Monday, February 20, 2012

Soup's on!

A warm bowl of Butternut Squash soup topped with a dollop of cashew cream is delicious meal regardless of the weather Three basic ingredients are all that’s needed to make a satisfyingly tasty simple meal.

Simply Living
February 20, 2012

Hot soup is the perfect food for a cold day, but some soups are so tasty and easy to prepare they are a welcome meal in any weather. That's the case with Butternut Puree, one of many flavorful offerings at Karma, a restaurant in Northampton, Mass.

Our daughter and her family live in that quaint New England town and whenever we visit — frequently since the twins were born — we take advantage of the restaurant's tasty offerings. While every menu item we've tried has been yummy, Butternut Puree is the one we're most likely to reorder.

On its webpage (, the eatery says it "focuses on creating pure food that is delicious to the palette and beautiful to the eye." That's certainly true of Butternut Puree. Imagine a steaming bowl of saffron-colored smoothness, topped by swirls of creamy whiteness. Now balance the squash's natural sweetness with the slight pungency of caramelized onions, seasoned with a touch of curry and enhanced by the richness of cashew cream. Voila! No salt, greasy oil or sugar needed to make this simple soup delicious.

Since dining opportunities at Karma are limited to the times we travel north, I experimented at home to create an approximation of Karma's sublime offering. Happily, the formula I came up with is similar in taste and texture to the original. Butternut Puree — I call it Butternut Squash Soup — is a filling, flavorful and healthful meal. While low in calories (153 calories per two-cup serving), it is high in potassium and vitamins A and C. It is also extremely easy to prepare even though preparation is a two-step process, which means a bit of planning is involved.

Three basic ingredients:  Butternut squash, sweet onion, cashew butter

Ingredients: 1 large butternut squash (around 5 pounds); 1 large sweet onion; 1 tablespoon curry powder; 12 ounces tea, cooled; 1 teaspoon olive oil; 2 tablespoons unsalted cashew butter; about a tablespoon of water.

Planning: The day before you make the soup, brew up a pot of tea and set it aside to cool. Any tea will do but I'm partial to either a green tea (Prince of Peace Organic Jasmine Green Tea) or an herbal ginger blend (Tazo Organic Spicy Ginger). While the tea is brewing, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise.

Butternut squash has a hard skin, so be sure to use a sharp knife and great care when slicing it lengthwise. After the squash is cut in half, scoop out the stringy strands of seeds and set them aside for later. Place the lengths of squash flat side down on a large cookie sheet and put in the oven, where it can bake for about an hour or until a knife poked through the skin comes out easily.

Once the squash has finished baking, let it cool for a couple hours until it is a comfortable temperature to handle. At that point, scoop out the orangey flesh, discard the skin and refrigerate the pulp until you are ready to make the soup.

Preparation: Peel, slice and sauté an onion in a teaspoon of olive oil until the slices are soft and transparent. Pour 12 ounces of tea into a food processor then add the squash pulp, sautéed onions and about a tablespoon of curry powder. Blend until smooth.

That's all it takes to make the soup. Now it just needs to be heated.

Heating and garnishing: Because its texture is thick, I use a double boiler to prevent burning but a microwave or careful warming directly on the stovetop is also effective. While the soup is warming, put the unsalted cashew butter (I use Artisana Raw Organic Cashew Butter purchased online through in a small bowl and add a few drops of water. Using the back of a spoon, blend the cashew butter with the water, gradually adding more drops and mixing until the texture becomes cream-like. Drizzle the cashew "cream" on top of the warm soup just before it is served.

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One 5-pound butternut squash makes eight servings of soup, enough to provide two people with warm, scrumptious meals for several days.

Bonus: Remember the squash seeds? Separate any strands of pulp from the seeds, then place them in a cast-iron pan, sprinkle with curry powder and roast on the stovetop over a low flame stirring often. After only a few minutes, the seeds start to dry out and soon become crispy. They make the perfect snack to munch upon before, during or after preparing the soup.

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