Thursday, May 20, 2010

Creamy Butternut Soup with Chickpeas

Food can taunt you.  In particular, a certain butternut squash that has been sitting on my kitchen counter for several weeks can taunt me.  Every time I walked into the kitchen, I felt a pang of guilt about not having used it. It sat there, lying motionless on its side, somehow always in my line of sight.  Whole.  Uneaten. 

Finally, I caved.  I got out my peeler and the biggest knife I had and chopped it up.  I roasted it in the oven.  And then I made it into a delicious soup.

This is the perfect soup to warm your body and your soul on a crisp fall evening.  The seasons are turning here in Swaziland; the summer rains are subsiding, and the cold fronts are creeping up on us daily, lingering longer each day.  It makes you want to come home and sit in front of a fire, sipping hot cider and reading a thick book in front of jumping, soothing, warm flames .  

You'll think about that as you eat this soup, of how comforting it is in its thickness and heartiness.  And how much of autumn it evokes. 

Creamy Butternut Soup with Chickpeas

2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 small onion, chopped very finely
1 small golden delicious apple, peeled and chopped very finely
3 tbsp. minced garlic or 4 -6 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into small cubes, roasted
½ tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. oregano
1 small bay leaf
Dash of cayenne pepper
Vegetable or chicken broth to cover (about 1 – 2 cups)
1 cup cooked chickpeas, rinsed
¼ - ½ cup coconut milk (to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste
Cooked rice (brown or jasmine) – optional

Preheat the oven to 450 F.  Peel and dice the butternut squash, toss with a small amount of the olive oil, and place in a glass baking dish.  Cover with foil and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, stirring as needed to prevent sticking.  Remove from oven and set aside.

In a pot, heat the remaining olive oil and add the diced onion and garlic.  Cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes.  Add the diced apple and continue to stir for another 3 – 5 minutes, or until the onions become translucent.  Add the roasted butternut squash, cinnamon, oregano, bay leaf, and cayenne pepper and stir.  Cover with the vegetable or chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Cover the pot and reduce to a simmer, continuing to cook for another 10 – 15 minutes or until you are happy with the taste and consistency. 

If you have a hand mixer, you can puree the soup that way, or you can puree it in batches in a blender.  If you are like me and don’t have either, just take a fork or potato masher and smash it manually.  Add the chickpeas once you like the consistency, and then the coconut milk to your own taste.  Continue to adjust the seasonings, and be sure that the coconut flavor does not overpower the butternut flavor.  Add salt and pepper to taste, place into bowls, and sprinkle some parsley on top to serve.

If desired, add some cooked brown rice into the pot before serving, or serve with some crispy quinoa crackers. 

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