Comfort and bounce-back: curried golden squash soup
We were in the mood for a taste of winter, so my teammates and I decided to book our annual Kinder field trip to the pumpkin patch for this past Thursday. Once we received confirmation, the deal was sealed with Old Man Winter. It's kind of like washing your car to secure rain (except in a drought year). Five of six years of pumpkin patch excursions have been heralded by snow. On Wednesday night, we had friends Tom and Rebecca over for dinner, and the snow had already begun falling in big, wet doily flakes. Fortunately, we had a warm and soothing menu planned to keep them from catching any colds. Not only were our newlywed friends headed to Morocco for their honeymoon in just two days, they are lovely and inspiring people, and so it goes without saying I wanted to put together a lovely dinner inspired by their favorite flavor combinations.
First course (dinner became courses mainly because of an awkward combination of space and tableware) was a curried squash soup I wanted to experiment with, and I confess there was a personal agenda involved. Last weekend was a disaster, as I caught an awful cold and was suffering with lingering fatigue and croup I just wanted done with before the upcoming Saturday long run, a 20+ miler. I love squash on any day, but this week, I've been obsessed with curry blends, ginger, and other powerhouses that awaken the senses and clear out the crud.
Curry spice blends are known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric, which is "Indian saffron" given it's bold yellow color, has been used in Eastern medicines to treat various conditions, including menstrual pains, handy for about half the population on a regular basis. The force behind turmeric's yellow pigment is called curcumin. The anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin have been considered comparable to potent drugs like hydrocortisone, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents like Motrin. A key difference, however: curcumin isn't associated with toxicity. Other key spices in curry blends, including cumin, ginger, chili powder, and cinnamon, are all lauded for various potent benefits, ranging from alleviating nausea and gastrointestinal distress to boosting immunity, being anti-microbial, and more, naturally.
This soup is smooth, simple, rich, and excellent with a dollop of plain yogurt mixed with a little honey. Plus, it's cheerful and golden, and reminiscent of the day we were hoping for at the pumpkin patch. I hoped the actual pumpkin/squash power of it would bring us luck for the morning's field trip, but we woke up to this, anyway:
As the morning expanded, the sun began to shine, and the air was perfectly temperate after all. Two days later, our long run ticked over well, too, with the the last nine miles of the twenty being faster paced than the pathetic effort my runny-nosed, coughing, sleepy self of last week was able to manage over just 10K, carving this squash soup a spot in my list of indulged superstitions. Well, I guess that's not actually true...recovery is down to rest, patience, TLC, and time. But the curry can't have hurt, either.
Curried golden squash soup
Serves 6-8 (dinner servings)
- 1 medium butternut squash
- 1 acorn squash
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cups homemade chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- dash ground cinnamon
- dash red pepper flakes
- dash cayenne
- plain yogurt (about 1/3 cup) mixed with 1 tablespoon honey to serve
- Roast squash. I don't feel qualified to say how to do this, because I like to stick the whole squash in the oven when I'm already cooking at a high heat--400 F or over--leaving them in for 30-40 minutes, or until tender. Makes for easy removal of seeds and peel.
- Heat oil in a large pot; sweat the onion and garlic until onion starts to become translucent, about 2 minutes. Add spices.
- Puree squash and onion mixture in batches in a blender or food processor. Return to pot and add broth and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cook a further 15 minutes, stirring constantly. Serve with yogurt mixture.