Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Rick’s Butternut Squash Soup with Cumin and Coriander

This is a good comforting soup that can both start a meal or be one.  It is vegetarian, which so far has not been a major feature of Rick’s Recipes, but my vegetarian sister-in-law came last weekend, and this is what I came up with.

It can also be adapted for a fatless Lenten fast by eliminating the oil, and braising the onions in a dry heavy-bottomed pan with a lid.  They should throw off enough of their own liquid to keep from burning, but keep an eye on them.

I bought a butternut squash before the holidays with good intentions, but it has been staring reproachfully at me ever since.  Maybe you have one , too, over there by the  onions and potatoes.  This is a good way to dispatch it.  Do not under any circumstances buy the peeled kind, which have the shelf life of a flounder.

The other nice thing about this soup is that the flavors taste elusively ethnic.  It could be Mexican, Morrocan, Indian, Turkish, just to name but a few, so you can match them as a starter with lots of ethnic dishes (we had then up front of cheese enchiladas with green sauce, but you'll have to wait for that recipe).  Despite its exotic palate the soup is pretty mild and lets the sweetness of the squash ring true.  And, best of all, it is easy (except for the peeling, so try to get that overly helpful guest to do it. You know the one.)

Here goes:

1 Tb vegetable oil
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 butternut squash peeled and cut in one inch pieces
4 cups of vegetable broth
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander seed (get a new jar if it’s over six months old, this stuff turns to sawdust.  Better yet, get some in their shells from an Asian market and grind them with a mortar and pestle. I didn’t do this and neither will you)
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

I use my ever-dependable well-seasoned cast iron Dutch Oven for this, but any big pan with a lid and a heavy bottom is fine.

Set your heat at medium low, swirl the oil around if you are using it (use low heat if not), and add the onions.  Cover and braise for 20 minutes or so, stirring from time to time. Remember, good cooking is mostly good ingredients and paying attention.

The onions will soften and lightly brown.  Then add your squash, cumin, coriander, and salt. Stir it all, cover it again, and let it braise for about a half hour, stirring now and again (but not too much) and keeping a close watch so that it doesn’t scorch.  You may have to turn the heat down.

Add your vegetable stock (I like Emeril’s) and bring it all to a boil. Then stir and lower the heat to a good simmer,  and cook it, uncovered, stirring once in a while, until the squash is tender, about forty-five minutes to an hour.

If you own one of those hand blender thingies you are golden (I don’t), but if not, put it in a food processor in batches and puree it until it looks like soup.  Then return it to the pot and bring it just to a boil.

Taste for salt, and you can add more cumin if it’s bland.  Give it a few twists of the pepper mill if you like that.   Then serve it piping hot.

It serves four as dinner or more as a starter.  You can garnish it with cilantro or parsley, or dump croutons in it, but I like it plain


  1. Rick, you'll love your boat motor. I used my second to the last butternut squash in a pumpkin soup recipe two weeks ago. This one was much easier to peel than the first ones of the harvest. It was a recipe that called for about half cup of sweet potato, which was the main flavor of the finished soup. Trouble was, there wasn't enough liquid in the dutch oven when I inserted the boat motor, hence, some spray. But I really so disliked that step of going from dutch oven to food processor that, before getting the boat motor, I'd use the hand potato masher or just be happy with slightly chunky soup.
    Oh, and yes, my mortar and pestle come from Coors and the dutch oven from my late grandmother-in-law.
    Couple of days later, I added some of the thick soup to risotto. Not too bad.
    I'll use your recipe to dispatch the next and final squash. Thanks.

  2. Bob, thanks for the comment. I make a version with carrots, fresh ginger and orange juice and zest in it, too.

    Is that what that thing is called: “a boat motor?” I'm going to get me one.