Friday, November 16, 2012

Coconut and Cilantro Make for the Best Winter Soup...

Sounds too good to be true, no?

You can call it by name -- Hey you, Mr. Coconut Cilantro.


Yep, coconut + cilantro + pumpkin = pure bliss.
I don't know about you -- when I think of fall, I think of apples and pumpkins. Big pans of tender baked apples, garnished with raisins and a sticky-sweet pan sauce, steaming pots of applesauce. Pumpkin pie. Pumpkin butter. Pumpkin ravioli.

And soup.

Being dairy-free (save for some hard cheeses and pastured butter), I’m always on the lookout for dairy substitutes that are, well, REAL. Creamy cream-less soups are a favorite, but I feel like pumpkin soup always needs the help from a bit of dairy (same with tomato)… so it’s been, um, 4 years since I was you last? So when I heard about a heart-warming, tummy-filling soup that swapped cream for coconut, I got all excited.

Plus doesn’t the combination of coconut and pumpkin (and cilantro) just scream summery, flavorful, and oh so fun?!

Well, it did for me. These are unusual soup ingredients (at least if you’re not serving up tortilla soup or chili). But they would be amazing together. Sweet and creamy coconut. Hearty pumpkin. Bright cilantro.

This recipe originally called for a Hubbard Squash. But after visiting my friends at the Norwich Farmers’ Market, the only local Hubbard was all to big for little me, so I picked up a close second, and local favorite for soups – a Red Kuri.

The technique itself is easy. Roast up your squash – save those seeds for a topping! Cool the flesh, mix with stock and coconut, add cilantro stems, and blitz.

For extra cilantro flavor, I used the trimmed stems of the entire bunch, and then half of the leaves in the soup, saving the remaining leaves for a garnish. As well, I toasted the seeds with some curry, cayenne, ginger, maple syrup, and salt. Be sure to taste the soup and season to your liking while it’s still warm. I think next time, I might add a bit of curry powder for a bit more depth (I like my food flavorful), and perhaps a ginger crème fraiche dollop on top.

Coconut Cilantro Soup

Adapted from Diary of a Locavore

Olive oil
2 large shallots, finely chopped
1 medium Red Kuri or Hubbard squash
2 cups chicken stock
1 15-ounce can coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
1/4 teaspoon curry powder, optional
1 bunch of cilantro, stems removed and trimmed, leaves fine chiffonade
Sea salt to taste

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cut squash in half and remove seeds. Place, cut side down, on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake until the flesh is fork tender. Remove from heat and turn cut side up. Let cool for 10 minutes, then remove warm flesh from the skin.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté, stirring often, until tender. Add the roasted squash, sauté a few minutes more, then pour in the chicken stock and coconut milk. Cover, bring everything to a boil, and then turn the heat down. Add the cilantro stems and let simmer for 10 minutes.

Puree the soup in a blender or using an immersion blender, and then transfer it back to the pot.

Turn the heat onto low, add half of the cilantro stems, cayenne pepper, and ginger and stir well. Season with sea salt to taste. Serve hot with cilantro leaves and crispy spiced seeds on top.

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