Sunday, October 11, 2009
Curried Winter Squash Soup
Last evening we were going to have company for dinner. The young (ok, so that is relative I know) couple comes from the Miami area. You can imagine what a culture shock it must have been to move all the way to the Pacific Northwest! They had never seen so many pine trees and the first winter they wore layers of clothing all the time to fight off the cold (ok, so that is relative too. I moved from New England and think it is mild here). She was a high end hair stylist and he has worked for Costco for 20 years. They don't have any family here and are always so happy to be invited over to share a meal. I ran into them in the chiropractors office the other day after not seeing them for awhile and on the spur of the moment invited them over.
Anyhow, I asked Vanessa to style my hair. We sat in the backyard and let the hair fly. Vanessa did a great job and I feel pounds lighter. I am going on a trip to New England in three days to stay with old friends and attend a high school class reunion. Now I will be presentable!
Back to the squash. I cut it in half with a butcher knife, cleaned out all the seeds, painted it with a little olive oil, placed it upside down on a large baking sheet and put it in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes. When it was pulle out of the oven it was tender and very sweet tasting. I scooped out all the pulp and set it aside. Then I diced up a large yellow onion and sauteed it in butter. The squash, onion, 2 bayleaves, curry powder, brown sugar, ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, a few shakes of habanero sauce, chicken bullion, about 2 cups of water were simmered on very low heat for about 2 hours while I prepared the rest of the dinner. I often do not cook and measure amounts of ingredients. I began with a pinch of this and a shake of that till I had something that tasted great to me. I finished it off by adding two cups of half and half. Last step was to puree it in the blender. It was still rather thick and hearty. I have to say it was one of the best soups I have ever made. I served it in my soup tureen and did not even garnish it all. If I had had some pumkin seeds I would have sprinkled a few on top.
I also took some very large chicken breasts, rubbed them with a homemade galic salt that comes from Essex, CT (Tim's home town) mixed with curry powder, put them on the baking sheet and baked them for 45 minutes till done. They were still juicy when I took them out of the oven.
Next I sauteed two sliced onions in olive oil till just beginning to get soft. Two cups of my homegrown frozen peas were added along with a bottle of curried thai sauce from Trader Joe's. I have not been able to beat the taste of their sauce and it is now a staple in my pantry. Then I put the chicken breasts on top of the veggies and covered the pan and let it simmer till the peas were cooked. A pot of brown rice was cooked up and we were ready for a feast. The chicken breasts, veggies and sauce was served on a bed of brown rice (which was there to soak up the yummy sauce). Even Mister T my dachshund kept coming back for more bites of the yummy chicken. I think he ate half of my chicken breast and some of Vanessa's.
We ended with rhubarb blackberry crisp. I had frozen the rhubarb and blackberries in two cup portions. The frozen fruit was sprinkled with about one fourth of a cup of brown sugar and left in the bowl to thaw. In a butter casserole dish the fruit mixture was topped with a mixture of 1 1/2 cups rolled oats and 1/2 cup brown sugar then dotted liberally with butter and a handful of chopped walnuts. Because the fruit had been fresh it did not need any other additional seasoning. I baked the dish at 350 degrees for 40 minutes then turned off the oven. The crisp was served with a scoop of French Vanilla ice cream.
My guests were thrilled and even Tim who exists on hot dogs and sausage raved about the meal. He said it was better than any restaurant soup he had ever had. Now that was a complement coming from him.
So my suggestion if you wish to make a winter squash or pumpkin soup and you need a recipe is to go to Google and search recipes. Look for ones with ingredients that appeal to you and you have on hand. Follow the recipe then be daring and add more dashes of this and that till it tastes right. I am lucky to have a neighbor that is a greak cook. We often are running between houses doing taste tests and making suggestions of what to add to recipes to improve them. It was her suggestion to add the ground ginger to the soup and it made all the difference. So a lovely evening with good friends, good conversation, a new hairdoo, good dinner, a blazing fire in the woodstove and Mister T in my lap snoozing off a belly full of curried chicken. What could be better?