Cumin Curried Pumpkin Soup

Hello, my name is Lauren, and I am a winter squash addict.

It started as a child with pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread, eventually progressing from all things sweet (muffins, pancakes, baked with butter and sugar) to all things savory (curries, chilies, soups and stews) to, um, all things. Just, all of them. Give me winter squash in everything.

Why am I telling you this? Because at the farmer’s market last Saturday I stumbled upon a most wonderful vendor: a farm that offers (miraculously, despite Irene-related damage) ten or fifteen different varieties of squash! And I’m not just talking your standard acorn and butternut — there were squash I’d never seen before, and I was mesmerized.

The best part is that while some of them were compellingly, dangerously huge (as some squash are wont to be), many of them — even those varieties that tend to fall into the first category — were of a managable size, some no bigger than a coconut. Tiny squash! What could be more compelling than that?? Not only are they, ahem, totally adorable, BUT you can try lots of different kinds without winding up buried in an overwhelming poundage of squash.

Having recently gained a new appreciation for taking everything in moderation, I promised myself two small squashes, and no more.

(You already see where this is going.)

After much pleasurable deliberation, I selected a tiny buttercup squash and an equally small spaghetti squash, and headed for the register. But — but! — on my way there, I saw a massive ten-pound Blue Hubbard squash. I am telling you, it was truly gargantuan. Apparently the only thing more compelling than tiny squash are MAMMOTH squash… because I picked him up too.

Oh, and then I grabbed a small Kabocha. And put it back. And picked up a larger one instead.

I know, I’m shaking my head at me, too.

All told I ended up at home with a line-up of exactly four squash… one of which could have eaten the other three for lunch. (Mmm, lunch…. We’re getting to that in a minute. Promise.) Seeing them there in their motley little row, sunning themselves on my sideboard, made my heart happy for a few days… but finally I decided enough was enough. It was time to get down to business. I would sacrifice the Blue Hubbard first, primarily to make room on the sideboard for more squash my roommates.

So sacrifice it I did:

Being that Halloween is right around the corner, I decided that a pumpkin soup (but made with some more superior version of winter squash, such as my beloved Blue Hubbard) was in order. So I started off with my very favorite winter squash soup seasonings — Thai red curry and coconut milk — but found that I was craving something slightly spicier, smokier… something more evocative of autumn and pumpkin pie. Yes: what I really wanted was a sweet & smoky pumpkin-pie-in-a-bowl bisque.

(I suspect that, despite all my earlier goings-on about how my pumpkin tastes have matured and expanded over the years, really I am just trying to find new ways to have pumpkin pie at every meal — whether it’s in muffin-form for breakfast or a bisque for lunch.)

Anyway, I tinkered with the seasonings, and then I tinkered some more. (It seems like a mish-mash, and it is, but it totally works, I promise you.) I added an onion, some milk, and a little brown sugar. Finally, I figured it out. Here it is, just for you. And just in time for Halloween.

You’re welcome.

Cumin Curried Pumpkin Soup

  • 2 small to medium-sized winter squash or part of one really big one (roughly 3 cups)
  • drizzle olive oil & coarse salt
  • 1 pat (about 1/2 tbsp) butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 14oz can coconut milk (lite is fine)
  • 2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar (or more if your squash isn’t very sweet)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • dash of smoked paprika, allspice, ginger & cinnamon
  • small pinch of mesquite-smoked chili powder
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 – 1 cup milk

Slice the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, rub with a drizzle of olive oil and a kiss of salt and roast at 325 for about 1 hour or until soft. Set aside to cool.

Just before you take the squash out of the oven, chop or thinly slice the onion. Sautee in thick-bottomed pot with the butter over low heat until beginning to carmelized, about 10-15 minutes, while the squash cools.

Once the onions are soft and beginning to carmelize, raise the heat to medium and add red curry paste and a dash of the coconut milk. Cook 2-3 minutes until the curry paste is well integrated, then scoop out 3 heaping cups of squash flesh into the pan and add the rest of the coconut milk, the brown sugar and the spices, and 1/2 cup of the milk. Deglaze the bottom of the squash pan with 1/3 cup water and add that in too. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring and mashing the pumpkin into the milk and spices, about ten minutes more.

If you can already see it needs more liquid, add more milk and/or water. (Depending on how wet your squash is and how thin you want your soup, you may need to add a good deal more liquid than you think.) Then puree with a hand blender or in batches in a food processor. Don’t splatter yourself with hot soup. Taste to adjust seasonings, adding more spices (no, really — add more spices), salt and sugar as desired.

I imagine this would probably be really good (and a full meal) served with a dollop of brown sugar baked beans on top. Next time I’ll give that a shot, but if you get to it before I do, please let me know!

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