I was in a positive frenzy the other day. I had walked into the bookstore to search out one particular hard-to-find food magazine, but when I hit the food and wine rack, I went crazy. Well, not exactly crazy, but considering that I already subscribe to nearly every major food-related magazine (and then some...) walking out with 5 or 6 magazines stacked in my arms was a feat indeed.
Whatever. I'm an easy sell. (Take note, vacuum salesmen and firefighter fund raisers.) But now that I've tried their Thai-style butternut squash soup, I may be hooked. I'm going to read the issue today and see what I think. All I can say is, my mailman must be building up some darn good biceps carrying all these magazines to the apartment.
Thai-style Butternut Squash Soup with Cilantro Pesto and Seared Prawns
Yield: 6 for apps, 4 for dinner (with rice)
Ah, serendipity! The recipe calls for pumpkin, but with no pumpkin in sight, and plenty of pre-cut butternut squash available at the local supermarket, the choice was clear. Then I flipped to the back to the handy-dandy conversion page (it's an Australia-based mag, after all) and found out that in Aussie parlance, pumpkin means butternut squash. Ha! This soup takes nearly no time to make, looks gorgeous, and is stupid-proof. The prawns are my own addition, so do as you please. Without, it's vegan.
2 garlic cloves
1 bunch cilantro, stems removed and a few leaves set aside for garnish (hey, garnish isn't just for sissies)
zest and juice from 1 lemon
1/3 cup + 1 TBSP olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 onion, chopped
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 TBSP Thai red curry paste
2 lb. butternut squash, cut into small cubes
2 cups vegetable stock
1 13.5-oz can light coconut milk
2-3 jumbo prawns per person
chili powder to taste
ground coriander seed to taste
thinly sliced red onion (for garnish)
thinly sliced red chili pepper (for garnish. I used green because all I could find were green Serranos, but red would be prettier.)
1. Make the cilantro pesto: In a food processor, whiz garlic till minced, then add cilantro, lemon zest and juice. Process, then slowly add 3 TBSP of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper if you like.
2. Make the soup: Heat 1 TBSP of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and stir 1 minute, then add ginger and curry paste. Stir a minute more before adding squash and stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low 15-20 minutes, till squash is cooked throughout and can be cut with a fork. Cool slightly, then purée till smooth (either use a super fun immersion blender, or do it in batches in the food processor or, if push comes to shove, the blender). Return to the heat, add coconut milk and season, then warm through.
3. While the soup warms, make the prawns: Remove shells, leaving tails intact. Rinse, then toss with as much chili powder and coriander seed as you like (I probably used about 1/4 tsp of each for 8 jumbo prawns). Heat the remaining TBSP of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high. Add prawns and turn when one side has turned pink and developed a good crust, 2-3 minutes. Flip and repeat with the second side.
4. To serve: plunk 2-3 prawns in a wide, shallow bowl and pour soup over top. With a spoon, add a generous dollop of pesto, and trace circles in the soup to create an organic trail of green pesto. Garnish, if desired, with red onion, red chili and fresh cilantro. Serve with rice, if desired.