flair, so I won't need to tell you that big hunks of warm, buttery cornbread are the only accompaniment it needs.
CHIPOTLE CHILI BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP
MAKES: 6-8 servings
1 (1 1/2-2 pound) butternut squash (about 4 cups cooked)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus a little for brushing the squash
- 1 yellow onion, diced (about 1 cup)
- 3 celery stalks, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped (about 1 cup)
- 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons chopped chipotle chilis in adobo sauce (about 2 chilis tablespoon; see note)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat to 400 F. Slice butternut squash in half. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Brush the flesh with a little bit of olive oil. Roast flesh side down on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet for 40-45 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork. Let cool slightly before scooping out flesh. Discard skin.
2. In a deep pot over medium-high heat, warm oil. Saute onions, celery and carrots for 5 to 7 minutes, or until softened and lightly browned. Add the cooked squash and broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes. Add chilis, cumin and cilantro. Turn off heat, and let cool 10 minutes before pureeing. Taste it. If you'd like it spicier, then add more chilis.
3. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth, and return to the pot over low heat. Stir occasionally until the soup is thoroughly heated, about 10 minutes. If you prefer it thinner, then add a bit more broth or warm water, and stir well. Season with salt and pepper as desired. Garnish individual servings with fresh cilantro, if desired.
Note: Chipotle chilis in adobo sauce can be found in the Mexican food section of most major supermarkets or at specialty Mexican markets.
(Susan Russo is a freelance food writer in San Diego, California. She publishes stories, recipes, and photos on her cooking blog, Food Blogga, http://foodblogga.blogspot.com/. One for the Table is Amy Ephron's online magazine that specializes in food, politics, and love. http://www.oneforthetable.com)
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