10.14.14 Thai Butternut Squash and Peanut Soup
Well, I think we can safely say that it’s officially soup weather. In my opinion, chilly, rainy, cloudy, windy weather can always be improved with a warm bowl of soup to dig into. After a long soup hiatus over the summer months, I woke up to cold, rainy, fall, declared it soup weather, and got simmering.
Now sometimes, when the weather seems particularly dreary, not just any soup will do. At times like these, I’m looking for something especially warming, hearty, and usually somewhat spicy. With the farmer’s markets currently rife with squash and chile peppers of all varieties, I soon realized this would not be difficult to accomplish. Well stocked with butternut squash, Thai bird’s eye chilies, and fresh lemongrass, I went home and set to work.
The soup, as it turned out, ended up being pretty fantastic. It was just what I needed. But where this soup really gets going is in the toppings. I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for toppings. Especially when said soup, delicious as it may be, is a little one-note in the texture department. A silky, smooth, pureed soup such as this one can always use a little extra texture in the form of toppings. And in this case, I went with some lovely bright cilantro and dangerously addicting crispy fried shallots (seriously, make extra, or someone like me may eat most of them before they make it onto your soup).
And let’s not forget the chile paste. If you know me, you know that I’m a serious chilehead. And while I like my food to be as hot as possible, I realize that not everyone shares this sentiment. The solution? Keep the soup mild, and whip up a super simple chile paste to add to it. Based on the Thai condiment prik nam pla, this lovely red chile sauce is a spicy, salty, umami-rich mixture of fresh Thai chilies, fish sauce and a little garlic. Add as much - or as little - as you like to achieve the perfect heat level in your soup. And if you’re like me, you’ll probably find yourself adding it to anything and everything else for a little extra fiery kick.
And if you weren’t already excited enough about making this soup, I have even more exciting news for you! Wisconsin from Scratch, along with two other awesome local blogs Things I Made Today, and Bowen Appetít, are looking to hire a social media/marketing intern! If you, or someone you know seems like a good fit for this job, we’d love to hear from you! Click here for more info.
Thai Butternut Squash and Peanut Soup
If you’ve never cooked with lemongrass before, it can seem intimidating. In fact, it’s not as tricky to work with as you might think. This time of year, I see a lot of it at the farmer’s markets, but it’s usually readily available year-round at most Asian grocery stores. To prep for cooking, cut off the root and the leaves, peel back the tough outer layers to access the soft inner core, and finely chop. For more a more in-depth look, Food52 has great step-by-step instructions with pictures here.
- 1 Tbsp canola oil
- ½ large onion, diced
- 2 Tbsp chopped lemongrass (from about 1-2 stalks)
- 2 tsp grated ginger
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 Tbsp peanut butter ( I love using Yum Butter creamy peanut butter for this)
- 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes (about 1.5 lbs)
- 1 14 oz can light coconut milk
- 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
- 1 tsp fish sauce
- Salt to taste
- fresh cilantro, crispy fried shallots, and chile paste for serving
- 5 Thai bird’s eye chiles, chopped (careful, these can be super hot; you may want to wear gloves)
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 tsp fish sauce
crispy fried shallots:
- 4 Tbsp canola oil
- 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
- ¼ tsp salt
1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until softened, about 2-3 minutes.
2. Add the lemongrass, garlic, ginger, turmeric and cayenne pepper. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, then add the peanut butter and cook for 1 minute more.
3. Add the cubed squash, and cook, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes.
4. Add the coconut milk, 1 cup water, and lime juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until squash is tender, about 25-30 minutes.
5. While soup cooks, make your soup toppings. For the chile paste, combine the chilies, garlic, and fish sauce in a mortar and pestle, and grind until a coarse consistency is achieved. Alternately, if you don’t have a mortar and pestle, just chop the garlic and chilies very finely and mix with the fish sauce.
6. For the fried shallots, heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the thinly sliced shallots, and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and crispy (once they start to brown, keep a close eye on them as they can go from golden brown to burnt very quickly if you’re not careful). Transfer shallots to a paper towel to drain, and toss with the salt to season.
7. Once squash is tender, transfer the soup to a blender, or use an immersion blender to puree soup to a smooth consistency. Stir in the fish sauce, and season to taste with salt.
8. Serve soup topped with fresh cilantro, crispy fried shallots, and as much chile paste as you can handle.