Curried Coconut + Butternut Squash Soup with Roasted Jalapeño + Maple and Cayenne Spiced Pecans

My mom and I whipped up a pot of this soup for dinner one night when I was visiting my parents over the holidays. Paired with a big green salad and sourdough baguette it was the perfect light dinner for that between-holidays interlude when there are cakes and cookies and decadent leftovers calling from every direction and everyone’s pants tend to get a bit tight. I recreated the recipe back in the city after New Year’s while I was laid low with the Cold From Hell (guess I wasn’t following my own winter wellness guidelines!). I was craving a bowl of throat-soothing, curry-spiced, and ginger-laced comfort food, and this soup totally hit the spot. This is officially my new favorite way to use a butternut squash.

My mom aways roasts the squash before adding it to the soup pot, and I’m sold on this technique now, too. The roasted squash brings incredible richness and earthy sweetness to the finished soup, and creates a creamier texture, too. And, although roasting does add to the overall cooking time, it ultimately makes things easier since you don’t have to peel or dice raw squash. Simply slice the squash lengthwise, remove seeds, rub with olive oil and kosher salt and pop in the oven. Once tender, the flesh can be easily scooped from the skin and goes directly into the pot with the other ingredients.

The other key ingredient here is the roasted jalapeño. Roasting mellows the pepper’s bite so it adds a subtle, balanced undertone of heat that’s pleasant rather than tongue-scorching. I love to add curry powder for a balanced blend of aromatic spiciness, but if you’re not a curry lover feel free to leave it out — the soup will still be great.

A note on the maple and cayenne pecans — I’ve served these as cocktail snacks a couple of times recently and they’ve been nicknamed Crack Pecans. They have the whole sweet-salty-spicy-crispy thing going on and it’s hard to stop at just one…or one handful. So I’ll admit they are a bit dangerous to have around, but they do make a perfect nutty garnish for the creamy soup (not to mention a welcome cook’s snack). Hope you take the risk and try them!

Curried Coconut + Butternut Squash Soup with Roasted Jalapeño + Maple and Cayenne Spiced Pecans

Serves 6

For the soup:

1 medium-sized butternut squash, about 3 lbs

1 jalapeno pepper

extra-virgin coconut oil or ghee

1 medium onion, diced (about 1-1/2 cups)

1/2 apple, peeled and diced

1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped

2 tbsp chopped fresh ginger (from approx. 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled)

1 tbsp curry powder

1 cup coconut milk (I used full-fat canned)

3 cups water

juice of 1 lime

kosher salt

black pepper

garnishes:

coconut milk

chopped fresh cilantro

Maple and Cayenne Spiced Pecans (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 375F.

Halve butternut squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds (save for toasting – so good!). Rub with 1 tablespoon of your fat of choice and sprinkle with kosher salt. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Loosely wrap jalapeño in aluminum foil and place on same tray. Roast in oven until squash is tender and lightly browned, about 30 minutes (jalapeño can stay along for the ride — it develops more flavor the longer it roasts). Remove from oven and allow to cool a bit.

Add 3 tablespoons coconut oil or ghee and onion to a large soup pot over medium heat. Cook onion until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add apple, garlic, and ginger and stir for 1 minute, then add curry powder and stir for a minute more to toast the spices. Add coconut milk and stir to deglaze the pot.

Add water, flesh of the roasted squash (scooped from skin) and jalapeño (stem removed; I removed the seeds as well). Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Simmer partially covered for 20 to 25 minutes, until apple is tender.

Puree soup using an immersion blender or in batches using a stand blender, and reheat soup over a low flame. Add a little more water, if needed, to achieve a thick but pourable consistency. Add lime juice and season to taste with salt and pepper, if needed. Serve with a swirl of coconut milk, cilantro and Maple and Cayenne Spiced Pecans.
For the Spiced Pecans:

1 tablespoon ghee or coconut oil

1 cup raw pecans

1 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)

Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet (I used cast-iron) over a medium flame. Add the fat and, when melted, the pecans. Toast the pecans for 5 minutes or so, watching them closely and stirring often, until they have turned a shad or two darker and have a toasty aroma. At this point add the maple syrup and cayenne, stirring to coat the pecans. Add salt to taste and transfer to a parchment-lined sheet pan. The coating will crisp up as the nuts cool.

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