As longtime Spend Matters readers may recall from past Friday posts, Jason and I share a passion for cooking. We independently decided to go vegan earlier this year, though not for the traditional reason of avoiding animals or animal products for quasi-spiritual enlightenment. Jason wanted to improve his marathon time, and I refused to take Crestor for the rest of my life, as a cardiologist suggested. It's been a physically life-changing experience for me in terms feeling great and significant weight loss. My only downside challenge has been maintaining my love of cooking, sans the critters.
I still prepare flesh food for guests, friends, and non-vegan family, and I've recently made great strides toward re-kindling my passion for cooking à la vegan. So whether or not you're similarly inclined, I recently improvised -- my favorite culinary style -- a recipe for butternut squash and vegetable soup that I want to share. In full disclosure, while I like to food shop often, I prefer to work impromptu with ingredients that are already on hand and have recently been buying funny-looking seasonal plant foods without knowing anything about them, and that's how I came to have a butternut squash in the pantry. This delicious soup takes less than an hour to prepare, and no one will know it's vegan if you don't tell them:
Slice the squash in half length-wise, remove the few seeds, and prepare it as you might a leg of lamb by rubbing the halves with olive oil, garlic, ground coriander, ground cumin, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Roast at 375 degrees for an hour. This can be done a day or two in advance.
In a large sauce pan, caramelize two coarsely chopped onions and two peeled and chopped carrots with some olive oil at a higher than medium heat -- if you don't allow the olive oil to smoke, it's very healthy and fine (contrary to the myth that olive oil ought not be used for frying).
Add two chopped ripe tomatoes, some string beans (or any other vegetables from the crisper tray), and toss in a few dried chili peppers or a seeded jalapeño pepper.
Remove the skin from the two halves of butternut squash, squish the squash in your hands, and add to the mix.
After a few minutes, start adding organic vegetable broth (Note: organic everything is best but not necessary) and maybe even some leftover cooked potatoes.
Keep adding broth to maintain a consistency that's not too thick. Consider seasoning with tarragon and/or oregano to taste.
When the veggies are all soft, taste the broth for the amount of heat you desire and remove the peppers as appropriate.
Add a splash or two of thin coconut or almond milk and transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor for about 15 seconds. Blend to a coarse puree and add milk or broth as needed for consistency (this will likely require two batches in the blender / food processor).
Reheat soup in a pot and serve. Some guests may wish to add a small splash of dry sherry as well.
I'm thinking about serving this soup as a first course on Thanksgiving. Bon Appétit!