I like to keep a supply of soup on hand. Whenever I make soup, I make a giant potful so I have plenty for putting by; the door of the upright freezer downstairs is neatly stocked with uniform quart containers in a rainbow of colors. On days when no one can get it up to cook, we can grab instant lunch or dinner from the freezer. We had a lot of those days in January, taking turns being sick or working long hours. And the soup supply has gotten woefully depleted. Time for restocking.
Making soup, for me, is a restorative. It's generally not a technical challenge, just a simple meditation over chopping and stirring and tasting. And it fills the house with a welcome warmth on these frozen days.
This bright and happy soup is one I've been evolving since the fall – built on sweet winter squash, chick peas, and kale, with some subcontinental spicing. My first go at it had lots of ginger with some cumin and cayenne, tarted up with fresh lemon juice. On my second try, I thought to add a can of coconut milk...which tied everything together into an extremely satisfying soup. I took careful notes on this latest batch so I could share the recipe.
So here you go: Winter Squash and Coconut Soup. This makes a big batch – we had a few steaming bowfuls and I still had 4 quarts for freezing. You can easily halve it for a more manageable dose.
Winter Squash and Coconut Soup
3-inch piece ginger
5 large cloves garlic
3 small ribs celery
2 large carrots
2 medium red onions
1 large butternut squash (@3 lbs.)
1 large bunch kale
2 tbsp. neutral-flavored oil (unless you have coconut oil on hand, which is what I used this time)
1½ quarts chicken stock (or rich vegetable broth for a vegan soup)
• • • • • • • •
2 19-oz. cans cooked chick peas (or 3 cups chick peas cooked from dry)
2 13.5-oz. cans coconut milk
juice of 2 lemons
salt to taste
2 tsp. ground cumin
1½ tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. cayenne or other ground hot chile (more if you want it spicy, less if you don't)
Peel and coarsely chop the ginger, garlic, celery, carrots, and onions; set aside together in a bowl (these are the 'aromatics'). Prepare the following and set aside separately: Peel and seed the squash and cut into largish (1½ inch) chunks. Remove the tough ribs from the kale and coarsely chop the leaves. Drain and rinse the chick peas.
In a large pot – at least 8 qt. – heat the oil over medium heat, then sauté the aromatics until soft. Stir in the stock and add the squash. Bring carefully to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the squash is tender (about 45 minutes).
Remove the pot from the heat and let the soup cool enough that you can handle it comfortably. Purée the soup until smooth. A stick (immersion) blender is the best tool for this, as you can purée the soup right in the pot. Or you can purée the soup in batches in a blender or food processor.
Return the soup/pot to the stove and bring back to a simmer. Add the kale and chick peas and simmer until the kale is softened (about 30 minutes).
Stir in the coconut milk and lemon juice, then taste and add salt to your preference. Stir in the spices and simmer the soup for another 10 or 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
The soup will keep for up to a week in the fridge; freeze it for long keeping.
I'm hoping this coming storm just buries us in snow. I don't wish it on the cities and suburbs, but we're prepared to handle it here. Bring it on.